The Stooges/Fun House (re-issues) - The Stooges (Elektra/Rhino)
In the liner notes to Rhino’s souped-up reissue/remaster of the Stooges’ wide-eyed, dribbling debut, Detroit native Alice Cooper (whose albums with the original Alice Cooper band are in dire need of a sonic upgrade) confesses that the Stooges were the only band he never wanted to follow largely in part to Iggy Pop’s wild streak of unpredictability.
Only 12 when “The Stooges” was released and 14 when the original band gave up the ghost, I never had the pleasure of seeing them live but I have seen Iggy solo several times, dating back to “The Idiot” tour, and “unpredictable” isn’t an adjective which seems to fit much unless you consider Iggy staring down challenges from paying customers and eventually introducing them to “Little Iggy” abnormal. I’ve seen the guy’s dick more than I’ve seen my own and believe me, I’m not proud of it.
Given the musical climate at the time, however, The Stooges were something of an anomaly when that first album dropped its anchor back in 1969 because, as Brother Wayne Kramer has so bluntly pointed out, the Summer of Love didn’t stop in Detroit. The race riots which reduced much of the city to so much cinder just two years previous apparently hadn’t even registered as a blip on the radar of Ann Arbor’s favorite sons, whose insular world, created just a short trek down I94 from the city proper, rotated on alternating axes of mindless fun, boredom, psychedelic escapism, ostracism, and pleasures of the flesh.
Although the world has spun a few times in the ensuing 36 years, “The Stooges” still seems to defy explanation and/or context, a big-bang, primordial collision of monosyllabic angst and convulsing, tribal rhythm. There are those who feel all warm and fuzzy inside by anointing the Stooges harbingers of punk, but that seems woefully inadequate, perhaps even misguided. “No Fun,” “1969,” “Real Cool Time,” “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” and “Not Right” stake out a section of real estate entirely their own, oscillating between grey areas of alienation, tedium, and outright dementia, Iggy yammering, grunting, and howling over the Neanderthal lockstep laid down by drummer Scott Asheton and bassist Dave Alexander and the fuzzy, buzzing, angry hornet six-string dissertation of Ron Asheton.
Plain and simple: these guys weren’t fooling around.
There’s a bonus disc which gathers John Cale mixes of several songs which were deemed “too arty” by the band and later re-twiddled by Iggy and Elektra president Jac Holzman, and full versions of “Ann” and “No Fun,” the latter which fades out much too soon at the 6:50 mark with Asheton stomping his wah pedal flat.
Most of what you’ll need in order to fully comprehend 1970’s “Fun House” lies somewhere between Iggy’s admission that he dropped acid every day during recording sessions, with an occasional psylicibin or Peruvian pink cocaine chaser, and the strident squawking, bleating, and screeching which punctuates “Down On The Street,” “Loose,” “1970,” “T.V. Eye” and the title track.
Producer Don Gallucci’s decision to record Iggy’s vocals with a hand-held microphone amplified through a mini PA, along with Iggy’s coercion of Steve MacKay to add saxophone stylings, resulted in coating the album with a sheen of raving lunacy, Asheton cutting back on the fuzz but not the menace, Rock Action and Alexander forced to pick up the beat a wee bit in order to keep pace.
There’s a few curves here; “Dirt” is just what you’d expect the blues to sound like if filtered through the psyches of four guys cooped up indoors all winter in Michigan and although “L.A. Blues” has always caused me no small amount of heartburn, it ain’t a bad way to clear a wedding reception.
The bonus disc will be familiar to owners of “1970: The Complete Fun House Sessions”; demos, multiple takes, and spit polishing of various album tracks as well as single mixes of “Down On The Street” and “1970.”
And in an entirely unintended moment of hilarity, you get Jack White in the liner notes trying to distance himself from those who “watch a music TV station that’s never heard of ‘T.V. Eye’” and “shop at record stores where those who have only imitated Iggy’s power are selling by the truckload.” Whatever you say, Jack, whatever you say…
The recent glut of Stooges manna begs the question just what might still be laying around out there waiting to be uncovered. The sphincter tightens in anticipation.