FROM RAW POWER TO ROAR POWER!
REMIXED BY IGGY POP – 1997
by Madeline Bocaro
On the 45th anniversary of Raw Power in 2018, we look back on Iggy’s remix for Sony in 1997 in comparison to Bowie’s original mix.
Cheers to Sony Legacy for giving Iggy Pop the ultimatum, “Either you re-mix it or we will!” No matter what Iggy did with the Stooges’ Raw Power master tapes, it would have been inarguably legitimate. He’s the man, and this is it – the way it should have been. But first, let’s be thankful for the way it was.
One day it appeared in all its magnificence, The Holy Grail – the Raw Power album. When it was mixed by David Bowie and released in 1973, the album became history — fast. Admittedly, the original mix was done on old equipment, which further distorted (or enhanced) an already chaotic, unconventional and rebellious sound. The vocals and guitar were so prominent that the low end was barely audible. This razor-sharp edge secured the album’s place in history.
To my teenage ears it sounded like a bunch of angry guys attacking some kind of loud machinery with razor blades. It was a fresh sonic abomination, completely re-defining our idea of music. Raw Power was a dazzling mess, only because of the tight, powerful relentless band behind the metallic wall of sound – the Stooges. It highly repelled my parents and friends, so I was sure that I had discovered a real treasure. Decades later, it became critically acclaimed, proving there were other people in the world with good taste.
Iggy’s original naïve attempt at mixing in 1974 had all the instruments on one channel and the vocals on the other, just as EMI had done to simulate stereo on the Beatles’ back catalogue. Bowie, whose production Iggy does not discredit under the circumstances, was called upon to rectify the situation.
Iggy’s violent 90’s mix doesn’t rattle and hiss like before. It thumps, roars and pounces like a wildcat. The venom may be diluted, but that cheetah’s heart is still full of napalm. It’s been transformed from Raw Power to Roar Power. You can’t play this mix at low volume. It’s already loud at volume level one, and distortion already sets in at level two. You actually can’t crank it up without destroying your speakers. The cranking is already done for you. How considerate!
This may be the greatest archaeological project of the ages…polishing a huge rough diamond ‘using technology’, defining and clarifying its shine and glory. Iggy claims, “Actually it was a 16-track recording done on 13 tracks. There are 13 clean tracks on Raw Power.”
We’re hearing the bass and drums clearly for the first time. Scott Asheton wasn’t tapping on Tinker Toys after all, and brother Ron Asheton’s bass comes alive, vibrating and pulsating, giving the music its heart. Now the guitar work of James Williamson actually has, dare I say it, warmth. Anarchy is revered, censorship is defied and the music remains wild and alive.
Iggy’s production works especially well on the ‘ballads’. On ‘Gimme Danger’ and ‘Penetration’ the acoustic guitar’s hollow sound increases the aural intimacy tenfold. The mix of ‘I Need Somebody’ blows the dust off the bluesy guitar and bass allowing them to shine. Iggy treated his own bitchin’ vocals with utmost respect. The prehistoric transistor AM radio sound has been upgraded to FM Stereo! An added treat is the extra few seconds remaining on some tracks, instead of the original fade-outs. Check out the ending of ‘Death Trip!!’
Iggy’s long-lost ‘burp’ launches ‘Raw Power’ as it well should.
There’s an amazing, long and detailed interview with Iggy in the CD booklet about the old and new mixes. Mick Rock’s original iconic cover art is intact. The serpentine thing on the cover called Iggy was a charismatic monstrosity – androgynous black-lipped, sinuous. Raw. Power. It is a live photo from the Stooges only London performance at the Scala in the summer of 1972, prior to the release of the album. Although the cover was grandiose, the music inside was something entirely deviant. Its aberrant sounds gashed the skin of reason.
On the back cover, Iggy explains, “People kept asking me – musicians, kids I would see, “Have you ever thought about remixing Raw Power?”
“Everything’s still in the red, it’s a very violent mix. The proof’s in the pudding.”
– Iggy Pop
I’m far from shelving the original mix. It will always be a part of my personal history, having lived with it for decades. Even today it out-sexes the Pistols, out nerves Nirvana and smashes the Pumpkins to bits. Iggy’s new mix is for the musician’s ear, and for kids who were reared on professional sounding recordings. Twenty years on, they’ll be saying, “I hear there’s an original mix that kicks ass!” Let’s hope they’ll be able to track it down.
The Raw Power album has impacted and permeated many decades and generations…so far. ‘Search & Destroy’ was featured in a Nike commercial. Other Stooges songs have come to advertise may other products. What does this mean? Stooges fans have obtained high positions in the advertising industry, and the Stooges music is now considered cool. I would be really impressed if Revlon used ‘Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell’ to sell their age-defying makeup!
A deluxe version was released on 13 April 2010 titled Raw Power: The Masters Edition, consisting of three CDs, one DVD, a vinyl 7” record, booklet and rare photo prints.
The April 21, 2012 Record Store Day reissue was a limited vinyl re-release. There were two LP’s (one with the remastered 1973 David Bowie mix, the other is a remastered version of the 1997 Iggy Pop mix). Also a 16-page commemorative booklet with quotes from the band, Kings Cross Cinema 1972 live pictures by Mick Rock, and new liner note essays.