Did The Stooges really play Falls Church, VA… with photos to prove it?

Filmmaker and archivist Jeff Krulik investigates.

“When making my documentary Led Zeppelin Played Here, one of the great challenges was finding photographs of any bands playing on stage at nearby youth centers. There was simply very little documentation of either local bands or those that were on tour. Somehow I still managed to pull off a feature documentary that was not just talking heads.

So imagine my excitement when Richard Taylor finally located his snapshots of Iggy and the Stooges on stage at the Falls Church Community Center. We were able to feature some in the closing credits, but I always wanted to know how these came to be in an era when there was little-to-no documentation of bands in performance, unlike today when people are documenting their experiences endlessly. It just didn’t happen in 1970.

Richard has already posted one image on Facebook, prompting loads of responses, but there was typically no context for how it came to be—so I called him up.”

Jeff: Richard how many times did you see The Stooges?

Richard: So I saw them at the Wheaton Youth Center and then the next night in Falls Church…then I saw them, I’m pretty sure they opened for the Ramones at the Baltimore Civic Center.

Jeff: But the first time you saw the Stooges was where?

Richard: The Wheaton Youth Center.

Jeff: How did you first discover them? And what was the impetus for seeing them there?

Richard: In the late ‘60s…during the ‘60s, I liked garage rock and I liked the Stones and I liked the Beatles. Toward the end of the ‘60s things started going towards country rock which I wasn’t a fan of, so we had to search far and wide to find new sources of garage rock, basic, you know, good old rock and roll. So a friend of ours won the MC5 album Kick Out The Jams, he said “look at this album I got.” So we listened to it, and we loved it. It’s what we craved, basic rock and roll. This was like the late ‘60s, so we followed the MC5 in magazines like Rolling Stone or Creem, anything we could find.

Of course there was no internet in those days but in articles we learned that the MC5 were signed by Danny Fields, and at the time and he also signed the Stooges who were also from the Ann Arbor / Detroit area. So we said “That’s interesting, what are those guys like?” We liked the MC5 so that led us into the Stooges. Then I saw Iggy at the Cincinnati Pop Festival where he was in the crowd and then on the crowd. And he smeared peanut butter on himself.

Jeff: You saw that on TV right?

Richard: Yes, this was before the Wheaton Youth Center.

Jeff: It was broadcast on television I guess (Ed note: the fest was taped on June 13, 1970 and a condensed 90-minute show called Midsummer Rock was broad-cast nationally later that summer)

Richard: Yeah, it had some weird sports announcer, it was just bizarre. But I just looked at this guy—he had these silver lamé gloves on and he didn’t have any shirt on, bare-chested and they did “TV Eye” and “1970” which was from the Fun House album.

Jeff: How old were you at this point?

Richard: I was in high school.

Jeff: So you were reading about him from what was in the rock magazines?

Richard: Creem comes to mind, and at that point they were just getting started, but once again the MC5 were bigger and because of the MC5 we found out about The Stooges.

Jeff: Because Danny Fields signed them?

Richard: Yes. The rumor is he went to see the MC5 at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit and they said you gotta see this other band, Iggy and The Stooges—so he went to see The Stooges and he signed them. He signed the MC5 for $20,000 and he signed the Stooges for $5,000.

Jeff: So you saw the Cincinnati Pop Festival on TV and it really helped seal the deal.

Richard: Well we liked the MC5—this is only “Kick Out The Jams.” They didn’t have “Back in the USA” or “High Time” out yet—KOTJ was a live album, so we liked that, we liked the rawness of it. The politics I didn’t care for because I don’t think rock and roll and politics work that well together. They’re two different things. I didn’t like the John Sinclair aspect of it, but that was part of it so we accepted it. And they led us to the Stooges.

So we saw them at the Cincinnati rock concert, we were listening to WHMC—Barry Richards—and he says Iggy and the Stooges are coming to the Wheaton Youth Center and I was very familiar with Wheaton since I grew up in Silver Spring. So I said “Let’s drive down there let’s go see these guys.” And we did.

Jeff: So you heard WHMC in Carroll County?

Richard: Was it FM?

Jeff: No, it was AM.

Richard: For whatever reason, we listened to Barry Richards because he played some of the alternative stuff—alternative rock in those days—album oriented rock. Actually I got to meet Barry Richards. I won tickets to some show. We drove back there (WHMC in Gaithersburg, MD) to get tickets. We drove across some the creek or wherever the heck it was. We went back to the station to meet him. He was smoking pot and having a good time and glad to have someone visit him. I think the tickets were for the Chuck Berry and Grin show at Shady Grove Music Fair.

So I heard about The Stooges playing in concert from Barry Richards. I thought, let’s go down and see these guys in person. I knew where the Wheaton Youth Center was. So I said let’s drive down there. A bunch of us got together and drove down there and it was so bizarre, seeing The Stooges live.

Iggy, first off, I know in your documentary people said there wasn’t a stage at the Wheaton Youth center but there absolutely was a stage. It was like a little gym stage, a couple of feet off the ground. I know some people said there wasn’t a stage for Led Zeppelin but I’m sure but there was a stage for Iggy and the Stooges because he was on that stage.

When he came out they were so loud, and I think the band started playing and Iggy came out, and he looked like an animal, he looked like a wild animal that somebody had just let out of a cage. His eyes were darkened and I don’t know if that was from drug use or it was makeup, or some combination because his eyes were sunken and darkened. He just stared at the crowd and he didn’t talk to the people at the beginning. And they started doing their stuff.

There was a girl sitting on the stage to his right I believe, looking at the stage to his left, and during one of his gyrations he picks up the microphone stand and almost hits her in the head with the damn thing. And I’m like, “WOW,” this is more intense than I was really expecting! You wanted to see him, but you were also afraid, because he almost hit this girl in the head with the microphone stand and he didn’t care. So you didn’t want to get too close, but you wanted to get close enough to see him.

If I recall correctly, he did a stage dive and nobody caught him. He landed on the concrete floor or the tile floor because that was before body surfing. He invented it basically. Nobody caught him and he just landed on the floor and then he is crawling around slithering around on the floor. And you don’t know where he is and the band is still playing and we are watching him slither on the floor. And you don’t want to get too close to the guy because—like I said, he was dangerous, real life danger not pretend danger. It wasn’t an act.

So anyway, the concert was fantastic…loud, blaring rock and roll. They just came on—and then they were gone. Then we found out they were playing at the Falls Church Community Center the next night, so we went to that show as well. And I had my camera for that show.

Jeff: How did you find out they were playing Falls Church?

Richard: Probably Barry Richards but I don’t remember now. It was the next night. (Ed note: the dates were Friday, September 11, 1970 in Wheaton, MD and Saturday, September 12, 1970 in Falls Church, VA).

Jeff: So the next night you went to Falls Church to see him.

Richard: Yes.

Jeff: And what compelled you to bring your camera?

Richard: I wanted to document this guy! I wish I had it at Wheaton.

Jeff: Nobody brought—generally speaking—people didn’t bring cameras to shows.

Richard: That’s right. First off, the normal shows are too dark and you are too far away. But at the Wheaton Youth Center, I don’t think it was that dark, I don’t remember what kind of lights they had if they had any lights, but the Falls Church Community Center—it was like was it another gymnasium or a cafeteria and they had regular lights on. That’s why my pictures are so good, I didn’t use flash. They played with just regular lights on, it wasn’t dark.

Jeff: So do you remember it being an afternoon show or was it an evening?

Richard: It seemed like it was later afternoon or early evening.

Jeff: So they were literally on the local tour—it was Wheaton and Falls Church back to back, you know the next night. Theoretically at Wheaton you heard that night that they were playing Falls Church.

Richard: Maybe.

Jeff: I imagine it was a weekend, otherwise it wouldn’t have been viable—does that make sense?

Richard: Yes, but I would have gone to see him regardless because I drove in those days. I was 16 and I was pretty responsible. I could usually talk my parents into going places, because I got appropriate grades.

Jeff: Because that’s even farther than Wheaton—Falls Church—but you knew you were around because you were from Silver Spring.

Richard: Well I knew where the Wheaton Youth Center was, but I didn’t know Falls Church. Wheaton inspired us to go to Falls Church. If Falls Church was the first Iggy show, I’m not sure we would have gone because I didn’t know the area. In those days there was no Google maps just regular maps and you’ve got to plot things out for yourself.

Jeff: You went with a couple of friends?

Richard: Yeah, probably a couple of guys in my band at the time, or a couple of rock people. But you know I’m a teenager, you can’t talk to just about anybody about the Stooges and the MC5 because they don’t know what the heck you are talking about. I mean our peers at the time, they didn’t know who they were.

Jeff: You were probably among the few who actually knew who they were.

Richard: Correct, because of the MC5 we knew about the Stooges. But even the MC5, we really couldn’t talk to people about. Not people who were into the Beatles and Stones and The Who and the Doors. They just didn’t know what you were talking about.

Jeff: You don’t recall there being a lot of fans, did you see anybody you recognized the second night? Or wouldn’t have even registered.

Richard: No, didn’t know anybody the second night.

Jeff: Did the same group of people go the second night, in your carload, your friends?

Richard: I don’t remember specifically. I remember one or two who went the second night. But the second night the peanut butter thing came up again, but Iggy didn’t bring it. Somebody started throwing peanut butter at him and it pissed Iggy off. Someone must have seen it on the Cincinnati rock concert—in Cincinnati Iggy went into the jar with his hand and smeared it on himself—but at the Falls Church Community Center someone was throwing chunks of peanut butter at him, and it aggravated him. (Ed note: the only reason there was peanut butter in Cincinnati in the first place was people were encouraged to “Bring blankets, pillows, watermelon, incense, ozone rice, your old lady, babies, and other assorted goodies and do your own thing,” from the festival’s promotional flyer.)

Jeff: So that’s why they had it, he didn’t bring it, it was someone from the audience.

Richard: No, he didn’t bring it. I was next to the guy, or a couple of people over, and he was throwing it at him, and it was irritating Iggy. I would have been irritated too. But I’m telling you, Iggy was scary. He was maybe 19 at the time, and he was probably on drugs and his eyes, like I said, had dark circles. And he was unresponsive and he just had this weird smile when he looked at people and his teeth were chipped. And he had those jeans that were torn out up to his crotch up to a red jockstrap. And Iggy had a dog collar on.

And you know I had never seen anything like that—it was just amazing—this was waaay before punk rock started. I mean he was obviously one of the first people to do that.

Jeff: So you were compelled to bring you camera because you saw him at Wheaton. Did you take photos at many concerts?

Richard: No, that’s just the smaller concerts. You know I saw him at the Wheaton Youth Center, I saw him at Falls Church, I saw him open for the Ramones at the Civic Center, I saw him at Pulaski Highway in Baltimore. There was a bar called The Latin Casino that was the Raw Power tour with James Williamson on guitar. He wore pink hot pants and boots. And I saw him open for Mott the Hoople at the Kennedy Center. I have pictures for that show and the Latin Casino show, but they are not as close as I was at the Falls Church Community Center.

They pulled the plug on him at the Kennedy Center, because I guess they went over their allotted time. And maybe Mott the Hoople didn’t want them playing any longer. Whatever the reason, I remember Iggy saying they couldn’t play because they pulled the power on them.

Jeff: I think I read somewhere that it was due to his drug use, but maybe that’s all conjecture.

Richard: I remember Iggy saying “the power was cut.” It may have been drug use.

Jeff: Did they do a whole opening set?

Richard: Maybe they did a half hour set. When he first came out on stage, the very first thing he said was “I’m here playing against doctor’s orders.” He clearly had stitches on his chest. I think the night before he landed on broken glass and cut his chest open on some stage in New York.

The first two times I saw him he didn’t say jack shit, other than at Falls Church when the guy was throwing peanut butter and he said “That’s not cool,” or something. He didn’t talk, he would just stare at the audience like he was going to pounce. When he sang, he would shake the microphone a lot and hit his teeth. When he sang or smiled you saw he had chipped teeth.

But at the Kennedy Center, Iggy by that point had changed, Iggy would talk to the crowd. He had blond platinum hair, and they were now Iggy and the Stooges. Ron Asheton went from guitar to bass, and they brought in James Williamson on guitar. Scott Asheton was still on drums.

Jeff: That also boggles the mind, that they were at the Kennedy Center. But that’s what I did in my film—I wanted to explain to people that there were rock concerts at the Kennedy Center.

Richard: Mott the Hoople was great. Mick Ralphs and Ian Hunter—they were fantastic.

Jeff: But you didn’t normally take your camera to concerts, or did you?

Richard: No because usually the concerts were bigger and you really couldn’t get good shots.

Jeff: But Iggy in Falls Church was different.

Richard: You could get close up to him, and once again, I really wasn’t right up on the stage, because it was a dangerous place to be. That guy, when he gyrated, he threw that microphone stand around. I’m surprised he didn’t clobber anyone. It was dangerous so I was back a little bit, but close enough.

Jeff: But you were close enough to get some good shots. You got some good shots with those girls right in front of you. And I can see where that would have been good because the gym lights were on.

Richard: Yes! And I don’t think they had stage lights.

Jeff: I can’t remember from my research whether Wheaton Youth Center or Falls Church Community Center had stage lights, or the concerts just used existing light in the gymnasium.

Richard: Right. So after that show, we hung around. I remember now after it was over it was dark…after Falls Church we hung around because we wanted to meet the band. So they were loading the equipment out, the roadies were, and we said we’d give them a hand. We helped them load a couple of pieces on their rental van, or their U-Haul whatever it was, and then Iggy comes strolling out, everybody is gone at this point, Iggy comes strolling out—and he just mumbles something. You can tell he was on something but you know that was just fantastic, meeting Iggy and the band.

Jeff: At that point what did being a fan mean? Just going to see him every time he came through town?

Richard: I was in a band. I’m playing original music. He’s like a fellow musician. We covered a couple of his songs.

The band I was in at the time used to save for band trips and I said, “Let’s go to Detroit. let’s go to Ann Arbor,” because the MC5 and the Stooges were some of our biggest influences. So we got into the car a friend of mine had—I paid him to drive. I think we slept in the car on the way up there.

We got to Ann Arbor and I call up Iggy’s house, his trailer, he lived in a trailer park. And because I knew his name is Osterberg, I looked in up the phone book. I found Osterberg in a trailer park. I called him up and his Dad answered. Iggy’s real name is James. I said “Is James there?” His Dad said “No,”—he said he was out golfing with Alice Cooper. That’s what he told me, because Alice Cooper was also from Detroit, he said he was out golfing with Alice Cooper. And I thought, boy that’s weird, golfing? I would never expect Iggy to be golfing, but he was.

So instead, we called up one of the Ashton Brothers from the Stooges from the phone book. Ashton was not a common name. We met him and we had lunch or something because we told him we drove up from Baltimore to hang out with him.

We ended up going to the Grande Ballroom, to see another group that was getting big called The Up, and they were like the new MC5 and we got to see them. But let me tell you something, Detroit was a scary, scary place. It was like bombed out buildings after the war.

Jeff: These pictures are kind of an anomaly, I mean some people were photographers, but you necessarily weren’t a photographer. I’m trying to get at what compelled you to bring a camera. I mean I’ve only seen one picture of a band at the Wheaton Youth Center ever (Ed note: The Velours on stage).

Richard: There’s two things, number one, Iggy was so strange. He was thrilling and scary. I was genuinely afraid of the guy because he was unpredictable. It’s like they had a band here—and they had this cavemen in a cage they kept and when they let him out you couldn’t tell what he was going to do.

That’s what it was like. It was bizarre. So number one, he was so strange, and I really liked him, but number two, I knew I could get close because it wasn’t a big concert setting and I knew I could get close, so I did.

Jeff: And what kind of camera?

Richard: It was one of those little Instamatic cameras. I shot black and white film obviously—it wasn’t anything special. It was light enough as you can see from the photographs. It never dawned on me that the photos were unusual but they did turn out really, really good. I was pleasantly surprised.

Richard Taylor is a musician, filmmaker and video editor in Carroll County, MD. He’s been a solo performer as well as bandleader of Richard Taylor and the Ravers. Jeff Krulik is a filmmaker, archivist, and historic footage researcher in Silver Spring, MD. Led Zeppelin Played Here explores the mystery of whether the band played their first DC-area concert at the Wheaton Youth Center on January 20, 1969.

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