Last weekend, treatment on St Patricks day it was announced that the Rolling Stones would be postponing their Australian tour, as it was announced that Mick Jagger’s partner, L’Wren Scott, had died. It was a tragic and shocking announcement and before long music sites were awash with tributes. So much so that another death went almost unnoticed. 64 year old drummer Scott Asheton died on the 15th of March, and with his death, Iggy Pop is (somewhat ironically) the only surviving member of the Stooges.
Formed in 1967 by brothers Ron (died in 2009) and Scott Asheton (guitar and drums respectively), bassist Dave Alexander (died 1975) and singer Iggy Pop, the Stooges, in the words of Lester Bangs, represented the “decline of western civilisation”. With a nihilistic attitude that was adverse to the flower power movement, The Stooges snorted and drank their way across America driving a stake through the heart of the hippie generation. Comments on the Stooges are often restricted to Iggy Pop, how he would cut himself with broken glass, how he’d hurl himself into the audience, how he’d smear himself with peanut butter, but in many ways, he could only do it because of the canvas that was provided to him. Be it Ron Asheton’s caveman riffs or his brothers primal, minimalist, drumming, they sounded like no other band. Its often been said that there’s a fine line between genius and stupidity and the Stooges represented this more than most. Their first two albums, a self titled debut and its follow up, Fun House, where met with critical derision and commercial failure, but the strange mix of blues, free jazz and garage rock essentially planted the seeds for an all manner of new genres, such noise rock, punk and heavy metal. The band broke up briefly in 1970, only to be reformed a year later (with a line-up reshuffling that saw the admittance of guitarist James Williamson), at the request of David Bowie. Bowie used his star power to finance a third album, 1973s Raw Power. Although more schooled and streamlined than previous efforts, Raw Power was a flop and the band summarily broke up, due to infighting and serious drug addiction. Iggy Pop managed to salvage a solo career, making two arty, post-modernist albums in Berlin with David Bowie (The idiot and Lust for Life) and with that, it seemed like he had moved on. The other members faded into obscurity.
The Stooges were a band that was far before its time and almost immediately after they broke up their influence started to be felt. It would take up far too much space to list the artists that championed the Stooges from about 1976 onwards, because that list would include nearly every major band that has emerged since then. Or at least every major band worth listening to. As Iggy Pop’s solo career started to descend into gradual mediocrity, it seemed as though the popularity of his former band only grew. Then in the early 2000s something amazing happened. With bands like The White Stripes, The Strokes and Queens of the Stone Age bringing the Stooges sound into the mainstream, it was announced that The Stooges would be reuniting. Similar to the Pixies, they embarked on a never ending tour, and it was clear that they were as lean as ever and that audiences finally appreciated them. With the death of Scott Asheton, Iggy Pop has announced that the band is on an indefinite hiatus, and there is doubt as to whether or not they’ll tour again. It seems like one of rocks finest bands, up there with the Rolling Stone, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix et al. has finally be silenced.
Listening to Fun House, its only starting to dawn on me that those four strange souls will never be in the same room again to make music. Like almost everything involving the Stooges it will probably take a while for that to be felt.
By Adam Duke