By Madeline Bocaro ©
In 1970 – my first teenage year – I saw a photo of a ravaged creature called Iggy in the pages of a music magazine. He was the most beautiful and obnoxious thing I’d ever seen; long messy hair, eyeliner, ripped jeans. He was giving everyone the finger. I thought he was so cool. I had heard about his widely despised band with a wonderful name. I asked the record store clerk for the album Fun House by The Stooges. He dismissively told me to look in the children’s section. I was highly insulted. There I was, a young kid with elitist taste in music being treated like a mere child!
It took months to locate The Stooges’ second album and it was sheer perfection. “Down on the Street”, “Loose”, “TV Eye” and “Dirt” – the perfect album side! (This was the exact order of the Stooges’ live set). I played it to death. My friends all hated it, so I further realized its greatness, playing it whenever I wanted to clear out the room. It never failed. This album stomped on what we knew as music at the time and brought it back down into the street where it belongs. The Stooges’ sound screamed of frustration, boredom and intolerance.
“1970 (I Feel Alright),” “Fun House” and “LA Blues” burned up Side 2 of Fun House.
The fold-out album cover montage resembles a flaming cyclone reflected in a distorted funhouse mirror – the essence of the band’s live shows and the usual wreckage in the aftermath.
(Audience participation was NOT optional). Iggy would assault and drag indifferent punters onstage by their feet, amidst flying missiles – usually edible ones – aimed at him and the band).
The album cover was shot by Ed Caraeff during the Stooges’ opening show of their residency at L.A.’s Whisky A Go Go while they were rehearsing prior to recording the album. The Stooges are on fire – their faces glowing. They are engulfed in a blaze of red, orange and yellow flames, generating a blazing heat. The lyrics include, ‘I’m burning inside/and I’m the fire of life’. Iggy in flames accurately depicts the human inferno who taunted his cowering audiences to such an extreme that they were paralyzed in awe. (The photographs are featured in Caraeff’s book, One Night at The Whisky – see my review linked below).
While other kids were swooning over David Cassidy and the Monkees, I wanted more. While they skimmed the pages of 16 magazine looking at cutesy pin-up pictures, I devoured the articles in Circus and Creem and found Iggy – the guy who would literally open up and bleed for his intense need of self-expression and his disdain of all that was happening. It said a lot about what was real and what wasn’t. The sounds of opera and The Carpenters were an assault on my ears, but the Stooges’ music was a true groove! I felt like we had a mutual understanding.
Fun House was recorded over two weeks at Elektra Sound in Los Angeles (not at the actual Fun House in which the Stooges lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan). The band replicated their live performance as closely as possible. Along with the first album’s lineup; the Asheton brothers – Ron on guitar, Scott on drums and Dave Alexander on bass, Steve Mackay skronked away beautifully on free-form sax. Don Gallucci of the Kingsmen (“Louie Louie”) was Elektra’s staff producer.
(Gallucci) heard the integrity in their sound and felt that he “got it.” They had their “genre down.” What genre, I ask? “I don’t know. I’m not sure they knew. But they knew when it felt right, when the sound in the room felt right.” To him, their music was “minimalist, yet seamless, with every piece fitting into place, creating a trance-like state. They knew adding too many chords or other stuff would break the trance”. – Wally Shoup 2009 – Furious.com
“Howlin’ Wolf was really pertinent for me on Fun House.
That stuff is Wolfy, at least as I could do it.”
Iggy spoke about the attitude of The Stooges’ music and lyrics during a Times Talks interview on October 27, 2016 in New York City:
“We never liked the sensible music pushed at us. It lacked childhood.
Childhood is difficult to maintain.”
His three-step lyric writing method:
“Tell ‘e’m what you are gonna tell ‘em.
Then tell ‘em what you told ‘em.”
Fun House was released on August 18, 1970 shortly after the Stooges’ performance at the Goose Lake festival at which Dave Alexander was sacked for being too stoned to play.
A different version of the album’s opening track ‘Down on the Street’ was released as a single. The song with its sexy driving groove also echoes the imagery of the ‘city of lights’ of The Doors’ “LA Woman” with the lyrics, “Down on the street where the faces shine…” A version of the single with added keyboards – even more in line with The Doors’ sound (played by producer Don Gallucci) is on The Complete Fun House Sessions box set.*
‘Loose’ had been the band’s choice for the opening track, but the label won that battle. In the Stooges’ world, this killer track with its raucous riff is a love song.
The tile of ‘TV Eye’ is rooted in something that the girlfriends of the band would say – ‘He’s got a twat vibe eye on me’. During the break in this song, we are sucked into a vortex of sound from which we cannot (and do not want to) return.
‘Dirt’ is a slow blues which Iggy croons deeply. Ron’s guitar erupts in beautifully chaotic outbursts illustrating the depths of the singer’s despair – yearning, dreaming and burning inside.
‘1970’ is the Stooges’ annual update. While ‘1969’ was rife with boredom, in this year’s stomper Iggy “feels alright.”
The title track is a wild jam with Iggy yelping and yelling, “Lemme in / I came to play.” More telling lyrics are reflective of the cultural climate, “Livin’ in division in a shifting scene.” The instrumental LA Blues sounds like an actual riot.
Fun House is one of the greatest albums ever made. Of course, as is true with anything of greatness, it took decades for the album to receive accolades, but thankfully it has found its place – and so have The Stooges – in the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame.
1970: The Complete Fun House Sessions
In 1999, a glorious limited edition (3,000 copies) 7-CD Fun House box set with all the outtakes and studio dialogue was released by Rhino Handmade. I was amongst the first to grab one before it sold out within a year!!! The box set was re-released in 2010 due to popular demand.
One Night at the Whisky by Ed Caraeff – my book Review
Also see my story about The Stooges’ debut album: It’s 1969 OK!
Also see my story Orange Sunshine!