Raw Power by Iggy and the Stooges Review
Raw Power was the product of David Bowie’s first intervention in the career of Iggy Pop. By 1972 the Stooges had split and David Bowie had flown Iggy and guitarist James Williamson to London to write and record an album. After failing to find an acceptable rhythm section Ron and Scott Asheton were flown in with Ron Asheton, the original guitarist on the The Stooges debut and Fun House relegated to bass guitar. Stripped of his position in the band as Williamson and Pop also shared song writing, there was no love lost between Ron Asheton and James Williamson. Thankfully, they put personal grudges aside to create one of the most influential albums ever.
The unmistakable riff of Search and Destroy gets Raw Power off the ground. Iggy later commented that the title was inspired by an article in Time magazine about the Vietnam war. The song is unmistakably punk in sound and attitude and demonstrated that Iggy had developed as a lyricist since Fun House. The song has a strong hook and is different in construction to the Stooges earlier work. This is due in no small part to James Williamson’s input. Technically a better guitarist than Ron Asheton although it can be argued that Ron made up for this with an avant guard quality that Williamson lacks.
The record company insisted that Raw Power should have two ballads and the first of these is Gimme Danger. Acoustic guitars are used to build tension in the early part of the song and although this is a ballad, it’s no sloppy love song as Iggy offers to “feel your disease”. The second part of the song is an extended guitar instrumental that is both powerful and intricate. Johnny Marr of the Smiths has been a vocal admirer of Raw Power and its influence can be heard on the similarities between Gimme Danger and Hand in Glove from the Smiths’ debut.
Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell or Hard to Beat has Iggy vamping it up and reminding the subject of his ire that they won’t always look so good. It features ferocious over driven guitar from James Williamson and all the instruments bleed into each other. Loud, obnoxious and brilliant.
Side one ends with Penetration, a song that gave it’s name to a UK punk band. The title is self-explanatory and it features a repetitive riff and celeste.
The title track launches side two with what sounds like a belch. The main riff is a kind of twisted over blown Status Quo riff ramped up to the max and played with so much aggression. Iggy howls the lyrics throughout, “Raw power got a healin’ hand/Raw power can destroy a man.” It’s a powerful title track and not only sum up the Stooges in a few minutes but celebrates their comeback from oblivion, albeit a temporary comeback. This was used to open Stooges shows at the time and often was the opening track for Iggy’s solo gigs. When James Williamson rejoined the Stooges reunion, the song was restored as the opening track here too.
The slow blues of I Need Somebody is the second ballad on Raw Power. Like it’s predecessor, Gimme Danger, it’s a twisted ballad. Iggy intones “I am your crazy driver/Honey, I’m sure to scare you raw”. Also like Gimme Danger, echoes of this song can be heard years later on the Smiths song Never Had No One Ever from their The Queen is Dead album.
Shake Appeal is an effective album track with a quirky ascending riff and effectively unhinged solo from James Williamson. The meaning of the song is fairly self-explanatory. Early versions of the song have appeared on various compilations as “Tight Pants” and are well worth searching out for Stooges fans.
Raw Power is brought to a suitably apocalyptic finale with the closing track Death Trip. James Williamson produced a truly evil riff and his guitar goes into a gritty overload, at times deep and rumbling while wailing and screeching at others. The same can be said of Iggy who sounds particularly insane yet completely focussed on the track. The theme of the song about impending doom and an inevitable sense that the end is near. This could be a comment on the Stooges career as Iggy probably knew that the band were too volatile to last.
Raw Power is probably more focussed and prolific than it’s predecessor, Fun House although it perhaps lacks some of the unexpected turns provided by that album. It is undoubtedly a punk rock album that predated punk rock, even more so than the two earlier Stooges albums. Like those albums, Raw Power bombed commercially and the Stooges split in 1974. The reputation and influence of the album has grown over the years since and it is rightly held in very high regard.
There are several versions of Raw Power available. Iggy mixed the album and made a complete mess of things. The original mix used only three of the available twenty four channels with Iggy’s vocals on one channel, lead guitar on another and the rhythm section on a third. After the record company refused to accept this mix, David Bowie was tasked with remixing the album and this was the only available version for many years. Various versions of Iggy’s mix then circulated for several years before Iggy remixed the album in 1997. The latter remix lacked the subtlety of Bowie’s mix but worked quite well on the louder tracks. Whereas Bowie’s version faded some tracks out, the original endings were included but some of Bowie’s effects were lost. This is most notable on Gimme Danger.
To complicate things further, a “Legacy Edition” is now available with a remastered version of Bowie’s mix together with a live concert. If you can afford it get all of the versions because rock music doesn’t get much better than Raw Power. I can’t make my mind up which Stooges album I like best between Raw Power and Fun House. Generally I lean towards Fun House but Raw Power is still a proto-punk classic that everyone should own. It was Kurt Cobain’s favourite album and the list of people it influenced is huge.
Rated Sound gives Raw Power by Iggy and the Stooges a rating of 10/10.
Raw Power (1973) by Iggy and the Stooges Track Listing
1. Search and Destroy
2. Gimme Danger
3. Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell
5. Raw Power
6. I Need Somebody
7. Shake Appeal
8. Death Trip