Goose Creek Festival, Zander’s last stand.
The Stooges in San Francisco, 1970 (the Flamin’ Groovies were on the same bill). Photographer unknown.
I’ve been living with and playing Iggy and the Stooges’ Raw Power since I was thirteen, thirty eight years ago. Every nuance is seared onto my hardrive. I’ve heard every outtake, alternate mix, live tape, and rehearal that’s ever made it to tape, wax or cd. At age fourteen I ran away from home and hitchhiked over six hundred miles to see them play at Richard’s in Atlanta. I still get excited when I hear it, even if it’s on a TV commercial.
So here I sit, with an advanced copy of Sony’s latest attempt to pry every last buck out of the mighty Stooges moniker, a three CD + one “The Making Of Raw Power” DVD (which isn’t in my package as it’s not done yet) Raw Power: Deluxe Edition. It has no cover or artwork yet, just three CD’s with the track listings on stickers on the back and a bunch of press releases.
I have no idea what Sony plans to charge for such an item, but here’s what you get. One disc of the original “David Bowie”mix of Raw Power. On live disc recorded at Richard’s in Atlanta in the fall of ’73, probably the best sounding live Stooges recordings to surface. A slew of “bonus studio tracks”, some of which have been out before, and a few that will be new to everyone. The three tunes never heard before are– Doojiman, I’m Hungry, and Hey Peter. There’s also an alternate take of I Got A Right, different from the old Siamese 45, I’m Sick Of You (same as the Bomp EP), alternate mixes of Shake Appeal and Death trip (from “recently discovered alternate mix reels”), and the Japanese 45 mixes of Raw Power and Search & Destroy, oh yeah, there’s two tracks from Iggy’s godawful 1997 re-mix. Shall I go into more detail? Either you could care less and have already stopped reading this, or you need to know exactly what this stuff is, so here goes.
A few things I should get out of the way first. I’m not one to argue Funhouse versus Raw Power, Ron Asheton versus James Williamson. I love ’em both, they’re very different records, and they were very different guitar players. Anyone who has made it through the entire Funhouse Sessions box (which means mentally you’re as far gone as me, perhaps you should seek professional help) has to admit, that on Funhouse, the Stooges picked the best of what they had, the takes they used were pretty much the peak of their abilities at the time. It’s fun to hear all the outtakes and variations, but they knew when they had nailed a tune. Oddly enough, on the box you never get to hear the final versions that were on the LP with Ron’s rhythm guitar overdubs.
Raw Power has always been problematic as a production since half the band– drummer Scott Asheton and bass player (who had been the guitarist on the Stooges first album and Funhhouse, do I have to explain all this?) Ron Asheton were basically mixed off the record, they’re barely audible. Either they were mixed off, or their parts never made it to tape. Accusations have flown for years as to who is to blame. One version says that they recorded on a sixteen track machine and left thirteen tracks empty, I find this hard to believe, no engineer would make such a bonehead error.
When it came time to re-mix the thing in 1996, Iggy Pop simply made his vocals louder, took the effects off the guitar parts and pushed the nobs into the red creating an ugly digital distortion, very different from analog distortion, since digital doesn’t decay when the signal returns. Personally, I think the vocals and guitars were fine on the original Bowie mix, all that it needed was for the drums and bass to re-appear. I hated Iggy’s re-mix, and when I spoke to Ron Asheton about it in 2001 he agreed it was awful and the Bowie mix sounded brilliant in comparison. Is anyone still reading?
I’m resigned to the fact that we’ll never hear the bass and drums on Raw Power. I’ve given up hope. I have pledged to simply enjoy it for what it is, one of the greatest rock’n’roll albums ever made. So as far as the three cd’s worth of music here’s what you get for your money:
One CD of the Bowie mix of Raw Power, re-mastered, it sounds as good as it’s going to sound. The belch before the song Raw Power which was edited out of the first CD version has been restored. Gotta have the belch. One live CD recorded at Richard’s in Atlanta, the fall of ’73. It’s the best sounding live document of the (pre-reformation) Stooges I’ve heard and captures them on a white hot night. I was there. The set list from ’73 was four tunes from Raw Power— Raw Power, Gimme Danger, Search & Destroy, and I Need Somebody, along with newer tunes– Head On, Heavy Liquid, Cock In My Pocket, and Open Up and Bleed. If you’re a fan you’ve heard these tunes on various bootlegs. There’s plenty of Iggy’s bizarre between song patter, some of it confrontational, but the audience this time is on Iggy’s side, unlike the other (sort of) official released live album Metallic K.O. where the audience is there for a fight. Keep in mind this post-Raw Power tour was the begining of Iggy’s season in hell. He’d end up a year or so later, homeless, wandering the streets of Hollywood, strung out and near total collapse before checking himself into a mental hospital, the first step in an amazing story of survival and eventually triumph.
Now what about those outtakes on disc three? None of them sound like finished tunes. Doojiman is a wordless jam, Iggy making jungle noises while James Williamson and Scott Asheton jam on simple riff. I’m Hungry is an early version of Penetration, different lyrics, it’s obvious the song has yet to jell, but the Stooges hammer out the riff for nearly four minutes as Iggy improvises over it. Hey Peter is another loose jam, a riff and some off the cuff banter suffice as lyrics, it’s unlike anything else they recorded at this period. In fact, it’s the closest they come to sounding like a “normal” rock band. Nitebob who worked for the Stooges during that time said it reminded him of early Aerosmith, I have to agree. The Japanese 45 rpm versions of Raw Power and Search and Destroy, which are on the CD’s I have but will only appear on a bonus 45 on the final package are cool to have, but I don’t hear a whole lot of difference. In fact, the Japanese 45 sounds pretty much just like the American 45 (the b-side of which was an edited version of Penetration, not included here*). Which doesn’t sound all that different from the album. Maybe it’s my tinnitus, but the differences are fairly negligible. There’s two songs from Iggy’s re-mix– Gimme Danger and You’re Pretty Face Is Going To Hell, I’m not sure why they’re here. As mentioned earlier, I Got A Right is an earlier sounding version that the old Siamese 45, and a great, primitive version at that. I’m Sick Of You is the same take used on the old Bomp EP. Shake Appeal and Death Trip are “alternate mix versions from recently discovered alternate mix reels”. Yet more mixes and still not much bass guitar or drums, but still fun to hear. Since these advanced CD’s are digitally watermarked I can’t post any tunes for you without getting somebody in trouble, sorry, you’ll just have to wait to hear ’em. The final package will also have the documentary DVD, I can’t tell you much about it, but there’s not a lot of footage of the Stooges, I hope they use as much as they can find.
So there you go, you either love the Stooges and are going to buy this sucker (I know I will, even though I have the advanced promo package), or you don’t care and have stopped reading in the first paragraph. As Easter approaches, the thought in my mind is that Jesus loves the Stooges, and all they stand for. RIP: Ron Asheton, Dave Alexander, Tommy “Zeke” Zettner, and
Addendum: The Stooges will be playing at this year’s Rock’n’Roll Hall Of Seymour Stein and Jaan Wenner’s Buttplugs where they will also receive their bowling trophies. The other inductees include Genesis (and I don’t mean P Orridge) and Abba. What do you think Rock Action has to say to Phil Collins? Well, now they’re officially as “important” as Art Garfunkel and Stephen Stills. Anyway, the line up will be Iggy, Scott Asheton, James Williamson, Mike Watt, Scotty Mackay and Scott Thurston, or so the rumor mill has it. Six Stooges onstage–that’ll be a first.
* Sundazed has re-issued the 45 versions of Search & Destroy b/w Penetration, as well as a high quality pressing of the Bowie mix of Raw Power on nice, thick vinyl. The 45 is virtually the same as my stock copy of the American 45, with a nice picture sleeve. Sundazed does really quality work. A totally class label.