Those famous words by Phillip Seymour Hoffman as legendary rock critic Lester Bangs in the movie “Almost Famous” says it all about one of the greatest rock albums ever made, the Stooges “Raw Power”.
As the 1970s arrived, the psychedelic indulgence of the 1960s was on its way to fade into history. The 1970s would hail as a new era in rock n’ roll where the rules would be broken by bands and artists who wanted to challenge people perceptions on how rock music can sound like. For the Detroit proto-punk band the Stooges, the 70s started on a down note after making two influential albums that would provide the blueprint for punk rock that would come to realization in the mid-70s. Drug abuse, poor album sales, and boredom drove the Stooges to break up as singer Iggy Pop’s heroin addiction was taking its toll. After the Stooges disbanded, Iggy went back home to Ann Arbor, Michigan where he cleaned himself on heroin with methadone and wrote some songs with Stooges guitarist James Williamson.
After regaining his health in late 1971, Iggy decided to go to New York City to score a record deal. He met up with fan and proto-punk icon Lou Reed who was helping Iggy try to score the deal that would change his life. In a party at Max’s Kansas City, Iggy Pop met a young British musician named David Bowie who would become one of Iggy’s lifelong friends. Bowie was a fan of the Stooges’ raw, rock n’ roll sound and saw Iggy as a unique figure that was completely different from the progressive rock music in the U.K. After several conversations and meetings, Bowie, in the early stages of his Ziggy Stardust persona, took Lou and Iggy to the U.K. and helped score Iggy a management deal with Bowie’s manager Tony DeFries as well as a new recording deal with Columbia Records. Iggy was becoming a part of Bowie’s entourage that included photographer Mick Rock and Iggy decided it was time to reform the Stooges. He called up pal James Williamson as well as original Stooges band mates, guitarist Ron Asheton and his drumming brother Scott.
After reforming the Stooges, Iggy decided that James would take the lead guitar slot, as Ron would play bass. Ron Asheton, who was responsible for the raucous guitar sounds in the band’s first two albums, was angered over Iggy’s decision and decided to use the bass as a weapon of revenge that helped the Stooges’ sound become more intense. The band recorded their third album in London in the epicenter of the glam rock scene that was led by Bowie, T. Rex, Roxy Music, and Mott the Hoople. Sessions for the new album were tough as the Stooges battled London’s cold air and poverty-like living.
During sessions for the new album, the band played only one gig during their stay in London. Many punk rock historians had always wondered where did punk rock start in the U.K. and many point to the Stooges gig in London. The Stooges gig at the Marquee club in London shocked many who attended the show as Iggy’s stage antics where he jumped on the audience, get them to stand up from their chairs and get crazy. Some people were running for the door as they were in shock to see a wild man from Detroit wreak havoc in London. Mick Rock attended the show where he took photos of the concert. One of the photos ended up becoming a defining one in rock n’ roll as Iggy holding his microphone in his glam makeup looking at the audience that ended up becoming the album cover for their new album “Raw Power”.
After that landmark performance, the Stooges finished “Raw Power” and presented the album to Columbia Records. Columbia wasn’t impressed and told the band to remix their album. With the pressure from Columbia looming over their heads, Iggy turned to David Bowie for help who was touring the U.S. at the time. Bowie took the Stooges to Los Angeles as he remixed their new album that would not only please the band but the people at Columbia as well. The mixing of “Raw Power” remains a controversial subject from fans and critics. While the band admitted they didn’t like Bowie’s remix at first, they knew Bowie was trying to help them retain their edge while giving them an accessible sound. In 1997, Iggy Pop reissued “Raw Power” with a new remix made by Iggy himself that didn’t go well with some critics and Ron Asheton himself who felt Bowie’s remix stayed true to the original album. The original album before the numerous remixes has not been heard to this day and it is my suggestion that “Raw Power” be released again in a 2-CD deluxe version with one disc of the original version before Bowie and Pop’s remixes and then another disc of the released album with the mix that Stooges fans and critics should love and I would think Bowie’s producer Tony Visconti should do the job since he’s a much more experience producer who has done well with album mixing.
“Raw Power” is an album of defiant rock n’ roll music that takes the band’s old proto-punk sound to the world of glam rock where it is still rooted in the streets of Detroit as well as the energy of London. With songs that feature a seductive rhythm, raucous guitars, blues numbers, and Iggy Pop’s incessant howling and wailing vocals, “Raw Power” is an album that was pretty much out of the world of rock n’ roll. In the era of blues-rock, Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”, Led Zeppelin’s “Houses of the Holy”, Ziggy Stardust, progressive rock, and singer-songwriters, “Raw Power” was the antithesis of everything that was going on in rock n’ roll and gave the music world a new look at what was cutting edge in that year. With “Raw Power”, the Stooges changed the face of rock n’ roll and paved the way for a new rock n’ roll revolution in the years to come.
The album’s opener is the blistering “Search & Destroy” with its crashing guitar riffs and pulsating beats that leads to warbling guitar solo from James Williamson and a thunderous rhythm from bassist Ron Asheton and drummer Scott Asheton. Iggy Pop comes in and sings lyrics of raw sexuality that leads to the chorus of “I’m the world’s most forgotten boy/The one who searching only to destroy” that is filled with raw and blistering punches from the Ashetons’ rhythm, Williamson’s chaotic guitars, and Pop’s growling vocals in one of the album’s most undisputed classics. “Gimmie Danger” is a slow, acoustic-blues track that is led by the acoustic-blues guitar tracks of Ron Asheton as Scott brings in a soft but brooding percussion rhythm as Iggy sings, “Gimmie danger, little stranger/And I’ll feel you up apiece/Gimmie danger, little stranger/And I’ll feel your disease” in his dark and crooning vocals as he is accompanied by a distorted, electric blues guitar solo from James Williamson as the song’s intensity gets more chaotic as Iggy begins to growl “When are you going to get into my head” as Williamson follows the song with a soothing and distorted guitar solo.
“Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell (Originally titled “Hard To Beat”)” is a fast, blistering rock track with powerful rhythms and wailing guitar solos from Williamson as Iggy screams and sings in his fast, energetic pace as he sings, “Dirty face, dirty looks” with his sexually-driven growl that matches the song’s bouncy and sexual rhythm driven by Scott Asheton’s powerful drums and Ron’s thunderous bass hooks. Williamson’s off-the-wall guitar solos come in as Iggy growls incessantly like a wild child. “Penetration” is a smooth, mid-tempo rocker with raunchy guitar riffs and a seductive rhythm with a soft piano background as Iggy sings lyrics of penetrations with lyrics of “Penetrate, going inside”. The song’s lyrics at that time might seem extreme but in this era of porn rock, it’s not bad but the way Iggy sing in his seductive and primal growl, it is still shocking even when he sings the word “penetration” with Williamson’s guitar slides in as Iggy sexually grunts in the song’s coda.
The title track to “Raw Power” is the most chaotic of all the songs in the album and the title is a perfect description of the song itself with its droning guitar riffs and fast-paced beats along with a one-note piano strike as Iggy sings lyrics with the powerful line “Raw power is sure to coming running for you” as he sings lyrics of angst of “Nobody tells me what to do” that is a pure description of raw power with its raucous guitars and thunderous rhythms. “I Need Somebody” is a slow, blues-rocking track with acoustic blues riffs from Ron Asheton and an electric blues accompaniment from James Williamson with a smooth, seductive rhythm from Scott Asheton’s drums as Iggy howls and sings lyrics of love with a chorus of “I need somebody, baby/I need some money too/I need somebody, baby/Just like you” with his sexy growl and Williamson’s distorted blues riffs that shows the Stooges range of musical styles from punk, jazz, garage rock, and blues.
“Shake Appeal” is the album’s most sexually driven song with its bouncing rhythm and seductive groove with its fast-paced drums, thunderous bass hooks, droning guitar riffs, and Iggy’s sexual howls and grunts as he sings the word “Shaaaake appeal” with racy lyrics of sex with his sexual scream as he sings “Baby’s gotta have some time” that leads to a loud scream followed by James Williamson’s wailing guitar as Iggy howls seductively like a horny madman while saying “Sex appeal”. The album’s closer “Death Trip” is another song of chaotic power with an incessant guitar riff from Williamson and Iggy’s primal scream as he is accompanied by the thunderous rhythm section of the Asheton brothers as he sings lyrics of chaos and destruction as he is followed by the wailing guitar solos of Williamson. Iggy’s screams filled with sexual prowess are all over the song as he sings with the song’s powerful grind and blistering sound.
When “Raw Power” was finally released in 1973, the album received excellent reviews but poor album sales. Columbia eventually dropped them as the band began to abuse drugs again. Iggy was also dropped by his management company and couldn’t reach Bowie who was having his problems with his Ziggy Stardust character, as it got bigger. In late ’73, the Stooges hooked up with former Doors manager Danny Sugerman who got the band several gigs. The gigs however, were obscene at best as Iggy begin to abuse heroin again as he often performed naked onstage and actually persuade female fans to give him oral sex. News surrounding the gigs helped attract the Stooges more attention for their concerts but it all came to ahead one night in New York City. At a gig in Max’s Kansas City, Iggy cut himself with a broken cocktail glass on his chest and continued to perform as the blood was spurting out of his chest and was taken to the hospital by Alice Cooper and Lou Reed who were attending the show. After the concert, Iggy’s performances became more violent and bloody as the Stooges decided to call it quits for good in early 1974. Iggy and James Williamson continued to perform and record some tracks that would be released in 1977 as “The Kill City Sessions” but were scrapped due to Iggy’s behavior and drug abuse that eventually led him to psychiatric hospital in Los Angeles.
Since the band’s breakup, the Asheton brothers formed a band called New Order (not the same seminal U.K. dance-rock band of the same name that rose from the ashes of Joy Division) in the late 70s that didn’t go anywhere and James Williamson produced some records until retiring for good in the late 80s. Williamson today lives in Michigan as a successful computer programmer while Scott Asheton lives quietly in Detroit. Ron Asheton has made himself into a guitar hero in the punk and alternative rock scene as he recently contributed guitar work to fellow Detroit guitar hero Wayne Kramer of the MC5 on Kramer’s 2001 solo album that drew critical acclaim as Asheton’s guitar playing was called one of the most influential in rock.
Since his stay at a psychiatric hospital in 1975, Iggy Pop checked out and hooked up with David Bowie again as he produced two of Iggy’s seminal albums “The Idiot” and “Lust For Life” in 1977 that helped establish his influence and earned him the title as the Godfather of Punk. After leaving Bowie in late ’77, Iggy continued to tour and record throughout the early 80s until retiring from the road in ’83 to wean himself from drugs and alcohol and received huge royalty checks when David Bowie scored a top ten hit with “China Girl” which he co-wrote with Iggy back in ’77. Iggy reunited with Bowie in ’86 to record “Blah Blah Blah” which contained the song “Real Wild Child” which was a modest hit in the U.S. but a huge hit in the U.K., as his audience grew bigger in Europe and Japan. In 1990, Iggy scored his only top forty U.S. hit with “Candy” featuring B-52s singer Kate Pierson. Today, Iggy lives happily in Miami with son and tour manager Eric Benson and continues to put out acclaimed albums and wild performances that wowed audiences.
As the 90s progressed, the albums of the Stooges begin to sell more than ever as songs appeared on soundtracks and commercials as they were hailed as one of the most influential bands in rock n’ roll. “Raw Power” recently made the 100 Greatest Albums of All-Time list by VH1. In 1997, producer Rick Rubin tried to get the Stooges to reunite but failed due to clashing personalities between Iggy Pop and Ron Asheton. With the band waiting for an induction into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame, Stooges fans will have to wait for a reunion.
“Raw Power” is a rocking masterpiece filled with primal screams, blistering hooks, and sexual overtones that will make the average soft-rock fan scream their lungs out. The name says it all when you hear the album. The album is best heard when you crank it up to eleven as you will shake your body through its frenetic energy. It’s also an excellent album for sex with songs like “Shake Appeal” and “Penetration” that are dirty enough to fill your mojo. With a cool album cover, excellent songs, wild energy, “Raw Power” is one of the best proto-punk albums to own. Without it, punk rock would not be here today, which means no Ramones, no Clash, no Sex Pistols, no Green Day, no Husker Du, no Bad Religion, and certainly no Nirvana. With bands like the Strokes, the White Stripes, the Vines, and the Hives all channeling the Stooges abusive, stripped-down, rock n’ roll sounds, it’s amazing how influential they’ve become. “Raw Power” is a must-have album in your collection if you’re a true rock fan. Otherwise, your pals won’t look you in the eye if you don’t have it.