Tonight, I will attempt to melt your radio with a show I have wanted to do for a long time. At 6 pm on 89.9 FM KCRW, we will go scortcho for two solid hours of sonic perfection.
Let's take a moment to get deep into the details of what will be. The show will be nothing but music by The Stooges and nothing but their self-titled first album. What, we are going to listen to it twice or something? Exactly.
First, we will play the album as it was released in 1969 and then we will play the album again in sequence but using alternate versions of the songs. This show will prove that too much of a good thing is a real good time.
The Stooges, who were at this time, Iggy Pop on vocals, Ron Asheton on guitar, Scott Asheton on drums and Dave Alexander on bass, had been in Michigan, raising hell on the outskirts of the American dream since 1967.
Danny Fields, visionary A&R man for Elektra Records went to Michigan to check out another group of mid-western firestarters, the MC5. While there, he saw the Stooges and eventually ended up signing both bands to the label.
So, the Stooges had a deal but they didn't have a lot of songs. The band went into the studio to record with ex-Velvet Underground member John Cale. This put the band in an interesting and somewhat difficult position as the arrangements of their songs at that time were rather, let's say, free. Live, the songs went where they went but for studio purposes, the band had to make arrangements.
The band recorded what they had. Five songs: 1969, I Wanna Be Your Dog, We Will Fall, No Fun and Ann. Elektra said they needed more. The band said that wasn't a problem, they had plenty more songs. They didn't actually, so to keep up the façade of professionalism, the band wrote three songs over night: Real Cool Time, Not Right and Little Doll. All of them were banged into shape in the studio and recorded with minimal overdubs
John Cale, as producer, mixed the album to his satisfaction. This mix, however was not pleasing to Iggy and the band. Iggy eventually went back in and re-mixed the tracks with the label's president, Jac Holzman and that's the one that made it to the pressing plant.
The Stooges found studio practices of that time to be prohibitive to their sound and methodology. Rock albums were not recorded at high volume in those days. The Stooges were one of the first to turn it all the way up and lay it down on tape. Apparently, this induced a bit if discomfort in John Cale. Strange, seeing that this man had only walked out of the hurricane of sound that was the Velvet's White Light/White Heat album sessions only months before.
So, the Stooges, one of the most primitive and plugged-in-straight-to-the-source bands Rock has ever known emerged with one of the purest and timeless records ever made.
The Stooges, eight songs, clocking in at a little over half an hour in length, is a stand alone, classic, absolutely mandatory listen. The album perfectly nails down the boredom and smoldering alienation of draft-age young men in Vietnam-era America. The album's opener, 1969, addresses the quagmire the war was creating back in the United States as thousands of young men pondered how much time they might have left to live.
The Stooges is perhaps an ultimate statement of minimalism for impact. The albums is almost devoid of layered guitars, the lyrics are spare and delivered with cool disinterest. You get the idea that the band is at once, fully committed, yet ready to drop their gear and walk out of the room without a second thought of returning. The fact that the band sounds like they could take it or leave it makes it hit all that more harder and makes so many other albums seem like the members are merely actors working with a script they didn't write.
The band, who had not been at it all that long, has a natural and instinctive pocket that's well beyond their years. Dave's bass sits deep in the cut. The Asheton brothers are astonishingly talented.
Iggy, for a man who doesn't say much on this album, puts down some of the most impacting lyrics ever. Check Real Cool Time and especially, Not Right.
The album cover features the band members in a staggered line away from the camera. Iggy, Ron, Scott and Dave. They look bored and unfriendly. To be succinct—this is one of the best albums ever made. Over forty years of existence has not dulled this primitive gem.
As to the alternate versions of the tracks. They're great! We've got different vocals, unedited endings, alternate mixes and finally, a bonafide outtake from the sessions. All of thse worthwhile alt. takes can be found on two different re-releases of the album, both in print. As cool as these different takes on these songs are, ultimately, all you really need is the Holzman / Pop mixes on the proper release, the rest is great way to hang out togeher on the radio over the weekend.
On a personal note, I have been listening to this album for well over half my life and it remains one of the most exciting and essential records I have ever had the good fortune to come into contact with. That's one of the reasons I wanted to do this show and write all this down. Hopefully, some people will connect with the album for the first time and dig it. If that happens to be you, welcome. When you recover, catch your breath and then check out the band's follow-up, Fun House. Careful, that one will leave marks.
Here is our track listing. It's going to be a great night, I hope you can tune in. Get ready for the sleigh bells and STAY FANATIC!!! --Henry
E-mail address for Henry: Henryontheradio@gmail.com
02. I Wanna Be Your Dog
03. We Will Fall
04. No Fun
05. Real Cool Time 06. Ann
07. Not Right
08. Little Doll
10. I Wanna be Your Dog
11. We Will Fall (full version)
12. No Fun (Full Version)
13. Real Cool Time (Alternate Mix)
14. Ann (Full Version)
15. Not Right (Alternate Vocal)
16. Little Doll (Full Version)
17. Asthma Attack