Pure Rock'n'Roll

By Sergio Ariza

The Stooges had broken up without seeing any great success in 1971 after two great albums, The Stooges and Fun House, a short while after James Williamson joined them on guitar. But meanwhile a fan of the band had become a star. David Bowie had met Iggy Pop and had hired him for his manager’s record company; shortly afterwards, Iggy had a contract to record an album in London. So he called Williamson and asked him if he wanted to go with him to England. The guitarist, who in that moment slept on his sister’s sofa, didn’t think twice, and so they both grabbed a plane the following day. As they could not find English musicians who would adapt to their style the Asheton brothers were ‘re-fished’ as the rhythm section, and they started to record Raw Power, a prophetic title that perfectly defines what the Stooges recorded during their stay on the British Isles.  

The producer did not like the result and passed the tapes to Bowie ‘to do something with’. Bowie gave a perfect summary of Iggy’s album: “Your music is so primitive that your drummer sounds like he is hitting a trunk of wood”. Not only the drummer, all the instruments, from Williamson’s guitar to Iggy’s voice, sound like they are attacks. The title song’s piano sounds like a mechanical drill doing work in the house next door. It is an album full of raw energy, in which the eardrums of all those who listen are at risk. This can be heard from the brutal start of Search & destroy, the best song of their career, to the calmest moments, like the monumental Gimme danger. Throughout the album there is a sensation of electricity and danger.

Without doubt one of the reasons for their sound is Williamson letting rip with a number of solos that slice through the album like the shrieks of Iggy himself. Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell must be the dirtiest thing ever recorded, with its distorsion reaching radioactive levels. Penetration is a blues song so lewd that it would make Robert Johnson himself (the same man who asked for ‘his lemon to be squeezed until the juice ran down his leg’) blush; Raw Power is one of the most outstanding, and direct, songs of Iggy and the Stooges’ career. With I need somebody they return to a primitive and sexy blues, with Williamson mixing a Martin D-28 acoustic with the shredding of his ’69 Gibson Les Paul Custom played through a Vox AC30. With Shake appeal the electric shocks return to lightning speed. The album closes with the brutal Death Trip, which sounds as if four cavemen had just defrosted and been asked to play rock'n'roll.

This is one of the best records in the history of rock, visceral music that comes from deep inside – it is aggressive and complete genius. They say that punk came from New York a couple of years after but the people of Detroit would have a few things to say about that. This album makes the Ramones sound as neat and tidy as the Beach Boys; it is disturbing and subversive, dirty and savage up to an 11 on a scale of 10; it is, in sum, pure rock'n'roll.