stoogesfirst Alright, so it seems a little much to have to buy a set when you already have the fuckin' songs, just for one track: "Asthma Attack". Actually, the song seems to be in two halves, which is why this groovy racket is on a 7" single tucked into the front. Never was a 7" of a well-known band (these days) less likely to be a single. You know?

So anyway, you're probably thinking that as you already own either the original album (or a reissue) and/ or even the Rhino double disc edition from 2005, you don't need this.

Fair enough. You're either a fan, or you're not. I mean, some of us are always gonna love this band, but you know, most of us never will, preferring, say, The Queens of the Stone Age or Franz Ferdinand or Kylie or the Pussycat Dolls. If you are secretly one of those folk, and only just kinda like the Stooges, don't waste your money here. Lady Gaga loves you, and you know it makes sense.

A brisk caveat before I get going: I paid for this, didn't blag it, didn't get it free. I first heard this LP when I was poor and couldn't afford it, so I own an early 8ts vinyl reissue, the Rhino 2005 edition and even the 'Raw Stooges' vinyl bootleg which purported to be the original demo's - which weren't.

Pretty much, Rhino have got it right this time. Although it does have the feel of Rhino putting out what they should've put out in 2005. See, the 2005 set comprised a disc of the original lp, plus a disc of stuff which seemed tailor-made to appeal to the younger, born-again punkers keen to dig into the past. Whether that strategy worked or not I have no idea. Anyway, the second disc was a bit of a mish-mash; four of John Cale's original mixes (but not the lot) up first; then three alternate vocals, only one of which is really essential, and then two full versions of both "Ann" and "No Fun" at the end. So, if you already had the LP, you were really forking out for three songs. Oh, and Ben Edmonds' liner notes are good value: he quotes Dan Carlisle's recollection of playing the LPp for the first time (after bagging the band on-air), which is mighty fine because he had to completely change his mind and opinion.

So, what's different five years on?

The approach, I suppose, more than anything.

This time around the set cries out for you to tinker with it, just like we used to do with 78s, 7"s and other outmoded formats, lining the songs up on pissy reel-to-reels to make our own radio-unfriendly compilations.

Disc One: The original album (again) plus a mono mix of "Dog" plus the entire album's worth of the John Cale mixes in much the same order except "Dog" is placed at the end for Lord knows what reason.

Since we all know the original LP, and we know the John Cale mixes certainly do not have what the liner-note writer Mike Edison describes them as having "a cool vibe". No, mate, they don't. They sound like Cale was probably trying to reinvent himself into the role of hit producer. You can almost hear the whispers of the men in suits trying to make the Stooges turn the amps down and be another hippy pop band. Like, you know, the Doors. Put simply, the Cale mixes don't display any of the band's majesty, and that kinda kicks against the validity Cale's earlier work; I mean, how come he didn't hear it? Or, was Cale simply "under company orders"?

So, since "Asthma Attack" was the band's very very first song, we therefore start on Disc Two, you long-haired groovitans, you.

"Asthma Attack" has a similar feel to the first lp, and as there are no details of when it was recorded, I'm assuming it was simply an early out-take/ rehearsal. Makes you wonder if there are any other tracks hiding out there, too.

It's closer to Coltrane with a guitar and a wah-wah, really, and Iggy effortlessly surfs the sound fantastic. Really, it's an astonishing bit of free-jazz. On this evidence, the band could've buggered off and made a living crushing tidy folkies and polite fusion-fudgers of the day. However, as berets would've been obligatory (there's a thought; Ron Asheton in a fucking beret and a couple of Maltese crosses) it's probably better they did stick with Iggy.

The rest of Disc 2 is, in effect, an alternative version of the album.

Track by track:

1969 (alternative vocal) - Well, there's not a heck of a lot of difference, to be honest. Although I noticed I heard the guitars in a different way.

Dog - Ig's vocal, more malevolent, comes out of one speaker. The track, sadly, cuts out.

Fall (alternative version) - I prefer this version, it's a little more human... and the end is just fucking great ... and that lovely drift at the end. Actually, while I'm here, this Mike Edison guy, who wrote the notes this time, reckons that We Will Fall is 'the great skip-over track'. I always thought it was one of the several brilliant pieces of sustained musical genius on the lp; not least because it was obviously integral to the Stooges' internalised world, and I always wondered how many people got that.

Fall, it's such a '60s track; headed forward but not to the 'more is more' '70s. This song makes the Doors sound abrupt and inexpressive, phony even. That rivalry with the Doors is never clearer than on this track, and the Stooges are clearly a part of the '60s/Velvets thing (note that both the '60s and the Velvets have mutually attracting and opposing forces) and yet - nowhere near it. Hell, you could use the music alonge, the chants, but without Iggy, as the soundtrack to a short film about the Andes.

Fun (full version) - How do I say this? With extra vocals, different vocals, extra fuzz (seems that Iggy's yips were added on later). Yeah, this is good.

Cool (takes one and two) - Complete with Cale's vocal intro, take one is really lo-fi, with almost quiet guitars and loads of high range cymbals and an unjustly buried bass - and rediscovering Alexander's bass is one thing that comes to you as you listen to this alternative version of the lp. Take one lacks a bit of immediacy. But take two - that's right on the money, the lazy wah offsetting the rest so well, just superb guitar, the drums and bass motoring away there. Toward the end, the band monkey around a little, with Ron producing a lovely little coda.

And there's Cale at the end; "How long is the song; can we cut it off after 2.20?"

One thing more: Real Cool Time is, for me perhaps, the only song the Stooges do on this lp which doesn't quite stand up now. "Cool" means nothing, not even a comma. In 1969, 'cool' meant an actual, physical and psychological consciousness, a comprehensive state.

But tell that to the kids of today and they won't believe you.

Ahem. Onward.

Ann (full version) - Different vocal, the superb pun is very clear (as opposed to the original which is so deadpan it just races past); there's extra vocals and guitar; in fact, for about five minutes the band segue into one of their old numbers, Dance of Romance. Reading my notes back (squints): 'stunning fuckhell guitar turds.'

Doll (takes one to five) - Doesn't really kick in until take four (take three is a fart of a false start) where the drums start evolving along with the guitar; it's still slightly sterile until take five, when we hear Iggy and the whole song just rises up like a beast.
I'm never going to hear this LP again now without imagining the possibilities. What would it have been like if the band were in full trance mode? Had they been given their head... Could you imagine a double, or a triple lp, with just three or so more songs? Superb. But... somewhat indulgent for a barely known local act..? yeah, well.

The reason this LP was so powerful is that there was little else remotely like it, then and now. The Stooges stepped fully-formed into a world indifferent to them - ironically, they were too low-key, waiting for the world to discover them. Forget what you thought you knew about the Stooges; this was one highly switched-on, musically literate band who could hold their own with Archie Shepp, Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane. Asheton was an extraordinarily talented man, for example, and it is not to Iggy's credit that he didn't grasp this more clearly at the time. Dave Alexander's bass is far more than is realised, too. Scott Asheton's drums are perfect, thrusting the band forward in measured, loping strokes.

One thing about the 6ts: the inhabitants worshipped 'groovy' while missing a whole shedload of genuinely groovy stuff, such as your heroes above.

In 1969, the top 10 hit records were:

1. Aquarius, by the Fifth Dimension
2. Sugar, Sugar, by the Archies
3. I Can't Get Next To You, by the Temptations
4. Honky Tonk Women, by the Rolling Stones
5. Build Me Up Buttercup, by the Foundations
6. Dizzy, by Tommy Roe
7. Hot Fun In The Summertime, by Sly and The Family Stone
8. I'll Never Fall In Love Again, by Tom Jones
9. Everyday People, by Sly and The Family Stone
10. Get Together, by the Youngbloods

It's fair to say the Stooges just weren't in the race. Ears were, as they say, elsewhere.

To conclude.

So, this time, apart from the corner thumps the poor thing received in the mail while it evaded the Icelandic volcano, and the torn inner label on the 7", and the label mix-up (Rhino are sending me a free replacement, apparently) - none of which really matter - I can only say that

1) If you don't have this LP, this is your moment; 2) if you have the 2005 set and you love the band, you'll regret not shelling out for this one.

Just for fun, now, I'm going to list my choice of an 'improved' version of the original album. And I hope the purist in you pukes.

Side One:

1969 (original version)
Asthma Attack (short version)
No Fun (full version)
Not Right (alt vocal)
Ann (full version)

Side Two

I Wanna Be Your Dog (mono version)
Real Cool Time (take two)
Little Doll (take five)
We Will Fall (other version)
Asthma Attack (long version)

These choices aren't necessarily better, but what a difference this set makes, from which I've taken some six choices. The 2005 set isn't in it, as I say; there's nothing there that's essential which isn't replicated here except the liner notes, and although I dislike Mike Edison's notes on the 2010 set (like you couldn't tell) I'm sure he's a swell guy. I just disagree.

I'm like that.

Not right.

You know?