Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Fun House
By Madeline Bocaro ©
© Madeline Bocaro, 2020. No part of this site may be reproduced or reblogged in whole or in part in any manner without permission of the copyright owner.
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 creature I’d ever seen; long messy hair, eyeliner, ripped jeans, waving a cigarette. I thought he was so cool.
I had heard about Iggy’s 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 around him in 1970. 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 Funhouse in which the Stooges lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan).
“Elektra Studios was a lovely little Spanish Colonial Adobe style structure with a nice little garden area under the California sun… A far cry from the dump over a Times Square peep show where we recorded our first record. There was a modern, mid-sized, tastefully appointed single studio inside, where we could fill the room with our intense vibes.
This felt like a place where we could make some fucking art. So, we did…
The set up was prone to leakage, but Stooges leakage was not like other people’s leakage. The Stooges leaked pearls…
There was no doubling of parts or what they call double tracking.
No wall of sound, but instead, a snaking witchery of sound. “
– Iggy, Building Funhouse, July 2020
The band replicated their live performance in the studio 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 psychedelic free-form sax, emulating Coltrane. 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.”
Iggy’s 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. (This recording has recently surfaced and will be released shortly, and proves otherwise!)
Each player was crucial to the stunning outcome. Iggy described the key to Ron Asheton’s powerful guitar sound.
“He had a beautiful set of fingers and a wonderful touch on his instrument. So many hard rockers are ham handed. Not Ron. Yet he managed to be very, very heavy. One key to this, and in a way the key to the whole sonic beauty of the album, was the fact that Ron played with a heavy gauge set of guitar strings. He did this, he told me, because he was originally a bassist and the heavier string was just more comfortable, but it also gave his style a kind of massive ambience.”
– Iggy Pop, Building Funhouse, July 2020
Iggy also commented on his vocals and about setting the scene for what he knew would become a great work of art…
“About 40 minutes before we were due to start the days takes, I would drop a tab of acid. I never mentioned this to the fellas. But it was my job in the group to radiate vibes and belief, and that’s the way I did it at the time.”
– Iggy Pop, Building Funhouse, July 2020
The album’s opening track ‘Down on the Street’ was released as a single. The song with its sexy driving groove echoes the imagery of the ‘city of lights’ of The Doors’ “LA Woman” – the ultimate driving song – through suburbs and on freeways. But in The Stooges’ lyrics, Iggy prowls the streets on foot – where the faces shine – out of his mind. The single version with added keyboards (played by producer Don Gallucci) is even more in line with The Doors’ sound.
‘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. Iggy’s opening scream is sincere and highly impactful!
The song title ‘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 deeply croons with conviction. 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. Scott’s primal drumbeats really shine on this one.
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.
I’ll let Iggy speak the last words…
“Something about this record that I like is the way it begins with a couple of very short, fully structured numbers, and then slips farther and farther out of control, and away from song structure and sing along shit as it progresses. Yet it never loses a structure of its own, and each number has a dignified ending.
Peaceful in a way.
This is not a meat and potatoes record. It’s not “10 really good songs that the consumer can depend on.” If you want your meat and potatoes, and 10 really good songs, I suggest you stuff them all up your cheesy ass.”
– Iggy, Building Funhouse, July 2020
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.
50th Anniversary Vinyl Box, 2020
Celebrating the album’s 50th anniversary, Rhino released a limited edition vinyl box set – of 15 LPS with 2 repro 7-inch singles, 2 posters a 24-page book and other goodies. Only 1,970 copies were made. rhino.com
Most of the musical content was originally released by Rhino in 1999 as a seven CD box mentioned above.
The 50th Anniversary box includes:
- The Complete Fun House Sessions
- Have Some Fun: Live At Ungano’s, a 1970 live album recorded in New York
- Two Replica Black 7” Vinyl Singles
- “Down On The Street” (Mono Single Edit)/ “I Feel Alright” (Mono Single Edit) (French Picture Sleeve)
- “Down On The Street” (Single Mix)/ “I Feel Alright” (Single Mix)
- A 24-page book with rare photos and an extensive essay by Henry Rollins (Black Flag) including expansive commentary from contemporaries including, but not limited to, Duff McKagen (Guns N’ Roses) and Joan Jett.
- Ephemera including two 24”x12” posters, two 12”x12” prints, a slipmat and A 45-adapter.
© Madeline Bocaro 2020. No part of the materials available through madelinex.com may be copied, photocopied, reproduced, translated, reblogged or reduced to any electronic medium or machine-readable form, in whole or in part, without the prior written consent of Madeline Bocaro. Any other reproduction in any form without the permission of Madeline Bocaro is prohibited. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without prior written permission of Madeline Bocaro.
One Night at the Whisky – Stooges photos 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!