Today marks the release of The Stooges Live at Goose Lake 1970, a release so unlikely it kinda boggles the mind. Not only are there very few live recordings of The Stooges, but this particular recording of this particular performance is so drenched in legend that to even suggest there was a clean documentation of it sounds like a tall tale.
I’ve been very lucky to be friends with and play in a bunch of bands with Joshua Rogers. We met in the early 90s and quickly established a musical kinship that took us through dalliances with glam, mod, garage rock, Americana and beyond. Early on we dubbed him “Gadget,” not just for his love of technology but for his impeccable timing as a drummer. It’s almost as if he were designed to be a drummer–programmed, as such.
If you knew Joshua well in those days you also knew his dad in some way. Jim Cassily loved Josh’s musical projects and loved facilitating them however he could. In addition to being a king storyteller, Jim was an inventor with a specific interest in how rhythm has residual benefits relating to motor skills, balance and lots of other stuff I don’t understand. The Interactive Metronome became a key piece of his technological legacy, something Joshua knew well as his dad would have him clap along with a metronome as part of his learning the drums.
And the stories he would tell…Our early bands spent time recording with Josh’s dad and that meant hours of exposure to the various tales he would weave throughout the process of setting up for a recording session. I was a natural skeptic in my youth and basically considered “adults” to be full of shit. Especially Boomers who took any opportunity to tell us how much better everything was in their day, so I was probably more dismissive to his storytelling than I had any right to be.
“Dad was such a legendary bullshitter that it was hard to sort of keep the stories straight,” Josh joked in a recent call where we caught up on this crazy adventure.
As a kid it was sometimes hard for Josh to discern fact from his dad’s colorful fiction. “Friends laughed at me because I told them he was a member of the Oak Ridge Boys.” This bit of fantasy was likely the result of Josh’s conflating some joke Jim may have told him about having sung with the Oak Ridge Boys and the fact that he could sing in the same register to hit the most famous part of their most famous hit, “Elvira.” When you’re a kid sometimes you miss the nuances of a joke.
There were also brushes with fame that would sometimes get jumbled up in the telling or retelling. “I thought he had dated Janis Joplin, but mom says no. He–like everyone else–thought she was scuzzy. He did work with her though, but I’m not sure to what capacity. And he did date Debbie Harry.”
“Mom jokes that he chose her over Debbie Harry. That’s what he would tell her.”
“Eventually, I started to take dad’s stories with a big hunk of salt.”
The Stooges’ performance at Goose Lake was pure rock and roll myth. It was the last show with the original line-up. Bassist Dave Alexander was summarily fired from the band by Iggy immediately after leaving the stage because he was so stoned or scared or whatever that he couldn’t play. At least, that’s how the story went.
But at what point does a story become history? Sometimes it’s just when it’s been told enough times by enough people and sometimes it’s when there’s some corroborating evidence. Such is the tale of how a box of tapes in a farmhouse basement in Michigan made its way to Nashville, via Chicago.
GLONO: When do you remember first being aware of the tapes?
Joshua Rogers: I remember seeing them in the attic of our house in Brighton. This pile of musty old liquor boxes has been following us around for some time. When we moved [into the farm house in Grand Rapids] they came with us and just sat in the corner of that basement. So I was always aware that the boxes existed, that the name Seger was on them, so that was a flag. But that was my overall impression: they’re there, there might be some Seger stuff on them and that’s it.
GLONO: Did you ever talk to your dad about them back then?
Rogers: No. They were always just there with a bunch of dad’s other stuff that I never asked him about! I think the overarching feeling I had was that if there was something valuable in there dad would have done something with them. He was always looking for ways to make money and be in music and make music friends. So why would he have never done something with those tapes if he could have sold them? The stuff I do remember dad talking about is the personal stuff: Teegarden & Van Winkle and Seger coming out to the cottage to jam and record. Stuff like that.
GLONO: Had you known of the Goose Lake Music Festival?
Rogers: Dad talked about it – both parents did. You know…not in great detail, but I remember dad rattling off the name of bands on the bill, stuff like that. Mom’s memory of the festival was that it was a very seedy, dirty environment. You know, she was from Birmingham! (Laughs)
As I said, Josh and I have been in countless bands together over the years and our first bands rehearsed in the basement of his family’s homestead, a farmhouse in southwest Grand Rapids that his mother’s great-great-grandfather had built and is believed to be the oldest home in Kent County. The Rogers Mansion, as it had been come to be known, had a basement broken into three sections and one day we decided to move our rehearsal space to the middle section, which meant moving all of the antiques, files and boxes from one section to the other.
GLONO: My first memory of those tapes is probably in ‘92 or ‘93 when we moved from one section of the basement to the other.
Rogers: Yeah, that’s what I told the Detroit News when they were asking about the origin of the tapes. You saw them and said, “Hey, what are those?” And you probably immediately knew there was something interesting there.
What caught my eye was a label marked “Goose Lake,” which I had heard about from Glorious Noise founder Jake Brown’s mom when we were growing up. It was a legendary music festival that took place one year after Woodstock and was the place to be for any Michigan rockers worth their weight in Faygo.
The box had several tapes, some photos of Josh’s dad with various music pals, and one artifact I fear is gone forever.
GLONO: I also remember your dad’s funky ass 70s vest in there. Do you remember that?
Rogers: A vest? Oh, with fringe?
GLONO: Yeah, do you still have that?
Rogers: I don’t think so. It is truly tragic to think of the things that maybe had followed us to that basement only to be thrown away when we sold the farm house.
GLONO: So tell me how you ended up getting the tapes and taking them to Chicago.
Rogers: It was when mom actually sold the house. I “claimed” them when she was moving out of the main house and into the attached apartment. We were looking at this giant pile of stuff and I said, “I’ll take the tapes.” I remember her being upset with that because I couldn’t take them right then, and so she would have to hold onto them a while longer in the basement until I could retrieve them. It was probably another two or three years later when I had to come and get them because mom had sold the house.
GLONO: And then they were temporarily misplaced?
Rogers: There was a brief period when I had all the boxes and remembered there was a box marked “Goose Lake,” why is it not with the rest of them? I don’t remember how it turned back up again.
It was somewhere around this point that I pressed Josh to do something with these tapes before they were lost again, either through a moving mishap or the ravages of time that degrade old tapes. I asked him if it would be ok for me to reach out to a couple labels I thought might be interested in something like this or at least look the tapes over to see if they were worth transferring. Third Man Records was the first place we thought of.
Founded by Jack White with deep-rooted ties to Detroit and a track record for putting out historical recordings, Third Man seemed like a no-brainer. So I emailed them and within 30 minutes got a reply from Ben Blackwell, Jack’s nephew and co-founder of the label. Right away, Blackwell’s music geekdom was apparent.
Wed, Sep 13, 2017, 6:30 PM
i was forwarded your email from my esteemed colleague ben swank.
as the in-house goose lake fanatic, all of this sounds incredibly intriguing to me. shit, the first two names alone have me drooling.
how do we go about moving forward from here?
if necessary, i can send over pics of me wearing an original Goose Lake t-shirt holding an original, unused Goose Lake bumper sticker to prove my worthiness.
I eagerly await your reply.
From there began a flurry of emails to assess what Josh actually had, what condition it was in, and whether he’d be interested in working with Third Man on a potential release. Eventually, we were invited to Third Man Records HQ in Nashville so Blackwell could see the tapes for himself.
Third Man Records is impressive, and not just because it’s owned by Jack White. Every single detail in the joint is handled with such precision, with such aesthetic that it kinda feels like a movie set from a harder edged Wes Anderson. And that they do so much in-house is amazing considering Third Man is a small operation compared to the majors who seem to crank out fewer and fewer acts every year. Third Man is a throw-back to when musicians and music lovers owned labels. It has an–erm…eclectic roster that maps much closer to the founders’ musical tastes than the prevailing commercial winds. It’s basically what all of us when we were teenagers said we would do if we ever hit the Big Time: “I’d buy a sweet clubhouse and invite all my favorite bands to play there.” Well, that’s what Jack White did.
There was one point when we were meeting with Blackwell in his office at Third Man that, by design or turn of conversation, seemed to seal the deal. He was telling a story about how “Jim” got a big old kiss on the cheek from his grandma on a visit some time ago and he pointed to a photograph on the wall. There was the sweet old face of a woman smashing the cheek of James Newell Osterberg Jr., more widely known as Iggy Pop.
GLONO: What was your expectation of what was on the tapes?
Rogers: No expectation at all. Hope for the best but expect the worst. I didn’t think we’d pull anything usable off those tapes.
Blackwell was more optimistic. From the outset, he knew the importance of the show to The Stooge’s legacy and was determined to answer some long held questions.
Blackwell: I was super optimistic at the onset of this conversation. I legitimately expected that if there was usable audio, that Third Man would be releasing the live Stooges recording. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again…if I had the power to summon a recording of ANY show in the Stooges’ history…I’ve no doubt that Goose Lake would’ve been the first one on the list. The legend that Dave Alexander never played a note of bass on stage…in front of 200,000 people…is just so juicy, so strong, almost impossible to believe. And as the tape bears out…it WASN’T true.
But what if the tapes had degraded? What if the sound quality is garbage? What if it’s mis-labeled or–God forbid–been taped over? For weeks after our visit to Nashville we waited for word of how the digital transfer went. And then we got an email.
Fri, Dec 15, 2017, 12:00 PM
hey guys, just got back the transfers. i’ve not gotten to listen to everything just yet, but what i have put ears to is pretty incredible. of utmost excitement.
Some clips were shared and sure enough, we had a clean recording from one of the most storied events in Michigan rock and roll history of a seminal band about to pivot into the next crucial phase of their career. If you read this site then you can imagine the sense of excitement we all felt. It seemed impossible that these tapes Josh and I had discussed for years were finally coming to light. It was an important moment to us, but also an important moment for Josh’s late father, James Cassily the sound engineer who captured The Stooges at Goose Lake who died in 2005 and never got to see the release of this historic document.
GLONO: How do you think your dad would feel about this whole thing?
Rogers: He would love that something he had done is getting out there but also that it has given us this journey, this access and view into the whole process. Dad was all about being able to get into place other people couldn’t get into and knowing people who could get him access and then showing that off! (Laughs) He would also love the release of the recording, the engineering prowess involved, and the view into the process given me and others this experience.
Blackwell: In terms of finds, this is one of the more bonkers examples I’ve been adjacent to. The crux of the matter is…I’ve no doubt that shit near this level of importance is out there tucked away in forgotten places, but I’d imagine that 99% of the populace would see no intrinsic value in a reel-to-reel recording of the Stooges. So the actual existence isn’t the issue, it’s that someone as wise as Joshua and his family save said artifacts and find the right partners to share them with the world.
Rogers: I told Ben recently via email that I appreciate his enthusiasm as a fan and how it comes out in the press materials.
And today, August 7, 2020, fifty years to the day of the start of the festival, The Stooges Live at Goose Lake 1970 is released to the world.
GLONO: Are there other recordings in there you’re considering exploring or doing anything with?
Rogers: I talked to Jimmy Fox of James Gang and Jem Targal of Third Power and I gave them both copies of their shows–after establishing they weren’t to be distributed! They were both amazed to hear this legendary show they played 50 years ago. I listened to all the stuff again recently with that in mind. The one recording I am most interested in hearing are the two 1” tapes of Teegarden & Van Winkle and Seger at Hill Auditorium. [Along with the Goose Lake recordings, there are 230 tapes in all. – ed.] If they’re in the same condition, that could be an amazing show. We haven’t gotten those transfers back yet, so we don’t know though.
GLONO: What are you going to do with the tapes now?
Rogers: They’re sitting in storage now. If an opportunity comes up to transfer some more stuff…I sometimes think of reaching out to Numero Group or Rhino and seeing if there’s any interest. I’m hopeful some of this other stuff gets heard in some way. It’s a document of a really neat event.
In addition to The Stooges’ set, there are recordings of several others from The Goose Lake Festival, including:
Chicago • James Gang • John Drake Shakedown • Litter • Mitch Ryder • Mountain • Pete Walker • Rock & Roll Ensemble • Ram • Third Power • Teegarden & Van Winkle
So maybe the story isn’t quite over…
From The Stooges Live at Goose Lake 1970, out now on Third Man.