Today I talk about the making of Iggy and the Stooges seminal “Raw Power” LP.
The seeds of Raw Power were sown when Iggy first met James Williamson who played him the riff that later became “Penetration”. In late 1970 James joins the Stooges.
In 1971 Iggy meets David Bowie who was a big Stooges fan. In 1972 David signs Iggy to Mainman and brings him over to England. Iggy was not impressed by the musos he met in England and soon he was joined by James. Despite being very different characters Iggy and James roomed together in London and this strengthened them as a song writing team.
Once James was in the fold the next step was to bring out the Ashton brothers Scott on drums and Ron on bass.
Then they started writing and rehearsing. Amongst other things the use of the drug heroin affected the music.
James brought in the riff for “Search and Destroy” which was then arranged into a song. Iggy wrote the lyrics in Kensington Gardens. The lyrics use the Vietnam War as a metaphor for the attitude and feelings of the band and its audience. I have read that Iggy sang the song in a higher register than usual. Was the song pitch altered? I am curious as that is what happened on some of the other Bowie related recordings including Lou Reed’s Walk on The Wild Side.
Which brings me to Bowie who became the albums producer. Bowie brought an Englishness and artiness to the mix so it became an English as well as American album. Like a lot of Bowie records of the time including Lou Reed’s Transformer it has a lot of treble in a bid to get airplay. The Bowie mix was unusual and at first hard to understand but once you understood it, it became thee mix. This is a controversial issue as there are many mixes but none as interesting as the Bowie one. The lead guitar and vocals are much higher in the mix than any of the other instruments giving the music a frenetic sound, and thus the prototype punk guitar style and tone was born and became the blueprint for punk guitarists to this day. The bass is very audible and pumping but it is quite trebly and so in sync with the rhythm guitar that on some songs what you assume to be rhythm guitar is often bass. Likewise the drums and bass are so tight that the drums appear almost inaudible. To top it off Bowie added the Time Cube effects unit in the mix the cocaine sound.
The second song up Gimme Danger was written in response to the recording company requesting a slow song and a great one this is too, an answer to the Rolling Stones Gimme Shelter. The guitar is detuned half a step to Eb. I have read that the main influences on the album were early Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and seeing T. Rex at Wembley a few weeks earlier. The influence of Led Zep can be heard on some of the heavier songs on the album for example Penetration.
The remaining six songs are as follows, the glam punk of Raw Power and Shake Appeal, the sleazy blues of I Need Somebody, the swaggering nasty Iggy of Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell, the wild freakouts of Penetration and Death Trip.
And so on to the cover. In my opinion the artwork to an album is almost as important as the music itself, it is a summary of the music, a visual representation of the sound. And what a cover this is. An amazing front pic of Iggy with silver trousers and platinum hair, pancake makeup and vampire lipstick. Iggy hangs from the mike stand a symbol of decadence and danger. The picture was taken at the Stooges only UK show which was performed at the Scala Cinema Kings Cross London. One of the few people in the audience was Johnny Rotten who used the mike stand in the same way in the Sex Pistols 4 years later. The story behind the makeup was that backstage a girl made up James Williamsons face and Iggy said he would like to have a bit of that as well and so the look was formed and immortalised. The photographer was Mick Rock who also took seminal pictures of Bowie and the cover pic for Lou Reed’s Transformer.
To truly appreciate the album you got to listen to the original vinyl version of the Bowie mix from 1973, the latter-day reissues cannot compare. It is also worth listening to the Rough Power CD on Bomp and the Iguana De Banda – Etiqueta Negra de Lugo bootleg.
“Raw Power” was a one off. The greatest punk album ever.