After 40 years, "The Stooges" — local band's landmark album — still strikes a chord
Forty years ago this month, the album “The Stooges” was released by the Ann Arbor band founded by Iggy Pop, to nearly non-existent sales and generally scathing reviews. Still, it has survived the test of time as one of the — if not the — records most often cited as inspiring the punk rock movement.
The album consisted of just eight songs. Of these, “1969,” “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and “No Fun” achieved the most notoriety, with “Dog” ranked number 438 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 2004 list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In 2005, Q magazine placed “I Wanna Be Your Dog” at number 13 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks.
With its driving riff using only the G, F# and E chords, “I Wanna Be Your Dog” has been covered by many artists, from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Slayer, Sonic Youth and Uncle Tupelo to Weird Al Yankovic (sort of), who recorded a tribute parody called “Let Me Be Your Hog.”
Another seminal punk band, the U.K.-based Sex Pistols, were known to cover “No Fun” at many shows and released a studio version as a B-side. It was the last song performed by the group before breaking up.
Wrote Stephen Thomas Erlewine and Mark Deming for the All Music Guide:
“The Stooges were raw, immediate, and vulgar. ... In essence, The Stooges were the first rock & roll band completely stripped of the swinging beat that epitomized R&B and early rock & roll. ... Following three albums, The Stooges disbanded, but the group’s legacy grew over the next two decades, as legions of underground bands used their sludgy grind as a foundation for a variety of indie rock styles, and as Iggy Pop became a pop culture icon.”
We took the opportunity afforded by this anniversary to ask some local musicians and those involved in the music scene about “The Stooges” and offer their thoughts on the record when it was released and why the record is still considered relevant today.Scott Morgan (Ann Arbor guitarist from the late 1960s Ann Arbor rock band The Rationals, as well as later groups such as Sonic's Rendezvous Band, The Scott Morgan Band, Dodge Main, Scott's Pirates, Powertrane and the Hydromatics): “It was a great album. None of [The Stooges] albums really sold very well, but they were very influential. ... The way [Stooges drummer] Scott Asheton put it, they went to New York, they didn’t really have songs, they were just kind of jamming. They wrote some stuff in the hotel, went in and recorded it. [They] slapped it together, but it was a great album. That’s the way they used to make albums. As you look back on it now, that stuff is great. ... "I Wanna Be Your Dog," it’s so primal. I think that [bassist] Dave Alexander had a lot to do with that album and of course Ron [late guitarist Ron Asheton] and Scott and Iggy. I think they got the idea for "I Wanna Be Your Dog" from Yusef Lateef’s "Detroit." If you listen to "Eastern Market," the song fades out [and] the bass player goes into a primal riff. Iggy turned me on to this album. He was working at Discount Records and said ‘Scott, buy this record.’”
Patrick Pyne (a member of the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti band Wide-Eyed and Encore Recordings staff):
“There was a rawness and approachability. [I thought] I could do that ... a three-minute song that jumps out and beats you down and lifts you up, all at the same time. ... At that time, if you told people that The Stooges, The Velvet Underground or Black Sabbath would be highly influential, they would have looked at you like you were an idiot.”
Kathleen Asheton (sister of The Stooges' drummer, Scott Asheton, and guitarist, the late Ron Asheton):
“I remember he first time I saw The Stooges play their first gig at [Detroit’s] Grande Ballroom. I couldn’t believe it was my brothers. What they were doing was beyond anything I could have imagined. Then everything happened so fast and they were off to record their first record. I was so excited for them, but I also thought, what if I don’t like it? I was totally blown away when I heard it. How that album changed my life was in a very personal way. Suddenly I was the little sister of two rock stars. I was so proud of my big brothers. They were then — and still are — my favorite band.”
There was no attempt to be commercial with what they were doing — this was something they were driven to do. Whether people loved it or hated it, there’s an authenticity to the music that transcends generations.Gary Quackenbush (guitarist for the late 1960s Ann Arbor/Detroit rock band SRC): “All these myths about [The Stooges] being great - they were horrible. ... That’s the thing people don’t understand. They were a pariah on the local scene. They were tolerated but they got high and they got into hard drugs and Iggy was just a [expletive] freak show. The scene was wide open; Osterberg [Pop's real name is James Osterberg] buttered up Elektra [Records] when they came to town to sign the MC5, and [The Stooges] got a deal. Musicians hated them because they were so insane. I’m not going to mince words, and I love the guys, but it’s the cold hard truth. How they got that record recorded I don’t know. That record was a late bloomer - as time passed it proved to be a very seminal and influential record. [But] among musicians who weren’t trying to destroy or be negative it was awful.”
Excerpt from an Ann Arbor News interview with the late Ron Asheton, guitarist for The Stooges, in 2007:
A lot of bands cite The Stooges as being a big influence. How do you guys feel about that?
It’s a good feeling ... but you don’t think of it at the time. It was only when there was no Stooges and I was struggling as a musician living here in Ann Arbor, traveling and playing for $15 bucks a night ... That’s when I started hearing people go, "I just read in this magazine that so and so says you’re an influence." ... It was a really a nice feeling. So it turned out well because when we play now, everyone’s really familiar with the tunes and it’s really become something. ... The French love The Stooges so much that "I Wanna Be Your Dog" is the new French national anthem. I did a TV show and the guy said [Asheton adopts a French accent] "Yes it is. It is a good idea." So finally it’s all paid off, the hanging in there, the waiting, and a lot of help from people like Kurt Cobain saying Stooges [were influential] and a lot of people that were successful that would actually say something good about us.
The Stooges perform "TV Eye" and ("Fun House" track) "1970" live in Cincinnati:
Roger LeLievre is a free-lance writer who covers music for AnnArbor.com.
Lee Berry photo by Lon Horwedel.