Have you ever thought why there are bands or artists that still can make sold out tours, travel around the world and make people fanatic about their music after 50 years of career? Personally speaking I fell that some works are timeless but besides the studio recordings the ultimate judgment comes upon stage …so it is no surprise for me why KISS have so many fans all these years as when I saw them live I felt for the first time what larger than life means with my own eyes, I met thetrical rock in Alice Cooper live show…and when I saw Iggy on stage what rebellious and dangerous rock’ n roll means… So as Iggy returns to Athens for another live performance I found the right excuse to write about one of my favorite albums of all time. Beyond genres, an album that I wish was my life’s soundtrack…There’s nothing that hasn’t been written about it. But damn people will never stop talking about it, buying it, listening to it, dancing to its hymns, singing its lyrics, falling in love, falling apart and getting drunk under its dark rhythms…Raw Power isn’t just the ultimate record or the best album of all time, many LPs can claim this title but Iggy and the Stooges can say proudly that Raw Power is the decline of western civilization printed in vinyl. Undoubtedly. (Not bad for a commercial fail that took its revenge at its time hah?) The only question is which version do you prefer? Bowie’s or Iggy’s ? But this can be answered later. Raw Power is fuzzy, swaggering and innovating ahead of its time as proto punk, that the world was not ready for. Probably neither was its creators….
By the year 1973, the Stooges had almost crumpled. No future for them was in sight as they were dropped from Elektra, while drugs and alcohol addiction along with fighting with depression, despair and lack of money had destroyed everything they had made the years before. It was early supporter Bowie that met Iggy, helped him get a contract with Columbia and then challenged/invited him to fly over to England to record his first solo album, along with his late era Stooges guitarist, James Williamson (which was living on his sister’s couch in Detroit, recovering from hepatitis A at the time and at the end he co-wrote all eight songs). In London Iggy couldn’t find members that could stand equally beside him, any comparison was a total failure as Iggy’s shadow was bigger than anyone that tried to get in the new band. The only reasonable act was to recruit the Asheton brothers that were flown across Atlantic with Ron Asheton being moved to bass replacing original bass player Dave Alexander and the reborn of The Stooges was now a fact but now as Iggy and the Stooges. For the first time the recordings lasted almost a month. Their previous efforts were recorded in one week, their debut The Stooges in April 1969 and Fun House between 11-25 of May 1970- so things seem to be more professional and meticulous.
The new album was also moving forward in terms of musicianship. The new direction was not so far away still more metallic, edgy and sharp giving us a first glance of punk and hardcore guitars than the fixed electric blues of their two first albums. The new aggressive guitars were louder and pushed forward in production accompanied with the low and heavy work of Asheton brothers that created the perfect rhythm section with solid as concrete sound, while Iggy’s lines were back in the mix giving more room for Williamson’s work to shine. At the same time Iggy changed the way he sang. To be more precise to spit his lyrics, as the paying homage to early blues singer now have given its place to a mad persona, a crazy front man that was barking and howling whenever he wanted to give emphasis or being tired of the staccato tempo. It was the first time that he instituted the gloomy, unhinged raspy-voiced role.
Now the songs…the songs…the hymns! Opener “Search and Destroy” is an anti-Vietman War manifesto, a stab in the heart of imperialistic policy of the United States without even being political with a brilliant chorus: “I’m the world’s forgotten boy / The one who’s searchin’,searchin’ to destroy.” Watch below Red Hot Chili Peppers covering it:
The next song is probably my favorite.“Gimme Danger “is the ultimate rock-punk composition. Menacing, creepy, intoxicating with bohemian lyrics that could have been written by a beatnik poet. Yes I’ going to write the whole damn lyrics…
“Gimme danger, little stranger/And I feel with you at ease
Gimme danger, little stranger/And I’ll feel your disease
There’s nothing in my dreams/Just some ugly memories
Kiss me like the ocean breeze/Now, if you will be my lover I will shiver and sing
But if you can’t be my master /I will do anything
There’s nothing left alive/But a pair of glassy eyes
Raise my feelings one more time
Yeah! Yeah, find a little stranger, find a little stranger
Yeah, they’re gonna feel my hand/Said die a little later, why no, little stranger?
Hurry on and feel my hand/ Swear you’re gonna feel my hand
Swear you’re gonna feel my hand
Danger Little stranger x3
Gotta feel the pain/Gotta feel the pain
You gotta feel it/Little stranger”
It is one of the only 2 songs of the album that sound equally strong in both Iggy’s and Bowie’s mix (the other one is “Penetration”). At least to my ears…Now it’s the right time to say that the mix of Raw Power has been a thing of debate since the albums were in embryonic state. Williamson and Bowie set the basis and draw the line in which the album directed.. Iggy’s first attempt (in 1996 we heard a better version of his vision) that resulted in the Rough Power demo album was a raw, primitive mix that put vocals on one channel and everything else on the other. So Bowie fixed some issues but at the same time subtracted the fury and some of the power the band had making a more delicate mix, a refined version of the album. Finally in 1996 Iggy remixes the record and the result which was the first one that I have heard the album in the very same year was loud, noisy, crowded, with maximum volume, full of distortion version which I fell in love immediately! After so many years I really love both versions and mixes but I can see why Bowie’s one is criticized for losing part of the band’s energy and why many claim that Iggy’s is hyperbolic. But who can confront with any of these two mixes…?
Back to music and the track list “Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell” that was originally entitled “Hard to Beat” is actually a rock and roll tune, an implication in Chuck Berry’s essential blues. The A’ side closes with dirt and the noisy rock of “Penetration” that even Bowie couldn’t clean with his mix. The title track “Raw Power” opens the B’ side, with lyrics a hymn to heroine, Iggy’s favorite sugar, the thrill of addiction and the game of life and death in every joint like rolling dices. Later Guns ‘n Roses covered the song brilliantly in “Spaghetti Incident?”.
“I Need Somebody” takes us on trip to the early years of the band with its bluesy guitars that would easily be a Doors/Jim Morrisson composition. Again drug worshipping lyrics in a dark and realistic even though cynical composition- statement of the band that “we are drug lovers, we know it, get used to it” (truth be told at the time they were writing the song it was hard for them to find hard drugs and were only fixed with weed and pot). Things get a little wild just before the end with the groovy, “Shake Appeal” that shows one more the roots of the Stooges in ‘50s rock’n’roll, that Iggy later commented that this was his way to feel like Little Richard for a minute. The drumming is incredible and futuristic as a decade later many teenagers mimic this playing; just bring in mind early Ramones and many other punk groups that would follow and play like this too in the years to come. The LP closes forcefully with “Death Trip”. All the excitement, the energy and the chaos of their live performances are captured in this track with a marvelous guitar solo and a scream with no return from Mr. Osterberg haunting your youth….
Dance to the Beat of the Living Dead…