The Stooges’ third album Raw Power was not successful. And yet it is one of the most important and influential releases of all time. It is regarded as a template for punk that swept through the music world 3 to 4 years later.
Just as in the story on Iggy Pop’s Lust For Life, David Bowie plays an important part in this story.
After The Stooges had released the first two records, 1969’s The Stooges and 1970’s Funhouse, and went fairly unnoticed, the band had collapsed. Iggy had gotten addicted to heroin.
In England David Bowie had just started his career. Bowie had a keen eye and ear for who (and what) was interesting and new. He loved The Stooges.
Very few people recognized the quality of the Stooges’ songwriting, it was really meticulous. And to his credit, the only person I’d ever known of in print to notice it, among my peers of professional musicians, was Bowie. He noticed it right off.
Liner notes 1997 re-release
Bowie arranged for Iggy to be represented by the same management team that represented him, which was led by Tony DeFries: MainMan Management (Bowie was going to get in a lot of trouble with DeFries at a later time). A solo contract was arranged with Columbia Records.
Bowie played no part in the album or the songs (as apposed to Iggy Pop’s Lust For Life). But, once the recordings were done, Bowie did get involved. He was to remix the album.
Iggy And The Stooges
The plan was for Iggy to record an album with guitar player James Williamson (who served in The Stooges as a second guitar player). The search for a decent rhythm section was unsuccessful, so the brothers Ron and Scott Asheton were called upon (original guitar player and drummer in The Stooges). Because Williamson was hired to be the guitar player, Ron Asheton switched from guitar to bass.
The album was recorded between September 10th and October 6th, 1972. The album was mixed by Iggy himself. The resulting recordings had only 3 tracks: one contained the guitar, all other instruments were on a second track and the third contained the vocals (Iggy did have 24 tracks at his disposal).
Manager Tony DeFries (owner of MainMan Management) proposed that the album was remixed by David Bowie. Iggy went along, as he feared the album was going to be shelved. Due to lack of money Bowie remixed the album in one day at the cheap Western Sound Recorders studio in Los Angeles.
To the best of my recollection it was done in a day. I don’t think it was two days. On a very, very old board, I mean this board was old! An Elvis type of board, old-tech, low-tech, in a poorly lit, cheap old studio with very little time. To David’s credit, he listened with his ear to each thing and talked it out with me, I gave him what I thought it should have, he put that in its perspective, added some touches. He’s always liked the most recent technology, so there was something called a Time Cube you could feed a signal into — it looked like a bong, a big plastic tube with a couple of bends in it — and when the sound came out the other end, it sort of shot at you like an echo effect. He used that on the guitar in “Gimme Danger”, a beautiful guitar echo overload that’s absolutely beautiful; and on the drums in “Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell”. His concept was, “You’re so primitive, your drummer should sound like he’s beating a log!” It’s not a bad job that he did…I’m very proud of the eccentric, odd little record that came out.
Liner notes 1997 re-release
After the album was released, Iggy complained that Bowie mellowed the original recordings making the album sound tame. Everybody started believing the assumption, so when Raw Power was re-released in 1997 using the mix Iggy had in mind, the album was finally going to sound as it was intended and it would prove that the album was even better than everyone knew. However, this was not the case. Bowie’s mix did sound more tame. On the other hand, it created way more dynamic. It didn’t sound so bad after all. The 2010 re-release restored the original (as in Bowie’s) mix once again.
The album has many followers, but has a substantial number of haters as well, which is, in part, attributed to the degradation of the Asheton brothers: in regards to the audibility of their parts in the mix as for the Ron’s ‘demotion’ from guitar to bass. On top of that, the name The Stooges was changed to Iggy & The Stooges.
But, Iggy is really on top of his game, here. More intense than ever before, lyrically and performance wise. Search And Destroy, all the way!
The album only lasts 33 minutes, but the band gives their all in those minutes. It turned into a template for punk, which would sweep through the music world some 3 to 4 years later. Many great artists cite Raw Power as one of the most important and influential to their own careers: from Kurt Cobain to Johnny Marr, from Henry Rollins to Steve Jones and from Morrissey to Cee Lo Green.
After Raw Power
After the release, the band toured for about a year. But Columbia Records ended their contract. MainMan Management stopped working with the band as well. The collapse of The Stooges followed soon thereafter. Iggy fell back into his old habits, until (once again) Bowie helped him (see the story on Iggy Pop’s Lust For Life).
- Search And Destroy
- Gimme Danger
- Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell
- Raw Power
- I Need Somebody
- Shake Appeal
- Death Trip
What do you think of Raw Power? Let me know!