Thursday, March 18, 2010

Oreilles Gauloises (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Edition) - Fun House (The Stooges)

Three days ago, on March 15, 2010, The Stooges were officially inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and all I can say about that is: it's about time!!!

If one was to ask me who I thought the greatest rock writers, performers, or musicians were, my answers would probably vary from day to day, as many in my book would fit these descriptions. If one was to ask me who the single, greatest American rock and roll band was, on the other hand, my answer would be unique, quick and decisive: Ann Arbor's The Stooges. No if's or but's, no debate, and no question. Game over. Next. Go ahead, and try to think of one. I dare you. No one even comes close! So the fact that it took so long for the Hall of Fame to induct them is evidence that the people in charge of that institution really don't know what they're talking about.

The Stooges have only put out four albums, three of them more than 35 years ago. They're all very good, but one stands out for me: Fun House. Recorded and released in 1970, it is in my opinion one of the most important rock albums ever recorded.

Some people would argue that the innocence and Flower Power-vibe of the Sixties ended with the murder of Meredith Hunter at the Altamont Speedway concert on Dec. 6, 1969. Some would say that era ended with the acrimonious breakup of the Beatles. Still others would make a case that it all ended with the violent murder of Fred Hampton, or the Kent State student massacre by the Ohio National Guard. Personally, I don't think there was one particular point in time where the general spirit of the Sixties perished. But what I will say is that musically, there is no doubt in my mind that The Stooges put the last nail in that coffin when they released Fun House in July of 1970. As Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong said when he inducted them in the Hall of Fame ceremony, The Stooges "symbolize the destruction of flower power and the creation of raw power".

Mind you, there was nothing wrong with the psychedelic music scene represented by bands like the Grateful Dead or Jefferson Airplane, but musically, it kind of ran its course (it's hard to drop acid for years on end!). By 1970, the Beatles were gone; the Stones, while on a successful US tour, weren't playing that well as they struggled with their chemical consumption, and many artists and bands that had made interesting music in that past decade had either stopped playing, or just died from their personal excesses. And from the smoldering ashes of that dying fire came hard-rocking bands like The MC5 and The Stooges. These guys didn't sing about peace, love and understanding. They sang about revolution, sexual debauchery, drugs, and the challenges of being a bored 20 year-old working class kid from Detroit, Michigan.

The Stooges really embodied that new generation of musicians who were coming of age during the Vietnam War and who just wanted to enjoy life on their own terms. Listen to songs like "Loose," "1970," and "Down On The Street," and you'll hear the hunger for excitement and fun. This is a raw, unpolished, and brutal record, but to me, it feels like it couldn't have sounded any other way, really. This wild and uncontrollable energy HAD to come out, or the whole thing was simply going to blow! Once that pressure valve was opened, Iggy Pop and The Stooges used that power to make a few heads explode, and a few faces melt.

It's amazing to me that this record really sounds as fresh and exciting today as it must have 40 years ago. A timeless, essential, and revolutionary album that almost single-handedly changed everything that came after it on the musical landscape! Thank you Iggy, and long live The Stooges!
(RIP, Ron Asheton)

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