Stooges – Raw Power: Deluxe Edition

January 01, 1970

(Columbia/Legacy)

 

www.legacyrecordings.com

 

“Schlock has its
place.” – Iggy Pop, from the
Search and Destroy DVD documentary

 

Raw Power will
forever be viewed through the prism of Punk – which, in a sense, is as it
should be. Released in February of 1973, it was an instant flop, commercially
speaking, but as with so many records adjudged to be iconic after the fact, it
still found its way into the hands of the right people. Musicians who’d soon be instrumental in kickstarting Punk: artists
in New York City, Cleveland
and L.A., and across the pond in London and Manchester,
and even Down Under in Sydney and Melbourne. Picking up the baton and bolting with
it, those bands would in turn serve up sonic mentorships for thousands and
thousands others down through the years. There’s no guarantee that the budding
young garage combo practicing in that storage shed down the street from you has
heard Raw Power or either of its two
predecessors, 1969’s The Stooges and
1970’s Fun House. But there’s no
question that the Stooges are in those kids’ DNA in one form or another.

 

So Columbia/Legacy’s new reissue of Raw Power offers a choice opportunity to be reminded just how
influential the record was, because track after track foreshadows the shape of
rock to come. The brash, chugging power chords and accompanying
shred-the-speaker cone short bursts of lead guitar that power opening track
“Search and Destroy,” not to mention the snot ‘n’ swagger lyrical blueprint
that Iggy Pop lays down (“I’m a runaway son of the nuclear A-bomb… Baby,
detonate me, oh!” is priceless), would literally provide the Dead Boys, the
Damned and the Sex Pistols several singles’ worth of inspiration. Had the
Stooges not crafted the minor-chord strums, darkly poetic ruminations and
vaguely psychedelic ambiance of “Gimme Danger,” it’s likely that the first two Patti
Smith Group albums would’ve turned out vastly different. The title track takes
the basic Nuggets-rock template,
strips it of all its subtleties in order to revert to sub-“Louie Louie”-style
caveman rock, and basically announces that anyone
can do this kinda shit, even if you can’t play an instrument
, effectively
recasting the entire DIY ethos. And while nowadays there’s nothing unusual
about seeing Punk and Metal bands on the same bill, often sounding virtually
indistinguishable from one another, back in the ‘70s and into the early/mid
‘80s it was a never-the-twain-shall-meet of opposing aesthetics and hairstyles;
here, though, the sheer thuggish heaviosity, sense of looming chaos and lyrical
nihilism of the six-minute “Death Trip” suggests a future intersection. Pay
attention to James Williamson’s focused guitar solo and the Asheton brothers’
denser-than-lead rhythmic punch providing the grounding, and then the way Iggy
barks and shrieks and grunts with such unhinged, feral force that at one point
it sounds like he’s about to hack up a lung.

 

Call Raw Power a punkstarter
and no one will challenge you.

 

Anyhow, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.
You don’t even need me to describe the songs. They should be in your DNA by now.

 

It’s worth noting, however, that for some, Raw Power was experienced, initially at
least, within an entirely different context, the glam- and hard-rock sounds of
the era. In 1973, nobody had an inkling that a cultural detonation of seismic
proportions was lurking in the wings; the Stooges were simply part of the same
landscape that gave us the New York Dolls, Mott the Hoople, David Bowie, T.
Rex, the Dictators, Pink Fairies and other likeminded practitioners of sounds
and styles aiming to thumb their noses at the status quo while horrifying
parents of pretty much any sensibility. (“Catholic guilt,” ha-ha.) In
hindsight, it’s no wonder these bands were turning up, given the prevailing
ubiquity of all the Have-A-Nice-Day chumps and whiny, acoustic guitar-wielding
pussies singing about mountains and valleys and love-your-brothers and, oh
yeah, love-your-flaxen-haired-Earth-mamas ‘n’ sisters, too. I mean, Laurel FUCKING Canyon?
Gimme a break! PASS ME A COUPLE OF GODDAM QUAALUDES and SHIT, LET’S GIT US SOME
MOTHERFUCKING RAW POWER, BABY, AAAHHHHHHHHH… whew… okay. I feel better. I
digress…

 

The fact that the first two Stooges albums were increasingly
hard to find at this point, coupled with Raw
Power
‘s fast-track trajectory to the cutout bins, didn’t help the Stooges
in the short term, but it did help bolster he Detroit band’s mystique. The RP album front sleeve in particular – a
defiant (or maybe just loaded) Iggy in ultimate androgynous terrorist mode, as
captured for the ages by lensman Mick Rock – further fueled that mystique, and
even if you couldn’t find the LP, you’d certainly seen a picture of that sleeve
or read a review in Creem or Rolling Stone, so there was at least a
subliminal awareness of it. Both literally and symbolically, the Stooges
represented a safe haven from the saccharine, vanilla drek that was swirling
around in the culture.

 

But the fact of the matter is that in the band’s actual
lifetime, only the staunchest of hipsters actually possessed a Stooges album. Those
who did, of course, rarely failed to proselytize for the band, which is how I
learned about them, through the efforts of an older long-haired, pot-dealing
delinquent who spotted potential in me. After Punk did hit and bands started namedropping the Stooges name, the three
LPs began turning up in England
and Europe as budget-line reissues featuring prominently-placed
stickers showing a big safety pin and the word “PUNK” in bold capital letters. (Sometimes
obvious is better than subtle.) But in 1973, the average teen couldn’t just
wander into the local Woolworth’s and ask for a Stooges record; hell, for that
matter, if the wrong person overheard the request, the kid might find himself
getting shipped off to military boarding school in short order to straighten
his ass out.

 

And of those aforementioned hipsters, only the ones who
happened to be lucky enough to live in a major metropolitan center had anything
more than a snowball’s chance in hell seeing the band perform. BLURT
contributor Jud Cost was among the lucky ones, catching the Stooges live in San
Francisco in early 1974, not long before the band’s implosion (his recounting
of that concert can be read here), but most of us had to settle for
crummy-sounding European bootlegs a number of years after the fact. With that
in mind, it is indeed fortuitous that the Raw
Power
reissue, available as either 2CD 
Legacy Edition or a pricier
3CD/DVD Deluxe Edition, includes as
its second disc Georgia Peaches, a
live document of an October ’73 Stooges stand in Atlanta at the Richards rock club.
Some of the hour-long recording has surfaced previously on bootleg, but it’s
still essential listening, particularly if your only exposure to Raw Power-vintage live Stooges is 1976’s
posthumous Metallic K.O. album (a
critical document, but a wobbly performance in substandard sound quality.)

 

 

Georgia Peaches was recorded professionally for a never-to-be-aired King Biscuit Flower Hour
radio broadcast, so despite a few rough sonic patches at the start, it probably
represents the best available transcription of this incarnation of the band
(which included touring pianist and future Heartbreakers member Scott
Thurston). Despite a slight dialing back of Williamson’s guitar, all the
instruments are clearly audible, something you can’t claim for most of the
bootlegs, with Ron Asheton’s bass in particular standing out; latterday Stooges
stories have often mentioned how underrated Asheton was on the instrument, to which
he’d moved over from lead guitar after Iggy brought in Williamson, and here
he’s nothing less than a hard rock virtuoso. Keyboardist Thurston shines too,
and it’s interesting to hear, for example, how Thurston and Asheton provide a
melodic-rhythmic focus on an extended jammy tune like “Head On.”

 

“Butt fuckers tryin’ to run my world,” sneers Iggy in that
number, adding, “I wanna give them what they deserve,” which is a pretty fair
encapsulation of the provocative tone of the Atlanta concert. The band’s – or at least
Iggy’s – disdain for this audience of Southern boys ‘n’ girls is on display,
the singer at one point calling out one attendee as a “little cracker boy.”
Although the tension is not quite on the order of that heard in Metallic K.O., it still fuels some
memorable performances here, like an anthemic, extended “Gimme Danger,” the
sleazy blues-swing of “I Need Somebody,” and the closing, ten-minute “Open Up
and Bleed” wherein Iggy winds himself up into an existential foaming-at-the-mouth
frenzy.

 

Oh, my.

 

***

 

Now, since we’re talkin’ Stooges, we’re also talkin’ fanboys
– specifically, the type who’ll lap up anything and everything bearing the
band’s name. (Uh, fanboys like me.) The Raw
Power
album reissued here is the original, controversial mix that David
Bowie pieced together; back in the day, that apparently flummoxed the mastering
engineers to such a degree that the vinyl LP’s sound was a weird combination of
murkiness and ear-itching treble. Not so in 2010, as the remastering job is
spot on, so all of you can rest easy; Bowie
was right on the money. (But you should still hang on to the 1997 Legacy reissue
featuring Iggy’s personal, in-the-red remix, as that in itself is a pretty
fascinating alternate-universe Stoogeoid artifact.)

 

And then there’s all the bonus studio material; a pair of
previously unreleased studio tracks append the Georgia Peaches concert, while purchasers of the Deluxe Edition get an additional third
disc of extras. Collectors owning the myriad bootlegs plus the recent six-CD Heavy Liquid box of Raw Power -era material (comprising for the most part rehearsals
and live tracks recorded after the album’s release) will have a good chunk of
it, of course, so the surprises may be sporadic; for some reason the compilers
also decided to throw in a pair of cuts from the 1997 remix. But there are some
genuine treats, among them a riffy workout titled “I’m Hungry” that has Iggy
spewing extemporaneous lyrics (he sounds like Fozzie Bear when he leers, “I
wanna eat you!”), and “Hey Peter,” a repetitive and endearingly sloppy slice of
garage-punk. Both of those are billed as bonafide unreleased session outtakes,
while another pair of tracks, “Shake Appeal” and “Death Trip,” each well-known
to Stooges aficionados, are listed as “alternate mix versions from recently
discovered alternate mix reels.” This all suggests that further commercial
mining of Raw Power may be waiting in
the wings, perhaps something on the order of Rhino’s sprawling 1999 box set Complete Fun House Sessions; stay tuned.

 

 

Wrapping things up for the multiple disc Deluxe Edition is the elaborate
packaging and the inclusion of a DVD. Say all you want about collector catnip,
but the whole point about being a fan is wanting to have it all so hats off to the folks behind this project, as it was
clearly a labor of love. The box comes with the obligatory fat booklet crammed
with musicians’ testimonials and photos (by Mick Rock and Robert Matheu), five
5″ x 7″ vintage Stooges photos, and a reproduction of a rare Japanese picture
sleeve single for “Raw Power” b/w “Search and Destroy.”

 

The must-watch DVD, entitled Search and Destroy: Iggy and the Stooges’ Raw Power, is a making-of-the-album
documentary directed by Morgan Neville that includes interviews with all the
surviving Stooges, including contemporary era bassist Mike Watt, plus Henry
Rollins, Johnny Marr, Clem Burke, Chrissie Hynde, and photographers Rock and
Matheu. Occasionally the talking heads-style interviews yield more enthusiasm
than insight, but all the respondents are passionate in their discussion (their
comments on the late Ron Asheton are appropriately reverent), and getting the
reflections of Iggy, Williamson and Scott Asheton gives the viewing experience
the ring of authority. Watching Iggy’s reaction to the music as he sits at a
studio mixing console and listens to playbacks of selected tracks is priceless,
too. Interspersed is some period live footage – grainy Super-8 stuff, with
studio music overlaid in lieu of the actual concert recordings -while near the
end of the DVD there’s a clip of the Stooges, reunited with Williamson,
performing last November in Brazil. It effectively sets the stage for this
year’s round of Stooges reunion concerts, and as such brings a particular
chapter in the Stooges’ long, strange evolution to a close.

 

“Honestly, I never got into this for a fairy tale in the
first place – I’ve gotten one since then,” muses Iggy, at the conclusion of the
documentary, adding, with a shake of his head, as if he can’t fully comprehend the
fairy tale, “I lead a privileged life.”

 

With the vindication provided by this year’s induction of
the band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the ongoing acceptance and
embrace of the Stooges’ oeuvre as evidenced by the Raw Power reissue, I’d reckon that statement pretty much nails it.

 

Standout Tracks: “Search
and Destroy,” “Gimme Danger” (live), “Doojiman” (outtake), “Shake Appeal”
(alternate mix) FRED MILLS

 

 

Additional reading: the BLURT
interview with guitarist James Williamson
, by John B. Moore.

 

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