RAW POWER – 50th Anniversary
Released March 1973
by Madeline Bocaro
Photos by Mick Rock & Alec Byrne
© Madeline Bocaro, 2023. No part of this site may be reproduced or re-blogged in whole or in part, in any manner without permission of the copyright owner.
Raw power is more than soul
Got a son called rock and roll
(Somehow, the release date of Raw Power has come to be known as February 7th when in reality, it was in late March. Sony Legacy has released a 50th Anniversary edition already, so I might as well post my celebration of the album today).
We have arrived at 2023, decades into a millennium that once seemed so futuristic. We have witnessed and passed through the sad and brutal demise of the Stooges in 1974, their triumphant reunion tours (beginning with Coachella in 2003) and the passing of several members; Zeke Zettner, Dave Alexander, Bill Cheatham, Ron and Scott Asheton and Steve Mackay. Iggy and James are the last Stooges standing, now in their mid-70s. Many of us latent teenagers now find ourselves unbelievably in our 60s and beyond, still loving the Stooges. Meanwhile, they have found a vast new younger audience. Against all odds, Iggy (at age 75) has just released a new album, and continues to tour relentlessly.
There is no doubt that first two albums (The Stooges and Fun House) are classics beyond compare, but there is something special about their monstrous third creation, Raw Power. Iggy told Uncut magazine this year, upon its 50th anniversary…
“All three Stooges albums are equal to me, but Raw Power, that’s the big one… I realised that there was almost no-one in the world who wanted to save the Stooges. I knew that there were a few malcontented, strange people out there who were actually going to like this, but there was no apparatus to gather them up. I knew our management didn’t want it, I knew that radio didn’t understand it and I knew that most people wouldn’t get it. On top of that, we were all one step away from becoming junkies, and the ones that weren’t junkies were completely out of touch with reality. I knew what was going to happen.”
The Raw Power album echoed the future. It has impacted and permeated many decades and generations…so far. ‘Search & Destroy’ has been featured in a Nike commercial. Other Stooges songs have come to advertise several other products. Stooges fans have miraculously obtained high positions in the advertising industry. I would be really impressed if Revlon used ‘Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell’ to sell their age-defying makeup! Their music (once considered an abomination) is now accepted as truly original, inspirational and classic. I wonder if this is a result of their absolute perseverance, or an indication of the sick cultural climate of today.
The “world’s forgotten boy” is very much remembered – 50 years on. Iggy singled out his favorite tracks, ‘Search and Destroy,’ and ‘Shake Appeal.’
‘Search and Destroy’ has become very popular. My personal favorite, though, is ‘Shake Appeal’ because that was the only three minutes of my life when I was ever going to approximate Little Richard. It’s practically impossible for me to hit a sustained high tone like that and scream that sort of hyped-up, crazy hillbilly rock thing that I always liked.
But ‘Search and Destroy’ is the record’s masterpiece. I knew it when we did it. I felt a sense of relief that it made me artistically secure. But I knew I was still socially fucked.”
– Iggy, Uncut 2023
Raw Power was meant to be the salvation of the Stooges, after Elektra refused to renew their contract. Iggy was lured to London by Bowie’s Mainman manager Tony DeFries who secured a deal with Columbia Records. Iggy was promised the world – as a solo artist. He had his pick of British backing musicians. However, he couldn’t give up his Stooges (the Asheton brothers). Iggy managed to wrangle them to London. When Ron and Scott arrived in England, they described the atmosphere as “sullen and crappy.” Also on board was an added bonus – guitarist James Williamson, whose scorching guitar sound defines the sound of the entire album. With bassist Dave Alexander now gone, Ron Asheton returned to playing bass, his original instrument).
Iggy described Williamson’s “very dirty sound.” Which was played on a cherry red Les Paul Custom.
“There are two gears to Williamson; one is, ‘You better look out because I’m thinking about kicking your ass’, and the other gear is, ‘I’m kicking your ass and it feels good!!!’”
– To Jeff Gold, Total Chaos
Iggy had not yet heard of David Bowie, who had chosen him as favorite top vocalist in a May 1971 Melody Maker poll. He is summoned to Max’s Kansas City, along with Danny Fields to meet Bowie. Iggy later attends a Ziggy Stardust concert in London where Bowie copies his act – walking on (not enough) people, falling to the floor!
“I had decided the people from MainMan were our best shot to do something. At least they would respect art. They did. They put us up in London very well. We didn’t relate to English musicians or producers, and we resolved to do it ourselves. They respected us and left us alone. We were given every artistic requirement – a place to rehearse, and a good studio. The band had a nice house to live in. When I couldn’t come up with the lyrics and live with them at the same time, they put me in the basement of Blakes Hotel. I’d stick my head out and see Lord Snowdon and Princess Margaret. ‘Oh, I say, it’s Iggy Pop!’”
Mainman treated the Stooges lavishly at first, giving them a nice apartment and a big budget for clothing (as described in my story about Iggy’s style). Iggy purchased the (now infamous and reproduced) “Wild Thing” jacket designed by John Dove and Molly White, in which he prowled around London. Inspired by the vicious cheetah on the back, he writes the first line of ‘Search and Destroy, “I’m a street-walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm
My story about Iggy’s jacket:
A pair of gorgeous shiny silver leather pants with rivets (Iggy’s second skin) were bought with the advance that he received (as a solo artist) prior to the recording of Raw Power. He is wearing them on the Raw Power album cover. Tony Zanetta of Mainman accompanied him when they bought the pants! Tony gave me this exclusive:
“The silver pants came from North Beach Leather’s Madison Avenue Shop in New York. (manager Tony) Defries has seen them in the store window and wanted Iggy to have them. Iggy who was staying in Detroit with his parents had been sent for, and was staying at the Warwick. Tony was bringing him back to London. I was summoned to be his minder at the hotel for the few days before their departure to London… it must have been early 1972. Tony gave me $500 to take Iggy shopping. We spent all of it on the pants. We were both a little intimidated having spent that much on a pair of trousers but Tony just laughed it off. There were obviously worth every penny.”
Iggy’s silver pants were auctioned by Julien’s on December 2, 2020. I was the high bidder ($2,000) during the preview, just before the live auction began. So technically I owned them for 1 hour! I had just started my diet so I could try them on, and was planning to clone Iggy from the DNA from his sweat that is embedded in them, but then they sold for $55,000!!!
I hope the new owner clones him at least – and that his clone is wearing black lipstick! (I know that Iggy wore black underwear with these, otherwise I would not have placed a bid!)
The Stooges’ only gig outside of America took place at London’s King’s Cross Cinema a.k.a. The Scala on July 15, 1972. In retrospect, the gig is monumental, yet only 200 people attended – mostly American journalists flown in by Bowie’s team for his Aylesbury gig earlier that same night. Many of the audience members later formed bands (including The Sex Pistols) inspired by the Stooges. Iggy wore nothing but his silver pants, eye liner and black lips. James also wore makeup, and denim. Ron and Scott wore leather pants and T-shirts. The singer describes his own style as…
“Smooth, slinky and super forward.” In his ‘silver period’, “more glamor became necessary.” Iggy had “The spiritual need to shine a little.”
– Total Chaos
An article called Pluto Rock described The Stooges perfectly!
“…They transmit raw power units which put everything in the vicinity under a total aura of subjugation. It’s easy enough to see this force reflected in the faces of the spectators. Glazed, fearful eyes, gaping mouths drooling spittle, fear-stricken wincing faces cringing in anticipation of a direct physical assault from Iggy… You can hear it on their records, after every human effort has been made at vinylizing and filtering it down to ‘easy listening music.”
The day after the concert, Iggy crashed Bowie’s (Ziggy’s) press conference at the Dorchester hotel, where another infamous photo was taken on July 16, 1972.
My story about the photo: Who Can I Be Now?
After the London gig (which neither Bowie nor Defries attended (they were busy at Bowie’s concert earlier that night) the Stooges were tossed aside and forgotten by Mainman. Raw Power was recorded in October 1972, but not released until March 1973. Management was focusing on the Bowie’s huge breakthrough with his Ziggy Stardust persona, album and tour. The Stooges were not worth their time. Or were they (more likely) a potentially major threat and competition for Bowie?
The serpentine creature on Raw Power album cover, called Iggy is a charismatic monstrosity with silver hair. His black lips, bare sinuous chest and distant gaze are unearthly. He is bathed in golden light. Raw. Power. It is a live photo by Mick Rock, from the Stooges’ performance at the Scala, prior to the release of the album (at which none of its songs were performed). There was nothing else on the cover; no band name, nor album title – just Iggy himself. Later, a sticker was added with blood-dripping letters. They were now “Iggy and the Stooges.”
Iggy spoke about the cover photo in Uncut’s January 2023 issue…
“The fact that there was a very competent, well-educated photographer, Mick Rock, to document our rehearsal sessions helps, because people have heard about all the wild shit going down around those sessions and they can see it on the album sleeve, too. That’s entertainment!”
The promotional poster mentioned “IGGY on Columbia Records and Tapes.” With no mention of the Stooges. The ads placed by Columbia Records read, A PLATTER OF RAW IGGY TO GO. A second ad mentioned “Iggy and the Stooges.”
Beneath the grandiose cover lurked a deviant sonic experience. The piercing, aberrant sounds gashed the skin of reason. The mix was unlike any other, because of the unhinged way that the recordings were made.
Feigning compliance with Columbia’s requirement of two ballads on each side (the label obviously had no idea who they were dealing with) the Stooges came up with ‘Gimme Danger,’ the snarling, growling, bluesy ‘I Need Somebody,’ ‘Penetration’ …and they obviously couldn’t come up with a fourth!
Bassist Mike Watt (who joined the Stooges on their reunion tours) spoke about Raw Power in 2022,
“James Williamson told me that he and Iggy went to see T. Rex when we made Raw Power. Iggy said, ‘That’s the band I want to be.’ There are a bunch of trippy things that came around to make Raw Power what it is. James told me that most of the songs were written on an acoustic guitar in the hotel room. I don’t think Ron Asheton ever wrote songs on an acoustic guitar. I don’t think he had one…! ‘Shake Appeal’ has got that chromatic thing, so the notes are clustered close. It’s really powerful, like the bones in a tiger’s back when he’s hunching and they’re all coming together and lining up.”
In the lyrics on the first track ‘Search and Destroy’, Iggy is referencing the Yardbirds’ 1965 hit ‘Heart Full of Soul” when he sings, “… a heart full of napalm.” The title came from a headline in Time magazine about the war on drugs. In hindsight, it’s amazing that the line “Love in the middle of a firefight” is reflected in Bowie’s 1977 song, ‘”Heroes’” (in his lines, “The guns shot above our heads / and we kissed as though nothing could fall.)” My favorite lyric is when Iggy rhymes “using technology” with “make no apology.” Ron’s bass thumps spectacularly on this track.
For ‘Gimme Danger,’ Iggy wrote line “Kiss me like the ocean breeze” about the first time he had ever experienced the beach, in Santa Monica California during the recording of Fun House. A lovely feeling, which follows the lines, “There’s nothing left alive but a pair of glassy eyes
Penetration’ began as a faster track titled ‘I’m Hungry,’ about a girl who looks good enough to eat. This can be heard on the vinyl release Rare Power. It is a wild and painfully wonderful piece of work.
On ‘Gimme Danger’ and on the eerie ‘Penetration’ we are treated to an instrument which produces an unusual sound – a celeste. Its best-known use is on Tchaikovsky’s ‘Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy.’ The Velvet Underground also used a celeste on their song ‘Sunday Morning.’
There was another interesting sound-effect on the record…
(Bowie) always liked the most recent technology, so there was something called a Time Cube you could feed a signal into — it looked like a bong, a big plastic tube with a couple of bends in it — and when the sound came out the other end, it sort of shot at you like an echo effect. He used that on the guitar in “Gimme Danger“, a beautiful guitar echo overload that’s absolutely beautiful; and on the drums in “Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell.” His concept was, “You’re so primitive, your drummer should sound like he’s beating a log.” It’s not a bad job that he did…I’m very proud of the eccentric, odd little record that came out.”
– Iggy, 1997 Sony Legacy liner notes
‘Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell’ (which began as ‘Hard to Beat’) is one of the oddest songs ever written about a girl. It was particularly refreshing because there were so many sappy, sickening love songs on the radio at the time. (Iggy and James would later complement it with ‘I’m Sick of You’ and ‘Johanna’ – “I hate you baby ‘cos you’re the one I love,” on the album Kill City.
The title track opens Side Two of this 8-song masterpiece. The repeated single piano note subliminally adds more character to this than we realize. This is actually more about the duality and the empowerment/ power of drugs – that they can heal as well as destroy.
‘I Need Somebody’ is the Stooges’ twisted blues. While Williamson’s guitar cries, the singer yelps, sneers and howls about needing somebody who will basically destroy him. After all, he sings, “I’m only living to sing this song,”
‘Shake Appeal’ conjures a strange kind of dance. It proves that several songs omitted from the album were spawned around the same sessions. These killer tracks, also recorded in 1972; ‘I’m sick of You,’ ‘Tight Pants – a version of ‘Shake Appeal’ with different lyrics, and ‘Scene of the Crime’ were released on a BOMP! Records vinyl EP in 1977. (‘I Got a Right’ and ‘Gimme Some Skin’ were released as a single by Siamese Records, also in 1977.)
About the last track, ‘Death Trip,’ which reeks of sickness, Iggy says that it was basically the band’s autobiography…
“I knew we were going down and I knew no one was going for it. Because there were all sorts of weaknesses. The lyrics of ‘Death Trip’ are my way of saying ‘I know what’s happening to us, I know what we’re doing, here’s why… and I’m gonna sing about it.”
Iggy also mentioned in 2023,
“The producer Steve Albini gave me advice on the disastrous The Weirdness (the Stooges’ 2007 reunion album). Albini said, ‘You want the listener to think they are the only person in the world who likes this.’ It’s a typically American over-the-top way of saying it, but he was talking about the connection you are hoping for. That’s what it’s all about, really.”
(At one time, I thought that I was the only person in the world who liked Raw Power, besides Bowie)! Mission accomplished.
The Stooges imploded a year later, after a club tour of America, which ended in February 1974.
See my story: It’s a Knockout! – Metallic KO
Sony has been reaping the rewards of Iggy’s CD mix of Raw Power since 1997. It will remain in-print in their Legacy Original Album Classics collection indefinitely.
RAW POWER TO ROAR POWER!
REMIXED BY IGGY POP – 1997 SONY LEGACY RELEASE
A look back on Iggy’s remix vs. Bowie’s original mix.
by Madeline Bocaro ©
Finally!! Iggy’s long-lost ‘burp’ launches the song ‘Raw Power’ as it should!
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, but here is a look at Iggy’s 1997 remix.
In 2016, Iggy explained the reason for his remix during a Times Talk interview in New York City.
“Why did I remix it? The master was lost and had surfaced.
I wanted the music to get to more people. I wanted them to hear us.
The original mix was like a dog whistle they couldn’t hear.”
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 of 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 a snake, as Bowie made it sound. It thumps, roars and pounces like a wildcat. 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 really 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. 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 hollow guitar 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!!’
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. 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
Iggy says on his 1997 CD remix liner notes,
“To the best of my recollection it was done in a day. I don’t think it was two days. On a very, very old board, I mean this board was old! An Elvis type of board, old-tech, low-tech, in a poorly lit, cheap old studio with very little time. To David’s credit, he listened with his ear to each thing and talked it out with me, I gave him what I thought it should have, he put that in its perspective, added some touches.”
David Bowie, James Williamson and Ron Asheton have all stated that they prefer Bowie’s original mix of the album over Pop’s remixed version.
In 2002, Bowie said that his original mix is…
“…the version I still prefer over the later remix – it has more wound-up ferocity and chaos and, in my humble opinion, is a hallmark roots sound for what was later to become punk.”
Bowie described the mixing situation…
“…the most absurd situation I encountered when I was recording was the first time I worked with Iggy Pop. He wanted me to mix Raw Power, so he brought the 24-track tape in, and he put it up. He had the band on one track, lead guitar on another and him on a third. Out of 24 tracks there were just three tracks that were used. He said ‘see what you can do with this’. I said, ‘Jim, there’s nothing to mix’. So we just pushed the vocal up and down a lot. On at least four or five songs that was the situation, including “Search and Destroy.” That’s got such a peculiar sound because all we did was occasionally bring the lead guitar up and take it out.”
Williamson thought that Bowie’ solution (taking down the bass and drum sound) resulted in lots of guitar and vocals, which made the tracks sound unique. He said, in the book Total Chaos:
“I personally think [the remixed Raw Power] sucked. I gotta tell ya that I like the IDEA of what [Iggy] tried to do, and I talked to him about it, and there’s a lot of factors involved, but at the time, none of us liked Bowie’s mix, but given everything, Iggy, when he went in to mix it, he found out that the guy who had recorded it originally had not gotten a lot of level on certain things, like the bass and drums, especially the bass, so he didn’t have a lot to work with. Then Iggy, on his mix, he left a bunch of guitar stuff on there that probably shouldn’t have been left in, and just odds and ends. Bowie’s not my favorite guy, but I have to say that overall, I think he did a pretty good job.”
Ron Asheton’s opinion:
“So I heard it, I got the advance copy from his manager, and listened to it… Man, I sure loved that old David Bowie mix… Basically, all that Iggy did was take all the smoothness and all the effects off James’ guitar, so his lead sounds really abrupt and stilty and almost clumsy, and he just put back every single grunt, groan, and word he ever said on the whole fuckin’ soundtrack. He just totally restored everything that was cut out of him in the first mix, and I thought, Damn, I really did like the old Bowie mix better.”
– Ron Asheton to Ken Shimamoto
Calling From the Fun House
November 2, 1998
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.
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. It was a double LP – (one with the remastered 1973 David Bowie mix, the other is a remastered version of the 1997 Iggy Pop mix). A 16-page commemorative booklet with quotes from the band, 1972 live pictures by Mick Rock, and new liner note essays.
It would be 34 years until The Stooges would release their next album, The Weirdness in 2007.
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3 thoughts on “RAW POWER – MORE THAN SOUL”
Another great post. Thank you Madeline. During the early punk days in Germany my band Rotz Kotz played S&D, when I came to NY in May 78 and played with NYN for the first time we played S&D. It is also the only cover on our NYN Live at Max’s LP. I think, pretty much every punk band played S&D in the early days. Aloha!
Hi Madeline, fascinating read. I only saw Bowie in the flesh once, and that was when he was playing keyboards for Iggy on the Idiot tour.
I have some great photos of that gig, but shot it in Kodachrome, and only got two of them converted to positives. One is a wrenchingly beautiful close up of Iggy’s face bathed in red light, the other of Bowie sitting at an old wooden keyboard with a cig hanging out of his mouth and a bottle of Heineken sitting on top of the keyboard.
I will send them along if I ever find them again.
Thanks Jay! I was at the 1977 gig in NYC with Bowie on keyboards. I was in the front row and took some amazing photos. Would love to see yours!! Please find them!!!