Iggy & The Stooges – Ron Asheton tribute gig 20th April 2011
I can’t pretend I was at the gig. Just can’t. I wish I was. Iggy and a crew of lowlives, ex schoolmates and musicians celebrate the guitar player who actually did change rock n roll for ever. This is a special occasion. I’m doing it the next best way though.. I’m getting driven through the lunar landscape of California with the sun going down on those weirdly naked hills with one of those endless American radio stations cranking out the whole fruggin’ gig full blast.
Ron Asheton pretty well invented the uber grunt of punk rock, that fuzzed up bludgeon sound that is the template for all our lives, the stripped down deceptive simplicity that heralded the modern world. He was the pioneer of 21st century rock n roll, the first one to get there. A man who combined raw blues, freaked out psychedelia, free jazz and punk rock before anyone who new what it was.
I met him once backstage when he was touring a few years ago with J Mascis. He was a humble man who seemed surprised that the Stooges were actually that known in the UK, ‘we were not the Beatles’ he shyly mumbled as I gushed about learning guitar to his amazing band. A couple of years later he was back were he belonged next to Iggy in a reformed Stooges and got to tour the world at festivals where he got to feel the full force of love out there for his band.
His death was another in the series of rock n roll deaths that have robbed us off so many key figures in the last few years. I think of Lux Interior and then I think of Poly Styrene and feel emotional. Rock n roll is powerful stuff, a life affirming thing and death never sits well in its canyon. They all died too young but at least Ron got his lap of honour and felt the respect.
To mark Ron’s life Iggy and friends played a tribute in their original hometown of Ann Arbour and instead of just knocking out favourable versions of the Stooges riffola they went and did something really smart and really off the wall.
They added an orchestra to basic garage band grunt of the songs.
It shouldn’t really work. After all this band was about stripping it down, taking rock n roll down to the basics. But, fuck, it sounds amazing.. The orchestra underlines just how melodic these songs were and on the slower songs it adds a rare grace and dark beauty to the prowling blues. It is stunningly effective and gives the old rogue yet another escape route in a career that has already had nine lives landing the Stooges somewhere between the grandeur of Vegas Elvis and Nick Cave’s darker orchestrated moments. Except this is the Stooges and they are still originators.
“I Got a Right”Â (with Henry Rollins)
“Search and Destroy”Â
“Beyond the Law”Â
“Open Up and Bleed”Â
“Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell”Â
“I Wanna Be Your Dog”Â (with orchestra)
“T.V. Eye”Â (with Deniz Tek and orchestra)
“Loose”Â (with Tek and orchestra)
“Dirt”Â (with Tek and orchestra)
“Real Cool Time”Â (with Tek and Orchestra)
“Ron’s Tune”Â (Iggy Pop and James Williamson acoustic)
“No Fun”Â (with Tek, orchestra and Space Age Toasties)
The whole gig sounds like a blast. Iggy does a speech and catches himself gushing about Ron and catches his breath and points out that the guitarist will be ‘listening up there and flicking cigarette ash onto my head’. There’s a great bit when the Mayor of Ann Arbour presents Iggy and the Stooges with the keys to the city. Just behind the mayor Iggy dangles his mic between his legs and in the words of the radio presenter is ‘jacking off’ the mic as the mayor gives his speech.
A perfect Stooges moment.