100 Greatest Artists

78

The Stooges

Illustration by Tim Bower

By Thurston Moore

For me, the Stooges were the perfect embodiment of what music should be — of wanting it to be alive, riding the edge of control. Their music was total high-energy blues, with the contemporary freakout of Jimi Hendrix and the free-jazz spirit of John Coltrane. Iggy wanted the Stooges to be what he'd seen in Chicago as a young guy — these old bluesmen playing so hard that, as Iggy once said, the music drips off you.

I was 14 when I first saw a picture of Iggy onstage: shirtless, with his body spray-painted silver. He was sweating — it looked like glitter sweat — and he had a chipped tooth. He looked young and on fire. Iggy's parents were intellectuals — his father was an English teacher — and that gave him an edge. He had focus. Iggy believed what he was doing was important — this self-reliant, anti-establishment art form.

The Stooges' sound was so evocative yet so simple. Scott Asheton played drums as if he was in an electric-blues band. On The Stooges and Fun House, while his brother Ron, the guitarist, was playing these loud bar-chord progressions, Scott was making the band rev and swing. And when I played with Ron for the soundtrack of Velvet Goldmine, the first week was a crash course on how to play Stooges songs. We went through those first two albums, and there was that Asheton swing again, the way he rocked the chord grooves.

Raw Power was made by a different lineup, with James Williamson on guitar and Ron on bass. It's the ultimate fuck-off. This is a band getting very strung out, putting so much blood and soul into what it's doing, and for the most part looked upon as trash. There's a damaged quality to David Bowie's original mix that is way ahead of its time.

Seeing the Stooges in reunion with Mike Watt from the Minutemen on bass was awesome. When they played their first gig, in 2003 at Coachella, the first thing Iggy did was start jumping in the air, flipping the bird to the crowd — "Fuck you, fuck you and fuck you." Then Iggy turned to the side of the stage, where the elite were standing — Sonic Youth, Queens of the Stone Age, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the other all-access rock stars — and he gave us the jerk-off motion. It was great. After all this time, he's still at war.

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