The Stooges

The Stooges

Elektra, 1969

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


It’s 1969, okay? The year this reviewer, not to mention punk rock, was born. It would take the endless and relentless stage antics of shirtless, skinny rabble-rouser by the name of lead singer Iggy Pop (James Newell Osterberg was never going to work as a stage name) to seize the attention of Elektra execs at a club gig in Detroit one night in the fall of 1968. Musicianship of the other members of his band, then called the Psychedelic Stooges, was minimal and secondary. As with the Velvet Underground before them, this abrasive sound and stage show was groundbreaking stuff, though it was not without its share of danger and controversy. Cutting oneself on stage as Iggy did was a spontaneous act of defiance, fueled by drugs and adrenaline in equal measure. Future shock-rocker acts like Alice Cooper and Ozzy Osbourne would take notice and the rest, as they say, would be history.

With so much living on the edge, it’s a major miracle Iggy is still with us, God bless him. Drummer Scott Asheton is still with Iggy and a newly reformed version of the Stooges today, though Scott’s guitarist brother Ron died of a heart attack in 2009, one year before the band would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As for bassist Dave Alexander, he would only perform on this debut album and the follow-up my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Fun House, before hard drinking caused both pancreatitis and pulmonary edema, leading to hospitalization and death at the age of 27 in 1975. The list of rock musicians who either died at 27 or 36 is a long one (because both add up to the ending number of nine), as any numerologist is likely to tell you.

Much credit should be given to producer and former Velvet John Cale for reigning in the Stooges’ rampant eccentricities in forming the dynamic and compact record that is the self-titled debut. Granted, he could not resist throwing a drone number in there (“We Will Fall”), but hey, it was the ‘60s and they did have the Psychedelic tag to live up to…After the full-blooded wall of sound assault of the preceding stunner “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” the listener kind of needed a comedown in order to catch their breath. The fact that it is all one note and is ten minutes long is a good way to please the label execs with something relatively substantial compared to the brevity of the rest. Half of this album had to be written on the fly in a matter of hours, but it’s not as rushed and spotty as one would expect. A key cut like “Not Right” tells you all you need to know about Iggy and the Stooges. Sometimes the best ideas come in a hurry under pressure.

If twangy Rolling Stones-influenced blues rock is more your thing then both “1969” and “No Fun” will surely satisfy. Those songs are as direct and radio friendly as the Stooges will ever try to be. The handclaps and brash guitar solos make them a danceable and fitting postscript to the turbulent decade that was the 1960s. Punk rock would battle disco for the throne in the ten years to follow, but neither genre would survive the long haul. Drug addiction and diseases like AIDS would make sure of that. Punk’s motto has always been “It’s better to burn out, then fade away.” That’s why the electrically charged debut effort by the Stooges has had such a lasting impact and made the indelible mark on the music world that it intended to. Cheers to that.

Rating: A-

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© 2014 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Elektra, and is used for informational purposes only.