Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
[KamerTunesBlog presents B-Sides The Point, where I occasionally write about smaller artist catalogs, or even compilations and box sets, in a single post instead of revisiting the entire recorded output of a particular artist over numerous posts, which is the main purpose of this blog. As I’ve stated before, think of these as the palate cleansers between the main courses.]
* I want to preface this post by extending sympathies to the family & friends of Stooges drummer Scott Asheton, who passed away last week at the age of 64. His death follows guitarist/bassist (and Scott’s brother) Ron Asheton in 2009 and original bassist Dave Alexander in 1975, leaving charismatic lead singer/frontman James Osterberg, aka Iggy Pop (“Iggy” a nickname from his high school band The Iguanas), as the sole surviving member of the lineup that formed in Ann Arbor, Michigan back in 1967 *
After I wrapped up my previous series on The Kinks I immediately decided it was time to focus my energies on the three albums released by The Stooges before they disbanded in the mid-‘70s. They reunited three decades later and have subsequently released two more albums, but I never bought either of them. The focus of this post is to discuss the contents of those first three records, which I’ve owned for nearly a decade but never really gave them the attention they deserved until this past week. I’ve mentioned several times over the years that I’m not a big fan of punk. I do enjoy some punk bands but it’s not one of my go-to genres, so for years I avoided listening to The Stooges because they were considered proto-punk (an early influence on nearly every punk artist that followed) and Iggy’s public persona (the wiry shirtless madmen smearing himself with peanut butter & slashing himself with glass on stage) was a major deterrent.
In 1996 I got a copy of the Nude & Rude: The Best Of Iggy Pop compilation CD, which includes a handful of Stooges tracks along with later solo material. I liked it enough to hold onto it, but I wasn’t really interested in exploring his/their music any further. A few years later I got a copy of Iggy’s remix of their third album, Raw Power (which I’ll discuss below), and it was too raw & grating for my tastes, so that was my impression of The Stooges for several more years. Then in 2005 a friend gave me copies of the 2-CD expanded editions of their first two albums. I wasn’t expecting much, but seeing that Velvet Underground co-founder (and extraordinary solo artist) John Cale produced their debut was enough impetus for me to give them a listen…and what a pleasant surprise they were. I probably played each of them 2 or 3 times that year, with the debut being my clear favorite, but they’ve sat on the shelf for nearly a decade since then. Over the last week I’ve played all three albums a number of times, and although the general consensus among fans & critics seems to be that they improved with each album, this non-punk feels it’s the other way around. Read on to find out why.
The debut album, simply titled The Stooges (1969), is an astonishing collection of songs that combines elements of ‘60s hard rock (like Ron’s constant use of the wah-wah pedal) with an aggressive approach that’s equal parts Lou Reed streetwise poetry and DIY punk rock. Although none of the musicians would be considered virtuosos by any stretch of the imagination, that didn’t stop them from breaking boundaries with music & lyrics that are somehow stupid & brilliant at the same time. It’s especially impressive considering that none of them were older than 22. This was the only album where their frontman was credited as “Iggy Stooge.” Musically speaking, they obviously didn’t care about following any rules, and the choice of John Cale as producer was a wise one since few people have broken the rules of rock & roll more than the viola-wielding Welshman. For some reason his original mixes were rejected by the band and their label (Elektra Records), so the album was mixed by Iggy with Elektra president Jac Holzman. Four of Cale’s mixes are included on the 2-CD version and they’re not drastically different from the final product. If anything they might be a little more muted & claustrophobic, but they don’t distract from the power of the music. The other bonus tracks are alternate or expanded versions, none of them surpassing the album versions. With eight songs in less than 35 minutes, The Stooges packs a punch and invites multiple spins. That brevity is welcome, and something that would continue on subsequent releases. Now it’s time to discuss the highlights of the album.
♪ “1969” – Wah-wah guitar and a Bo Diddley beat initially make this sound like it could be any garage band, but Ron’s searing guitar work (as much about tone as the actual notes he’s playing) and Iggy’s snarled lyrics (“It’s another year for me and you, another year with nothing to do”) make it sound unlike any of their contemporaries.
[The Stooges – “1969”]
♪ “I Wanna Be Your Dog” – A fuzzed-out hard rock song that’s also a template for punk acts to follow. The jingling bells add a touch of lightness while the repetitive music is mesmerizing, making you focus on Iggy’s voice. I never realized before that this is really a love song: “And now I’m ready to feel your hand, and lose my heart on the burning sands.”
♪ “We Will Fall” – Some listeners might be turned off by this 10+ minute long Indian-influenced drone with chanted group vocals, but it’s a key song for me. I can clearly hear a Doors influence (especially Iggy’s Jim Morrison-esque vocals) but it has its own distinct feel. I consider it a psychedelic masterpiece, and I love the wah-wah flourishes throughout the song, the slow intensity of the music, and Cale’s viola added at the end.
♪ “No Fun” – Possibly the best-known song from this album; a stomping rocker with a distorted fuzzy guitar riff and a great vocal delivery (“No fun…my babe…no fun”). The simple arrangement is very effective.
Other Notable Tracks:
For their sophomore album, Fun House (1970), in came producer Don Gallucci (formerly of The Kingsmen, best known for their garage rock classic, “Louie Louie”) as well as sax player Steve Mackay on Side 2 of the original LP (tracks 5 through 7). Not much had changed in their approach since the debut, but with a more sympathetic producer the goal was to capture the energy of their incendiary live performances in the studio, and on that level they certainly succeeded. For me it’s not quite as strong as its predecessor even though I really liked all 7 tracks (even the free jazz + screaming vocals of “L.A. Blues,” which is the only one that didn’t make it onto my list of key songs), since the high points aren’t quite as high this time and there are fewer truly essential tracks. I know most fans will vehemently disagree with me, but remember that this aggressive, proto-punk sound is not something I typically enjoy, and the more free-form, jazz and progressive moments made the biggest impact. The bonus tracks on the 2-CD edition are really enjoyable. I won’t go into too much detail about them since I prefer to just focus on the original albums, but the slow, sparse blues of both “Lost In The Future” and “Slide (Slidin’ The Blues)” would have been nice additions had they wanted Fun House to exceed its brief 36-1/2 minute running time. Of the alternate takes of existing songs, the lengthy performances of “Fun House” (9:30 & 11:30, respectively) are extended freak-outs that warrant repeated listening.
♪ “Dirt” – A 7-minute slow, stomping dirge with repeated 6-note bass riff, searing guitar stabs as well as some additional chiming guitar work. Overall it’s a great jam that opens up a bit in the middle section, with Ron shredding on top of Dave’s bubbling bass groove.
♪ “1970 (aka I Feel Alright)” – A bouncy, fuzzy rocker with a rollicking drum pattern. Iggy almost cries out his lyrics, like “All night…till I blow away” before barking “I feel alright!” Mackay’s skronking, honking sax makes this a manic blast of freak-out fun.”
Other Notable Tracks:
After two albums that had very little success and being dropped from their label, the band split up. The fact that everyone excluding Ron had developed serious drug habits didn’t help matters. Iggy traveled to London where he befriended David Bowie (who was a huge Stooges fan), and Texas guitarist James Williamson, who had joined The Stooges for live performances after Fun House was released, was still working with Iggy when he decided to reform the band and work on a new album for Columbia Records. Unable to find suitable musicians in London, Iggy summoned the Asheton brothers, with Ron grudgingly switching to bass guitar. Now billed as Iggy & The Stooges, their sole album was Raw Power (1973). Considered by many to be the pinnacle of The Stooges’ and Iggy’s careers, I don’t feel as strongly about it for reasons I’ve already explained, but I do have a better appreciation for it now than I did a week ago.
There are two distinct versions of Raw Power. The original release included the David Bowie mix and a later re-release featured Iggy’s remix. Iggy’s version is loud & abrasive while Bowie’s is more muted, smoothing out the rough edges but lacking some much needed punch. Somewhere between the two approaches would be the optimal mix, but since that’s not an option I spent a lot of time playing both, including an A/B comparison of each song. In the end I decided that Iggy’s mix is probably the best representation of this album, but regardless of the mix I don’t enjoy it nearly as much as the first two. Only 5 of the 8 songs made any real impact on me, and my two favorites are the “ballads” that Iggy claims were suggested by the label. The tracks that didn’t make my lists below all have their moments, and are probably someone’s favorites, but they didn’t do much for me.
♪ “Gimme Danger” – It’s nice to hear jangly acoustic guitar and tambourine, while Iggy’s voice sounds like a cross between Bowie & Lou Reed. The verses are very pretty, but it becomes harsher at “I got a little angel, want a little danger, honey you’re gonna feel my hand.” James’ guitar soars through the outro.
♪ “I Need Somebody” – A slow bluesy shuffle with a heavy, staggered drum pattern. I like the blend of acoustic guitar picking and heavy riffing, and Iggy’s raw vocals are a perfect fit.
Other Notable Tracks:
If you told me 10-12 years ago that I would one day be extolling the virtues of The Stooges I wouldn’t have believed you, but it reinforces my belief in always keeping an open mind when it comes to music (and pretty much anything in life, but I don’t want to get philosophical here). As much as I love many of their songs, more so now than ever before, and I think their debut album is pretty fantastic, they’ll likely never be one of my favorite bands since I’m usually drawn to other genres. If anyone believes their two recent albums (2007’s The Weirdness & 2013’s Ready To Die) are worth hearing, let me know and I’ll consider checking them out. It’s more likely that I’ll investigate some of Iggy’s solo albums, since the aforementioned Nude & Rude compilation is all I currently own. I’m really looking forward to hearing your thoughts on The Stooges, even though my rankings of their albums are probably the exact opposite of most fans’ opinions. Of course, it wouldn’t be a fun discussion about music without some disagreement, but perhaps some of you will surprise me. Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below, and thanks for reading.
Now, for anyone who has 10 minutes and was intrigued by my description of this song as a “psychedelic masterpiece,” here’s “We Will Fall” from their debut album. Sit back, relax and ingest your favorite substance (or, like me, enjoy it with a clear head).
I really like this B-sides the point series!
Here is a band I know very little about — didn’t know how Iggy got his name or about cutting himself with glass on stage. And you’d think I would know something like that!
You’ve got me curious enough to maybe check out that 1 CD compilation you mentioned.
Thanks, Mike. Glad you like this series. It’s always nice for me to do one of these between larger artist catalogs. I spend a week with their music and then move on.
The Nude & Rude: The Best Of Iggy Pop compilation only has 4 Stooges songs; 2 from the first album and 2 from Raw Power (they ignored Fun House). I can’t really comment on the rest of the collection since I haven’t played it in a while, but it does have well-known songs like “Lust For Life,” “Candy” and his version of “China Girl.”
All 3 are on the 1001 – haven’t explored any yet, I’ll be referring back to this b-sides the point when I do!
I can’t believe that one of them hasn’t come up in your reviews yet, but that gives me something else to look forward to at your blog. Maybe you could do a week of “first albums for a new record label” and include Raw Power. I imagine there have to be at least a handful of other artists that would qualify.
I like it!
That’s a theme I’ll definitely explore, as the sound of a band can change depending on the label requirements.
Cool. I enjoy when you do your theme weeks, and I would be especially proud if you ever tackle the one I suggested.
And credit would be given of course!
It quite enjoy the themes many of the bloggers in our network have started – you’ve got the bsides/compilation vs. catalog, Mike does singles weeks, a few others have countdowns consistently on the go – I’m a fan!
I don’t need the credit but I won’t argue if you give it anyway. And I completely agree regarding the creative blogging network we’ve got here at WordPress. Finding like-minded music lovers (aka fellow obsessive kooks) has been the most pleasant surprise of doing this for the last 3 years.
Agreed – and I’ve been contemplating a top 5 of ‘new parent’ songs (the baby hasn’t arrived here yet) but Bowie’s Kooks would certainly be on that list!
Yep, “Kooks” was the first thing that popped into my head. There’s also Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely” (which includes an actual recording of the birth of his daughter) and the double entendre of XTC’s “Pink Thing.” I’m sure there are others, but it’s still too early in the day for me to think of them.
If more come to mind, feel free to send them along!
Will do, although I look forward to seeing what you come up with,
I really liked the first album as it had both attitude & plenty of experimentation. Later albums seemed to be more attitude and less music. Interesting but it seems that a lot of artists seem to have that really big debut ( Think Marshall Crenshaw ) and then they just stick to a musical vein that limits their creativity.
I completely agree with your assessment that it became more about attitude and less about music. Glad we’re in agreement. However, I’m not sure that Marshall Crenshaw is a good example regarding strong debuts that are followed by music in a similar vein, but maybe that’s because I’m a HUGE Crenshaw fan. I think the rest of his career was overshadowed by the commercial and especially critical success of the debut, but he has at least 4 or 5 albums that are as good (or close to it). He has an amazing knack for melodies and he’s a very underrated guitar player, so every record is packed with gems. One of the things that makes each album stand out from the others is that he worked with different producers, so even though the songwriting may be similar the overall sound is not. Everyone from David Kerschenbaum to Don Dixon to Steve Lillywhite put their stamp on his music, and I rank his catalog among the best of his era.
Three of my all-time LPs ever. Good write-up. I really wouldn’t bother with the Weirdness – I was so excited by the prospect and then … meh!
Thanks for the feedback. Good to know that The Weirdness is likely an album I can skip. It’s hard to recapture that magic so many years later.
Good post Rich! Like you, I have all those albums but rarely if ever listen to them. I have to be in the mood but you have persuaded me to give them another listen. Oh the irony that Iggy is the only one left alive haha
Thanks Tom. I figured most people who own these albums are probably dedicated fans, so it’s good to know that there are others out there like me who like them but are maybe a bit ambivalent. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts next time you play any of them.
And yes, how ironic that Iggy survives. He is one tough dude.
Oh man, I love Fun House more than I’ve loved some girlfriends. The single most brutal, heavy, hellish, mad album ever put out *. On ‘Raw Power’, I feel there were trying too much at times to sound like the band people wanted them to be and to fit in with the image people assessed to them, rather than let it all happen spontaneously, if you get what I’m saying. I still love it though, of course.
*random piece of info: Joey Ramone, Nick Cave, Henry Rollins and Jack White among others named it their favourite album of all-time.
I get how Iggy’s image could turn some off, but he’s actually a really great, intelligent guy (check out 1990 Raw and Uncut interview if you can to get a sense of that). The things he did on stage were both revolutionary for the time and, in my opinion, more than often tongue-in-cheek. He certainly ain’t no GG Allin, that’s for sure.
I’m glad you gave them a chance and I agreed with most of your notes on the songs. Keep up the good work!
Hi Ovidiu. I appreciate the passion you have for Fun House. I like it a lot more than I ever did yet I don’t think I’ll ever rank it as highly as you do…but of course there are plenty of albums by other artists that make me feel that way, so I know exactly what you’re talking about.
Just to clarify, when I mentioned how Iggy’s image turned me off, I was talking about the impression I had when I was younger. I’ve read & seen many interviews with him over the years and realize that he is a cool, funny & articulate guy, and much more diverse as a musician than he initially appears. Of course, you know what they say about first impressions, and since his public persona turned me off at a young age it took many years for me to give his music a fair shot.
Thanks for stopping by & sharing your enthusiasm for The Stooges.
“stupid & brilliant”–the best description of this band I have ever read! The Sex Pistols recorded a pretty fantastic version of No Fun as well, which just happened to be my introduction to the Stooges. The debut used to be my favorite, but Fun House has taken that honor as of late, but the Bowie produced version of Raw Power is the one I listen to the most. Great post…again, Rich.
Sorry, one more thing: other than the first album, I found myself reversing your “Essentials” and “Other Notable Tracks”, and would definitely put the title track of Raw Power as an essential track. Viva la difference!
Hi Ian. Glad you agree with my “stupid & brilliant” assessment. Even though you & I may not have the same favorite Stooges album or songs, I get the sense we appreciate them on exactly the same level.
As for the Bowie mix of Raw Power, I felt the same way until I played both versions of each track back-to-back prior to writing this post. I gained a new appreciation for Iggy’s rawer vision, although I find Bowie’s version more listenable from start to finish.
Thanks, as always, for your positive feedback. It’s greatly appreciated.
The only Iggy Pops I ever owned were the solo album Instinct and the one after with Home with Slash/Duff what a great rock track……
I totally missed the boat on the Stooges……
I’ll definitely check out some of his solo albums in the future. I’ll need to play the Iggy compilation I own first, though, to see which songs make the most impact on me.
So, when you say you missed the boat, does that mean you don’t like The Stooges or you just haven’t given them a shot?
Have never really gave em a listen. And missed the boat as well..hahaha….see I guess by the time I got into music when I was 12 or so seriously (1979) it was Kiss & Cheap Trick than by 1980 it was ACDC and so on so that’s were my musical landscape lay.
I remember in the late 80s Pop put out Instinct and released Cold Metal I dug cuz it was like the Electric sound that The Cult had used at the time so that kinda of street rock I was hooked.
Not a bad record Instinct but not on par with Electric that’s for sure !!
Deke, you & I are around the same age (I was 13 in ’79) and I also loved Kiss & Cheap Trick (in fact, CT was my first concert, at Madison Square Garden in 1980). As for missing the boat, it’s never too late to jump on board for any artist. Every year I make it a point to check out artists I’ve never heard before for one reason or another, and I’m always finding great new music. Of course, it’s also expensive and takes up way too much room (I’m still addicted to owning physical product…no digital downloads for me).
You see Rich I’m the opposite I do a lot of digital downloads as it’s a convience factor for me. I mean I preordered the latest Rush/Halen downloads and in my town there is only one store HMV and there prices are atrocious. Also with balancing a mortgage 3 daughters and everyday life it’s also a finiacial thing as well so for me to buy a album that way cheap is the way to go.
There are exceptions though and that is called Iron Maiden I will still and go out and purchase there pyhsical product for the artwork,liner notes,lyrics etc…..
But I hear ya I would prefer the physical copy like you guys but with digital downloads it still keeps me in the loop plus for stuff like Halen/Rush I’m a first day buyer still just like back in the 80s!!
Hahaha..were getting old bro…..
That’s awesome U saw CT back than my first real concert was Kiss on the 1979 Dyansty tour in Duluth Minnisota.
Mind blower for a 12 yr old back than …….
Deke, I understand the reasons you’ve opted for digital downloads. At least you still get to enjoy the music, which is what’s most important. Since I don’t have kids I can still selfishly take up as much space as I need for my CDs & LPs (as long as my wife approves, of course).
Wow, Kiss as your first show. Very impressive. I had hoped to see them in ’76 or ’77 (either the Rock & Roll Over or Love Gun tour) at Madison Square Garden, but my parents told me I was too young & wouldn’t allow it. 20 years later when I finally saw the reunited lineup, I called my parents the next day to forgive them. Of course, they had no idea what I was talking about, but it obviously was a major issue of my childhood and I really felt like I finally had closure.
Hahaha that’s a awesome Kiss story Rich!
Yeah I was also lucky to see my second show which was ACDCs Back In Black tour back in July of 1980 when they played here in my hometown( first and last time) I was lucky that my buddy’s older sister took us and this was about one week prior to Back In Black being released..that’s how long ago!!!!
A Canadian band named Streetheart opened.
I think they reason they played here was to break in Johnson in the smaller markets (our arena holds about 3500)that’s what I think now but at the time I was like a fanboy supreme after that show….
You had an amazing start to your concert-going life. Seeing AC/DC at that point in their career is pretty impressive…and obviously memorable. I can’t remember what my second concert was, but within a year after seeing Cheap Trick in ’80 I got to see The Cars (Panorama tour), Blue Oyster Cult (Fire Of Unknown Origin tour, with Foghat opening) and Rush (Moving Pictures tour). We both clearly knew how to pick ’em.
Absolutely than in 1981 I saw Nugent on his Intensities In 10 Cities tour and various other bands that came thru Thunder Bay ie.. Nazareth,Helix but in 1984 I was going out of town and one of my first trips was to see Sammy Hagar with Krokus opening on his VOA tour.
I was lucky that Duluth Minnisota was only a 3 hr drive from Thunder Bay and Duluth at the time was getting the shows like Kiss and Ratt to name a few that would not make the trek to Thunder Bay…
Glad you had access to some good shows in spite of your location. I was fortunate to grow up on Staten Island which was close to venues in Manhattan and New Jersey. I saw Clapton, Jethro Tull, The Police, The Who, Roger Waters, Genesis, Robert Plant, The ARMS Benefit Concert (with Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck & Eric Clapton), Billy Joel and so many others before I was 18. Your tastes obviously went a little heavier than mine, but the important thing is our awesome concert experiences.
I wish I would have caught the Who’s actual Farewell tour back in 82!
There Live In Toronto cd (bootleg) I love…..
And since u mentioned the Police I caught them as well as I was visiting Toronto and my cousin took me to what they called it The Police Picnic featuring of course the Police, The Fixx,James Brown,Peter Tosh and a few others….this was on there Synchronicity tour.
Great band got into them after that to mellow out some of my heaviness..
Great list of bands there Rich…
I saw The Who at Shea Stadium on their “farewell” tour. For a 16-year-old it was amazing but in hindsight they were merely decent. I’ve seen them 4-5 times since then and most of those were more impressive shows.
I saw The Police on the Ghost In The Machine tour (with Black Uhuru opening), and that was a phenomenal show. A year-and-a-half later I saw them at Shea on the Synchronicity tour and it wasn’t quite as good. The show you attended sounds like a great one. I love all three other artists you mentioned.
That’s cool stuff Rich it’s cool to read about ones other concert trips.
Yep there’s me 16 yrs old at the CNE stadium in T.O getting schooled by James Brown in a funk lesson….hahaha…and the next day it’s back on the Walkman listening to Piece Of Mind by Maiden….hahaha..
Still so many yrs later it’s fun to talk about past shows on these blogs esp with me and u seeing some shows around the same time frame.
Very cool. I probably wouldn’t have appreciated James Brown when I was 16. It’s like me & my friends’ reaction to Black Uhuru at The Police concert in ’82. It was a little too authentic for us kids. We preferred the watered-down version of reggae & ska at that point. We all learn at our own pace, and I think my musical horizons really expanded in college and especially right after that when I started working at Atlantic Records. I still loved everything I grew up with but I got into so many different genres at that point. And I still try to expand my horizons even though I’m a couple of years from 50. I’m never too old to discover something new.
Pingback: KamerTunesBlog Year In Review 2014 | KamerTunesBlog
Pingback: GREAT OUT OF THE GATE – My Favorite Debut Albums Part 2 | KamerTunesBlog
Pingback: Satur-debut – THE STOOGES “THE STOOGES” | KamerTunesBlog