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1970: The Complete Fun Hose Sessions
Rhino Handmade, 2000
This is the perfect box for hard-boiled Iggy Pop freaks who think the Ig
hasn't made a truly great album since the Stooges broke up. 1970 is seven
CDs, eight hours and 142 tracks of the Stooges - Iggy, guitarist Ron
Asheton, bassist Dave Alexander and Ron's brother, drummer Scott Asheton -
playing nothing but Fun House, their flaming 1970 platter of animal sex and
power-chord warfare, over and over and over again. There are fifteen takes
of the new-dawn anthem "1970," fifteen blasts of "T.V. Eye," thirty stabs at
the cock & roll heroics of "Loose" . . . in short, every surviving shred of
mayhem the Stooges cut for the album at Elektra Records' L.A. studio between
May 11th and 24th, 1970.
1970 is a landmark indulgence in reissue scholarship; this is the sort of
completist madness you find only in Bootlegville. But 1970 is worth its
weight in outtakes and annotation (Ben Edmonds' liner notes are a juicy
read), even for the general bystander, because the sum of the parts is
stunning rock & roll catharsis, a microcosmic examination of one gloriously
unhinged band's attempt to achieve nirvana and get it on record. The Stooges
actually hit the mark thrice, first in 1969 with The Stooges, the ape-thump
blueprint for Seventies punk, and in '73 with new guitarist James Williamson
and the lethal glam of Raw Power. Yet Fun House is the Stooges' supreme
lunatic-rock monument, a work of articulate madness and desperate measure
rendered loud and naked in Iggy's delirious bark and the rabid wah-wah of
Ron Asheton's guitar. The coffee-table heft of 1970 suggests Ken
Burns-does-Behind the Music, but the box is really an endless shower of
blood, sweat and come, the nonstop sound of the Stooges stuffing lightning
in a bottle.
It was no accident that the band hired a guest saxman, Steven Mackay, for
Fun House. The Stooges attack these songs - bony schematics of amp howl and
predatory mood - with a jazz combo's attention to both rigor and spontaneous
invention. The set's opening string of "1970" performances is astonishing in
its consistency of muscle (Scott Asheton plays protopunk rhythms with
roto-funk concentration) and the heated variety of the sax and guitar
breaks. In take two, Iggy is so awed by the wounded-boar squeal of Ron
Asheton's guitar that he starts hissing into the mike, "Listen to Ron . . .
listen . . . can you hear it . . . can you feel it?"
What you can hear in the circular strut of "Loose" and "Dirt's" slow burn is
how the Stooges retooled the avant-drone of the Velvet Underground to their
own carnal agenda. "Loose" is minimalism with spikes; the ten full takes of
"Dirt" jell into a seventy-minute opera of need and degradation. And if the
Stooges' Michigan brethren, the MC5, pioneered the fusion of white rock and
free jazz in their live centerpiece, "Black to Comm," the Stooges nailed
that mix - "Light My Fire" and "Get Off of My Cloud" dunked in John
Coltrane's Ascension - on tape with the seventeen-minute splurge "Freak."
(The piece was edited and retitled "L.A. Blues" for Fun House.) No Wave,
Sonic Youth and the get-down antics of Jon Spencer's Blues Explosion: They
were all born here.
Finally, you gotta love the irony of a box like this being part of the new
cybermarketing culture; this limited-edition monster is available only on
the Internet. Yet the rock & roll inside it is as old, crude and vital as
rubbing two sticks together and making napalm. Buy it, play it and burn -
over and over and over again. (RS 834)
(For information, contact rhinohandmade.com.)
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