Fun House by The Stooges Review
Hot on the heels of their 1969 debut, the Stooges Fun House was released to almost the same level of criticism and was also destined to be a commercial flop. Following the tensions between the band and John Cale, it was decided that Don Gallucci, former keyboard player with the Kingsmen would produce the album. Initially, there was tension here too when the band insisted on being recorded in a studio set up that mirrored a live performance. With all the band recorded in the same room, the results were marvellous.
Crucially, the band were joined in the studio by saxophonist Steve Mackay who added a jazzy, funky edge to the music on Fun House. This combined with the growing proficiency of bass player Dave Alexander, and the Asheton brothers Ron and Scott on guitar and drums respectively, resulted in he Stooges peak. Of course none of this would have been possible without the creative genius of Iggy Pop at the top of his game. The album influenced heavy metal, punk and hard core but it owes much to James Brown in many places for the powerful bass lines and drums underpinning the music.
Opening track Down on the Street is a fine example of how lock tight Dave Alexander’s bass and Scott Asheton’s drums were on Fun House. On the surface the music seems rudimentary but there is nuance as well as power in Asheton’s performance. He gives the perfect platform for older brother, Ron to rattle out a chugging, staccato riff that blossoms into a glorious multi-track guitar solo before reverting to the initial riff. All the time Iggy sings about the “real o mind” “down on the street where the faces shine”. A great opening track.
Loose is the shortest track on the album and provides an instant rock n’ roll hit. The riff is reminiscent of Kick Out the Jams by MC5 and even Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water – released two years later. However, make no mistake, this is a Stooges song.
T.V. Eye was apparently a term coined by the Asheton’s sister, and it is preceded by an almighty “LOOOORRRD!!” by Iggy. Ron Asheton’s furious riff is again underpinned by the drums and bass locking together. A slower quieter section is perforated by Iggy’s screams of “Ram it!”. There is a brief coda consisting of a guitar solo that has to be one of the most rock n’ roll endings ever.
One of the late Scott Asheton’s finest moments comes on Dirt. Iggy chose to play this song on his BBC Radio 6 show as a tribute after his friend passed away in 2014 and it’s not hard to see why. He keeps time perfectly with his disciplined, effective drumming. Ron provides flourishes of guitar to provide depth to the music and Dave Alexander’s bass moves the piece along. Iggy alludes to more S&M to further explore the themes in I Wanna Be Your Dog from the debut.
A new decade inspired the track 1970 as a follow up to 1969 from the Stooges debut. The track heralds the start of saxophonist Steve Mackay’s telling contribution to Fun House as he joins the mayhem on the second section of the song. “I feel alright” screams Iggy over and over again until he sounds anything but alright.
The title track is perhaps the masterpiece on Fun House. At first listen it’s a bit daunting. A jazz odyssey with it’s James Brown vibe and Iggy commanding his band to “take it down” and then making them go louder than ever. It’s a sprawling epic at nearly eight minutes too long and ends by proclaiming “a fun house boy will steal your heart away”. Stick with this track and it does reward.
We can forgive the Stooges for the stream of concious noise that is L.A. Blues at the end of Fun House. Given what went before it even seems likes the logical way to end the record and is cut down from a much longer piece.
Fun House is a remarkable record by anybody’s standards. Sometimes dismissed as overrated and wannabe Hendrix shredding but not to these ears. Was anybody else making music like this in 1970? I don’t think so. Fun House is an ugly, greasy, almost psychotic piece of work that hasn’t lost any of it’s edge. It’s brilliant and simply can’t be beaten.
It’s sad that all of the musicians on Fun House have passed away except Iggy Pop. Fun House stands as a tribute to Dave Alexander, Ron Asheton, Scott Asheton and Steve Mackay.
Rated Sound gives Fun House by the Stooges a rating of 10/10.
Fun House (1970) by The Stooges Track Listing
1. Down On The Street
3. T.V. Eye
6. Fun House
7. L.A. Blues