Saturday, January 22, 2022

Iggy Pop, The Stooges Doc, and Obscure Garage Rock (The Pubs and The Prodigal) Hippie Love Turbo Radio Show - Code Word "Mangosteen"

On this episode of Hippie Love Turbo, on KUCR 88.3 FM we dipped our toes in some obscure garage rock water when we listened to two mysterious groups: The Pubs and The Prodigal. As you dive deeper into regional rock music from the 50s and 60s you sometimes find yourself hitting information roadblocks. A lot of these smaller groups never experienced major national success and without direct involvement from the band, managers, or fans, there is little hope that any historical content will find its way onto the internet. Of course, it also doesn't help when a million bands share the same name or when the group used a fairly generic title that throws search algorithms into a dizzy spell but, as I've stated before, it's best to keep in mind that these groups were formed in a pre-internet, and even pre-independent band listing era, so they weren't worried about "search engine optimization" because such a thing didn't exist!

So, what do we know about these bands? Well, according to Mike Markesich's book TeenBeat Mayhem! (which, is definitely worth checking out!), The Pubs were from Pasadena, CA and put out 2 singles: Never Again / Pretty Please (1966) and The Lost Soul / Baby Cry (1967). The Pubs' Discogs page lists that Never Again was released through the private press company Custom Fidelity, meaning the band released it independently, while The Lost Soul was released through a vanity label known as "Velvet Tone Record Corp" which was run by a quirky singer/producer that went by the stage name Jimmy Velvet. A random archived eBay listing for The Lost Soul states that: "Only 500 copies were released of this recording, most of them are not in circulation." but I haven't been able to verify that claim and I'm not sure where that info came from. Both releases credit John Butzke as a songwriter but, despite the unique last name, I haven't been able to find out more about him. 

The Prodigal (Image found here)

As for The Prodigal, we know that they were from Tulare, CA, and they had one single, Reality / You've Got Me that was released on Mercury in June of 1967. Gary Hall is credited as the songwriter, Bruce B. Morgan was the producer and David Gomes, Richard Dorado, and Iggy Perez are listed as band members. There was a glimmer of hope in my search as I came upon a webpage that had an interview with Gary Hall conducted by Dick Lee, who is also a garage rock DJ and member of the band The Brymers, however, the audio file appears to be lost in the foggy mists of the internet. 

If I find some more info, I'll be sure to provide an update and, as always, be sure to let me know if you have any obscure media or contacts related to garage rock. I'd like to make sure this stuff doesn't disappear and typically it helps to have it archived online.

Iggy Pop playing drums on a giant riser (As seen in Gimme Danger)

And now for something that's the opposite of obscure I'd like to talk a little about this episode's film suggestion: Jim Jarmusch's 2016 documentary on The Stooges, Gimme Danger. Like a lot of people that are into late 60s and early 70s rock, especially the grittier side, I've enjoyed The Stooges for years, however, beyond a few random Iggy Pop interviews, I've never delved too deeply into the band's history. It seems that Gimme Danger was made for an audience with a similar approach to the band. You know The Stooges, you love their music, but you might not know a lot of the backstory. 

The film mostly assumes that you're familiar with The Stooges' work but there's enough foundational information that if you know nothing about them, you won't feel lost. Additionally, Jarmusch's stylistic directing, which splices archival footage, animation, and interviews with Pop, Scott Asheton, James Williamson, Mike Watt and more, keeps the film fresh during its nearly 2-hour runtime. Unlike many other rock orientated documentaries I never felt bogged down by information dumps or long drawn out salacious stories. There's no doubt that drugs and violence are explored in the documentary but thankfully they aren't the centerpiece. Instead, Jarmusch focuses on the band's humble yet freaked out origins and their ties to various art and social movements. 

It could be argued that the documentary glosses over some of the more controversial issues related to the band such as Pop's self-harm, Ron Asheton's sporting of Nazi regalia, and Pop's relationship with the famous underage groupie, Sable Starr. Perhaps Jarmusch felt that those topics had been explored well enough in other venues or maybe he sought to avoid controversy but either way it did feel like some aspects of the band were downplayed during the film. Although I don't think it overly detracted from the work as a whole, I would have liked to have heard more about these aspects of the group from Pop's own perspective.

Overall, the film is a solid glimpse into a band that was not only ahead of their time, but also went on to influence many other great bands despite finding little success during their early career. I highly recommend it.

That's about it for this week. Thanks for reading the blog and be sure to listen over the air on KUCR 88.3FM on Saturdays at 9pm or through! If you'd like, you can also listen to KUCR through Radio Garden or Tune-In.

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