Albums That Built The Foundation Of Heavy Metal : Iggy and The Stooges – Raw Power

Metal Mofos’ Editor in Chief Jesse Vejar kicks off his series of essays “The Albums That Built the Foundation of Heavy Metal” to recognize the historical significance of some often overlooked pieces of music which went on to inspire metal fans across the globe and give proper respect to their contributions to heavy metal music.

Artist : Iggy And The Stooges
Album : Raw Power
Released : February 7, 1973
M.M. Album Rating : 5/5 (Influenced Countless Punk, Rock, Grunge, And Metal Bands.)

Simply stated, one of the most influential records ever recorded. It would be hard to find another album that helped influence, and create multiple genres of music, yet that’s exactly what the third album from The Stooges did. The 8 songs included on the now legendary album “Raw Power” would have the hallmark roots of sounds that would later become Punk Rock, Grunge, and Thrash/Speed Metal music. To this day it still sounds way ahead of it’s time, with a ferocity almost unmatched. It shouldn’t be surprising that when it was first released it really didn’t make an impact on the charts in any way, but pretty much every person who did buy it at the time would connect with, and feel such a bond with the music,they too would end up starting a band of their own. Members in band’s such as The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, Motörhead, Mercyful Fate, Def Leppard, Motley Crue, Void, Black Flag, The Smiths, and many others refer to this record as having an influence on what their sound would become once they started making music themselves.

Formed in the city of Ann Arbor Michigan in 1967 by Frontman/Singer Iggy Pop, Bass Player Dave Alexander, and two brothers Ron (Guitar) and Scott (Drums) Asheton. They would develop a style all their own with their heavy, and raw rock and roll sound. Also becoming a controversial live act, especially with lead singer Iggy Pop’s stage performances. They would release two excellent albums, their self titled debut in 1969, and their sophomore effort “Funhouse” in 1970. Both records were received poorly by both critics, and music fans, which led to poor sales. In 1970 Bass player Dave Alexander was fired for showing up drunk to a performance, and they would be dumped by Elektra Records (the label they were signed to with the fellow Michigan band MC5.) Soon after that the band (that now included new guitar player James Williamson) dealing with drug issues would break up in July of 1971. At that point many thought that would be the end of The Stooges.

It would be the legendary David Bowie who would give the band a whole new life. Becoming friends with Iggy Pop, actually first trying to get Iggy a solo deal, and getting him signed to his management company “MainMan”. Through the management company Iggy Pop met with Columbia Records executive Clive Davis, and got a “two album” recording deal. Iggy would recruit Stooges bandmate James Williamson to go with him to London to find a couple more British musicians to help write and record a new album. Once in London the band couldn’t find musicians who shared their vision so they also called back the two Asheton brothers instead. There was a catch however, which would now have Ron playing Bass, since Williamson was already playing guitar. This led to a few tense moments, since Ron Asheton was feeling like he was playing “second fiddle”, but in the end he would accept his role, basically turning his bass playing into a lead instrument itself. Scott also returned to his drum kit.

On the sessions for the record the band pretty much had a free hand. Since the management company was much more concerned at the time with David Bowie’s career, they paid little attention to the Stooges, basically letting them record, and produce the album the way they wanted. The only thing the label asked was that each side of the album contain one slow song. Both “Gimmie Danger” and “I Need Somebody” were purposely done slower to please the record company. Both songs still have a dark groove that hardly make them ballads. The rest of the record is pretty much a full on assault. Songs like “Search And Destroy, Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell”, and “Death Trip” are some of the hardest rocking songs ever put to vinyl. Today over 40 years old, and would still melt your face with their power.

There is only one complaint about this album that has haunted it since it’s release. And it goes back to giving the band a free hand with little supervision in the studio. It was produced, and mixed horribly, first by Iggy Pop, who basically only used four of the twenty four track tape to record, and mix the record. When the record company first heard it they thought it was terrible, and demanded that David Bowie (who had proven his technique, and skills in the studio by this time with not only his, but other artist’s albums too) come in to properly mix the album. Bowie came in to mix the record, realizing their were multiple instruments on one track, with the guitar on the second track, and vocals on the third track.  He spent a day separating the mix the best he could with what he had to work with. It would be Bowie’s version that would be released in 1973 when the album was released, also taking a beating for years for the way it sounded. Many fans (even the band members themselves saying he put the guitars and drums too far back in the mix. In the late 1990s when the album was being remastered for Compact Disc , Columbia Records invited Iggy Pop in to remix the album. He said he had no choice but to accept the invitation, because with or without him they were gonna remix it anyways. Basically all Iggy did was turn all levels up to be in the “red” to purposely cause distortion, but to make the songs more powerful, and (in his mind) more listenable. It would make the new remastered version basically the loudest album ever, reaching RMS of -4 dB.

In the end Iggy’s new mix did nothing to become the definitive mix. Today fans still argue over the mix they prefer more. (I personally prefer the Bowie mix myself.) Heavy Metal fans will be able to relate, especially fans of The Metallica album “And Justice For All” another album where the material was disrespected by the production job. In the end (just like with And Justice For All) the songs are so strong that even the terrible production/mix job can’t keep you from not listening. The album “Raw Power” from The Stooges is a record that continues to become more and more relevant with each passing year. It’s more popular now than it was the year it was released. This incredible record with continue to shock music fans for generations to come.

–Jesse

TRACKS:
All songs written and composed by Iggy Pop and James Williamson.

Side one
1. “Search and Destroy” – 3:29
2. “Gimme Danger” – 3:33
3. “Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell” – 4:54
4. “Penetration” – 3:41

Side two
1. “Raw Power” – 4:16
2. “I Need Somebody” – 4:53
3. “Shake Appeal” – 3:04
4. “Death Trip” – 6:07
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