To celebrate Total Chaos: The Story of The Stooges / As Told By Iggy Pop, a remarkable book tracing the history of one of America’s greatest bands, The Stooges, Art is Alive speaks to its author, Jeff Gold. Total Chaos: The Story of The Stooges/As Told by Iggy Pop was voted as one of Rough Trade’s ‘Books of the Year’ in 2016.
Profiled by Rolling Stone as one of the five “top collectors of high-end music memorabilia,” Jeff Gold travels the world to search out the finest music collectibles. An internationally recognised expert in the field, Jeff Gold is a frequent consultant to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Experience Music Project, and record labels and cultural institutions.
Jeff Gold is a former Executive Vice President/General Manager of Warner Bros. Records where he worked with Prince, REM, Madonna and The Red Hot Chilli Peppers and oversaw the Jimi Hendrix catalogue. As VP/Marketing and Creative Services at A&M Records, he worked with The Police, Cat Stevens, Soundgarden, and Janet Jackson. He was editor of the book “A&M Records: The First 25 Years.” A four time Grammy nominated art director, he won a Grammy for Suzanne Vega’s album “Day’s of Open Hand.”
A music historian and researcher, Gold has discovered a number of previously unknown tapes later released by major labels, including “Bob Dylan at Brandeis University 1963” and unreleased performances by the Velvet Underground and The Stooges. He was a producer of the album “Stone Free: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix” (with Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Seal, and The Cure) and has worked on archival projects for Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead and Gram Parsons. His discovery of 149 previously unknown Bob Dylan acetate records received extensive media attention including articles in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today.
In 2016, Gold and colleague Laura Woolley appraised The Bob Dylan Archive, now housed at the University of Tulsa. Gold has helped curate museum exhibitions including the Experience Music Project’s “Beatlemania !” and the travelling exhibit “Bob Dylan’s American Journey”. A legend.
How did the idea of the book come together and how long did it take to make it happen?
My friend Johan Kugelberg, who has authored many music books, has a huge Stooges collection, as do I. It was his idea to do a book using our merged Stooges collections as a jumping off point. I was resistant, knowing how much work it would be, but woke up one morning with what I thought was a better idea. Choose 100 items people hadn’t seen from our merged collections, and go show each to Iggy and record his recollections. That was the starting point, and Iggy was up for it (I’d worked with him in the 80’s when he was signed to A&M Records, where I worked, and we liked each other-so that was a big head start).
What did you learn on Iggy Pop along the way that you didn’t know before?
I knew Iggy had a great memory, but was wholly unprepared for how much he remembered about the Stooges. And bringing all the things we showed him turned out to be the perfect way to do it. They were a jumping off point for his stories, which were detailed, poignant, and often hysterical. Very quickly I realised this was going to be something much bigger than our original idea. So I shifted gears and the goal of my interviewing was to get a complete oral history of the band from the guy who started it all.
What’s your best memory working on the book?
We interviewed Iggy over two days, in the back yard of his Miami house, the first day sitting around a table next to a creek. The second day we were in a thatched pavilion also by the creek. It was just a blast. He was holding court, and I actually had to cut his stories off periodically, much as I hated to, because we had a limited amount of time and I wanted to get the whole history of the band. He graciously did two phone interviews afterwards so I could fill in a few things I didn’t feel we’d fully covered.
Was Iggy Pop involved and happy with the result?
He did the interviews, then let me do the rest. He liked my earlier book, 101 Essential Rock Records (which he did an interview for, and which featured two Stooges albums) and was interested to see what I’d come up with. He was very happy with the results and did two launch events for it, in Detroit and New York, where I interviewed him, we did a Q&A, and he signed books.
Tell us about your art collection – what do you collect and how do you find artists you like?
My wife, who is an artist, and I have a collection of photography, contemporary art and 20th Century folk and outsider art. We buy things we both love, and it enhances our lives daily. We don’t collect anyone in depth, but some of our favourite pieces are by the photographers William Eggleston and Robert Frank, the contemporary artists Louise Bourgeois and Francesco Clemente, and the self-taught artists Martin Ramirez and Bill Traylor. And my wife, Jody Uttal, is my favourite artist and well represented. We happily began collecting many years ago, and were fortunate to get some things we couldn’t afford today.
You’ve had an amazing career with various performers, tell us an anecdote about working with let’s say Madonna?
Thanks. Let’s see. Sometimes when you work on an artist’s projects, you work directly with them, but sometimes you deal mostly with the management. That was the case with Madonna, so I didn’t really deal directly with her. But funny enough my friend Denise Kauffman was her yoga teacher while I was working on her albums. In 1997 or 98 Madonna invited a number of senior Warner Bros executives to preview her album Ray of Light in 1998, and so we went to a small recording studio and she played it for us. Everyone walked in, introduced themselves, and told her what they did for WB. I was near the end of the line and when I said my name she brightened up and said “Oh, you’re Denise’s friend”. After the listening, she told me to stay and we spent a good bit of time chatting. So our connection, unlikely enough, came not through me position as the executive vp of her record label, but through her yoga teacher!
What’s your next project?
Sleep! This year I finished up the Stooges book and launched it, a project I worked on for three years. I also appraised Bob Dylan’s archives for his management, a huge project, but a fascinating one, and ran my music collectibles business, Recordmecca. So it’s been a very busy year and I’m looking forward to a more relaxing 2017.
Do you lend your music memorabilia collection to museums and where can we see it?
I loan things from my collection all the time, and I’m also a major donor to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. And just donated some memorabilia in fact to the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. I’m a big believer in preserving music history.
Do you have a favourite piece in your music and art collection that you want to share with us?
Well, certainly two highlights of my music collection are Bob Dylan’s original handwritten lyrics for “I Want You” and “Absolutely Sweet Marie”. I’m astounded to own those. And we have a beautiful Martin Ramirez drawing. If you don’t know his work, google it.
What was you best Stooges concert?
Well, as I wrote in the book, I had a strange experience, seeing the Raw Power era Stooges in 1973 at the Whisky A Go Go in Hollywood. I went because of their David Bowie connection and saw a very chaotic show that lasted about half an hour, with Iggy yelping about buttfuckers in the Hollywood Hills. At the end he collapsed and had to be helped offstage. I’d never seen anything like that before. They broke up a year later, broke, without management or a record label. The next time I saw them, and almost the next time they played, was their first reunion show, in 2003, headlining the Coachella festival. They were greeted as conquering heroes by 30,000 screaming fans. It was almost impossible to believe. When they broke up, nobody cared. And for 29 years this myth just kept building, and when they reunited they were huge stars! And they were incredibly great. I remember saying to my friend Johan during the set it might be the first time they played straight—without being under the influence of anything. I later asked Iggy and he thought about it for a second and said I was probably right!
Total Chaos: The Story of The Stooges/ As Told By Iggy Pop By Jeff Gold 260 Pages / Hardcover / 9