Return to Kill City
Much noise was made earlier this year when the Rolling Stones re-released Exile on Main Street with a bunch of outtakes, alternate versions and even some sacrilegious tracks tampered with by the 2010 Stones.
Unfortunately, it's likely that nowhere near as much ballyhoo will accompany the October 19 unveiling of the cleaned-up version of Iggy Pop and James Williamson's Kill City, a lost gem that could very well be subtitled "Exile on Stooge Street."
Here's a nutshell version of the Kill City saga:
The Stooges make two great albums (The Stooges and Fun House), chaos ensues and they break up; superfan David Bowie tries to make Iggy a star and produces another great album (Raw Power), bigger chaos ensues, and the new lineup slouches toward 1975, before imploding (onstage, as documented on the Metallic KO live album).
Iggy tries to get clean and sober, at a mental institution. Guitarist Williamson starts working on some potential Stoogey tracks in L.A. (at Jimmy "MacArthur Park" Webb's studio!) and Iggy periodically checks himself out of the loony bin to lay in his vocals. The tapes are "completed" but nobody wants to put them out. Two years go by.
In 1977, Iggy's career is hot again, thanks to a "Berlin-era" Bowie intervention, and L.A. indie label Bomp! decides to take a chance on the old Iggy/Williamson material: Kill City comes out during the punk era, although the mix is famously murky and the record is poorly pressed (on green vinyl!).
But through the years and Iggy's shedding of skins and styles, this crazy little record has never really gone away. It gets regularly name-checked, though, in a replay of the debate over the Bowie-mixed Raw Power; fans of rawwwwk complained about its sound and lack of punch.
Those fans are in for a surprise: The new, cleaned-up Kill City is a vast improvement over the previous version and reveals the superb material as the missing, debauched L.A. link between Exile on Main Street and Appetite for Destruction. There's authentic, ramshackle '70s rock, there's a touch of glam, there are tips of the hat to the classic Stooges sound, and there are even some surprising, progressive instrumentals: The title track, "I Got Nothin,'" and "Johanna" are the more typical highlights, but closer "Master Charge" points at the understated sophistication that has been a mark of Mr. Osterberg's work over the years.
And yet another reason to appreciate the new vinyl reissues: The "Night Themes" that links the end of side one to the beginning of side two sounds mighty weird back-to-back on the CD. Remember, kids: Plastic is still fantastic!
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