The Stooges Turns 50

The Stooges Turns 50

iggy stooges
The Stooges, 1970 (Photo by Tom Copi/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

For a band who only released three albums in their lifetime – two if you’re only counting the band’s original incarnation (and we’re definitely not counting the two 21st century reunion albums) – the Stooges have sure had a massive impact on contemporary music. When you consider they didn’t sell many records and were loathed by many arbiters of taste when they were around, the significance of that impact is compounded.

A lot of people like to argue about what was the first punk band or record. Some, with no real sense of roots or the interconnective flow of rock in history, will tell you it’s the Sex Pistols and Never Mind the Bollocks or the first Ramones album. Others, who do have a sense of history and knowledge, will tell you it’s maybe the Velvet Underground or the MC5, or go back further to the Sonics or some other American band of the 60s. Or maybe the Troggs in the UK. Others will go back to the 50s and the birth of rock’n’roll, or even further back, to the roots of rock’n’roll.

All those arguments are valid in their own way, depending on how you define punk. But if you look at punk rock as a combination of both sound and attitude, I think the buck stops with the Stooges. Attitude is the deciding factor. The definition of a punk sound is, of course, open to interpretation anyway, but if you consider it to be based primarily on a combination of bass, drums and guitar – with the guitar more often than not distorted and the structure of the music fairly minimal and aggressive – then you could certainly say that it goes back to the Troggs or the Sonics. Although the sound of the first Stooges album is closer to what generally became known as punk later on anyway. But as far as a punk attitude goes, it was the Stooges who first defined it. Sure there were artists with a wild attitude going back to Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, and there were artists with an outsider/counter-culture/underground attitude going back to the Velvet Underground or the heavily political Fugs, but until the Stooges made the scene with their first album in 1969, nobody quite combined those attitudes into the sort of consciously anti-social, artfully artless and nihilistic outlook that so screamed PUNK!!!

iggy pop 1969
Iggy Pop, 1969 (Photo by Leee Black Childers/Redferns/Getty Images)

The Stooges is a remarkable record. Remove the Om chant of album closer “We Will Fall”, the Morrisonism’s of “Ann”, the wah-wah that guitarist Ron Asheton uses on his solos, it’s not really identifiable as a late 60s record. The recording is positively pristine – especially in comparison to the sonic overload of something like White Light/White Heat by the Velvet Underground, and the simple riffs seem to have no real precedent in 60s rock, although there is sometimes a shared influence of 50s Bo Diddley with the Stones and the Troggs. It’s not really a bluesy sound – although Iggy famously worked with some real-deal blues guys in Chicago earlier on, and formed the Stooges after deciding he couldn’t authentically play African-American music – and it’s not really psychedelic, although the Eastern flavour of “We Will Fall” and the wah-wah do lend it that vide occasionally. The songs at its core, in particular, “No Fun” and “I Wanna Be Your Dog” sound like they could date from a post-Ramones world or even a post-grunge world. We don’t necessarily call either band punk, but both Sonic Youth, Mudhoney and Nirvana clearly owe much to the Stooges.   
And no one, but NO ONE had written songs like “No Fun”, “I Wanna Be Your Dog” or “Not Right” before. Songs that lyrically cut right through to the deadbeat essence of punk, looking at the flipside of that teenage feeling that Chuck Berry had expressed in “No Particular Place to Go”; that such emptiness is not always fun. The Stooges expressed the banality at the centre of frivolous teenage existence - of a punk existence - like no one ever before.

You can, of course, listen to the whole album on your streaming service of choice below, but let’s check out favourite few songs from the album and some classic period footage, as well as covers of songs from the album - covers that reflect both its influence and its essence - from the Sex Pistols, Nirvana and Joan Jett.

Stooges “No Fun” 

Stooges “I Wanna Be Your Dog” 

Stooges “1969” 

Sex Pistols “No Fun” 

Nirvana “I Wanna Be Your Dog” 

Joan Jett “I Wanna Be Your Dog” 

Listen to The Stooges on Spotify

Listen to The Stooges on Apple Music  

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