Recorded over two performances at Detroit's moth-eaten Michigan Palace in October 1973 and February 1974, during a juddering, chaotic string of live dates when Iggy and his Stooges had been cut loose from both management and record company, Metallic KO depicts the Stooges 'last attempt to convince the world they mattered. It was a vain effort, which guitarist-turned-bassist Ron Asheton likened to "beating a dead horse… until it was dust." Scott Thurston, who joined the band in July 1973, a few days before an infamous performance at Max's Kansas City where Iggy punctured his chest on broken glass, confirms that "everybody knew that it was doomed."
All this and more is discernible in the slightly tinny recordings, recorded from the mixing desk, that make up Metallic KO. The first half of the album, from the October show, depicts the band's awesome power, driven on by James Williamson's monstrously heavy guitar riffs. Ron Asheton, who'd started out as guitarist in the Stooges but was then demoted to bass guitar by Iggy and Williamson, pumps out stunningly inventive basslines, locked in with his brother Scott, on drums. Pianist Scott Thurston is only intermittently audible over the instrumental barrage, but Iggy is omnipresent. Whether as a baritone croon, punk yell or in his drawn-out baiting of the audience, the singer's aggression, frustration and doomed glamour define an album that would eventually inspire the UK punk movement.
By the second show, recorded on February 9, 1974, at the Stooges 'very last gig, the sound is more obviously desperate and ragged, but still the band attempt to forge ahead with new songs including "I Got Nothing" and "Open Up and Bleed," both of them mid-paced, dark, flawed masterpieces that hypnotically depict Iggy's desperate mental state. Four months on from the band's earlier show, many audience members had turned up to mock, or to gloat.
As a result, the band performed under a hail of bottles, coins, eggs: "they threw all kinds of shit," remembers Scott, "Cameras, bags of pot, pills — not just bottles." In response, the band's own music became more like a self-parody, their nihilism highlighted in misogynist rants like "Rich Bitch" and "Cock in My Pocket," while Iggy's bravado occasionally gives way to reveal that he'd quite simply given up — "We don't hate you," he tells the audience as they barrage him. "We don't even care." By the last song, "Louie Louie," Iggy defies the jeers and projectiles, spitting out a pottymouth version of the garage band staple as Williamson crunches out the three chords with hoodlum malevolence, summoning up a fiendish blizzard of notes for the solo. As the song ends, a Stroh's bottle can be heard shattering on Thurston's piano, Iggy responding with a scornful, "Ya missed again — so keep trying next week."
But there was no next week. Instead, the Stooges retreated to LA and Michigan, nursing their psychological wounds. By the end of the year Iggy was hospitalized in Los Angeles 'Neuropsychiatric Institute, diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It seemed he was languishing in the oblivion many thought he so richly deserved.
Except it was not the end. In October that year, English writer Nick Kent took tapes of the two shows, recorded by Stooges fan Michael Tipton, to Paris record store owner Marc Zermati. Released in September 1976, Metallic KO would become a cornerstone of the UK punk movement, by which time David Bowie had rescued Iggy; the two would move to Berlin, nurse their wounded psyches and emerge with new classics like Lust for Life and "Heroes".
In April 2006 the Stooges reconvened in their pre-James Williamson line-up, adding an inconceivably upbeat coda to their unbelievable story. As such, it's a more appropriate time than ever to revel in the disaster of their previous existence. Failure has never sounded so good.