Jeff Gold has lived many lives. He was the first employee at Los Angeles’ Rhino Records back in 1976. He served as VP/Marketing and Creative Services at A&M Records, and as Executive Vice President/General Manager of Warner Bros, where he worked with everyone from Iggy Pop to Herb Alpert. He’s currently one of the most active, respected music archivists and record dealers in the world, a status he cements through frequent donations of historically important memorabilia to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He helped drummer Ringo Starr catalogue the first copy of The Beatles’ White Album, numbered #0000001, which sold for $790,000. While searching through the collection of Rolling Stone magazine cofounder Ralph Gleason, he found a previously unknown, live recording of Bob Dylan playing Brandeis University in 1963. And he also identified 149 acetates full of unreleased songs that Dylan made during the Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait, and New Morning sessions — they’d sat in a Manhattan apartment for decades. Those are monumental musical discoveries!
At his core, Gold is a dedicated listener who’s collected records since his parents’ collection first enchanted him at the age seven or eight. He just loves music, and he’s turned that love into a multifaceted career. If you’re an Iggy and the Stooges fan, you have him to thank for a few things.
Various Stooges message boards have breathlessly wondered how an unknown Stooges outtake named “Asthma Attack” ended up on the 2010 deluxe reissue of their debut album, The Stooges. And there’s been whispers about who found John Cale’s original, rejected mixes of that album. We now know — Gold found them, waiting in Danny Fields’ unpaid storage locker. Gold’s diligence saved those recordings, along with the earliest known live Stooges recording: live at Ungano’s in 1970, from certain death.
Somehow, no one had formally asked Gold about how these recordings were discovered, so I did. I’m just an excited fan, too, and since a documentary impulse drives a lot of my writing, I wanted to save the story of Gold saving music, and share it with you, fellow Stooges fans.
Aaron Gilbreath: How did you get to look through Danny Fields’ storage unit?
Jeff Gold: Danny and I have a very close mutual friend. That guy knows that I am always looking for memorabilia to buy, and he hooked me up with Danny who had a lot of stuff he wanted to sell to raise some money. So I flew from Los Angeles to New York [around 2002]. Danny was one of those guys who saved everything, so he had file cabinets full of stuff. You’d look up ‘1971,’ and there would be everything from postcards from Lou Reed to a Christmas card from his printer thanking him for his business, or dry cleaning receipts, you name it, and it was indiscriminately saved. I just sat on his floor for days and went through it, file by file, item by item, and pulled out anything that I was interested in buying. I found lots of amazing stuff that Danny was very happy to convert to cash. I probably spent two and a half days at his place the first time, then came back a few months later for round two. While I was looking I said to him, ‘Hey, do you have a storage locker?’ And he goes, ‘Yeah, I haven’t really paid the bills in a while, they’re bugging me.’ I said, ‘Danny, you have to pay the bills. If you don’t pay the bill, they open up the lock and sell the stuff at auction or, if it looks uninteresting, throw it away.’ He sounded very uninterested. I said, ‘How about I pay the bill and go look and see if there’s anything I can buy from you?’ He said sure. So he called the place up, which was maybe five blocks from his house, and told them that I was gonna come pay the bill, which was three or so months in arrears, and that I had permission to look in the locker. It was a funky storage locker. With no lights and no windows, this place was a dark jumble of boxes. I kind of looked around for a couple of hours and pulled stuff out.
I went a couple of times. The first time, I went alone, and the second time, I think the next day, I brought my friend Johan Kugelberg, a music historian, archivist, and author of the definitive book on the Velvet Underground. Johan wanted to buy stuff from Danny too, and we brought the right equipment: a hand truck and flashlights. Among many boxes of the same kind of stuff that Danny had in his apartment, I found a box of tapes. And it was literally a box of tapes. There were reel-to-reel tapes with no boxes, unlabeled. There were a couple of boxes of reel-to-reel tapes that said ‘the Stooges’ on ’em, and one that said ‘the Velvet Underground.’ There were cassettes. I could tell what maybe 25 percent of it was, but a lot of stuff was unlabeled. These are Danny’s tapes, so I figured, overall, it would all work out. So I went back to Danny’s house and showed him all this stuff I wanted to buy, and periodically he would pull a few things out that he wanted to keep, and that was fine. Then there was other stuff that he wanted me to make scans of for him, and that was fine. I don’t remember what the price was, but I remember saying, ‘Alright, based on what I can gather is in here, here’s what I can pay you for it.’ But it’s kind of a grab bag situation. We didn’t know what was on a lot of these tapes, and we didn’t know whether they’d be playable or not, because there is a problem that you probably are familiar with, with tapes from the sixties and seventies [that start to shed]. Do you know about that?
AG: Yes, they have to bake them in an oven to preserve the aging material, right?
JG: Yes, that’s exactly right. A couple of months after I bought all the stuff, I found a studio where I could listen to these tapes to figure out what was what. There were many reels that had no information on them. And there were boxes that were open or closed, but I had little confidence that what it said on the box was necessarily what was inside the box. And that was, in fact, the case a lot of the time. I spent I think two days in a recording studio, which is expensive, just listening to these things and trying to figure out what they were. It became very clear what they were: some of ’em I didn’t recognize at all, some of ’em sounds like Danny making a reel-to-reel copy of something. But in there were the John Cale mixes of the first Stooges album, unlabeled, as I recall. There was a tape Danny had recorded of John Sinclair, the MC5’s manager, having a meeting at Danny’s house, which Danny recorded. There was a transfer of Bridget Polk’s Max’s Kansas City Velvet Underground tape. There were some Velvet Underground rehearsal tapes from Max’s, too. What else? There was a demo from the New Order, which was Ron Asheton’s post-Stooges band. That’s the most interesting stuff. But I threw away probably 50 percent of it, because it was either impossible to identify and didn’t sound good, or I figured it was just some demo that somebody had sent to Danny at some point that just got thrown in a box.
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AG: So at the end of this process, is this when you also found “Asthma Attack,” the outtake from the Stooges’ 1969 debut album?
JG: Yes. And I also found Danny’s live at Ungano’s tape. I went to Rhino Records — I was the first employee at the Rhino Records store — and said, ‘You guys should buy all this stuff and put it out.’ It was a long journey to convince them of that, but I did. With the Ungano’s tape I had to just kept pestering them. They were marginally interested. Anyway, I eventually sell Rhino the Ungano’s tapes for some marginal amount of money just because I think it’s very important that it get out there, because it’s the earliest known live tape of the Stooges.
AG: So all the sudden now you’ve got a bunch of this junk, 50 percent of which you’ve thrown away because it has no info or value. But you’ve found the earliest known live recording of the Stooges, you’ve got this outtake “Asthma Attack” that nobody has ever heard. Would you say that after recording the Ungano’s show 40 years earlier, Danny never knew that he even had this tape? Did he remember that he had this stuff in his locker?
JG: No, no. I think he literally just saved everything, which was great, and if you’d ask him about something specific he’d say, ‘I don’t know.’ It didn’t seem to me he had any intention of paying his storage locker fees. My educated guess is I saved this from going into a dumpster. Because anybody from a storage locker place looking into this would not have said, ‘Oh boy, we hit the lottery here.’ It was filled newspapers and magazines, which to me looked fascinating, but to somebody who didn’t know who Danny was, it would’ve just looked like a lot of junk.
I said, ‘Danny, you have to pay the bills. If you don’t pay the bill, they open up the lock and sell the stuff at auction or, if it looks uninteresting, throw it away.’
AG: And those people in the storage industry are used to dealing with stuff in unpaid units, so they’re used to dumping things in volume. I’m sure it would’ve been treated the same way.
JG: Yeah. I think they’re looking for furniture or things they can sell.
AG: So “Asthma Attack” was one of those rare Stooges songs that had somehow never circulated on bootlegs before, which is unusual considering how many early-70s Stooges rehearsal tapes and demos have circulated on bootlegs for decades.
JG: Fields was the band’s A&R guy [with Elektra Records] and had signed them and got copies of everything there was. He wasn’t in the bootlegging world. He was in the throw-it-in-a-box-never-to-be-looked-at-again world. When I bought this stuff, it was before the Stooges had reunited. They were a band of fascination to record collectors and people like myself, but nobody was gonna go make millions of dollars doing Stooges bootlegs. I mean, it didn’t occur to me. It didn’t seem like anybody had called Danny and bugged him to buy his stuff. It was a bit early in the band’s revival. Where were you fifteen, eighteen years ago? How old were you?
AG: Oh geez, eighteen years ago I was 25 but going through a deep blues and early jazz period, not listening to the Stooges anymore.
JG: They were a big time cult band, but the legend of the Stooges increased exponentially since then. For me, it was fantastic. I was way into the Stooges, as was Johan, but it wasn’t like I bought this stuff and thought I’d be sending my kids to college off of this, you know? It was super interesting to me. Here’s how uninteresting it was to Rhino, who was in the business of doing reissues. One of the people there said, ‘I don’t know why we should buy these John Cale mixes from you. We can just make our own mixes from the master tapes.’ And I’m saying, ‘No, no, no, this is legendary stuff!’ They were more interested in the Velvet Underground stuff. The Stooges stuff was me pushing more than them pulling, for sure. It took years for them to finally breakdown with the Ungano’s thing and say, ‘Okay, we’ll do it.’ So even then I was saying to these guys, who were friends of mine, ‘You should put out the first Stooges album as a double pack: the original John Cale mix on one disk, and the remix on a second disk.’ They still didn’t do that. They just selected tracks. So it wasn’t as if I had discovered the holy grail and people were lined up to buy it from me. I knew that it was historic and really interesting and needed to come out.
AG: What eventually convinced Rhino to release the John Cale mix and “Asthma Attack”?
JG: My persistence, probably. I’m not trying to be an egomaniac or anything, but I knew the people who were in charge there, and I just kept buggin’ ’em, saying, ‘This is important, this is important.’ The Stooges myth kept growing, and eventually they realized they could probably make some money on this.
Anyway, it wasn’t as if there was a big to-do around then Stooges then. People weren’t doing books on them and long retrospective articles.
AG: What were the Velvet Underground rehearsal tapes that you found in Fields’ box? Were those the Andy Warhol Factory rehearsals?
JG: No, they’re Max’s rehearsals. And I think probably some of it has still never made it out. But at some point you just go, well. I’m going through this right now with another record label and some other unreleased, really important stuff. It’s hard work convincing these men and women that there is a market for this stuff. I worked at a record company, so I understand that the artists who were signed to the label are more of a priority than this kind of thing, but this kind of thing is important, too.
AG: So you play the long game?
JG: I’m playing the long game, exactly. I’m gonna buy this stuff, I’m not worried about what I can do with it. Eventually I’ll be able to find someone who will put it out. It’s too important to be ignored.
AG: It’s interesting, because it’s like Rhino’s initial inability to understand the value of these recordings mirrors the world’s cold reception to the Stooges back in the seventies and even the eighties. People still didn’t get it.
JG: Yeah. You can imagine how when I did my book with Iggy, Total Chaos: The Story of The Stooges / As Told by Iggy Pop, I talked to him about this a lot. This was not something that he or the other band members saw coming. And he worked very, very hard to establish a solo career, which happily was successful, and I worked with him when I was at A&M. That was how I knew him. But I think that Ron and Scott Asheton never anticipated that they’d become huge rock stars when the Stooges reformed and headlined arenas around the world. That was mind-blowing.
AG: So even to the band it came as a shock that all the sudden people were taking interest in these Cale mixes and this weird avant-garde “Asthma Attack” outtake?
JG: Well, I wouldn’t say that. I don’t think it surprised Iggy, because he knew how much of that stuff was happening, and I don’t think it surprised the band. I think when the Stooges got back together, it surprised the band how much attention they got paid and how much credit they got for their innovation, and what a big audience there was for their work. Johan and I went to the first reunion show, which was at Coachella in 2003, and I thought it was gonna be a one-off. A few days before the show Iggy’s manager Art, who put it all together, and who I was friends with, called and said, ‘Yeah the rehearsals are going great,’ but nobody really knew what it was gonna be. Coachella was such an unbelievable triumph, the Stooges were so great, that I called or emailed Art the next day and said, ‘Well, this is clearly not a one-off. There’s a huge appetite for this.’ And he said, ‘Yeah they had a great time.’ It blew everybody away. So I think that helped. When I was working with Iggy in the mid-eighties, on Blah Blah Blah and Instinct, nobody cared about the Stooges. Nobody. I mean, I cared about the Stooges. I was excited to meet Iggy and hear his stories. He was a guy with a fair-to-middling solo career, which David Bowie had been very supportive of, and that was what got him signed to A&M, I’m sure. And I remember telling him at one point that I had seen the Stooges and he was surprised. He thought I was just some record business guy who wasn’t a fan, and I said to him, ‘No, I saw you play.’ Anyway, it wasn’t as if there was a big to-do around the Stooges then. People weren’t doing books on them and long retrospective articles.
AG: If it wasn’t a surprise, necessarily, because the band knew how innovative their stuff was, then did this resurgence of interest after Coachella create more of an environment where fans would be interested in more niche recordings like Ungano’s and the Cale mixes?
JG: Yes, absolutely. I think artists started talking. The White Stripes played right after the Stooges at Coachella. The White Stripes were big at the time. And I remember Jack White hanging around backstage [and he was] so excited to be with Iggy. He’s from Detroit. Wow. And you know, Jack has done a huge amount to promote the Stooges, including releasing my book at his Third Man Books, and talking about how important they were to him. A lot of other artists like Thurston Moore have done the same. Matt Groening curated the 2003 All Tomorrow’s Parties at the Queen Mary out here, and the reunited Stooges played with Sonic Youth. Thurston was so excited to be backstage with Iggy. So the people who liberally borrowed from the Stooges have been vocal about paying their debt. In my book Total Chaos, I interviewed Dave Grohl, Josh Homme, Joan Jett, and they all talked about this enormous debt they owed to Iggy and the Stooges. So that kind of stuff is what super-charged and accelerated the myth of the Stooges. Then when they got back together and started playing, and they were unbelievably great, far better than they’d ever been in terms of being able to be a solid band back in the early days. I think people were just blown away.
I mean, I saw the reunited Stooges three or four times, and I saw the real Stooges once, at the Whisky A Go Go in ’73, right after Raw Power came out. The real Stooges were shambolic, and Iggy kind of collapsed about twenty minutes into it, and that was the show. It was fascinating as a spectacle. I had never seen anything like it. It was interesting. It was gripping. It was something I’ll never forget. But as a rock show, it wasn’t great. The reunited Stooges were great. You went to see the original Stooges because you heard these stories about how Iggy would cut himself and spread peanut butter on himself and writhe on the floor. The show I saw wasn’t unbelievable music. Did you ever see them?
AG: I didn’t, unfortunately. I’ve seen Iggy solo but never caught the Stooges. I stood outside of Stubs in 2007 at South By Southwest and listened to them. But I got shooed away for getting too close to the fence. They sounded great, but it was frustrating not to get to see.
JG: They were unbelievable.
AG: They played a bit of the first album and I think all of Fun House.
JG: Yeah, well the Asheton brothers had waited their whole life to be recognized this way. It was amazing.
AG: So a lot of fans think another avant-garde lost early song named “I’m Sick,” from the same era as “Asthma Attack,” is floating around out there in someone’s collection or a company vault. Even though discoveries like yours give fans hope that Stooges stuff remains to be discovered, the Stooges rumor mill has always been too strong for fans’ own good. For instance, I heard that Danny Fields filmed them playing St. Louis’ American Theater in 1973 on an 8mm camera, and that he might have recorded audio of their 1971 Chicago show. Is any of that true?
JG: I never saw it. And I hit him at a time where he was looking for stuff to sell, so I think I would’ve.
AG: In the footnotes of his book Open Up and Bleed, Paul Trinka even mentions the ’71 Chicago recording too, and how bombastic it was. He doesn’t mention who recorded it, only “I have heard an as-yet-unreleased tape of their Chicago show that is far more brutal and impressive.”
JG: I’m sorry I don’t know. I read his book very, very carefully before I went and interviewed Iggy for my book, but the footnotes have not stayed with me.
AG: Fair enough. Also, I know that Fields recorded two shows at the Electric Circus in New York in ’71 that Easy Action Records ended up releasing, with the band’s approval. So it seems like Fields did record the band quite a bit. The reason this matters is because no professionally made multi-track recordings of an original Stooges concert seems to exist.
The live Stooges recordings we have are just what happened to be captured and then what happened to survive.
JG: Yeah. I don’t remember when they came out, but it was right about then. So most of Danny’s recordings that I had were on reel-to-reel. And that Ungano’s show was on reel-to-reel.
AG: I know that soundboard equipment back in the early seventies was not like it is now. Why do you think somebody like Fields, who had signed the band and was close, arguably too close, to them, wouldn’t have taken the opportunity to record them professionally himself? If he couldn’t convince the label to record them through a multi-track, why do you think he wouldn’t have had the club engineer do it professionally at Ungano’s or elsewhere?
JG: This was a real seat of the pants operation. These guys were just barely getting from gig to gig a lot of the time. You can see in my book, there’s some contracts and stuff. This wasn’t a big money, Fleetwood Mac touring operation. This was guys in a van or a truck at one point ─ and there’s a story in my book and other places online, where Scott Asheton was driving that truck while not completely paying attention and went under a too-small bridge in Ann Arbor, sheared off the top of it, and almost killed himself. If you’re Bob Dylan or Fleetwood Mac touring, and you’ve got four sound guys or a lighting guy and a sound guy and a PA mixer, it’s easy for them to throw a cassette deck on run a DAT through the board. But my impression of the Stooges is that this was a much more seat of the pants operation. They were still playing high schools and places like that. You read about the 1973 Academy of Music show in New York, but you can look at the tour schedules in my book and see that these guys were playing small, funky venues in between the bigger venues. I mean, they had cities where they were big, but when your band in one of 25 bands in a festival, your sound guy isn’t mixing your show. The festival guy is mixing it, and the last thing they want is you saying, ‘Hey, can I run a line from the board to my reel-to-reel?” And nobody was thinking about posterity either. The live Stooges recordings we have are just what happened to be captured and then what happened to survive. Again, these Danny tapes happened to survive only because he kept everything and because I happened to show up and pay his bill. It wasn’t as if they were carefully protected for forty years because everybody knew this was important history. It was accidental history. That’s exactly what it is: accidental history. That’s my line for you. It’s accidental history.
AG: That’s a damn good one.
JG: Yeah, and that’s exactly it. I’m gonna remember that line, too.
AG: Just pure luck, timing where your two interests overlapped. You wanted the tapes. He was selling them. You happened to connect. As you said, he was potentially a few months behind on his storage unit’s payments, so it’s a miracle you came along when you did.
JG: Obviously I can’t tell you with certainty how far behind his payments were. My only goal was to get down there and see if there was anything worth saving. This was in the context of boxes and boxes and boxes of stuff I’m buying, so it’s not, ‘Oh my god, look at these tapes, I can’t wait.’ It was more like, ‘Well yeah, I might as well buy these, there’s probably something interesting in there.’
AG: Rolling the dice. It reminds me of how you identified the Bob Dylan acetates, and identified the unknown recording of Dylan playing Brandeis in 1963. It’s just incredible. As a listener and a documentarian, I’m so glad someone like you exists to save this stuff.
JG: [laughs] Thank you.