Over the summer, Third Man Records released Live at Goose Lake: August 8th, 1970, a recording of The Stooges’ concert at the massive “Woodstock of Michigan” music fest in Jackson County. No recordings had ever surfaced of the full performance until tapes were discovered in the basement of a Michigan farmhouse, a find the label described as something akin to the “Rosetta Stone for fans of this seminal band.”
The Rosetta Stone analogy is because the tapes document the final concert of the original Stooges lineup and dispel the legend that bassist Dave Alexander, who was an alcoholic, was booted from the band after the gig because he was too incapacitated and didn’t play a single note in front of the 200,000 people assembled that day.
Alexander was kicked out of the band after this show because of his alcohol problems, but not because he froze on stage; his playing is mostly fine on Goose Lake, though lead Stooge Iggy Pop found plenty to criticize when he reviewed the concert recording.
But the actual Rosetta Stone was the key to unlocking the meanings of Egyptian hieroglyphs; on its own, Goose Lake doesn’t decipher anything other than that Alexander really did strum his bass during the set.
After a stage introduction, Goose Lake opens with “Loose,” which lives up to its title, as Alexander fluffers around on his bass and the band starts to fall out about 75 seconds into the tune before slowly reassembling during Ron Asheton’s guitar solo. By the time of the set’s fifth song, “1970 (I Feel Alright),” the tapes are redlining with cymbal crashes, distorted vocals, and a mix that sometimes sounds like drummer Scott Asheton and his ax-slinging brother are playing different songs. “Fun House” continues the blown-out sound, but this time with saxophonist Steve Mackay adding to the cacophony. Fittingly, the tape gets garbled for a moment in the free-form section that segues into the album-closing “L.A. Blues,” which is basically a noise jam.
All this must sound like I hate Live at Goose Lake. I actually love it. Or more accurately, I love that it exists.
If you go on Spotify, you’ll find many live recordings of the 1970s Stooges, including Have Some Fun: Live at Ungano’s, from a concert nine days after Goose Lake, this time with Zeke Zettner on bass. That album also sounds terrible. So does the October 1973 Atlanta concert included with the Legacy Edition of Raw Power.
In fact, most of The Stooges’ live recordings from that era sound like bootlegs, even the infamous Metallic K.O., which covers snippets from two crazy concerts in 1973 and 1974 and purportedly sold more than any of The Stooges’ studio albums when it came out in 1976 as a semiofficial release on a French label. Naturally, it was eventually reissued in 1988 as the expanded Metallic 2X K.O. and featured both concerts in their entirety.
But I’m glad all these live recordings — as well as the odds and sods comps — are available, even if I’ll likely never play them again. Documenting history isn’t always easy, especially in the moment, when there’s no way of knowing if something will be worth having in the future. Digital technology, especially phones, allows everyone to document an event now, but in the 1970s, it took some foresight to lug in a big-ass tape recorder and attempt to capture concerts like these.
Goose Lake and all these other live recordings and demo/alternate collections amount to a pile of snapshots capturing one of the most important rock ’n’ roll bands of all time. Taken all together, they create a bigger picture and greater understanding of The Stooges’ toils and triumphs.
The real Rosetta Stone features a series of decrees to pump up King Ptolemy V Epiphanes’ royal cult, so if Goose Lake helps to decipher and educate listeners about The Stooges’ important legacy, may concert tapes like this one continue to turn up forever.
Plus, Check Out These October Artistic Events…
A Trio of Exhibits at UMMA
The University of Michigan Museum of Art had to shift three of its exhibitions online as it became evident the pandemic wasn’t about to end. Curriculum/Collection pairs works from UMMA’s collections with University of Michigan classes, highlighting the way art can add value to any educational opportunity. I Write to You About Africa draws from UMMA’s collection as well as from works across the U-M campus, which the museum made room for by doubling the space dedicated to African art. Unsettling Histories: Legacies of Slavery and Colonialism takes UMMA’s recent acquisition of Titus Kaphar’s Flay (James Madison) as a starting point to explore and question the museum’s collection of European and American art between 1650 and 1850.
UMMA is working on a staggered, socially distanced protocol for in-person viewing, but you can check out all the exhibits at umma.umich.edu now.
DSO Soars into the Season
The Detroit Symphony Orchestra announced a remarkably large slate of performances as part of its initial DSO Digital Concerts series, which runs to Dec. 18. For October, Leonard Slatkin returns on the first to conduct four works, including Serenade for String Orchestra by his recently deceased friend Krzysztof Penderecki, and Mozart’s Serenade No. 6 (Serenata notturna). The month closes with three nights featuring the acrobatic Troupe Vertigo. On Oct. 29-30, they’ll perform their aerial artistry to classical and Latin favorites, and on Oct. 31, they’ll dress appropriately for the DSO’s Halloween Spooktacular.
Get the full schedule at dso.org.