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2023/4 Albums Thing 275 - Iggy & The Stooges “Raw Power”

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I was very lucky, for a while, to own a hellishly rare UK 1st issue of this album. You may or may not be aware that there has been some controversy over the recording and mixing of this album and it has been remixed many times. Well let me tell you something, the mix on the UK 1st issue is freaking unlistenable ! It’s absolutely terrible!

I’d first heard “Raw Power” in the very early 80’s, maybe the late 70’s. My brother owned a copy as did a few mates so it was easy enough to hear it. They all owned sunburst CBS label re-issues which contained one of the many remixes (I believe it’s known as the Bowie Mix), that’s what I was used to. So when I got hold of that solid orange CBS label 1st issue it was quite the shock to hear how bad it sounded. It was muddy and confused and the guitars, which I was used to leaping out of the speakers and virtually throttling you, well they didn’t. So what did I do ? Well, I sold it for a gargantuan amount of money and replaced it with one of those sunburst re-issues for literally a 10th of the price…result !

The Stooges had made 2 albums and had fallen apart in a booze and drug fuelled act of self destruction. Step forward David Bowie to perform one of his acts of salvation (see Mott The Hoople). Iggy had signed to Columba/CBS as a solo artist and decamped to London to write a new album with guitarist James Williamson. They couldn’t find a rhythm section in London that they liked so Williamson suggested ex Stooges Ron and Scott Asheton, who came to London and guitarist Ron became the bass player in the newly rechristened Iggy & The Stooges.

“Raw Power” was recorded in London, Produced and “mixed” by Iggy himself. However Iggy’s mix resulted in all the instruments being in one stereo channel with the vocals in the other with no thought for balance or quality. Bowie’s manager, Tony DeFries, suggested that his client could remix the album. Iggy agreed because, as he has said “very few people recognised the quality of the Stooges' songwriting…. And to his credit, the only person I'd ever known of in print to notice it, among my peers of professional musicians, was Bowie. He noticed it right off”. Due to budgetary constraints (it has been suggested the band spent most of their recording budget on recreational substances) Bowie had one day to remix the whole album and Iggy insisted that his mix of “Search And Destroy” remained (which would be the source of the awful sound quality on that 1st issue).

Track 1, side 1, “Search And Destroy”, is the blueprint for Punk Rock in around three and a half minutes. James Williamson’s opening guitar barrage is vicious and when his lead part leaps from the speakers it’s like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick (thanx Douglas). It is the sound that some London teenagers would refine 3 years later and present to the world as Punk.

Columbia/CBS had insisted on a “ballad” on each side of the record. The result was "Gimme Danger" (sample lyric “There's nothing in my dreams, Just some ugly memories”) and "I Need Somebody" (sample lyric “I am dying in a story, I’m only living to sing this song”), not your usual ballads. “Gimme Danger” does feature a beast of a guitar riff.

“Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell” brings us more search and destroy-ish guitar brutality while “Penetration” is a groovy, repetitive mind melter which features a numerical repetition of the word “baby” only approached ever again by Ian Astbury when The Cult came to record “Electric”!

“Raw Power” is, I think, the best of the Stooges 3 albums. It was a huge influence on Punk earning Iggy the “Godfather of…” tagline and “Search And Destroy” should be available on the NHS as an option for clearing stubborn earwax.

Search And Destroy - https://youtu.be/LC9km8qnbOY?si=rpJxZRKIPGiXd-v1

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