Iggy Pop on the happiest days of his life, spent discovering music and working at Discount Records

    Iggy Pop, as some of you may know, is the honorary ambassador of Record Store Day this year. And, as such, he’s been pontificating these past few days on the importance of recorded music, visionary artists and independent retailers, in the run-up to the April 21 event. In a recent videotaped address to the nation, in which he encouraged people to patronize their local independent record stores, Iggy, true to form, took the opportunity to point out that most mass-market music being sold today is weak, soulless shit. More importantly, though, at least from my perspective, he also, in the process, worked in a few lovely memories of being a kid, stocking shelves at Ann Arbor’s Discount Records. You’ll find the video below, but, first, I wanted to share this quote from Iggy.

    …I think there are some ages, like the one we’re living in, when the game is kind of rigged towards products that contain music – sort of like those cheap drinks you get in a bad supermarket where it says, “Contains 10% juice”…

    There’s a lot of stuff out there with a bit of music to it, and I think that’s OK, but it reminds me of how crappy it was to turn on American Bandstand in the 50′s, when I was going to high school, and see all the endless, gutless, dickless imitations of Elvis that the American industry decided to push on the kids…

    I like the idea of today’s music being more “product that contains music” than music itself. And I love the fact that Iggy can still twist a phrase like a scalpel.

    And here’s part of what he had to say about Discount Records.

    …I got my name, my musical education and my personality all from working at a record store during my tender years. Small indie shops have always been a mix of theatre and laboratory. In the ’50s and ’60s the teen kids used to gather after school at these places to listen free to the latest singles and see if they liked the beat…

    Discount Records, of course, is now gone. A Potbelly Sandwich Shop, of all things, inhabits its whitewashed carcass, like a bloated, opportunistic parasite. And Jeep Holland, the man who ran the store during its heyday, and is credited with giving Iggy his name, died in 1998. There era, I guess, is officially over… I just did a search online and discovered that Jeep Holland left his archives to U-M’s Bentley Historical Library. I don’t know that I’ll ever actually do it, but I think it would be cool to spend an afternoon picking through the boxes in those thin, white, archivist’s gloves that they make you wear, looking for clues as to what Ann Arbor was like back then. At the very least, I think that it would make for an interesting blog post… Anyway, here’s the video. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.

    Did you catch the part where Iggy said that the employees at Discount Records took up a collection and sent him to Chicago to study the Blues? I think that was just about the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard… I’d known for years, of course, that Iggy, when he was young, left home for Chicago, with the intention of learning how to play the drums from old Blues men, but I’d never known that it was his coworkers who had ponied up the money to make that happen. Just think about that for a minute… the enormity of it. Punk rock, as a genre, may never have happened, if a few people didn’t stick $5 bills into an envelope for that skinny kid that got them their coffee and unpacked records in the basement. How incredible is that? And how much will knowing that influence you the next time you’re confronted with a situation where you’re called on to invest a few bucks in a young person with a dream?

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      19 Comments

      1. Edward
        Posted April 5, 2012 at 5:46 am | Permalink

        In Ann Arbor, at this very moment, there’s a young man who feels as passionately about shitty sandiwches as Iggy did about music. Potbelly is the new Discount Records.

      2. Quinn
        Posted April 5, 2012 at 6:52 am | Permalink

        Mark, thanks for reminding folks where punk rock really started. I’ve had way too many long conversations with people who still think it was NYC or London. BTW, where can I get one of those Iggy/Ypsilanti tees?!

      3. Eel
        Posted April 5, 2012 at 9:13 am | Permalink

        Chains aren’t always bad. Or, at least, they weren’t. As Iggy points out here, Discount Records wasn’t an independent record store. Still, it was a different era, and they had some autonomy under the leadership of Mr. Holland. It makes me physically ill to walk by the Potbelly Sandwich place, knowing that it used to be a great record store, and that Iggy used to work in the basement. It’s one of the reasons I dislike Ann Arbor and what it’s become so much.

      4. Posted April 5, 2012 at 9:18 am | Permalink

        http://www.whatwasthere.com/b/37510

      5. anonymous
        Posted April 5, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink

        More people should pool their money to send bright, young kids on vision quests.

      6. Posted April 5, 2012 at 9:36 am | Permalink

        Discount might have been a “great” record store in the 60′s, before I was born, but it was a really awful record store post 1988, after I moved back to Ann Arbor.

        That being said, the community atmosphere of a local record store has been sadly lost, though I can’t imagine being a part of one at this stage of my life.

        Encore certainly tries, but without the excitement of new releases and competition for being in in the latest and greatest, it (a community store) can’t really work like it did in the past.

      7. Rex
        Posted April 5, 2012 at 10:04 am | Permalink

        adam: thanks for reminding me of that site. looks like they’ve improved the interface a lot since I looked at it last.

      8. Knox
        Posted April 5, 2012 at 10:09 am | Permalink

        Lots of thoughts jumbled up in my head.

        I can’t bring myself to put the last Stooges record on my turn table. I know it’s probably shit, and I don’t want to hold it against them. And I’m trying not to begrudge them their career. I think it’s great that they’re finally getting the respect that they deserve. And they can still put on a great live show. I just wish that Ron had been around for a little longer to enjoy it.

        As for Record Store Day, I never really got it as a concept. I think it’s great to draw attention to the fact that they’re important, but should people feel good about themselves just buying a record in a real store once a year? Maybe it gives small stores the bump they need to make it through the rest of the year, which would be good, but it just seems kind of silly to me.

        Oh, and the Stooges Wax Museum is now a Starbucks.

      9. Posted April 5, 2012 at 11:07 am | Permalink

        I hope you don’t really believe that a Stooges Wax Museum ever really existed.

      10. Knox
        Posted April 5, 2012 at 11:44 am | Permalink

        It did exist. I was there, Peter.

        And I have a photo to prove it.

        http://www.flickr.com/photos/20348545@N05/3057351013/

      11. Bob
        Posted April 5, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

        Discount Records wasn’t much more interesting than Potbelly, even in like 1980. I like Iggy’s description of getting sick from licking the return labels all day long. Evidently you couldn’t get sponges in Ann Arbor during the swinging 60′s.

      12. Elf
        Posted April 5, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

        Sponges are for sex.

        And you’re right about Discount Records sucking. Still, though, it’s fun to bitch about how much better stuff used to be, before Starbucks and the internet.

      13. stupid hick
        Posted April 5, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

        A few years after it opened Potbelly drove David’s Books out of the second floor of the building too. “Sucks” is relative and I’d rather have Discount Records and David’s Books.

      14. Posted April 6, 2012 at 9:08 am | Permalink

        “Driven out”? Seriously?

        It’s notable that David’s Books, Shaman Drum and Borders are all closed (not to mention Wooden Spoon and Schoolkids).

        Ann Arbor used to be book capital of the midwest and then the internet came along. I will admit (somewhat ashamedly) that I haven’t bought a book in a bookstore in nearly a decade, even used, though I still buy books.

        The economic market for books (and music) has changed drastically in the past decade, likely for good. I’m not saying whether that’s good or bad.

      15. anonymous
        Posted April 6, 2012 at 9:23 am | Permalink

        You’re absolutely right when you say that we’re doing this to ourselves. People are, as you say, buying fewer books and records. That doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t bemoan the fact that we’re being shafted. Yes, we’re complicit in it. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t still suck. I’ve bought sandwiches at Potbelly. They’re relatively cheap, super fast and efficient as hell. They represent the future. I’d take Drakes in a heartbeat, though.

      16. Posted April 6, 2012 at 9:37 am | Permalink

        Are we being shafted?

        I remember hearing people cry about Shaman Drum closing, but the simple truth was that those same people didn’t buy anything there.

        People buy just as many books, but the whole model has changed. I would say that I buy MORE books now than I ever have before. It’s easier to find books I want now, and I get to spend less time looking and more time reading. It’s not so bad, really.

        It’s silly to expect these businesses to stay open without customers.

        Drakes food was awful. Everything they served was awful. I wouldn’t eat there then. Certainly the interior was amazing, but it never drew me to eat anything there. It didn’t help that old man Drake was a cantankerous racist bastard and generally a complete asshole.

        I do still go out of my way to spend money at Jerusalem Gardens, because Ali is a good dude.

      17. Elf
        Posted April 6, 2012 at 10:13 am | Permalink

        Another piece of good footage of Iggy talking.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oORXD4HDnRU&feature=youtu.be

        He’s sitting around, listening to the Raw Power tracks, talking about the contributions of the Asheton brothers.

      18. stupid hick
        Posted April 6, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

        Peter, Peter,

        Yes, really, David’s Books relocation to the old Campus Bike and Toy Store wasn’t by choice, they were driven out by Potbelly. They were pushed out of their space the Pig, not out of business. David’s Books was viable as a bricks and mortar store a couple blocks away for years afterwards.

        And you think Drake’s was terrible?!? Well, I guess we must have different tastes. I remember Drake’s was simple, cheap, and good. It was an interesting place, and many of the people who worked there in the 80′s were talented. Some were real geniuses.

        So what about the owner? Poor old man who nobody liked, but I am sorry he died because it was a shame when that place closed.

        Drake’s is to Bruegger’s as Tiger’s Stadium is to Comerica Park. Everyone agrees Ty Cobb was an asshole, so what?

      19. anonymous
        Posted April 21, 2012 at 10:50 am | Permalink

        Just a reminder to everyone that today is Record Store Day.

        http://www.recordstoreday.com/Home

        It’s also Iggy’s birthday.

        He was born in 1947, which would make him about 65, right?

      One Trackback

      1. [...] example. I had a real problem, however, with the fact that a Potbelly Sandwich Shop now stood on the site where James Osterberg, as a teenager hired to stock shelves, decided to make music his life…. History, I would contend, is important. And places like Potbelly, as good as their sandwiches [...]

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