The Stooges: Rounding Up The Rarities Part One

Posted: September 15, 2020 in Other Bands and Nirvana

I can’t quite recall how, but I developed a Stooges habit. It isn’t an Iggy Pop habit, it doesn’t extend any further than the collapse of the band in February 1974, I’m simply hooked on Stooges leftovers. My liking for bootleg studio demos, along with a smattering of significant live recordings, has had me writing and rewriting lists of decent outtakes for quite some time. This post is simply an attempt to get it together in my own head given the absence of the kind of rigorous documentation and archive analysis that exists for the Jimi Hendrix catalog which — by comparison — is a masterclass in archival preservation.

In the internet-era it’s become way too easy to dismiss expertise and authoritative perspective, well, when it comes to Stooges outtakes I’d say stick to the clear hierarchy: start with the stuff on Columbia Records or Elektra, then move onto Easy Action who have done great service to the world of Stooges fandom. If you’re truly fixated then consider Rhino’s gargantuan 1970: The Complete Fun House Sessions. After that…Well. We’ll come to that. A note on Live At Goose Lake, Live At Ungaros, A Thousand Lights, and the October 1973 Atlanta performance that accompanied the Raw Power reissue: except for the latter, they’re all bootleg-level sound quality but interesting if your ears are tuned to that kinda murkiness. Crucially, no, there are no rare songs — neither Pop’s riffing on ‘The Shadow Of Your Smile’ nor his ‘Georgia Peaches’ poem count — unless sticking a title on every stray sonic utterance of The Stooges is sufficient to constitute a song.

On a personal note, I’m not particularly sensitive to different mixes unless it’s wildly different. In that regard it’s certainly worth having both the Bowie iteration of Raw Power and the (inferior but still cool) Pop version, and while the John Cale mix of The Stooges is worth a listen it’s really clear why the original version that came out deserves to be the canonical cut. I’m appreciative of all the alternate takes that have come out over the years but always quietly wish for something as comprehensive and final as 1970: The Complete Fun House Sessions which might seem overwhelming at first glance but, in truth, is very easy to sink into given the familiarity of the material and the jolts provided by tweaks and deviations.

I’m going to break this into three chunks over three days given there’s a lot to cover and each section ends with a quick round up of the key rarities discussed. Intrigued to hear what I’m missing!

Early Days

There’s next to nothing I’ve seen out there from the band’s early days when they were billed as The Psychedelic Stooges: a tiny couple of minutes of what seems to be a live version of ‘1969’ is floating around on YouTube. While there are quite a few alternate takes of known songs floating about, the only totally unheard piece is ‘Asthma Attack’, a noisy improvisation offering sheer chaos for seven minutes. That one song, as far as I can tell, is the closest we’ll ever get to hearing the pre-professional studio Stooges though there’s mention of a 45-minute (I would assume exaggeration) instrumental called ‘The Razor’s Edge’, and of a song called ‘I’m Sick’ being prepped at the same time as ‘Asthma Attack’.

Recently there have been two outtakes from The Stooges album which seem to have official imprimatur though I wouldn’t guarantee it. ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog (Fast Version)’ does what it says on the tin. After a squeal of feedback at the opener, the band rips through the song. Intriguingly it also blends the famous descending guitar riffs deeper into the surrounding instrumentation so it sounds less sparse, the sleigh bell backing is less prominent, everything is flatter but warmer. Pop’s vocals are pitched higher too, he sounds more naturalistic which definitely makes this a good listen. There’s also ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog (Extended Psych Version)’ which has a wind tunnel roar of sound effect going on. Note that there are also some alt. titles floating around: ‘The Dance Of Romance’ is confirmed as ‘Ann’, while ‘Goodbye Bozos’ apparently became ‘Little Doll’.

  • Asthma Attack
  • I Wanna Be Your Dog (Fast Version)
  • I Wanna Be Your Dog (Extended Psych Version)

Fun House

One has to look to the official reissues of Fun House to find entirely fresh outtakes. The band were prolific but every time they hit the studio they only played the things that were essentially close to complete, and each album is pretty much everything they had at the time. From the Fun House sessions, ‘Slide (Slidin’ The Blues)’ is a likeable saxophone-led swing with barely a few words hanging it together and no real twists. Then there are a couple of false starts and two full takes on a song called ‘Lost in The Future’ which unspools at walking pace. Given the fury of Fun House, ‘Lost In The Future’ would have been a real momentum killer: Pop’s vocal delivery is strained, warbling, and unlikeable; there’s not much going on lyrically despite the intriguing title; the chiming guitar phrase is distinctive but weakened though repetition. The other rarity of major interest is seventeen minute cut of ‘LA Blues’ (AKA ‘Freak’) — as well as a neat sub-five minutes Take Two — which is total improvisational freefall in beautiful ways.

Accompanying the Rhino box-set was the single version of ‘Down On The Street’ that has an overdubbed organ that isn’t awful or incongruous, but to modern ears dates it significantly and softens its punk energy. As a side-note, ‘Down On The Street’ also seems to have been known as ‘Down On The Beach’ or ‘On The Beach’ at some point — perhaps a nod to the famous Nevil Shute book — while ‘1970’ is also labelled ‘I Feel Alright’ and ‘TV Eye’ as ‘See That Cat’ in various places.

The key things to me, at this stage of The Stooges’ career, is how rapidly they would pull together an album of material, how little was ever left over, and how clear-sighted they were about what didn’t deserve to develop any further — the sense of moving on at speed.

  • Slide (Slidin’ The Blues)
  • Lost In The Future
  • Freak
  • Down On The Street (overdubbed organ)

Falling Apart in 1971

It’s at this point that Easy Action show their worth. Essentially, if the name Easy Action is on a Stooges release then it’s going to be something of genuine value even if the label has to work with pretty rough material. The You Don’t Want My Name, You Want My Action box-set is a feast. For a start, it’s the only current evidence of the 1971 two guitar lineup of The Stooges — with Jimmy Recca on bass, James Williamson and Ron Asheton on guitar. The last visible live performance from 1970 seems to be the Goose Lake set where they only perform Fun House material, so between September and April they dispensed with the entire Fun House set in favor of a batch of new songs (though they didn’t exactly play out often in that time either). Another joy of the Easy Action box-set is it even includes the band’s final 1971 show at which the band already knew Williamson wouldn’t make it, but were surprised to find Pop didn’t show either. The Asheton brothers and Recca played an instrumental then an audience member volunteered to take vocals for a song christened ‘What You Gonna Do?’

‘I Got A Right’ is the set-opener from the band’s first show of the year onward. It’s strength explains why it’s the only song the band carry through into the Raw Power-era, but also why it vanishes after some intensive work in July 1972: potentially the band were bored of it and simply moved on. It’s such a tragedy given the song deserved professional memorialization: it’s powerful, pugnacious, defiant — everything The Stooges did so well. A crushing main riff, the song bolts out the gate at high pace, while Pop rams his clear message of limitless freedom down the audience’s throat.

The issue with only having live recordings of the rest of the songs is there’s a haze of static over the top of everything and little finesse — but that’s just the way it is. ‘You Don’t Want My Name’ is a high-octane rocker but with a pretty steady structure built around a main riff then a solo, before the pace drops and the band bring everything down-down, and then it all comes back up full force with some serious guitar carnage bringing it home. ‘Fresh Rag’ keeps up the pace with a decent main tune then a two-part solo, before final screams of “and I need ya!” from Pop. ‘Over My Dead Body’ (AKA ‘Who Do You Love’) is a neat change of pace, a head-nodding, swaggering chug with some killer lead guitar. The whole front-end appears to be instrumental, beating the tune into the audience’s heads until Pop saunters in after a couple minutes. The rhythm section are rock solid and provide space for some extended guitar pyrotechnics, the wired vibe of the whole song meaning it wouldn’t have been out of place on Fun House.

There was some talk of ‘Big Time Bum’ (AKA ‘See Me Dancing’ or ‘Way Down In Egypt’) being a single and damn, why not? In the first twenty seconds alone the song kicks out a fanfare opening percussing the ears, then gives way to a spiraling guitar figure that loops down to the ground, before a powerful chopping main verse — the song is a three minute cascade of great ideas. The only sad thing is that the music is so overwhelming barely a word from Pop is audible. ‘Do You Want My Love’ (AKA ‘That’s What I Like’) sees the band refusing to slow down or ease up on the aggressive power, they keep feet moving and it’s a remarkable five minutes or so before Pop seems to sing something close to an actual verse (though it might just be variations of “I Feel Alright!” in a nod to ‘1970’. While a great way to close a hot and sweaty night in a club, it might have needed some trimming and shaping to come to anything in the studio given its pretty much a single idea stretched out to a mind-warping tunnel. There’s a final orgy of release, drum rolls, great heaves of feedback, screeching notes forming a siren panning behind Pop’s swooning ad libs before a clatter of overdriven guitar swallows everything. There’s a brief snatch called ‘The Children Of The Night’ at the end of the first disc of this box-set, but it’s little more than Pop encouraging the audience to howl for mock horror effect.

The trouble with the six songs here is that the band were in such a state of dissipation, so thoroughly and persistently wrecked, that Elektra simply didn’t believe the band could be coaxed into polishing them enough to improve on the underwhelming performance of the two previous albums. An album worth of potential material went into the bin. As a weird sidebar it’s worth checking out the punk band Matt Gimmick who used their own (now lost) tape of a Stooges show from this era to record covers of both ‘Fresh Rag’ and ‘You Don’t Want My Name’ on a 1979 EP.

  • I Got A Right
  • You Don’t Want My Name
  • Fresh Rag (AKA I Need You and then multiple alternate titles given on stage)
  • Over My Dead Body (AKA Who Do You Love, Black Like Me, the horrendous title N***er Man is also mooted)
  • Big Time Bum (AKA See Me Dancing or Way Down In Egypt)
  • Do You Want My Love (AKA That’s What I Like)
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