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Black Sky Thinking

The Stooges, Two Guitarists And Raw Power Live By John Robb
John Robb , September 7th, 2009 05:35

John Robb welcomes the return of James Williamson to the Stooges fold to play Raw Power as an ATP Don't Look Back gig

When most people retire they trot down to the golf course and take a well-earned rest. Cardigans come out and the slippers go on. Recent retiree James Williamson cleared his desk at his real estate office and made one last decisive call to an old mate of his, James Osterberg, and suggested they should play some tunes together.

This is more than some sort of dusting down of the old guitars for some bumbling Beatles covers — this is the potential re-igniting of one of the most extreme rock & roll bands of all times. For this is no normal retiree; it’s James Williamson, the once leather-clad lizard, guitar freak in the final Stooges line-up whose sharp and dangerous riffing summons up descriptive terms such as "switchblade". And he helped to create Raw Power — one of THE great rock & roll albums. It contains the single greatest lyric in the history of rock & roll "I’m a street walking cheetah with a hide full of napalm/I’m a runaway son of a nuclear A-bomb"; this is where the Ig captured post-hippie nihilism over a fantastic zig-zagging riff from Williamson.

Raw Power indeed!

The coolest thing about the Stooges is that they had two great guitarists. Original guitarman Ron Asheton is one of the greats — his deceptively simple fuzz pedal, wah wah trip created a whole new intensity in rock & roll. But when the band went to the record their third album under the wings of Bowie’s Mainman management, Williamson was the guitarist and Asheton was grumpily relegated to bass. It was a mean gesture but it paid off, and if the first two Stooges albums set the template for all modern rock, Raw Power took this trip one level further and fiercely invented punk rock. The legendary ‘wrong’ Bowie production still sounds killer to these ears — fierce intensity and crazed guitar solos flying out at all angles. And all the time Williamson’s adrenalised thug guitar was the hallmark of the record.

It’s almost impossible to choose your favourite Stooges line-up; I love them both and the tragic news that big Ron died in January opened up the intriguing possibility of the last Stooges line rattling round the festival circuit for one last hurrah with Williamson back at the helm. Some will groan and cries of "flogging a dead horse" will fly around internet message boards, but there is a big thrill factor in checking this reformed line up out — after all, the Ron Asheton line-up worked out really well. Iggy doesn’t fuck about in his dotage! I am thrilled that the deadly Williamson is potentially back — god knows what he looks like now but you can bet all the real estate in California that he is going to sound great.

To hear Raw Power played live is too thrilling a concept to be sniffy about.

This is no normal rock & roll band and no normal comeback.

This is special.

Do it!

Pictures of Iggy Pop at Stooges reformation gigs in 2005/2006 courtesy of