Callin’ from the fun house with my song
We been separated baby far too long
Today we say a sad goodbye to Scott Asheton, drummer and original member of the Stooges. He succumbed to an unspecified illness on Sunday, March 16th; he was 64 years old.
Scott started playing music with his brother Ron Asheton and high school friend Dave Alexander in Ann Arbor, Michigan in their teens. But it wasn’t until Iggy Pop joined that the four truly became a band. Under Iggy’s leadership, the Stooges created something new from “drugs, attitude, youth, and a record collection.”
That something new was a heavy, aggressive, minimalistic approach to music that defiantly rejected the ornate arrangements, superfluous instrumental flourishes, and showy musicianship of the then-popular progressive rock movement. Behind Iggy’s wildman onstage persona, the Asheton brothers and Alexander locked down hard into a swaggering, guitar-driven groove, birthing punk rock and heavy metal in the process. Scott furiously kept time on the drums, keeping it simultaneously metronomic and primitive (his first drum kit was an empty set of oil drums and a pair of hammers).
The Stooges (Dave Alexander, Iggy Pop, Ron Asheton, and Scott Asheton)
Along with fellow Detroit rock’n’rollers the MC5 (both bands were signed to Elektra Records on the same day), the band developed a devoted local following, but their popularity didn’t resonate outside the Motor City. All three of their studio albums—The Stooges, Fun House, and Raw Power—sold poorly (and drug addiction eventually rendered the original lineup dysfunctional), but influenced countless bands who heard them. From The New York Dolls to The Ramones to The Sex Pistols to Television to Spacemen 3 to The White Stripes, the legacy of The Stooges looms large.
While Iggy Pop remained a very public figure in the years after the demise of the Stooges, the Asheton brothers kept relatively quiet in the 80s and 90s (Dave Alexander died in 1975). But the 21st century saw a reformed and reinvigorated Stooges in concert and on record, finally enjoying the spotlight they deserved. Just over a year after the 2007 full length comeback album The Weirdness and warmly-welcomed accompanying tour, guitarist Ron Asheton passed away in 2009. The band continued on with Raw Power era guitarist James Williamson on 2013’s excellent Ready to Die album.
Far from dumb three-chord rock, the genius of the Stooges lay in their deliberate, methodical approach to keeping it simple (check out the Fun House sessions outtake below for proof; they knew exactly what they were doing), developing a sound that was raw, hypnotic, dangerous, sexy, and everything else that is great about rock’n’roll. Jesus loves the Stooges.