Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Suburban Voice blog #70

RON ASHETON (1948-2009)


Quite a few of you have probably heard the sad news about the passing of Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton, who was found dead in his home earlier this week. He was 60 years old. It's no false tribute when I say that the Stooges have long been an inspiration to me, since I first heard "Raw Power" in 1976. I've told that story many times--how I went into a "head shop" where, alongside the bongs, pot pipes, tie-dye shirts and tapestries, there was a crate of records. I found a used copy of "Raw Power," got the proprietor to play me some of it and immediately forked over the $3 to purchase this incredible album.

I know that Asheton didn't play guitar on "Raw Power." He'd moved over to bass with the arrival of axe-slinger James Williamson, no slouch himself but stylistically different. It may be sacrilege to say this--and I don't mean to besmirch Ron Asheton's memory--but "Raw Power" is by far my favorite Stooges album and one of my all-time favorite albums, period. That was my introduction to the band and it remained that way until early 1978. That was when I had on one of the big FM rock stations (not sure if it was WCOZ or WBCN) and the DJ said something along the lines of people that were into punk should check out the song he was about to play--it was by the Stooges and called "I Wanna Be Your Dog." I got my dad's stereo tape deck at the ready, anticipating something incredible...

And that's what I got--that eruption of fuzz guitar that introduces the song, laying out the three chord signature and the bass, drums and piano plink kicked in and my brain started to melt. That led off a mix-tape that I eventually called "Greatest Tape Ever," a 60 minute Tracs cassette that probably cost me 50 cents and included Wire, Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols, as well as some lesser-knowns like the Maniacs, The Table, New Hearts and Destroy All Monsters--the latter of whom featured Ron Asheton on guitar and Mission of Burma guitarist Roger Miller's brother Ben on saxophone. It was a prized possession until it got boosted out of my car around '89 or so.

When I was at Boston University, I used to comb the bins at Nuggets in Kenmore Square and came across some awesome 99 cent records over the years. Some were there because they weren't going to be best-sellers--and there were gems to be had, like Rose Tattoo's "Rock 'n Roll Outlaw" and Saxon's "Wheels Of Steel." They'd also put out records in "distressed" (i.e. scratched up a bit) in that bin. Freshman year, I got Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" and, sophomore year, it was the Stooges eponymous debut. It was pretty beat but playable. I did find it uneven--the ten minute-plus mantra-psych--whatever you want to call it--of "We Will Fall" meant that I'd only listen to "1969" and "Dog" on side A. On the flip, four out of the five songs clicked, the exception being the quieter "Ann." Not the case with the savage, sinister groove of "No Fun," "Little Doll," "Not Right" and the "Real Cool Time." Asheton pulled some true pyrotechnics from that axe of his, accompanying Iggy's oozing menace.

I forget when I came across "Fun House"--in the 80s sometime and in all its gatefold glory. Blistering from start to finish--even the more drawn-out "Dirt" had a heavier feel to it and the wild sax skronk featured on side 2, particularly for "1970" (aka "I Feel Alright") added to the already-fierce stew.

I don't need to review these records... any connoisseur of high energy music already has 'em and has played them a million times. And it's incredible to think the albums were released in 1969, 1970 and 1973 and were completely ignored at the time. I'm just giving some personal recollections and paying tribute.

I already mentioned Destroy All Monsters, a band fronted by a woman named Niagara (born Lynn Rovner) that started off as an avant-garde group but eventually moved in more of a conventional rock direction when they recruited Asheton and MC5 bassist Michael Davis. They had a sound that incorporated influences from both bands. Track down their stuff, if you can--"You're Gonna Die" and "Bored," in particular, are incredible songs.

Some of the obituaries mentioned that he was listed as the 29th best of all time on Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarist list. At least he made it that high, although what moron thinks that Jack White from the White Stripes is worthy of being 17? Or thinks that the White Stripes are a good band, period. Talk about suckage. Just as bad as getting a quote from the one of the guys from the mediocre Von Bondies about Asheton's death. That list is a travesty, anyway--Angus Young at 96? Are they joking?

I've been listening to this music off and over the past few days and will be doing a tribute on Sonic Overload next week (1/12/09) and it makes me realize that I was a fucking idiot to have missed their reunion tour a few years ago. I blew the one chance I had to see this lineup play and it made me feel worse when friends told me about how awesome it was (hi, Marc!). I could list the coulda-shoulda-woulda bands/artists I missed before it was too late--Link Wray, Dead Boys (with Stiv, none of this reunion stuff), AC/DC with Bon Scott. Add the Stooges to the list...

This year's off to a crappy start, eh?


BEST OF 2008

A little late but here it is finally. I think it was something of an off year for punk rock. There were only a handful of records that blew me away and a lot of good/OK releases. Of course, I wasn't able to track down/listen to everything that might have grabbed me, so perhaps my opinion might have been different, otherwise. I'm sure I'm missing some quality music.

The lists aren't in any order, except that Bastard Sons of Apocalypse's "Strangled By The System" is my record of the year and Systematic Death were, by far, the best live band I saw last year. Sometimes, people are dubious about reunions but, trust me, there was no going through the motions here. It was explosive and frenetic and bands with people half those guys' age should be so lucky to have such a high energy level. Mind-blowing.

LP/12":

BASTARD SONS OF APOCALYPSE-Strangled By The System
MEANWHILE-Reality Or Nothing
CHRONIC SEIZURE-Ancient Wound
NIGHTSTICK JUSTICE-s/t
THE ESTRANGED-Static Thoughts
EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING-Primary Colours
LIBYANS-s/t
STRAIGHTJACKET NATION-Cheap Kicks
STATIONS-s/t
AVSKUM-Uppror Underifran
SOCIALCIDE-Unapproachable

7":
NIGHTSTICK JUSTICE-Claustrophobic
VIOLENT ARREST-Criminal Record
THE YOUNG-s/t
SEX/VID-Nests
SMART COPS-s/t
SOCIAL CIRCKLE-I've Got Afflictions
REPROBATES-Stress
DEEP SLEEP-Manic Euphoria
DOUBLE NEGATIVE-Raw Energy

DEMOS:
BRAIN KILLER
GENERAL INTEREST
MAD MEN

LIVE:
SYSTEMATIC DEATH
STRAIGHTJACKET NATION
CAREER SUICIDE
SEX/VID
AMERICAN CHEESEBURGER
BRAIN KILLER
MALE NURSES
WASTED TIME
COP ON FIRE



1 comment:

Beak Wilder said...

Either way you sling it, those three Stooges albums are incredible, and I find myself constantly arguing with myself as to which one is the best, depending on which one I'm listening to at the time. All three albums are so different. But I guess that's what a good band does. They put out albums that are so good that you keep changing your mind as to which one you like best. You certainly don't do that with DYS or Jerry's Kids.