Raw Power, the third album by The Stooges, which is considered one of the forerunners of the entire punk movement which followed and dissected it like The Koran or other religious artifacts, celebrates its 40 Anniversary today.
The record, led by the snarling white hot cracked iron pot vocals of Iggy Pop, the filthy and VU Meter popping guitar sounds of James Williamson, and the lurid yet lucid rhythm section of the Asheton brothers, Ron on bass (who originally played lead guitar for the group) and Scott on drums, or maybe they were garbage cans with drum skins on them, now stands as an important record, a playbook of pre-punk and the punk/grunge gumbo that was to follow. Never before in the history of rock and roll (except for possibly the pioneering Seattle band from the 1960s, The Sonics) has a band profited so much in every which way from a more erratic, disjointed, slap-it-together as quick as you can manner and attitude than the approach and execution of what manifested Raw Power. Even the fact that Raw Power was produced by glam-chameleon David Bowie didn’t bring a sense of commercialism to it. It was a record divinely steeped in nihilism, of regret and bargain basement confidence, a record that was whip smart, the whip covered in barbed wire and napalm, its full milieu and scope in a true teenage wasteland.
After the flower power naiveté of the 1960s came to a coffin lid slamming shut with various events of true angst-filled revolution, deaths at concert events like The Rolling Stones ill-fated Altamont performance, and coupled with harder drugs like heroin and cocaine which were replacing marijuana and LSD bite-size cartons that fit in hippie blue jeans and overalls, bands like The Stooges and The MC5 (both hailing from Detroit, Michigan, in itself a no man’s land of empty isolation and unspoken regret) were foraging their own new territory in the heavily footprinted land of hope and idealism.
Each song that both those bands sang on their debut albums (and especially on The Stooges’ second album, Funhouse) were like hammers smashing big blocks of ice, the shrapnel of the destruction far reaching wide to ears that were willing to accept it and absorb it. Neither band found real success in a financial sense back then, and both still remain cult favorites to this day. The hindsight of the times makes it seem as if both bands always enjoyed the cult status they do currently, but that was the farthest from the case. In fact, The Stooges and The MC5 and other bands of that style were in fact, vilified for the most part, misunderstood, shunned, and put away by many critics and fans as not white noise, but jet black noise, blinding and eye-tearing sonic puffs of smoke, creating a sort of metaphorical pollution that clouded the worlds that bands like The Byrds, or Crosby, Stills and Nash, and even Cream or The Beatles had created.
But to some, it was exactly that jet black puff of smoke that ironically became a breath of fresh air for them. Here were bands who really were freaks, living on a shoe string budget, by the seats of their pants, plugging instruments in with frayed wires and playing out of amps barely held together by Scotch tape. It was DIY before the term existed, it was music for the people BY the people in the truest sense.
And by the time a few years had subsided and the world was now into the year 1973, the times had already been a’changin’, and although The Stooges never really walked the tightrope of being political (like the early MC5 was), they still enforced a radicalism which cut like a machete through the heart and then mangled it, in the rock and roll community. At the time, however, it really was a whimper and a whisper of an approach as no one listened. Once the public gave a record like Raw Power credence, however, it started a small revolution in influential sound which became as important as any other genre in which a musical group shaped something for a generation blah, blah, blah (you get the idea).
I had written about this album recently in our $5 MP3 deals that we post here, and I’m posting it again below, because I don’t think I could sum up Raw Power any better than I had done a few months ago. The original text is below:
The Stooges had already released two albums prior to 1973’s Raw Power, (The Stooges and Funhouse), each also dazzlingly original and sonically foreboding and ominous, lean and tough, like a bottle slash across the face, elements which became fully realized by the time Raw Power was released. Produced originally by David Bowie and led by the pint-sized man full of moxie Iggy Pop and with the sonic rumblings and grumblings of guitarist James Williamson and the rhythm section of former guitar player Ron Asheton moved over to bass and his brother Scotty still playing the drums as he always had, Raw Power finds the quartet taking Thor-style hammers in a musical sense to glass and then picking up the shards and handing them over to Iggy who proceeds to self-mutilate himself by way of his full admission and vocal nakedness on the record. He offers no apologies and takes no prisoners; he stands alone on his fucked up summit and that’s just the way he likes it.
The result is a mess, a glorious mess; this is one of the few times that the word mess is used as a positive adjective in its description, as Raw Power embodies just that, a muddled mix, with limited sonic visibility and depth, yet all that still remains a backdrop to the sheer raw nerve the album hits again and again. It’s like an archer who can’t miss his target; Raw Power volcanoes along at breathless pace, and the version of the album in which all of the songs were remixed by Iggy and released in the late 1990s, puts a reserve tank of sonic octane in full motion and brings the record to even a more bloodier, black and blue laden release than it already is. Just some of the nuggets in a mine of them which is this album are Iggy’s I got a line on you jackhammer musings of “Search and Destroy”; his literally yelping till his lungs are sore into the microphone with the anvil to the chest song of admission “Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell”; the slick cool vibrations of “Penetration,” done with a sly wink musically and dead-on vocally; the pained blues through a shit storm of glass and asbestos “Gimme Danger,” and “I Need Somebody,” the out of control freight train over the back title track and all the rest, there isn’t a dud to be found here.
Raw Power remains exactly that; never were truer words used to describe the contents of an earthquake shaking musical experience of an album.
Nuff Said. Find out for yourself, or let it blast all day again today if you know it and always have since its release on February 7, 1973. Either way, the results are the same. Here’s to 40 years of Raw Power, an album that if anything, sounds better than ever today and more urgent than ever. If you find yourself in the crossfire when the sounds of it are coming your way, look out honey, The Stooges ain’t got time to make no apology.