Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

The Stooges


Released 1969 on Elektra
The Seth Man, September 2000ce
In 1968, The Psychedelic Stooges (as they were then called) were playing a live set of four songs with a running time of half an hour/25 minute, tops. Only several months old since their inception, they were always the opening act, but not a typical one you’d walk out on after two songs. Iggy would successfully polarise audiences and even entire auditoriums by baiting fat jocks, coming onto the sweet young thangs in the front row with his vocals, his movements and sheer will alone as his eyes scanned the audience for the next pile of mayhem to unleash like watchtower arc lights. Behind him were the Asheton brothers: Ron on Stratocaster guitar and Scott on drums. Dave “Zander” Alexander is covering them on Mosrite bass, hunched over his guitar with tons of crap in his back pockets dragging his flairs down under the heels of his boots.

“The Stooges” was created by the heads that stare like four sullen planets from the front sleeve in June 1969 in New York City at The Hit Factory with John Cale producing. They recorded the songs in their set, using the first takes for the album.

It took only two days.

The night between sessions, Ron came up with the riffs for two additional songs “Not Right” and “Real Cool Time.” And on the spot Iggy created direct and to the point voice-over narration lyrics. And after the two tracks and some minor lead guitar overdubs from Ron were laid down on the second day of sessions, it was finished: a perfect album with no finesse, a wall of fire and ever-sustaining energy that burns just as strongly every time you play it. It’s an angry album: bored, confused and horny, but all these hung up emotions are so well focused that they funnel from their collective psyches and hone into the sharpest ass kicker of life. After one play of this album, you will automatically eat less and think more.

“1969” begins side one with a most sullen wah-wah kicking off as the Falling Rock Zone of Asheton’s drums and sloppy handclaps shore up Asheton’s spiky riffing heads into a solo with a fuzz overlay as the most overtly wah-wah’ed guitar from the double-jointed shins of Ron Asheton pours out. Iggy finishes by stretching out the title of the song like a gurgling water main breaking open as the wah-wah just continues to careen sideways and steam shovels everything at once. “I Wanna Be Your Dog” begins with three overamplified strums of fuzz/distortion, Ron leaving them to ring into feedback only to cut off directly into the main rhythm riff when the repeated one-note piano key and sleigh bells enter by way of John Cale. And they continue for the duration, providing a crazy backdrop of Yuletide John Cage water torture as The Stooges back Iggy’s deadpanning Jagger-isms. Ron Asheton’s solo at the end is fuzz and distorted out beyond belief. But like all the songs on this album, it fades out, probably a move by Elektra to impose some control over the proceedings. “We Will Fall” wafts in like smoke, a ten minute darkened gloom chant and viola piece probably charted by Cale. Hand claps snap like lit matches, and Ron’s restrained wah-wah sketches the aftermath of some paralyzing psychic war. Why it was placed at the end of side one and not side two (after that side’s opener, “No Fun”) is anybody’s guess, but a flip of the LP and “No Fun” clatters up the place like the snotty kid brother of “I’m Waiting For My Man.” Here Iggy’s beginning to unwind and whoop it up as Ron Asheton’s barely contained dyke of fuzzed out, frustration riffs lap up and over the top of the whole song, until Iggy starts cajoling him to do some damage with “C’mon Ron!...C’mon Ronnie, honay!” and then it REALLY starts to come in spurts, spilling out in huge, clotted waves. This and the rest of side two in its entirety are late night weekend curfew breakers at large, and “Real Cool Time”, one of the two tracks Iggy and Ron pulled out of themselves the night before recording it, sees Asheton’s fuzz/wah guitar chewing itself up and spitting itself out, lacking a strong enough enzyme to digest it properly. It’s so ugly, so tight and so beautiful it’s tragic: the ever-present fadeout coming far too soon.

The beautiful, sorrowful “Ann” follows, and may or may not be a love song to Ann Arbor, but leave it to the ultra sensitive Stooges to land a coda of devastatingly heaviosity previously untouched by anybody on the album’s ballad. Scott Asheton’s thudding a solid slow dirge as Ron is gently wah-wahing as Iggy’s vocalizing goes neck to neck with Morrison’s own on “Crystal Ship” as the sheer heartbreaking croon recounts:

“I looked into your cool, cool eyes (lies?)...
I floated in your swimming pools...
I felt so weak...
I felt so blue...

Annnnn, mahhh Annnnn...!
IIIIIIIIIII luv yew...!
Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn, maaaaaaaaahhhhh Annnnnnn...!
IIIIIIIIIIIII LLLLUUUUUVVV YEEEEEWWWW!!!
ROIGHT NOW!!!!!!!”

Ron then kicks his fuzz box into a swarm of killer wasps against his own doubled tracked minor chord bombardment as the earth splits open to reveal a 500 feet tall Super Ig, arms folded above his ghost-lit frame and staring with red eyeballs directly at his love who abandoned him so selfishly as the dwarfed human Iggy walks home alone through the night, intoning her name in a trance. “Not Right” sees more of Ron’s fuzz/wah action like a buoy upon an electric ocean. In fact, the entire second side illuminates the tight crosstalk Ron and Iggy are locked into at all times, tag teaming riffs and the sparest lyrics in a non-verbal exchange that allows for all the room in the world. And Ron’s solo at the end of “Not Right” takes up about as much space, vibrato-ing as it does with all the wrong notes in all the right positions PERFECTLY. “Little Doll” ends the teenage weekend search for self through reckless bouts of self-esteem problems, broken hearts and self-destruction as Dave Alexander’s bass patterning rumbles up and Ron throws his guitar out of tune as he unfurls a huge, whammy bar reign-in, continuing with sketchy, blazing and ever casual abuse of fuzz, wah-wah and distortion over his brother’s ever-determined drum pattern.

“The Stooges” is a brief flick of the wrist, utilising what little technical capabilities they possessed and pushed them to the furthest regions of their capabilities. Armed only with intuition, confidence and an unrepressed expression of life’s earliest unrequited feelings, The Stooges exposed all of theirs onto an unrepentant plateau and razed them the ground forever in front of everyone.