It was 1968 and a there was a dynamic new live music scene forming in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The good news is that I lived only 80 miles away in Battle Creek, Michigan. The bad news is that I was too young to get to see any of the bands. I did get to hear about some of the shows from older kids in school and they sounded wonderful! These shows featured homemade pyschedelic light shows and a form of raw rock music that wasn’t getting played on the radio.
The biggest of the Ann Arbor bands was a group called The MC5 (MC stood for Mortor City) and they attracted the attention of Elektra Records (we will have a post about The MC5 later). Elektra sent a representative to Ann Arbor to sign The MC5 to a recording contract and while he was there he also signed a second band called The Stooges.
The Stooges were headed by a young former drummer named James Osterberg who would soon adopt the name Iggy Pop. The Stooges stage shows were already legendary when they were signed to Elektra. Iggy was willing to do anything to get the audiences attention including smearing food all over his body and cutting himself with glass shards. The remainder of the group were not accomplished musicians so it was probably a good thing that Iggy was such a showman.
The Elektra representative asked the Stooges if they had enough songs to fill an album and they lied and told him that they did. As a result, the group ended up having to pull an all night song writing session before going into the studio to record their first album. During this session they wrote three new songs to supplement the five that they normally played in their stage shows. The resulting eight songs would form the basis for The Stooges self titled first album. The album was produced by John Cale, formerly of the Velvet Underground.
As I promised in the coming attractions post from a few days ago The Stooges, as reflected in their first album, were punk before there was punk, heavy metal before there was heavy metal, and, at times, they were just plain strange. Although I am not a fan of rock critics in general, the Rolling Stone review of the album from October 18, 1969 made some excellent points.
- The instrumentalist sound like they have been playing their axes for two months and playing together for one month at most…
- The lyrics are sub-literate, as might be inferred by the titles: No Fun, Not Right, Little Doll, and Real Cool Time.
- They suck and they know it, so they throw the fact back in your face and say, “So what? We are just having fun.”
Sounds like Punk to me:-) I am sure that as you listen to the album, starting with the first song 1969, you will agree that there are elements heavy metal in their sound as well.
That brings us to the plain strange aspect of The Stooges which just so happens to also be the subject of our Long Song Tuesday post for this week. Rolling Stone’s review might have captured it best in the following quote:
- The only place where the album falls down, it falls with a resounding thud, “We Will Fail” is a ten minute exercise in boredom that ruins the first side of the record.
I have to admit that my initial feeling about We Will Fail were much the same as Rolling Stones’…..I have gotten up many times while listening to this album to skip this track. Over the years; however, the track has grown on me a little bit and I now tend to see it as a strange little ambient music interlude in a rocking album. Why don’t you listen and see what you think…..
Now on to the really good stuff. Here is the entire album, in all of it’s glory, featuring the following eight tracks: 1969, I Wanna Be Your Dog, We Will Fall, No Fun, Real Cool Time, Ann, Not Right, and Little Doll. Give it a listen and see what you think. I am betting that after listening to the first song you will be compelled to listen to the remainder of the album. As always let me know what you think….
Iggy and the Stooges were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010 and continue to perform to this day. But it all started with: this wonderful little album; four kids that wanted to make noise; and simple songs about what was going on at that exact moment in time. And that my friends is what rock and roll is all about.
Its 1969 OK/War across the USA/Its another year for me and you/Another year with nothing to do
That pretty much sums 1969…I was there and I lived it…..