The Stooges, a late ’60s Rock band widely regarded as a seminal proto-Punk act, receive the remastered treatment for the 50th anniversary of their second album, “Fun House” (1970), with the newly released box set “1970: The Complete Fun House Sessions.”
The band was initially formed in Detroit, Mich., in 1967 by James Newell Osterberg (aka Iggy Pop) (vocals), brothers Ron Asheton (guitar), Scott Asheton (drums) and Dave Alexander (bass guitar), under the pretense of creating a new form of Blues underivative of historical tradition.
The group began drawing attention thanks to their chaotic live shows, which included all manner of Pop indulging unhinged tendencies such as self-mutilation, body contortions and stage-diving.
When their self-titled 1969 debut, a brutal exercise in early Garage-Rock garnered a lukewarm reception from most mainstream critics due to its extremely experimental nature, the quartet relocated to Los Angeles. It was there, in May 1970, while dealing with their well-documented drug habits that were already ripping at the band’s seams, that they became enamored with the local Jazz scene and put the talents of their new acquisition, Steve Mackay (saxophone) to use on tracks, “Fun House” and “LA Blues.”
To catch the act’s characteristic raw sound on the record, the band stripped down their LA recording studio, removing sound-proof padding and isolation equipment. Pop sang through a hand-held microphone, while guitar and bass amps were placed side by side, accustom to Stooges’ live performances.
“Down on the Street,” the opening track on “Fun House (2020 Remaster),” is exhibit one in sowing the seeds for what would eventually become Punk. Pop’s vocal performance, which includes animalistic oomphs and grunts, is a tour de force. Supported by the unrelenting momentum of rhythm/guitar solos somewhere between ’60s Acid-Rock and the Velvet Underground, this song is pickled in untamed counterculture energy.
While the aforementioned track adds a scene to a group that mirrors the dissociated American youth of the late ’60s, the following track, “Loose” is a Rock lovers dream. Full of double entendres stacked against their wall of rhythm, this song explores a narrator unhappy with everyday life, who turns to isolationism and self-medication as a form of coping.
On “Dirt,” Pop’s lyrics, sexual on the surface and mixed with his suggestive tones, lends credit to the idea that this track is more about a certain low-down feeling of helplessness and a desperate search for relief from oppression. The slow tempo of this number is one of the few songs on the album that holds step with the experimental drawn-out drones of their debut.
The everlasting, yet overlooked power of The Stooges is on full display on “Fun House (2020 Remaster),” an album that still divides critics. On one side, “Fun House” is regarded as nothing more than an elementary exploration of noise. The competing consensus, more in tune with recognizing immediate and essential works, is that “Fun House” is an artistic snapshot of American culture. Scary, rebellious and new, The Stooges tapped into a current of upheaval and anxiety to make a record that stands the test of time.
The focus of this review was only on the 50th anniversary of the album. “1970: The Complete Fun House Sessions” box set in which the album is included, was released on July 17 in an edition of 1,970 units, available through rhino.com
Most of the musical content here was originally released by Rhino in 1999 as a seven CD box limited to 3,000 copies. The current box set includes:
• The Complete Fun House Sessions
• Have Some Fun: Live At Ungano’s, a 1970 live album recorded in New York
• Two Replica Black 7” Vinyl Singles
“Down On The Street” (Mono Single Edit)/ “I Feel Alright” (Mono Single Edit) (French Picture Sleeve)
“Down On The Street” (Single Mix)/ “I Feel Alright” (Single Mix)
• A 24-page book with rare photos and an extensive essay by Henry Rollins (Black Flag) including expansive commentary from contemporaries including, but not limited to, Duff McKagen (Guns N’ Roses) and Joan Jett.
• Ephemera including two 24”x12” posters, two 12”x12” prints, a slipmat and A 45-adapter.