Under the Radar

'Gimme Danger': How the Sons of WWII Veterans Invented Punk Rock

The Stooges are the least commercially successful band in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. If you grew up listening to album rock radio in the '70s, you never heard any of their songs. If you're a huge David Bowie fan, you might know that Stooges lead singer Iggy Pop wrote "China Girl," one of the hit singles from Let's Dance. If you're an alternative rock fan from the '80s or '90s, almost every single one of your favorite bands was inspired by the Stooges.

Jim Jarmusch's new documentary Gimme Danger (out now on DVD and Digital) chronicles the wild tale of a Detroit band whose heavy sound was inspired by the clanging sounds made by the stamping plates at Ford's River Rouge assembly plant. Jarmusch is best known for directing feature films like Stranger Than Paradise, Mystery Train, Only Lovers Left Alive and Adam Driver's new movie Paterson. He grew up listening to the Stooges and has an excellent rapport with the band members.

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Iggy Pop (real name: Jim Osterberg) and brothers Ron and Scott Asheton are all the sons of WWII veterans. Before he died, Ron and Scott's dad collected Nazi memorabilia and shared his interest with his young sons. Ron wore swastika armbands and military gear over the course of the band's career and never thought it was a big deal. '70s hippie culture didn't agree and his stubbornness on the topic was another contributing factor to the Stooges' lack of success.

For a band that played such primitive music, Iggy is remarkably sophisticated about influences that include free jazz and radically experimental classical composer Harry Partch. At the time, the group was more well known for its confrontational shows and earsplitting volume.

The Stooges were a huge influence on both Nirvana and Guns N' Roses, two bands that never agreed about much of anything. If you're a fan of Green Day, Soundgarden, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against the Machine, Slayer or even R.E.M., they're all bands who count the Stooges among their primary influences.

Jarmusch is unapologetic fan: he doesn't fail to address the band's notorious drug use but he gives Iggy a free pass when it comes to the negative influence his wild behavior had on the next generation of '70s punks. A lot of guys didn't share his iron constitution and they became casualties when they tried to emulate Iggy's lifestyle.

If you're already a fan, you want to see this movie. If you're trying to how understand underground culture grew in the shadow of the Vietnam war, Gimme Danger offers plenty of insight.

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