At a 1963 high school youth talent competition, James Newell Osterberg made his first public appearance. Back then with his buddy Jim McLaughlin as The Iguanas. This even earned them a paid appearance at a small event in Ann Arbor. From the band name “Iguana” his nickname “Iggy” is derived. The duo eventually turned into a quintet, the performances became more regular and in 1965 there was the first single “Mona” with the B-side “Again and Again”, composed by Iggy herself. However, he was tired of it and left his first band to briefly play blues with The Prime Movers. But even that didn’t seem to be quite what he was looking for. Back in his homeland Ann Arbor, he finally founded the band The Psychedelic Stooges with the brothers Scott on drums and Ron Asheton on guitar, to which Dave Alexander joined as bassist a short time later . The first gig took place on Halloween 1967 and then conquered Michigan. Soon the name was shortened to The Stooges. Their reputation, however, was not exactly the best. The band was described as violent and scandalous, thanks in no small part to Iggy, who was excessive on stage and worked his own body with broken glass or smeared himself with food. In 1968, Elektra Records offered the formation a record deal when A&R manager Danny Fields had seen them as support for MC5. For the self-titled debut album, none other than John Cale of The Velvet Underground could be won as a producer, which also explains certain influences on the album. However, it remained scandalous, so BDSM was discussed for the first time in “I want to Be Your Dog”. But also musically the song has burned itself into the ear canals. Their debut later earned the Stooges the reputation of having co-founded the punk movement. Today, songs like “1969” are considered a swan song of the hippie movement and the famous “No Fun” as a contra to the “Fun, Fun, Fun” of the Beach Boys.
Only one year later, the next longplayer follows. Fun House is supported by Steve MacKay on saxophone. Peppered with ambiguous lyrics, longing for death and a lot of dystopia, the album destroys a lot. Today it is considered better than the debut because the band seems more well-rehearsed and harmonious, but in 1970 it fell short of expectations. Bassist Dave Alexander leaves the band and dies five years later as a result of his alcohol addiction. The label Elektra ends the collaboration and The Stooges split up only a few years after the foundation. For Iggy Pop, this may not have been so bad. He met David Bowie in New York in 1972 and thus began a friendship and collegiality that lasted until Bowie’s death in 2016. The Brit is also the one who can convince Iggy of a reunion of the Stooges. Thanks to Bowie’shelp, he was signed to Columbia Records – now as Iggy and the Stooges. The American James Robert Williamson joins the band and takes over the guitar from Ron Asheton, who in return switches to bass. In late 1972 they fly to England and record raw power at CBS Studios in London, which is mixed and produced by David Bowie and Iggy themselves – the album, released in February 1973, is considered the band’s best. The difference is clear. The psychedelic elements have largely disappeared, the songs are comparatively short, the ten-minute episodes of the first two albums are missing. Also the scheme of the songs is now clearer, more structured and as you know it from pop music. Lyrically, however, little changes. Sex, nihilism and aggressiveness continue to dominate on record and stage, cementing Iggy Pop’sreputation. The grandiose photo of the album cover is taken by the legendary Mick Rock. The work on the lacquer film was done by Pete Norman, who had already made a name for himself with the plates for Led Zeppelin, Bread, Alice Cooper, Bette Midler , Dion or the Doors.
“Search and Destroy” with a driving, almost wild rhythm, makes the beginning. A bit of madness can be heard in the voice as Iggy screws it up to the chorus. The lyrics, like the title, are destructive and therefore fit well with the band’s musical past. The following “Gimme Danger” begins quietly and even if you try to banish the psychedelic elements from the record, here they can be heard a little in the background. While the singing is relatively consistent, a lot happens musically, so it’s worth listening more closely. James Williamson on guitar plays a good solo in the background, which you should listen to with concentration if you manage to block out the rest. Less likeable sounds the third number – “Your pretty Face is going to Hell” – by the way, almost 40 years later used as the title of a streaming series. Again the beat gets faster, the guitar screeching, anyone who has experienced Iggy Pop live can imagine how he performs this song with typical contortions and grimaces on stage and the audience goes off in front of it. There are basic features of punk that cannot be classified differently or only with great difficulty and do not earn the bandleader the title “Godfather of Punk” for nothing. Lyrically, the last song of the first page, “Penetration” is downright stupidly simple. Even the sounds that sound like street cats on coke don’t make it any better. The number sounds quite like a drug-pregnant, perception-distorted night in an American city. Breaking out of norms, opposing the constriction of society and the insatiable urge for freedom dominate the title track “Raw Power”, the opener of the second side. Musically, he is almost well-behaved, calm. In the background you always think you can hear a single struck key. The guitar is dark, a bit dirty. Nothing happens, there is nothing that breaks out, that would distract from the almost soothing, soporific garment. Only towards the end does the guitar blar a solo over the theme. The track lives from Iggy Pop, from the performance and clearly from the lyrics, which speak out against the rules and for a certain anarchist freedom. The style then changes again. When Iggy Pop sings “I Need Somebody”, the first thing that comes to mind is “House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals, more precisely Eric Burdon. Similar to the rhythm, the sluggish, the surging, tragic, similar to the singing. But then, without getting faster, it gets louder, more powerful. It could be a love song for a prostitute, a drug or really just a balladic garage rock song that lulls you, makes you sway along a bit and fits into the innocent school ball style of the 1960s / 1970s, replaced by the rock ‘n’ roll number, where the teachers open their eyes in horror and frantically try to turn off the juice of the band, while the well-behaved students in their suits and knee-length dresses throw all conventions overboard – in order to To remain a school ball metaphor. If the previous number has lulled in, the unexpectedly fast beat of “Shake Appeal” wakes you up and immediately sweeps you away. Again there is a change on the album, again it is difficult to reconcile the mix of styles. It is the prelude to the last number “Death Trip”, where the name is already program. Almost a tragic love story of youth, violations of prohibitions, breaking out of conventions and this beautiful, innocently sinful time between youth and adulthood. The Stooges give their all once again, present wolf howls, guitar solos, a driving beat and a mixture of rock’n’roll and punk – and then smuggled a longer number onto the album.
In 1973, Raw Power was not a success and the band broke up again. Iggy Pop wants to distance himself from his life and goes to a mental hospital, but still finds the time to record an album together with James Williamson, Kill City, which contains some songs that were originally intended for the Stooges and is finally released in 1977. 1976 Iggy Pop moves with David Bowie to Berlin, the rest is history. Of the four founding members, only Iggy Pop is still alive and continues to rock the stages of the world. Today, Raw Power stands as a milestone in the musical landscape and is anything but a neglected album. The record has gained in importance, is received a lot and many musicians orient themselves on it. At a time when punk didn’t really exist and certainly not in America, Iggy Pop laid the foundations for the genre with his Stooges far ahead of his time. Musically between dirty garage rock, last impressions of psychedelic and irrepressible escape from conventions, far away from a line that runs through the album, the lyrics are dirty, offensive, destructive and rebellious, express search, self-discovery, the urge for freedom – something that Iggy Pop has retained to this day.
Iggy and the Stooges – Raw Power
A1 – Search and Destroy
A2 – Gimme Danger
A3 – Your Pretty Face is going to Hell (Originally titled “Hard to Beat”)
A4 – Penetration
B1 – Raw Power
B2 – I need somebody
B3 – Shake Appeal
B4 – Death Trip
Iggy Pop – Lead Vocals
James Williamson – Guitars
Ron Asheton – Bass, Vocals
Scott Asheton – Drums