Henry Rollins: The Column! Is Raw Power the American Answer to Exile on Main St.?
[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Saturday KCRW broadcast.]
Last week I was at the Palladium for the Stooges. The show was sold out and I felt lucky to have gotten a ticket.
A chance to see Iggy Pop -- the Heavyweight Champion of rock and roll -- causes three things to happen to me every time. First, the excitement I feel before Iggy hits stage is unlike any I have for any other band. Second, the amount of adrenaline coursing through me when the band is ripping through their set makes me feel like I am plugged into life's main circuit. Third, it takes days for me to come down. I have to listen to Stooges and Iggy records constantly until I finally level out.
A Stooges show is unlike any other. It's like the chase scene in an action film. It's like watching a boxing match that goes the distance. It is not just another night out -- it is a chapter of your life.
The other night at the Palladium was one of those nights. Le Butcherettes opened. They are a great band! The front woman, Teri Gender Bender, is full-on magnetic brilliance. Their new album Sin Sin Sin is great and live the songs are even better.
They're the perfect opening band for the Stooges, who opened with "Raw Power." They let the intro vamp for a moment and then the Man hit the stage and the place went off. It was amazing to see all those people react so strongly to the band. This crowd got it -- they got it big time.
Song after song erupted from the stage and it was like I had never heard them before, never marveled at how damn good and solid songs like "Search and Destroy," "I Need Somebody," "Open Up And Bleed" and "Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell" are. This happens every time I see them.
This line-up of the Stooges features James Williamson on guitar. He made his introduction on Raw Power, the band's third release. The first two featured Ron Asheton, who sadly passed away in January of 2009. The Stooges performed a memorial show in his honor in Ann Arbor, Michigan in April.
Now that Williamson is back in the fold, the set list leans heavily on Raw Power and songs written around the time of its release. There are many and they are extremely good: "I Got A Right," "Gimme Some Skin," "Johanna," and "I Got Nothin'," to name a few.
This might be a bit of a stretch, but can we consider Raw Power to be the American answer to the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main St.?
Exile was released in May of 1972, Raw Power nine months later. I am not saying that the Stooges were listening and reacting to Exile. I'm saying that for many people the Stones were the bad and dark side of rock, and Exile was their letter from Hades.
It is a hell of a record, absolutely, but as far as a band taking music and themselves down that very bad road, Raw Power quadruples down at the very least. If you have never taken the time to listen to this incendiary collection of songs, it is an absolute must. It is scary good and it's easy to tell when listening that the creation of these songs left marks on their makers.
To speculate further, what if the Raw Power album included some of those other Williamson-era tracks and was released as a double album? I think it would have answered, over four sides, Exile on Main St.'s request to step onto the dance floor. I think I have just invented a killer concept for a two hour radio show!
Now that we're really out there -- closing in on Saturn, with Sun Ra's landing strip only a half light-year in the distance -- I pose this question: How amazing would that Stooges/Stones tour have been?
OK, back on terra firma now.
The show was a total blast. I yelled along as best I could, and completely gave in to the moment. I was on the stage right side of the venue, Williamson's side. He was super loud and his tone was incredible.
At one point I realized I could see the spot where I stood next to Lux and Ivy when Iggy played there over twenty years ago, on the Brick By Brick tour.
At the end of the show, Iggy did something that I have seen him do every now and then. The band had left the stage and he was alone, just staring at the audience. A Nietzschian riff occurred to me at that moment; he who stares into the audience must know that the audience also stares back into him. And then, suddenly, Iggy just kind of waved and walked off. The spell was broken and the whole place collectively exhaled. The Palladium emptied and folks went into the night.
The next night I found myself driving aimlessly, listening to the Pop/Williamson album Kill City and forgetting that I was actually trying to get to the grocery store. This is essential music.
There is no one who has ever hit the stage like Iggy Pop. He is completely without peer. He is a unique work of art. Never miss an opportunity to see the Man and the band perform.
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