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The Stooges Biography

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The Stooges In-depth Biography

During the psychedelic haze of the late '60s, the grimy, noisy and relentlessly bleak rock & roll} of the Stooges} was conspicuously out of time. Like the Velvet Underground}, the Stooges} revealed the underside of sex, drugs and rock & roll}, showing all of the grime beneath the myth. The Stooges}, however, weren't nearly as cerebral as the Velvets}. Taking their cue from the over-amplified pounding of British blues}, the primal raunch of American garage rock}, and the psychedelic rock} (as well as the audience-baiting) of the Doors}, the Stooges} were raw, immediate and vulgar. Iggy Pop} became notorious for performing smeared in blood or peanut butter and diving into the audience. Ron} and Scott Asheton} formed a ridiculously primitive rhythm section, pounding out chords with no finesse -- in essence, the Stooges} were the first rock & roll} band completely stripped of the swinging beat that epitomized R&B} and early rock & roll}. During the late '60s and early '70s, the group was an underground sensation, yet the band was too weird, too dangerous to break into the mainstream. Following three albums, the Stooges} disbanded, but the group's legacy grew over the next two decades, as legions of underground bands used their sludgy grind as a foundation for a variety of indie rock} styles, and as Iggy Pop} became a pop culture icon.

After playing in several local bands in Ann Arbor, Michigan, including the blues} band the Prime Movers} and the Iguanas}, Iggy Pop} (b. James Osterberg}) formed the Stooges} in 1967 after witnessing a Doors} concert in Chicago. Adopting the name Iggy Stooge}, he rounded up brothers Ron} and Scott Asheton} (guitar and drums, respectively) and bassist Dave Alexander}, and the group debuted at a Halloween concert at the University of Michigan student union in 1967. For the next year, the group played the Midwest relentlessly, earning a reputation for their wild, primitive performances, which were largely reviled. In particular, Iggy} gained attention for his bizarre on-stage behavior. Performing shirtless, he would smear steaks and peanut butter on his body, cut himself with glass and dive into the audience. The Stooges} were infamous, not famous -- while they had a rabidly devoted core audience, even more people detested their shock tactics. Nevertheless, the group lucked into a major-label record contract in 1968 when an Elektra} talent scout went to Detroit to see the MC5} and wound up signing their opening act, the Stooges}, as well.

Produced by John Cale}, the Stooges}' primitive eponymous debut was released in 1969, and while it generated some attention in the underground press, it barely sold any copies. As the band prepared to record their second album, every member sank deeper into substance abuse, and their excess eventually surfaced in their concerts, not only through Iggy}'s antics, but also in the fact that the band could barely keep a simple, two-chord riff afloat. Fun House}, an atonal barrage of avant}-noise}, appeared in 1970 and, if it was even noticed, it earned generally negative reviews and sold even fewer copies than the debut. Following the release of Fun House}, the Stooges} essentially disintegrated, as Iggy} sank into heroin addiction. At first, he did try to keep the Stooges} afloat. Dave Alexander} left the band and Ron Asheton} moved to bass as James Williamson} joined as guitarist, but this incarnation wasn't able to land a record deal, despite recording a handful of demos. For the next two years, the band was in limbo, as Iggy} weaned himself off heroin and worked various odd jobs. Early in 1972, Pop} happened to run into David Bowie}, then at the height of his {%Ziggy Stardust} popularity. Bowie} made it his mission to resuscitate Iggy & the Stooges}, as the band was now billed. With Bowie}'s help, the Stooges} landed a management deal and a contract with Columbia}, and he took control of the production of the group's third album, Raw Power}.

Released in 1973 to surprisingly strong reviews, Raw Power} had a weird, thin mix due to various technical problems. Although this would be the cause of much controversy later on -- many Stooges} purists blamed Bowie} for the brittle mix -- its razor-thin sound helped kickstart the punk} revolution. At the time, however, Raw Power} flopped, essentially bringing the Stooges}' career to a halt. Iggy} stuck with Bowie}, who helped him shake heroin and establish a solo career with the 1977 albums The Idiot} and Lust for Life}. The Ashetons formed New Order}, which quickly fell apart, leaving Ron} to join Destroy All Monsters}. Toward the late '70s, when Pop} separated from Bowie}, James Williamson} began working with the vocalist, playing on a number of records and tours. By the mid-'80s, a decade after the group's demise, the Stooges} were hailed as one of the first punk rock} bands, and there was legions of underground groups replicating their sound, as well as several others -- such as Sonic Youth} and Mudhoney} -- who expanded and updated that sound, making it one of the cornerstones of alternative rock}. Meanwhile, the Stooges} lived on in countless semi-legal releases and repackagings of live shows, demos and outtakes, all of which were consumed avidly by a still-devoted cult. In 2003, to the surprise of many, Iggy Pop} organized a Stooges} reunion, recruiting Ron Asheton} and Scott Asheton} to perform four songs on his album Skull Ring}, and taking the brothers on the road for a short but enthusiastically received tour, with Mike Watt} standing in for the late Dave Alexander} in a show devoted almost entirely to material from The Stooges} and Fun House}. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide

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