Of course the answer is that there was no alternative, and “Onstage…” gives us a front-=row seat at the circus. There are fan accounts from in the crowd and backstage, insights from sound operator Nite Bob about the quality of shows and Iggy’s bravado/fucked up antics, and unadorned reviews by zine and industry press writers. They’re not all glowing. There’s even a dissing of the band from Paul Stanley of PISS (sorry, KISS) which carries a degree of unintended irony.

A light is shone on every phase of the Stooges’ storied, pre-reformation life. Nilsen’s writing style is clinical and he leaves the participants to add the colour in their own words. There are surprises. Warhol crew member-turned-management-sidekick Tony Zanetta balances the historical ledger in favour of Tony Defries, pointing out what the Mainman organisation gave the Stooges only for them to fall back into their decadent spiral.

Details count when you’re a Stooges obsessive. Warren Klein’s I-94 Bar interview fills gaps about the fleeting tenure of “Tornado Turner” as a replacement for Williamson. Saxophonist Steve Mackay’s similarly brief spell as emergency fill-in for Scott Asheton at the Eastown Theatre in Detroit in 1971 shows Alice Cooper members Michael Bruce and Glen Buxton had a fine time.    

The big take-out is how much chaos surrounded the Stooges at almost every step. Nilsen’s deep research shows a surprising number of blown-out gigs – and not all of them as a result of the band’s excesses. There are as many instances of ineptitude on the part of promoters or venue bookers.

Which isn’t to infer that the Stooges were a well-oiled machine. If Rock Action isn’t (famously) driving a 14-foot truck under a 12-foot bridge, a tour manager’s MIA with hepatitis or a club owner’s withholding a fee that would have financed flights to the next gig. As important a mentor as Danny Fields was, by his own admission he was a manager by long distance. Arguably, nobody could have saved the Stooges.  

“On Stage” is a paperback and its 150-odd pages are sprinkled with rare and previously unseen photos. You know what to do.

three mcgarrett