Photo: Iggy Pop on-stage at The Whisky A-Go- Go, May 1970.
1970 was a turning point in American culture. The Summer of Love had curdled and died as the optimism and naïveté of the hippie movement was met with the hard-hitting reality of life. The United States government continued to draft young men to fight in Vietnam, sending them home in body bags, and for those that lived through the nightmare, the souls were forever changed. Years of drug use had transformed the brightly colored trips into dark nightmares as people began to die. The promise of love and peace had evaporated into thin air, and in its place a new vision of wrath and nihilism was born.
Iggy & The Stooges were forerunners in this new world. Hailing from Ann Arbor, Michigan, they were punk before anyone said the word. They embraced rejected the faith of 1960s, seeing leaders gunned down in the streets, knowing that for all of its affluence and comfort, the country was startling hollow, vapid, and fake. They embraced the alienation that this knowledge brought them, and they channeled it into their music and a stage show the likes of which no one had ever seen.
In 1970, a year after releasing their self-titled debut album on Elektra Records, the Stooges went west to record their second album, Fun House in Los Angeles. While in town, they were booked to play two nights at The Whisky A-Go-Go on LA’s legendary Sunset Strip. The club was just six years old, but in that short period of time it had become the place where legends are made—and Iggy & The Stooges were no exception to this claim.
On one of those two nights, photographer Ed Caraeff was in the audience, camera in hand. He had made a name for himself three years earlier after releasing his images of Jimi Hendrix setting fire to his guitar during the Monterey Pop Festival. Of the photos taken that night, one appeared on the cover of Fun House; the rest remained in the vault—until now.
Caraeff has just released Iggy & The Stooges: One Night at the Whisky 1970 (ACC Editions), an intimate volume of work that takes you back to that fateful performance that changed the game, giving us a look at the band in all their glory.
“The music drives me into peak freak,” Iggy says in the book. “I can’t feel any pain or realize what goes on around me, and when I dive into the sea of people, it is the feeling on the music, the mood.”
Caraeff’s photographs are of Iggy in the full glory of youth, his raw power and energy bursting from every inch of his naked skin. Topless, save the silver elbow-length gloves, Iggy prances and preens, pounces and pouts, writhes and moans, contorted into a new vision of rock.
“What I do on stage has utterly no purpose,” Iggy declares. And while he might think so, it’s very likely the audience might say otherwise. His antics were the physical manifestation of the spirit of the work, setting the mood that was as passionate as it was provocative.
“Iggy Pop was a master on stage,” Danny Fields, the band manager observes. “There was a dangerous aura and atmosphere when he performed. He might do something harmful hurtful, weird, unpredictable. And the music brought it out, there was something menacing about it. You did not know how it was going to end.”
And that’s what makes Iggy Pop a legend. Out of nowhere he appeared fully formed like Athena from Zeus’s head: a warrior, battling against the phonies and the frauds, against those who would claim to have your best interest at heart while hiding their hands. He embodied the ethos of rock, restoring it to its roots as a means to rage against the machine and speak power to truth.
All photos: © Ed Caraeff, courtesy of ACC Editions.
Miss Rosen is a journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Vogue Online, The Undefeated, Dazed Digital, Aperture Online, and Feature Shoot. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.