Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Woke up today to discover Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton passed away. Like the title says, that's a bummer to the nth degree.
To say the Stooges are important to rock 'n' roll is a major understatement. The band's first two records are hailed (now -- they weren't when they were first released) as seminal listening that paved the way for punk. But the band was so much more than that. There's a very primal, raw energy in those first two discs that come from a background of blues and jazz. I used to hear people say that to me, but I didn't know what it meant. Then I got into those genres, and as I started to drift from punk, I began to enjoy the Stooges even more because they couldn't be pigeonholed into one category. Just listen to "Dirt" from "Fun House" and tell me that's not "Born Under a Bad Sign" played in a modern way.
Asheton was a wailer whose voice really came through in his playing. I can't imagine the Stooges carrying on without him, but then again, money talks. And with James Williamson still alive, they could have a second reunion and continue if they wanted.
I saw Asheton live once. It was the first and only time I saw the Stooges. 2003 at Coachella. I had no desire to drive to the middle of the desert for these annual festivals (and still don't), but once I heard the Stooges were playing their first gig in decades and later discovered I could get in for free, well, I would have been a fool if I didn't go. As far as reunions go, the Stooges were solid. And I'm not saying this because he died, but the one thing that really stood out for me (aside from never seeing Iggy in the flesh, which is a treat unto itself) was how much Asheton's playing stood out. He was on point and played in the most primitive, tribal way. He killed it on "Dirt" and I'll never forget that.
The Stooges are still one of my all-time favorite bands and "Fun House" is the "Pet Sounds" of rock. I listen to it regularly and no matter how many times I hear it, I always pick up on new things hidden in the songs. It's as fresh and alive as it was the day it was released. I can't say the same about a lot of the records in my collection.
RIP Ron Asheton and say hi to Dave Alexander for me.