“I’m a streetwalking cheetah with a heart full of napalm, I’m the runaway son of a nuclear A-bomb, I am the world’s forgotten boy, the one who searches and destroys.” In 1973, The Vietnam War may have been winding down, but the seeds of the punk rock revolution were already sprouting in the urban Midwest, soon to consume the unsuspecting civilized world with a vengeance.
Raw Power’s opening track, “Search and Destroy,” would be the revolution’s anthem. A debaucherous, rallying battle cry for all the kids who just never quite fit the mold. A song and an album that, without which, modern rock and roll would likely be a very different entity than what we all know and love today.
Formed in 1967, The Stooges stood apart from the peace and love hippie jargon of their contemporaries with a unique brand of primitive, grimy, heroin-drenched rock and roll delivered via energetic and often unpredictable performances.
By 1971, though, The Stooges were on hiatus after being dropped from their record label. Their first two albums had been met with poor sales, accompanied by an inverse correlation of steadily increasing drug consumption and rapidly deteriorating performance quality. It was during this time that Iggy Pop met David Bowie, who brought the group to the UK and landed them a deal with Columbia Records. The slightly adjusted lineup, with new guitarist James Williamson and Ron Asheton demoted to bass, was redubbed Iggy & the Stooges.
From the instant “Search and Destroy” sounds off, it’s obvious that the album is aptly named. “Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell,” “Penetration,” and “Death Trip” follow suit, ripping out of the speakers with belligerent, catchy riffs and searing solos, while Iggy’s hoarse, defiant wails spit in the face of mainstream commercial appeal. The ballads “Gimme Danger” and “I Need Somebody” are infectiously sleazy blues affairs, the former being the record’s most captivating track.
The lyrical content remains altogether pretty straightforward, especially in the lewd grooves “Penetration” and “Shake Appeal,” which leave very little room for interpretation. Indeed, Mr. Pop is quite forthright in communicating what’s on his mind.
The album’s mix remains a controversial subject. David Bowie recalls mixing being a difficult process from the start because the group recorded utilizing only three tracks – vocals, lead guitar, and everything else. In other words, there wasn’t a whole lot there to mix. Three versions exist: the initial Iggy Pop attempt, the treble-heavy Bowie (used for the original release), and Iggy’s significantly louder 1996 remix. Though disliked initially, most of the band has stated that they now prefer Bowie’s mix, which was re-mastered for The Legacy Edition. While not as loud as the 1996 remix, Bowie’s re-master is more sonically cohesive (no clipping or excess distortion), features noticeably thicker low-end than the original, and enhances the ballads’ subtle ambient elements.
Though initially faced with the same familiar weak sales and apathy, Raw Power ultimately proved to be a remarkably influential template for a generation of subsequent bands to follow, and is now considered a punk rock classic. So what are you waiting for? Crank it up to 11, grab a partner, and dance to the beat of the living dead.
As Henry Rollins said – “Elvis Presley may be the king, but Iggy Pop is the heavyweight champion of rock and roll.” With songs like “Search and Destroy” and “Gimme Danger” to your name, it’s hard to argue with that statement. Though initially written off with indifference and contempt, variations (and often blatant plagiarisms) of The Stooges’ sound would soon go on to be collectively branded “punk rock.”
From The Sex Pistols to Nirvana, Morrissey to Motley Crue, Black Flag to Def Leppard, to name just a few – all can be traced back to this album as a common ancestor. Additionally, along with Jim Morrison, Iggy Pop’s stage antics rewrote the rule book for rock and roll front men by adding stage-dives, self-mutilation, and indecent exposure to the repertoire.
The seminal Raw Power has aged like fine wine, and is ranked #128 on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.”
Raw Power would be The Stooges’ final studio output for over three decades. They toured for another year, but were dropped from Columbia and disbanded in 1974 due in no small part to Iggy Pop’s legendary smack habit. After several years spent in a narcotic daze, Iggy finally checked in to rehab, where one of his few visitors was his old pal David Bowie. Rehabbed, once again under Bowie’s wing, and with a new found professional work ethic (a “lust for life,” if you will), Iggy soon launched a successful solo career.
The Stooges reunited in 2003, and continued on even after the tragic passing of founding guitarist Ron Asheton. The Stooges were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010 and released their fifth album, Ready to Die, forty years after Raw Power in 2013.
Reviewer: Gavin T. Hairgrove
IRC: Lindsey Riley
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