By Binky Philips
In late 1976, Danny Sugerman came to New York City from Los Angeles to check out the by now very happening downtown music scene.
Danny was Doors Freak Number-One and became “almost famous” by proxy. He started working with the group in his early teens, opening their fan mail, and went on to become a Doors insider who co-wrote the Jim Morrison bio No One Here Gets Out Alive (as well as several other books). He became manager of the post-Morrison Doors before he turned 20.
He saw my band, the Planets, perform at CBGB. After the show, he came backstage, introduced himself, literally frothing at the mouth, as in, spitting white foam! God knows what he was on. He was talking faster than I can think, just raving about us.
Okay… Well… Nice to meet you, Dan… But, uh, we gotta pack up our gear now… Yyyyyikes!
About 10 weeks later, out of nowhere (I have no idea how he got my number), he called and said, [all dialogue more or less verbatim], “Hey Binky, I’ve got Ray Manzarek and Iggy Pop on the line with me [Ray and Iggy both say hello]. No one knows this yet but they’re starting a band together called Nite City and I’ve convinced them that you have to be the guitarist and they both agree with me. You’re the guy!”
[Danny had played them a demo the Planets had recorded that year for Warner Bros. with KISS engineer Corky Staskiak.No, I don’t know how he got a copy of that either.]
Then, Ray, in a placid, professorial tone, said, “Yes, we’re really committed to this idea, Binky. We love your playing and Danny’s told us you put on quite a show. We want to fly you out to LA and get this started as soon as possible.”
Iggy cut in, “Yeah, uh, hey, Binky, yeah, this is Iggy. Fuck, let’s fuckin’ do this. We’re ready, man. Get the fuck out here. C’mon! Me n’ you n’ Ray, man. Danny’s our guy, too. C’mon, you in? Don’t fuck around! C’mon!”
I told them politely that while I was very flattered I wasn’t interested.
Yes, turning them down was raw lunacy, but I had the secret knowledge, as I listened to Danny, Ray and Ig work me, that the Planets would soon be signed to Warner Bros. My band, my songs.
Ray was gracious and stayed very mellow and asked me to keep an open mind.
Danny, on the other hand, was just sputtering with disbelief.
“What the fuck’s with YOU, man?! Are you shittin’ me?!? Look, okay, okay… When’s the next time you’re gigging, motherfucker?”
I told Iggy that we were playing CBGB next Thursday.
“All right. I’ll be there, you asshole. If you’re as good as Danny says, I will put your fuckin’ ass on the plane to LA myself. Capisce? Thank you and goodbye.”
Danny, flustered, tried to end the call on a light note.
I said goodbye and thought, “The guys are gonna love this story.” And yes, the other Planets did. To give you a glimpse into bassist Anthony Jones’ kinship with me, his reaction was, “Fuck us Planets, Bink. You gotta do this!”
Cut to the CBGB backstage area that next Thursday…
The four Planets are in the on-deck area by the dressing rooms, a minute or two from hitting the stage. One of our roadie pals runs up and gasps, “Holy shit, Iggy Pop just walked in!”
I was genuinely amazed. Iggy Pop had actually flown in from LA to see me play!
“Oh, and Hilly says to get onstage now.”
On we went.
I proceeded to play the whole show with this asinine and snotty Here’s What You Can’t Have attitude, just swaggering through every song, making sure my solos were as wild and flashy as I could possibly play them — which was, of course, the perfect thing to do in its own totally counter-productive way.
We finished the set and went back behind the stage to figure out whether we should do an encore. Suddenly, Iggy Pop plows into this cramped backstage area, wearing torn jeans and a dirty white undershirt, with a congealing inch-long gash over his left eyebrow. His right eye was looking at me; the left, under the gash, was swimming.
He sneeringly bellowed, “Okay, listen to me, motherfucker! Your little band can be the opening act, okay, motherfucker?! How’s that? Okay?! Let’s fucking GO!!“
If it hadn’t been for that bloody gash and that swimming eye…
But sadly, he seemed like someone to run from, not towards.
About a week later, I got another call from Ray Manzarek, again mellow, and very graciously told me how sorry he was that things weren’t going to work out… and was I quite sure?
Danny Sugerman never spoke to me again.
Ray and Iggy had a falling out (wow, huh!). When the Nite City album came out about a year later on 20th Century Records, Ray Manzarek was on it, but Iggy Pop was not. Paul Warren was the guitarist and Nigel Harrison of Blondie was the bassist. Two songs had Danny Sugerman writing credits.
So, I guess I didn’t miss much, huh?