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Iggy Pop and the Stooges

Reviewed on this page:
The Stooges - Fun House - Raw Power - Brick By Brick

By 1968 two great proto-punk bands had taken Detroit by storm: the hyper-political MC5 and the younger, more nihilistic Stooges, led by wildman singer Iggy Pop. Both of them were signed by Elektra records, and the Stooges hooked up with ex-Velvet Underground bassist and neophyte producer John Cale.


Group formed, 1967. Dave Alexander (bass), Ron Asheton (guitar), Scott Asheton (drums), Iggy Pop (vocals). Alexander fired, replaced by Zeke Zettner; James Williamson (guitar) added, 1970. Zettner replaced by Jimmy Recca, 1971. Group split, 1971, reformed with Ron Asheton (now on bass), Scott Asheton, Pop, and Williamson, 1972. Group split again, 1974.

The Stooges (The Stooges: 1969)
The Stooge's only collaboration with producer John Cale is a bizarre 60s artifact, groundbreaking but seriously flawed. Nobody in the band seemed to be clear on the concept of song structure, so most of the head-pounding tunes are rudimentary rock 'n' roll riffs that sometimes shift to a chorus and sometimes don't. On the other hand, Ron Asheton has a total mastery of late 60s hard rock guitar gimmicks - wah-wah, blazing distortion, the works; the rhythm section gets across a fat, tribalistic beat that you can't ignore (the Chuck Berry/Stones-influenced "1969"); and Pop is a total maniac, screaming his head off and playing games with his huge range ("I Wanna Be Your Dog"). But the record is totally compromised by a ten-minute, "The End"-style experiment that consists of the band chanting a mantra while Cale saws his viola, Ron solos randomly, and Pop improvises knuckleheaded, mock-Morrison lyrics ("We Will Fall"). There is one further Doors-style "psychedelic" ballad ("Ann"), but for the most part the record pushes rock's limits in a new and exciting direction, with several real keepers ("1969"; "I Wanna Be Your Dog"; the blues-based, super-heavy "No Fun"; "Not Right"). (JA)

Fun House (The Stooges: 1970)
- New producer Don Galucci lets them wallow in the last record's style, so they end up with a disorganized, blazingly loud, occasionally monotonous dollop of acid-metal-proto punk. The band's chops have improved somewhat, so the riffs are pretty strong, there are no foolish attempts at hippy-dippy studio experimentation, and the volume never drops below 11. But the song material is actually weaker; only the head-pounding "T.V. Eye" is a classic on par with "I Wanna Be Your Dog," and the boys hurt their own cause with some overlong running times ("Dirt"; title track) and a feedback-drenched, five-minute noise-making session ("L.A. Blues"). The shorter tracks are fun, but they all work with the same formula of primal drums, simplistic (if catchy) hooks, out-of-control guitar solos, and howling, incomprehensible vocals ("Down On The Street"; "Loose"; "1970," a rewrite of "1969"). That leaves the seven-minute "Dirt" as the record's only other high point, with a funky, down-tempo beat, surprisingly melodic bass lines, and shimmering rhythm guitar parts. And then there's the title track, with temporary member Steven Mackay adding a wild beatnik saxophone solo to an extended jam based on an ear-splitting riff. Nothing too profound, but it's a textbook demonstration of how this band set the stage for the punk revolution. (JA)
- I don't have the debut and I only have the cruddy Bowie mix of Raw Power, but I love this record. Sure, it's simple, but that's why it's so great: too often, studio experimentation is fun for the engineer but not for the listener. The long jams and nihilistic insanity remind me of Detroit-based acid rock contemporaries Funkadelic, but at this point, the Stooges were better in every respect: Ron Asheton's much more versatile than Eddie Hazel, the pounding rhythm section is super-solid, the insistent riffs are endlessly enjoyable ("Down On The Street"), Pop's vocals are breathtakingly bizarre, and thanks to the bare-bones mix you can actually hear what's going on. Even the album-ending freakout ("L.A. Blues") is tolerable. If punk had stuck to this blueprint, I would've listened to a lot more of it. (DBW)

Raw Power (The Stooges: 1973)
Aftering having been out of commission for a year, the group reformed to cut this absolute classic of the early punk movement. Pop's friendship with David Bowie had given him a second chance, so on the insistence of the record company Bowie was credited as producer and allowed to mix the record. His mix was a legendary fiasco, and the record flopped. Fortunately, in 1997 Pop did his own remix, and the results are glorious. Scott Thurston is on piano. (JA)

Kill City (Pop and Williamson: 1977)
Pop's first move after literally dragging himself out of the gutter was to cut a record with Stooges guitarist Williamson. The rhythm section is the Sales brothers on some tracks, and elsewhere Steve Tranio (bass) and Brian Glascock (drums), with Thurston appearing again on keyboards. (JA)

The Idiot (1977)
The source of "China Girl," which Bowie later turned into a solo hit. Bowie and his guitarist Carlos Alomar both appear. (JA)

Lust For Life (1977)
The second record produced by Bowie. The bouncing title track became a key tune in Pop's repertoire. The band is the Sales brothers, Bowie (piano), and Bowie's two contemporary guitarists Alomar and Ricky Gardiner. (JA)

TV Eye Live (1978)
A super-loud live album, half recorded with Bowie on keyboards during Pop's 1977 tour, half without. Several tracks are from his first album ("Funtime"; "Nightclubbing") and second ("Sixteen"; "Lust For Life"), and the rest is Stooges material like "I Wanna Be Your Dog," "Dirt," and "T.V. Eye." I don't believe "I Got A Right" appeared on any of his studio albums. (JA)

New Values (1979)
With Bowie out of the picture, this was a new (if short lived) collaboration with Williamson. The band is Thurston, Jackie Clarke (bass), and Klaus Kruger (drums). (JA)

Soldier (1980)
An all-star lineup this time: ex-XTC keyboard player Barry Andrews, ex-Patti Smith Group guitarist Ivan Kral, and ex-Sex Pistol bass player Glen Matlock, plus Kruger on drums again. (JA)

Party (1981)
Kral was held over, but otherwise there's a totally new lineup of Rob Duprey (guitar), Michael Page (bass), and Douglas Browne (drums). Pop and Kral wrote almost everything together, and the result is a thin, sloppy, underproduced New Wave record that ranks among the most embarassing moments of Pop's career. A couple of tracks were produced by Monkees mastermind Tommy Boyce, and they're far more listenable ("Bang Bang") than stuff overseen by Thom Panunzio - even the ridiculously campy cover of "Sea Of Love." (JA)

Zombie Birdhouse (1982)
Produced by Chris Stein, who's on bass; he's joined by Duprey and Blondie drummer Clem Burke. (JA)

Blah Blah Blah (1986)
After a brief retirement, Pop now signed with A & M and started cutting records again. Bowie came back to produce, the last time he worked this closely with Pop. Unfortunately, at this point Bowie was using one-man-band Erdal Kizilcay, so most of the backing is him, although there's also Kevin Armstrong (guitar) and a guest appearance by Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols. (JA)

Instinct (1988)
Includes a couple of durable rock songs like "Power & Freedom" and "Tuff Baby." Steve Jones is on guitar throughout; there's also Seamus Beaghen (keyboards), Leigh Foxx (bass), and Paul Garisto (drums). (JA)

Brick By Brick (1990)
Produced by Don Was, this is a relatively slick-sounding, moderately eclectic rock record. Pop plays rhythm guitar and gets sole writing credit for most of it. But the louder tunes verge on hair band heavy metal ("Butt Town"; "Pussy Power"), and there's way too much expendable, down-tempo stuff that's closer to Bruce Springsteen or Tom Petty than punk ("Main Street Eyes"; "The Undefeated"; the bathetic title track; the embarassing cover of "Livin' On The Edge Of The Night"). David Lindley adds a bunch of slide guitar, violin, mandolin, and bouzouki parts that just make the record seem overcooked ("I Won't Crap Out"; the dull acoustic love song "Moonlight Lady"; the bizarre calypso-New Orleans funk hybrid "Starry Night"). And high points are few: Pop does make good use of his startling range; John Hiatt's strutting black hat cowboy anthem "Something Wild," with Hiatt harmonizing, could have been a lot more painful; there's an amusingly geeky New Wave/folk rock duet with Kate Pierson ("Candy"); and there are a couple of fun, straight-ahead rock 'n' rollers ("Home"; "My Baby Wants To Rock And Roll," written with Slash; the lengthy Rolling Stones imitation "Neon Forest"). Lead guitar is split between Slash and Waddy Wachtel, and mostly the band is Jamie Muhoberac (keyboards), Kenny Aronoff (drums), and Charley Drayton (bass, replaced by Slash's Guns 'n' Roses bandmate Duff McKagan on the Slash tracks). Was (Not Was) vocalists Sir Harry Bowen and Sweet Pea Atkinson sing some backups. (JA)

American Caesar (1993)
"Louie Louie" is in the track listing. Huh? Another totally new band here: Eric Schermerhorn (guitar), Hal Cragin (bass), and Larry Mullins (drums), who I don't think is the same as U2 drummer Larry Mullen. Henry Rollins is among the guests. (JA)

Naughty Little Doggy (1996)
The loudest, trimmest, most entertaining record Pop recorded in the 90s. Surprisingly, he held over the same hard rock power trio he used on the last record, although they all take on silly pseudonyms like "Larry Contrary." No guests this time, which actually is a good thing... (JA)

Avenue B (1999)
A dull, frequently embarassing, low-powered record with plenty of lame-brained spoken vocals and incongruous backing on several tracks by lounge jazzers Medeski, Martin and Wood. Otherwise his current band is mostly intact, with Cragin and Mullins, plus Whitey Kirst replacing Schermerhorn on guitar. Several guests here including Larry Castro and Don Was (on guitar). Includes a disappointing cover of "Shakin' All Over." (JA)

Beat Em Up (2001)
Pop goes straight back to bare-bones hard rock, and it's a blast, with plenty of his patented smutty lyrics and Whitey Kirst's rough-edged, crunching guitar. The new rhythm section is Lloyd Roberts (bass) and Alex Kirst (drums). (JA)

Six Degrees of Iggy Pop

Sometimes it seems like practically everyone in the rock industry has slept with someone who's slept with someone... who's slept with Iggy Pop. Just from a single book (Please Kill Me, the oral history of punk created by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain) I've been able to reconstruct the following, um, connections among rock musicians and their friends. Pop's conquests are in the first column, theirs are in the second, and so on; numbers are of pages in the book where the relevant connections are mentioned. And yes, boys and girls, oral sex does count...
  1. Potato Girl (first wife) 51-53
  2. Kathy Asheton (sister of Ron and Scott Asheton) 51
    1. Fred "Sonic" Smith 35, 36, 367
      1. Janis Joplin 61
      2. Patti Smith 342, 367, 368, 370-372, 422
        1. Robert Mapplethorpe 93, 98-100, 102, 104, 107
          1. Jack Walls 424
        2. Todd Rundgren 100, 101
        3. Allen Lanier (Blue Oyster Cult) 101, 107, 171, 417
        4. Penny Arcade 102, 103
        5. Jim Carroll (Jim Carroll Band) 104, 111
          1. Devra 104
          2. Jackie Curtis (transvestite) 428
        6. Sam Shepard 105, 111-113, 422
        7. Tom Verlaine 171, 172
        8. Paul Simonon 231
          1. Caroline Coon 262
  3. Betsy 54
  4. Nico 56-58
    1. Bob Dylan 7-9
    2. Brian Jones 8
    3. Alain Delon 8, 414
    4. Lou Reed 10, 18
      1. Billy Name 15
      2. Rachel (transvestite) 155, 206, 420
      3. Sylvia Morales/Reed 285, 286, 304, 383, 421
    5. John Cale 18
    6. Jim Morrison 29
      1. Pam Courson/Morrison 28, 413
        1. Tom Baker 413
      2. Gloria Stavers 31
    7. Kevin Ayres (Soft Machine/Gong) 439
  5. Sable Starr 137-139
    1. Ron Asheton (Stooges) 137, 139
      1. Danielle 54
    2. Scott Asheton (Stooges) 137
    3. David Bowie 138
      1. Angela Bowie 95, 121
        1. Ron Asheton 127 (see above)
        2. David's black bodyguard 134, 135
      2. Cyrinda Foxe 134
        1. James Williamson (Stooges) 136
          1. Evita 224
        2. David Johansen 137 (see below)
    4. Johnny Thunders (New York Dolls) 150-154, 215
      1. Cindy Laing 151
        1. Alice Cooper 151
      2. Janice 189
    5. Richard Hell 215
      1. Roberta Bayley 196
      2. Anya Phillips 283
        1. Damita 284 (see below)
        2. James Chance (?) 382
      3. Rachel (first girlfriend) 429, 430
    6. Keith Richards 215
  6. Coral Starr (sister of Sable Starr) 138, 139, 142
  7. Bebe Buell (mother of Liv Tyler) 144-146
    1. Todd Rundgren 101, 144-146, 283 (see above)
    2. David Bowie 122 (see above)
    3. Mick Jagger 283
    4. Elvis Costello 309
    5. Stiv Bators (The Dead Boys/Lords of the New Church) 341, 342
      1. Eileen Polk (?) 239 (see below)
      2. CBGB's waitress (on stage!) 239
      3. Gyda Gash 241
        1. Cheetah Chrome (The Dead Boys) 241, 304
      4. Cynthia from the B Girls 340
      5. Caroline Bators 389-394, 442
      6. Anastasia 390
    6. Jack Nicholson 342
    7. Steven Tyler 400
      1. Cyrinda Foxe 401 (see above)
    8. Coyote Shivers 412
  8. Girl from the Detroit suburbs 222
  9. Nancy Spungen 348
    1. David Johansen (New York Dolls) 150
      1. Kate Simon 416, 422
    2. Johnny Thunders 150 (see above)
    3. Sylvain Sylvain (New York Dolls) 150
      1. Damita 300, 301
        1. Diego Cortez 284
        2. Joey Ramone (Ramones) 302
          1. Pam Brown 211, 254
          2. Linda 387
    4. Jerry Nolan (New York Dolls) 150
    5. Eliot Kidd 209
    6. Dee Dee Ramone (Ramones) 215
      1. Connie Gripp 152, 200, 201, 211-213, 215, etc., 365
        1. Arthur Kane (New York Dolls) 147-149, 420
          1. Eileen Polk 152, 191 (see below)
      2. Eileen Polk 152, 200, 201, 212, 213, 215
      3. blonde in parking lot 337
      4. Vera Boldis/Colvin 360, 363, 364, 420
      5. Linda Stein 363
        1. Seymour Stein 230, 423 (see below)
      6. Seymour Stein 363
      7. Danny Fields (?) 363
        1. Richard Sohl 162
        2. Richard Lloyd 170
      8. Laura Allen 388
    7. Sid Vicious (Sex Pistols) 264, 265, 348, 357, 422, 424
      1. Laurie/Larry (transsexual) 329
      2. Michelle Robinson 352, 357
    8. Ron Wood 351
    9. Keith Richards 351 (see above)
    10. Tom Hamilton 351
    11. Brad Whitford 351
  10. Alex 436
    1. Ron Asheton 436 (see above)
  11. Jan Carmichael 437

Blah blah blah...

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