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 Interview with Jimmy Silver

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mc

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PostSubject: Interview with Jimmy Silver   Sun Sep 12, 2010 11:58 am

Jimmy Silver Interview

OK if I could start this off by asking what you were doing before you met the Stooges, so in 1966/67? I believe you were friends with John Sinclair and were involved with Trans Love Energies. Were you involved with any of the other Detroit bands at the time?

Actually, I was in graduate school at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor when I first met them. I was in a PhD program at the School of Public Health, in something called Medical Care Organization. At that point they were just practicing together and didn't have a name yet. We were friendly with Ron Richardson (who they called "The Professor"), and that was how we met them. We were at their 'debut', at his apartment.

We knew John but Trans Love came later, after I was already working with the boys.

We didn't have anything to do with any other Detroit bands...the boys were kind of jealous of my time, in a way. Doing things with the MC5 and John and Trans Love was OK, within certain parameters, but when John wanted to open a nightclub and wanted me to participate in it with Trans Love, they vetoed that. Jim made it clear that they didn't want me to do anything that would take my primary focus away from the Stooges. Which was OK with me.

And what did you think of the early Stooges sound and performance, could you describe this a little? Was their uniqueness a factor in your decision to manage them?

The Stooges were unique, absolutely, and I was definitely taken with them. Remember, the first time we ever saw them was in a small room, filled with people, and among other things Jim not only sang, he played Hawaiian guitar. It was somewhat...out there.

Their early stage performances were polarizing for the audience. I happened to like them but the audience would be divided along a kind of love/hate line. They never played very long - in an era when hour+ sets were normal, they never played more than 20 minutes, even when they were the headliners - and never did more than one set.

Their sound was unusual, partly because Jim liked turning the PA up to pain level for his voice, and Scotty's drum set was dominated by timbales, which were normally only used by Latin bands back then. Ron had a very aggressive sound with his guitars (like the Gibson Flying V), as did Dave's Fender Jazz bass. They wanted to be like a sonic slap in the face, and they were.

It wasn't just that - their music was a reflection of something elemental but unidentifiable...it wasn't what you normally heard, blues or R+B based, or folk based or based on most anything you were familiar with. Jim had a very broad musical background, but wanted to make the music that just came out of him, as he used to say, and the band were the guys who were willing to do that with him.

I wasn't looking for a job, in any sense, I just wanted to do what I wanted to do too, kind of like them. The difference was that I played...the radio. So definitely their uniqueness helped draw me to them. And they asked me - it's always nice to feel wanted.

What was your role as manager of the band?


I was the business 'face'. The boys didn't really want anything to do with the business end of what we did, other than be in control of it. Since we were only in control of what we wanted, it was up to me to be that buffer.

So...I dealt with the booking agents, ballroom managers, all transportation issues, the record company (on financial, not musical things), bank accounts, personnel (such as it was - basically roadies), musical equipment like amps and guitars (acquisition, not specification), which meant the music stores...like that.

When they didn't want Jackson Browne as their producer in LA, I needed to tell Elektra Records, and attempt to explain why not. When they felt they were short changed by Elektra on the signing bonus compared to what the MC5 had received, I flew to NYC, got a referral to a heavy duty music lawyer (Alan Bomser, formerly counsel to Atlantic Records, and known in the industry as Bomser the Momser) who accompanied me to 'talk' with Jac Holzman, and helped get us what the boys wanted.

I also felt that it was my role to try to communicate what I perceived was the 'reality' of the outside world to them, which I periodically attempted to do...not with any great or notable success. Mostly I tried to make sure that we could get by on the money we had, and to try to get us gigs and progressively higher fees.

You then moved into the Funhouse with your wife, which was quite a brave move! Was this because money was tight? What sort of fees were the band actually getting for their gigs?

Money was definitely tight - and we were invited. It's nice to be wanted. There were two entire apartments on the second floor of the Old Bear's house, and we were given our pick. We chose the one with the brighter, lighter kitchen and moved in. Scotty moved into the other half - a lion needs his own lair. Dave had his own little suite of rooms on the ground floor, and Ron hung an Indian bedspread across the doorless opening to what was kind of a little den area. Jim lived in the attic.

Also, Susan was pregnant and a house 'in the country' seemed much nicer than where we were living. The apartment was nice, which was over a busy intersection, on top of two busy stores. The Blue Front, whose owner, Ray Collins, owned the building, and who sold all sorts of newspapers, magazines and tobacco products; and Ralph's market, a sort of smaller grocery store. The Blue Front carried the NY Times and Ralph's flew in bagels from the Bronx every Sunday, so on weekends there were lines out the door at both places, starting Saturday afternoon and then early Sunday morning.

The Old Bear's place had been up until fairly recently a working farm, and the farmer used to come out to tend to a vegetable garden and snoop around the house (although he no longer owned the place - the city had taken it and bought it from him in order to eventually put a highway bypass through). The boys HATED having him around - but he used to give vegetables to Susan, which she would share with Ron who was mainly the one who cooked (Dave also did, once in a while).

I think the first gig we ever got paid for was maybe $60, maybe $100 - I don't actually remember exactly. Not much, that I do remember. Eventually, after we had played a couple of times at the Grande Ballroom and at some places on the teen circuit (like Punch Andrews's place in Army or Leonard, MI, where John Sinclair was famously arrested in what he termed a 'police riot' when the MC5 played there...Punch was Bob Seger's manager), we began to make more. At one of those teen places in Oakland, MI I think, Jim's pants, which some of the MC5 wives had made for him, split, and he was arrested for indecent exposure.

That made some of the local agents interested in us, and after we were signed by Elektra Records, we started to get farther flung gigs in which we would get a percentage of the gate. I remember walking around the worst part of St. Louis around 2AM with a paper bag with $4000 in one dollar bills in it, trying to find my way to the hotel after letting everyone else depart while I counted out the house receipts with the club owner. However, jobs like that were infrequent.

We also started to get festival gigs, which paid between $1000 and $2000 - those were good because they didn't expect the band to play too long, which was perfect, since they didn't anyway. At the one in Cincinnati Jim walked off the stage onto the upraised hands of the audience, like walking on water - the old TV taped footage still exists somewhere.

By then we could play at the Grande every two months or so, and even though we would be second billed to the headliner, those jobs now paid maybe $2000-2500. We played second bill to Arthur Brown, to Alice Cooper, to the MC5 when they played there, to Blood, Sweat and Tears, to Frank Zappa (BS&T and Frank Zappa HATED the Stooges; Arthur Brown and Alice Cooper, especially Alice Cooper and their guitarist Glen, LOVED them).

So by the time I left they were able to get a couple of thousand a night when they worked - but work was irregular.

photo by Ron Rich



Last edited by mc on Sun Sep 12, 2010 12:08 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Interview with Jimmy Silver   Sun Sep 12, 2010 12:01 pm

When they werenít playing, what was a typical day like for the band? Did they practice regularly? How did the album tracks get written? Was everyone involved in this process?

Hmm...typical day, they got up around 5PM or so, and then around 6:30PM they would gather in the living room downstairs for practice. They would play for around 15 minutes, and that would be pretty much it for practice.

On the other hand, particularly Ron and Jim would spend a lot of time 'woodshedding', individually or together, with a guitar and no amp, or working on lyrics to something, or a tune. But they didn't really do a lot of practice together. Of course, that helped give the live performances part of their edge - it was kind of an adventure for everyone, them and the audience, as none of them really knew what to expect or what might happen.

We would hear them through the floor, and they would be making fun of other bands, particularly other local bands, and they would play what they considered sort of 'joke' songs that reflected the personality and character of some other band. This was mainly Ron and Jim.

The thing was, they were so good at capturing the essence of these other bands, that I began to suggest, and then to beg, that they actually go ahead and write these tunes out, so that we could tape them, as demos, for the other bands to record. They were great - better than what these other bands were writing for themselves.

Nah, nah they would say, it's just foolin' around, too much trouble, etc, etc. I would say Hey, this is how Lennon and McCartney made money at first; there's more money in the publishing than in the performing, and so on and so on. Nah, nah they'd say and just laugh at me. They were great at pinpointing exactly what it was that made other bands' sounds or styles. It was amazing. But they had no interest in it as an actual pursuit - they just wanted to do what they wanted to do, and that was it. They made compromises and did what other people wanted if they absolutely had to, but they lived for the day when there wouldn't be any of that.

I wasn't part of the musical experience, so I can't really tell you about the writing. I'm sure everyone was involved because that was how the final version or sound of a tune got worked out - it wasn't like Jim or Ron would show up with charts for the other guys. On the other hand, I do remember that Jim would write down lyrics on scraps of paper, or Ron would write some lyrics or have a riff he wanted everyone to hear, and then they would work on it together from there. Somebody would have an idea, usually Jim or Ron, and they would flesh it out together...at least, that is the way it seemed to me, at my distance.

Talking about demos and taping, were any demo tapes or live recordings made in í68 or í69? To my knowledge thereís nothing that has been released from this period. Iíve always had a fascination with what the pre-1st Album Stooges sounded like. I know of a couple of nights when the MC5 were recorded and the Stooges also played: The First Unitarian Church in September í68 and The Grande Ballroom in October í68 when the MC5 recorded Kick Out the Jams, and Iím ever hopeful that one day these Stooges sets might appear!

Out of interest have you heard the recently released Asthma Attack track? I think it is an outtake from the 1st Album recording session but it doesnít really sound like anything else on there. Is it similar to the type of stuff they were doing in 1968?

Hey, that was a great track! Thanks...and yes, that is pretty much what they sounded like pre-first record, although this is, if anything, a little more polished, believe it or not. Remember, at one point in the live performances, at the Grande Ballroom, they had me playing a 250 gallon empty oil drum with a rubber mallet used for auto body work. Unfortunately, I couldn't keep the beat (years later I discovered in reading about James Brown that you are supposed to hit it on the ONE!), so that was it for my performing career.

When I say polished, for example, I don't remember any voice echo in the live performances, but that might just be me. Other than that though, it definitely took me back. Also, Dave's bass is much more prominent in the recording than it was live, as I recall - but we are talking forty years here, so quien sabe.

I think that there may have been some experimental live recordings, possibly the night the 5 did their live recording, I honestly don't remember. Sounds likely, but I can't be certain.

Both the 1st Album and Funhouse were released during your time managing the Stooges, was there any expectation that either would be commercially successful? Which album do you personally prefer?

I think we all hoped, more than expected, that both would be commercial successes. Both did lead to better gigs and better pay - eventually. Preferences are always difficult...I'd have to say there's something about #1 that has always had appeal for me.

photo by Glen Craig


Last edited by mc on Sun Sep 12, 2010 12:10 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Interview with Jimmy Silver   Sun Sep 12, 2010 12:03 pm

Could you explain why you decided to stop managing the Stooges in late 1970?

Our interest was increasingly family and food and things other than getting money for dope, and staying out and/or up all night and being in far away places (relatively far away, anyway) at the drop of a hat. I was very interested in macrobiotics, even more so after we'd been in LA to record and I'd spent a fair amount of time in the daylight hours (our work was all at night at the Elektra studios) at the Erewhon store nearby, or visiting the macrobiotic house on Franklin Avenue in Hollywood.

After we returned to Ann Arbor, my friends from Erewhon in LA called me up, more than once, asking and encouraging us to come back and work and live with them, and do something that really engaged us in every sense.

At the same time, the boys were more and more into their own thing, which was increasingly divergent from what our young family was moving toward. Also, my friend John Adams (who they called The Fellow) was there to help them (at least that was the way I saw it at the time), and they would soon have their second record out. It just felt like we should pursue the dream we had, so to speak, as they were pursuing theirs. That, combined with the mis-match in lifestyles, was really it.

Lastly, looking back at all the Psychedelic Stooges/Stooges gigs you attended, which particular shows would you say are most memorable to you and for what reasons?

I liked the early shows at the Grande best. They were the rawest, realest, most demanding of the boys in their nascent band state. They also made me the most nervous, because I had no idea how the audience would react, or even how long the band would play - they only had about 20 minutes of material max, and with their intensity, about the same in physical stamina. Later, as they got 'better' in some sense, they were able to connect with the audience in more normal ways, which was gratifying in its way too (as when Jim was able to walk off the stage in Cincinnati onto a sea of hands, like walking on water). That kind of stuff was very cool - but as far as just being there and being totally taken into the experience, for me it was the beginning shows. People didn't know what to expect, so it wasn't 'oh I wonder what Iggy's going to do tonight' or anything like that - there was just an electricity about it, even before they came on...or maybe that was just me. Dunno.

I also liked was the show in a club in Queens or Flushing or Brooklyn, that I think Elektra had arranged, where Jim took his penis out and Ron touched the head of his guitar to it while madly feeding back, under a strobe light, as I recall. It wasn't really our audience - they were like the audience who would become the people John Travolta hung around with in Saturday Night Fever - and they seemed not particularly into what was happening on stage, and then Jim did that and it was as if someone had slapped the entire audience in the face. Danny Fields told me after that he was freaked out because this was in (at least then) one of the most homophobic suburbs of NYC, and oh my god how could he do that, not HERE of all places (and Danny is famously gay himself, but like a good A&R and PR man, was thinking only of the band and their career). I have to admit I couldn't quite believe it myself. And when Danny said that to me, I just thought Hey, this is who they are, whatever it is...it's like trying to keep a lion or a tiger as a pet. Sometimes the bear eats you. This is who they are, what they are - this is not an act in the usual sense of the word, like some clothes they put on and take off.

Jim always said I was basically a fan - so maybe that's my fan's point of view.

If possible I'd also like to post a couple of photos alongside the interview, by any chance do you have any photos of yourself with the Stooges? (I guess it's too much to hope there's a photo of you onstage playing that 250 gallon oil drum with them in 1968!). Do you have many photos that you yourself took of the band?

There were pictures of the oil drum performance, because I've seen them. I wasn't actually on stage - I was in the orchestra pit, actually more or less at floor level with the audience. Leni Sinclair used to take tons of pictures, and probably has some performance pictures, especially from shows at the Grande or in Ann Arbor. I think she took pictures that night too. I kind of remember thinking that it was so dark, and yet the pictures still came out. Panther used to take photos too. And once in a while Famous (Lynn Goldstein, who got her nickname because, I guess, she wanted desperately to be famous - which I think she was briefly, within the past few years).

The boys were not in love with having their pictures taken in general, as I recall. They did it when it was part of the star-making machinery, as Joni Mitchell said, but not really their favorite thing. At one time this guy Glen, who had contacted us through Elektra, and was a professional photographer of some sort, wanted to come out and spend a week or two with the band taking pictures of everything. He wanted to do a photo story and get it published, and initially the band said OK. The star-making machinery. However, after about two or three days they had had enough and told him he had to go back to NY. He couldn't believe it - and was extremely upset and disappointed. But that was it - out.

At any rate, even though I took lots of pics back then, and many around the house, it never occurred to either us or the boys that we should take any pictures together. It sort of seemed like we were together, so who would ever need mementos? One thing I'll always remember - early on Danny Fields told the band that there was only one thing important about having your picture taken: CLEAN HAIR.

Jimmy Silver with daughter
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heavy liquid
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PostSubject: Re: Interview with Jimmy Silver   Sun Sep 12, 2010 1:19 pm

Wow! Who was the interviewer? Was it you? I assume this is recent yes?

Thanks a lot for this!
cheers

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mc

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PostSubject: Re: Interview with Jimmy Silver   Sun Sep 12, 2010 1:36 pm

heavy liquid wrote:
Wow! Who was the interviewer? Was it you? I assume this is recent yes?

Thanks a lot for this!
cheers

Yup, just finished doing this with Jimmy yesterday - an exclusive for the Stooges Forum.
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PostSubject: Re: Interview with Jimmy Silver   Sun Sep 12, 2010 1:44 pm

mc wrote:
heavy liquid wrote:
Wow! Who was the interviewer? Was it you? I assume this is recent yes?

Thanks a lot for this!
cheers

Yup, just finished doing this with Jimmy yesterday - an exclusive for the Stooges Forum.

Thanks MC! I'll post it in the news section.

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PostSubject: Re: Interview with Jimmy Silver   Sun Sep 12, 2010 2:00 pm

Thanks Rupert, great interview Love
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PostSubject: Re: Interview with Jimmy Silver   Sun Sep 12, 2010 2:12 pm

great stuff, thanks a million mc
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PostSubject: Re: Interview with Jimmy Silver   Sun Sep 12, 2010 2:35 pm

Thanks for this mc!!!
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PostSubject: Re: Interview with Jimmy Silver   Sun Sep 12, 2010 2:37 pm

Fantastic stuff Rupert! Many, many thanks!
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PostSubject: Re: Interview with Jimmy Silver   Sun Sep 12, 2010 3:23 pm

Excellent thanks!
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PostSubject: Re: Interview with Jimmy Silver   Sun Sep 12, 2010 4:47 pm

Another fantastic interview Rupert, this was brilliant, thanks!
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mc

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PostSubject: Re: Interview with Jimmy Silver   Sun Sep 12, 2010 8:03 pm

Thanks guys, I hope my questions to Jimmy covered some interesting topics.
If anyone has any further specific questions they'd like to put to him PM me and I'll ask if he has the time to answer them.

MC

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PostSubject: Re: Interview with Jimmy Silver   Sun Sep 12, 2010 10:48 pm

Way to go, mc! Great stuff! cheers
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PostSubject: Re: Interview with Jimmy Silver   Sun Sep 12, 2010 11:25 pm

Thank you so much for this, MC!! Great interview, covered very interesting stuff! Seem like Jimmy's memory is such good,maybe he can shine a light on even more from 68-69 Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Interview with Jimmy Silver   Mon Sep 13, 2010 4:08 am

Hey, YES! Kickass!! THANK YOU!
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PostSubject: Re: Interview with Jimmy Silver   Mon Sep 13, 2010 8:49 am

Thanks MC!
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PostSubject: Re: Interview with Jimmy Silver   Mon Sep 13, 2010 12:12 pm

Thanks very much for the interview. That was a really great read.
Jimmy seems like a lovely bloke with a real affection for the Funhouse days.
Cheers,
Richard
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PostSubject: Re: Interview with Jimmy Silver   Mon Sep 13, 2010 7:54 pm

Very nice! Thanks!!!!!
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PostSubject: Re: Interview with Jimmy Silver   Mon Sep 13, 2010 10:37 pm

that was great! thanks for that
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PostSubject: Re: Interview with Jimmy Silver   Fri Sep 17, 2010 10:57 pm

Thank you mc, great interview!
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PostSubject: Re: Interview with Jimmy Silver   Sun Sep 19, 2010 8:32 pm

That was a really great interview mc.

Will we ever see the photos of Leni Sinclair ( I think some of Leni's are out there, but not a lot), Panther and Lynn Goldstein?

For me this is absolutely the best part of the interview:

I also liked was the show in a club in Queens or Flushing or Brooklyn, that I think Elektra had arranged, where Jim took his penis out and Ron touched the head of his guitar to it while madly feeding back, under a strobe light, as I recall. It wasn't really our audience - they were like the audience who would become the people John Travolta hung around with in Saturday Night Fever - and they seemed not particularly into what was happening on stage, and then Jim did that and it was as if someone had slapped the entire audience in the face. Danny Fields told me after that he was freaked out because this was in (at least then) one of the most homophobic suburbs of NYC, and oh my god how could he do that, not HERE of all places (and Danny is famously gay himself, but like a good A&R and PR man, was thinking only of the band and their career). I have to admit I couldn't quite believe it myself. And when Danny said that to me, I just thought Hey, this is who they are, whatever it is...it's like trying to keep a lion or a tiger as a pet. Sometimes the bear eats you. This is who they are, what they are - this is not an act in the usual sense of the word, like some clothes they put on and take off.

If there isn't some mention of this in Jamusch's doc, it will be a crime.
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PostSubject: Re: Interview with Jimmy Silver   Mon Sep 20, 2010 12:10 am

There's a book of Leni's photos and Gary Grimshaw's artwork being produced so hopefully some unseen Stooges shots will be in there: http://www.detroitartistsworkshop.com/Store/DetroitRocks/DetroitRocks.htm

I've ordered it and will supply details when I have it.
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PostSubject: Re: Interview with Jimmy Silver   Thu Sep 23, 2010 5:02 am

Thanks mc ! Great Interview! also Thanks for the info on Leni's and Gary's new book.
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PostSubject: Re: Interview with Jimmy Silver   Sun Sep 26, 2010 2:10 am

One last little question I asked Jimmy, don't know why but I wanted to know this Smile

I know you got ordained to marry Jim and Wendy, but have you conducted any other weddings since then?

I did one other wedding, Frank and Bonnie Bach (he was the lead singer of the UP, another Trans-Love band. As I recall they got divorced...so I went 0 for 2 and gave it up after that.


Jimmy Silver by Leni Sinclair

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