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The Stooges

The Stooges (also known as Iggy And The Stooges) are an American rock band that were first active from 1967 to 1974, then reformed in 2003. The Stooges sold few records in their original incarnation and often performed for indifferent or hostile audiences. Nevertheless, the Stooges are widely regarded as instrumental in the rise of punk rock, as well as influential to alternative rock and heavy metal. Singer Iggy Pop and his often outrageous onstage performances were frequently the main focus of attention. They reformed in 2003, with bassist Mike Watt replacing the deceased Dave Alexander, touring extensively and releasing an album of new material. On January 6, 2009, guitarist Ron Asheton was found dead from a heart attack in his Ann Arbor home; several months later, the band announced plans to continue performing with later guitarist James Williamson replacing Asheton.


Formation (1967–1968) Iggy Pop (born James Newell Osterberg) played in several Ann Arbor, Michigan-area bands as a teenager, including The Iguanas and later The Prime Movers. The Prime Movers nicknamed Osterberg "Iggy" in reference to his earlier band.

Osterberg was first inspired to form the Stooges after meeting blues drummer Sam Lay during a visit to Chicago. He returned to Detroit with the idea that simply copying established blues performers was not enough; he wanted to create a whole new form of blues music. Brothers Ron (guitar) and Scott Asheton (drums), along with their friend Dave Alexander (bass guitar) rounded out the rest of the band, with Osterberg taking vocal duties. The three nicknamed Osterberg "Pop" after a local character whom Osterberg resembled.[3] Shortly after witnessing an MC5 concert in Ann Arbor, Osterberg began using the stage name Iggy Pop, a name that he has used ever since.

The band's debut was at a Halloween concert at their house in State Street in 1967. They did not play live again until January 1968.[4] During this early period, the Stooges were originally billed as the "Psychedelic Stooges" at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit, Michigan, and other venues, where they played with the MC5 and others. At one of their early Grande Ballroom performances, Asheton's guitar neck separated from the body and forced the band to shut down during the opening song, "I Wanna Be Your Dog".

The group's early sound was very different from their later music; critic Edwin Pouncey writes:

The Stooges' early musical experiments were more avant garde than punk rock, with Pop incorporating such household objects as a vacuum cleaner and a blender into an intense wall of feedback that one observer described as sounding like "an airplane was landing in the room." Homemade instruments were also incorporated to flesh out the overall sound. The 'Jim-a-phone' involved pushing feedback through a funnel device which was raised and lowered to achieve the best effect. There was also a cheap Hawaiian guitar which Pop and guitarist Ron Asheton would take turns in plucking to produce a simulated sitar drone, while drummer Scott Asheton pounded away at a set of oil drums with a ball hammer.


Commercial struggles, the self-titled album and Fun House (1968–1971)

The Stooges soon gained a reputation for their wild, primitive live performances. Pop, especially, won fame for his outrageous onstage behaviour—smearing his bare chest with hamburger meat and peanut butter, cutting himself with shards of glass, and flashing his genitalia to the audience. At one concert, he played a vacuum cleaner like a musical instrument. Pop is also sometimes credited with the invention or popularization of stage diving.

In 1968, the Stooges were signed by Elektra Records, who had sent a scout named Danny Fields to see the MC5. He wound up signing both acts. (Fields would later go on to discover and manage the Ramones.)

1969 saw the release of their self-titled debut album, The Stooges, but it did not sell very well, nor was it well received by critics at the time. Legend has it that half of the album was written the night before the first session, which was produced by former Velvet Underground bassist John Cale. A second album, Fun House, followed in 1970. Many[who?] consider Fun House to be the best representation of the Stooges, as the main goal of the album was to capture the manic energy of their live performances. On June 13 of that year, television captured footage of the band at the Cincinnati Pop Festival. While performing the songs "T.V. Eye" and "1970", Pop leapt into the crowd, where he was hoisted up on people's hands, and proceeded to smear peanut butter all over his chest. In a broadcast interview at WNUR Northwestern University radio station in Evanston IL in 1984, Stiv Bators of the Lords of the New Church and the Dead Boys confirmed the long-standing rumor that it was he who had provided the peanut butter, having carried a large tub from his home in Youngstown, OH and handing it up to Iggy from the audience. It has since become an iconic rock image.

Fun House, like the debut album, was poorly received by both the general public and the critics. Alexander was fired from the band in August 1970 after showing up at the Goose Lake International Music Festival too drunk to play. He was replaced by a succession of new bass players: Zeke Zettner and James Recca. Around this time, the band expanded their line-up, adding saxophonist Steve MacKay and then a second guitar player, roadie Billy Cheatham. Cheatham was quickly replaced by James Williamson.

At this point, the Stooges, with the notable exception of Ron Asheton, all had become serious drug users, with Pop being the worst example. Their performances became even more unpredictable, and Pop often had trouble standing up on stage due to extreme drug abuse. Elektra soon dropped the Stooges from its roster, and the band went on hiatus for several months. The final line-up was Iggy Pop, the Asheton brothers, Jimmy Recca and James Williamson.[1]

Raw Power and breakup (1972–1974)

With the band in limbo, Pop met David Bowie in September 1971, and the pair became good friends. Bowie, then at the height of his Ziggy Stardust-era fame, brought Pop and Williamson to the UK, and got them a deal with Columbia Records. The pair attempted to reconstitute the Stooges with British musicians, but finding nobody suitable, brought the Asheton brothers back into the band (this "second choice" decision rankled Ron Asheton, as did his change from guitar to bass). This line-up, billed as "Iggy & The Stooges", recorded their third album, the massively influential Raw Power (1973), which Bowie mixed in a somewhat controversial manner (in the 1990's, Raw Power was re-mixed by Iggy Pop and re-released to critical acclaim). Raw Power would go on to become one of the cornerstones of early punk rock, although the album sold rather poorly, and was regarded as a commercial failure at the time of its release.

Now augmented by a piano player (briefly Bob Sheff and then Scott Thurston, the Stooges toured for several months, starting in February 1973. Around this time they also made a number of recordings that became known as the Detroit Rehearsal Tapes, including a number of new songs that might have been included on a fourth studio album had the band not been dropped by CBS shortly after the release of Raw Power. The Stooges disbanded in February 1974 as a result of Pop's ever-present heroin addiction and erratic behavior (at least off stage, as many people around the band acknowledged that while performing or rehearsing, Iggy had more focus).The band's last-ever performance was captured on the classic live album Metallic K.O..


Post-breakup (1975–1977)

After going through rehab, Pop began a solo career in 1976 (most influentially with the albums The Idiot and Lust for Life). In March 1977, Pop toured with a backing band consisting of David Bowie (keyboards), Ricky Gardiner (guitar), and brothers Tony Sales (bass) and Hunt Sales (drums), sons of Soupy Sales. The Asheton brothers formed a band named the New Order (not to be confused with the U.K. band New Order), which quickly fell apart. Ron Asheton later joined Destroy All Monsters, while Williamson worked with Pop as a producer and engineer during his early solo career. Dave Alexander died of pancreatitis in 1975.

In 1997 a reissue of Raw Power remixed by Pop was released, with a far more aggressive mix than the original release. In 1999, re-issue label Rhino Handmade released the seven disc box set 1970: The Complete Fun House Sessions, composed of the entire recording sessions surrounding the Fun House album. 3,000 copies were pressed, selling out in less than a year.

Reunion, The Weirdness and Ron Asheton's death (2003–2009)

In 2000, indie rock veterans J Mascis (of Dinosaur Jr) and Mike Watt (of the Minutemen and fIREHOSE) teamed up with Ron and Scott Asheton to perform Stooges covers (and some other material) live. Billed as Asheton, Asheton, Mascis and Watt, the band performed sporadically before catching Pop's attention in 2003. Pop and the Ashetons first reunited that year, appearing on four songs on the Skull Ring album with Pop on vocals, Scott Asheton on drums, and Ron Asheton on both guitar and bass. Shortly thereafter, the Stooges officially reunited, performing a series of live shows in the United States and Europe, with Watt on bass, and Fun House-era saxophonist Steve MacKay completing the band. Their Detroit homecoming show, postponed by the 2003 North America blackout, was released as the DVD Live in Detroit.

On August 16, 2005, Elektra Records and Rhino Records issued newly remastered 2-CD editions of the first two Stooges albums, featuring the original album on disc one and outtakes (including alternate mixes, single versions, etc.) on disc two. Unlike the Raw Power reissue, these remasters stayed more faithful to the original mixes.

In 2007, the band released an album of all-new material, The Weirdness, with Steve Albini recording, and mastering done at Abbey Road Studios in London, England. The album received mixed reviews from the press. The band also contributed a cover of Junior Kimbrough's "You Better Run" to a tribute album for the late blues artist.

The Stooges spent the years between 2003 and 2008 touring extensively, playing shows on five different continents. Highlights included performances at several events involved with the All Tomorrow's Parties concert series, Pop's 60th birthday on the stage of San Francisco's Warfield Theater, touring with the Lollapalooza festival, and a performance of two Madonna covers at the Michigan-born singer's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in protest of the Stooges' failure to receive an induction into said institution despite six nominations. A low of this touring era occurred in the August 2008 when the band's equipment was stolen in Montreal, Quebec. Initially, the reunited band's sets consisted solely of material from The Stooges, Funhouse, Skull Ring, and The Weirdness. By 2008, the band had added "Search and Destroy", "I Got a Right" and "Raw Power" to their set lists. The band's final show with Ron Asheton occurred on September 29, 2008 in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

On January 6, 2009, Ron Asheton was found dead in his home, having reportedly suffered a heart attack several days earlier.He was 60 years old. In their official statement, the group called Asheton "irreplaceable".

Days after Asheton's death, it was announced that the Stooges had failed to garner enough votes to receive induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This 2009 induction nomination was the band's seventh, each unsuccessful due to insufficient votes from the museum's committee members.


Reunion with James Williamson (2009–present)

In a May 2009 interview, Pop announced his plans to join with Watt, Scott Asheton and former guitarist James Williamson and perform Raw Power as "Iggy and the Stooges", with an openness to future projects with this lineup. Pop stated that "although 'the Stooges' died with Ron Asheton, there is still 'Iggy and the Stooges'".[2]




  [1] James Williamson  
  {2} Wikipedia entry August 2009