The Stooges: Rounding Up The Rarities Part Two

Posted: September 16, 2020 in Other Bands and Nirvana

Raw Power: Summer-Autumn 1972

The sketchiness of The Stooges after their June-July ’71 breakup means a lot of what goes on for the next couple years feels like rifling gingerly through the detritus of a shooting gallery trying to avoid discarded sharps and needles. It’s understandable given the band was officially deceased between a show on May 27, 1971 until the resurrected Pop-Williamson-Asheton brothers lineup started rehearsals, and staged a single gig, in London in July 1972. The first half of 1973 was a similarly dead space in terms of live performance: just one show on March 27. It was June 1973 until a more consistent, but still ragged, series of shows developed stretching on until February 1974.

Being strict, the true Raw Power sessions are the July 17-21 1972 Olympic Studio rehearsals, and the September 10 to October 6 CBS Studios album sessions — plus the small number of known sessions that took place around that time (Trident Studios sometime prior to Olympic, RG Jones in August, Seymour’s Walk rehearsals). The Deluxe edition of Raw Power claims to be comprehensive but the claim is rather undermined by how much other material is floating around. There are three unreleased originals from the CBS Studios sessions. ‘Doojiman’ (potentially AKA the appallingly titled ‘N***er Man’) is pretty wild with Pop losing his mind on the mic (there’s even some pure jazz scatting) while the band work over something like a loose stumble in the same turf as ZZ Top’s ‘Just Got Paid’ (released in April 1972). Next there’s ‘I’m Hungry’ which is a slightly faster take of ‘Penetration’ with Pop wailing jokey food-related lines in comedic voices. Then there’s ‘Hey Peter’ which has a gnarly riff and hard beat, but Pop’s delivery doesn’t really gel, he’s really high-pitched and the picture of Peter (some of it food-related yet again) is fairly indistinct. All three of these cuts seem to have been brand new at the time of official release which is rare when so much leaked.

The two real winners on the official release both come from the earlier July 1972 rehearsals. The cut of ‘I Got A Right’ is arguably the best from the 13 takes on the Heavy Liquid box-set (which we’ll come to). ‘I’m Sick Of You’ is also excellent: a lethargic and dismissive ballad that suddenly pivots as initial weariness gives way to apparent anger, or a surge of glee, at the idea of parting company with the intended target. The lyrics repeat themselves in both halves but big deal, it’s a clever move going from the sludgy first half to the incandescent second including a screaming guitar solo from Williamson.

What next? Well, for the Olympic Studio rehearsals it’s best to head back to Easy Action. Their 2005 Extended Play release is inexpensive but entirely redundant given the comprehensiveness of the Heavy Liquid box-set. Heavy Liquid is a masterclass in how a retrospective rarities collection should be treated — damn it’s good! The first disc is the nearest we can currently get to an idea as to what a Raw Power Complete Sessions compilation would look like. In some ways it’s of more interest than the Fun House sessions because these rehearsals — some two-three months before the final sessions — make far greater revisions. It’s a shame that ‘I Got A Right’ underwent this level of work — there are 13 takes here including instrumentals, alt. lyrics, no solos, different effects, etc. — but still didn’t get squeezed onto Raw Power in polished form. Extended Play has a few tracks from those rehearsals rendered in 5.1 sound but the upgrade isn’t really worth it for songs that were far from finished and lack sonic detail worth unpicking. The EP also has an early cut of ‘Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell’ (under the title ‘Hard To Beat’) and an interesting, though not amazing, remix of ‘I Got A Right’ where Pop’s lines are doubled.

Over on Heavy Liquid, ‘Tight Pants’ is a vestigial version of what would become ‘Shake Appeal’ and fades out pretty early. ‘Scene Of The Crime’ is like an angrier Rolling Stones track, stabbing piano running all the way through as Pop roars megalomaniac wish-lists of what he wants and doesn’t want, then it fades again presumably because the band never figured out how to end it. A quick rip of The Trashmen’s ‘Surfin’ Bird’ gives way to a more cohesive take on perennial garage rock band favorite ‘Louie Louie’. It’s OK but the solo isn’t exactly stellar and it’s not entirely clear Pop knows all the words — fine, they get done inside three minutes and it’s a good breather. There’s also a shot at Barrett Strong’s ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’ which has some nice drum hustle but the guitar seems tentative until it explodes in good ways on both the first and second solos — just a shame the outro is so curtailed and flat. Beyond ‘I Got A Right’, the other sure-fire-winner is ‘Gimme Some Skin’, an edgy and hyperactive trip essentially made up of a couple of stomping verses and the chorus, with the band then cycling over (a few too many times) on an instrumental segment before a final vocal reprise.

On a recent 2017 compilation, also under the name Heavy Liquid, Easy Action sneaked in a decent untitled instrumental and an early take of ‘Penetration’. The instrumental is certainly more developed than a lot of what has emerged, though that isn’t to say it’s pure gold: the rhythm section stay rock-steady for the full four minutes while Williamson lays down some pretty stunning work, but there’s not much of a structure, it’s just a bed for crackling lead guitar.

  • Doojiman
  • I’m Hungry
  • Hey Peter
  • I’m Sick Of You
  • Scene Of The Crime
  • Untitled Instrumental
  • Surfin’ Bird/Louie Louie
  • Money (That’s What I Want)
  • Gimme Some Skin
  • Hard To Beat (AKA Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell)
  • Tight Pants (AKA Shake Appeal)
  • Penetration

It’s 1973 OK         

   Until the full tapes of the Raw Power sessions from the autumn of ’72 emerge, it’s a fair bet to assume that we’ve already seen the key leftovers on the Deluxe edition and that the tapes are loaded with alternate takes (still, Rhino! Please get on and release it all!) This leads us into the wild terrain that is 1973 when vestigial ideas for a fourth album were kicking about. I think by this point it’s visible that Williamson was a good influence in terms of the quantity of new songs and rough covers the band were kicking around, but I think it’s also fair to say that the quality was suffering — just my opinion and I’ll explain where appropriate.

In preparation for their first gig of the new year, only their second since disbanding in 1971, the band engaged in substantial rehearsals in February (definitely on the 3rd, 20th and 25th) at Studio Instrument Rentals (S.I.R.) in Los Angeles and then again in March (11th, 18th and 19th). The March dates took place at the Morgan Sound Theater in Ypsilanti which billed itself in the Ann Arbor Sun (February 1971) as having been “developed by musicians interested in achieving musical results in a creative atmosphere at an honest price.”

I’d say stick to Heavy Liquid for the majority of this material but there are other sources and versions of note. One official exception is on the official Raw Power deluxe there was the slightly incongruous decision to jump a year into the future to swipe a CBS Studios rehearsal cut of ‘Head On’ from July 1973. Early versions debuted at rehearsals in March, and present on Heavy Liquid, lose the tartness of the piano sound while keeping the overall muscle, so I admit I prefer them despite some distortion in the recording. It’s a winning song, upbeat, energetic, but maybe a touch overlong given it features a lowkey minute-long simmer that builds only to reveal there’s no fresh idea around the corner except ‘same again but slightly harder.’

            In terms of other songs getting an outing in spring ’73, ‘Emotional Problems’ (AKA ‘Wild Love’ or ‘My Girl Hates My Heroin’) has a catchy main riff and a ‘Raw Power’-ish vibe, it’s a definite winner from this period and is sufficiently well developed that the band end in unison on a final beat. Incidentally the ‘My Girl Hates My Heroin’ title comes from one iteration of the demo where the first line seems to be “my girl hates my bad stuff,” which puts it in the same thematic territory as the later ‘Cry For Me’ (AKA ‘Pinpoint Eyes’) with someone trying to intervene in Pop’s escalating issues only to be rejected. The title ‘Wild Love’ similarly reflected a stray lyric.

‘Johanna’ is a moodier affair but seems underdeveloped at this point: Pop can be heard shouting instructions to the band, a decent riff winds over and over for ages, there’s another decent Williamson solo, some of the lyrics seem to be filler — but this is one of the only leftovers from this era that Pop loved enough to retain. ‘Open Up And Bleed’ opens in a similarly downbeat vibe with some great gasped lines and loud/quiet dynamic shifts: it’s perhaps the best thing the band have in close to final form. ‘Till The End Of The Night’ (AKA ‘I Got A Problem’) is like a creepy nursery rhyme with Pop singing at the top of his range over a back-forth swaying tune that is allowed to simmer for the best part of four minutes before it kicks into higher gear, then everything drops away near completely to allow a very stark guitar solo.

            One lengthy effort from the sessions is the seven-and-a-half minute rehearsal of ‘Born In a Trailer’ (AKA ‘Nowhere’ or ‘I Come From Nowhere’). It lacks drums until well into the back-half of this mid-tempo jam. Toward the end everyone suddenly has issues keeping time, it’s hard to tell if it’s deliberate or not, but an additional verse from Pop appears then devolves into ad libs of the line “I was born in a trailer” to fill a few lines. Then the song just keeps going with Pop shouting out an instruction at one point (“now back to the riff!”) and some inconsequential lines (samples: “I got a mind so weird, I ain’t got no beard, I got a beautiful tan, I’m a mean ol’ man…”/“I come from nowhere where everybody’s a square in dirty underwear, and trailer parks are there, and you’ve got to lay your soul just to get out of nowhere…”). Weirdly there’s a near completely different iteration (found on 2009’s More Power compilation from Cleopatra Records) of just under six minutes with really precise strumming and drumming and, though Pop’s vocals are quite buried, the clarity of the instrumentation and the mix is a massive upgrade. Not a clue if maybe it’s taken from a better source or an unknown CBS Studios source for July 1973.

            Two pieces that seem to show the band trying to get something jump-started by jamming round loose ideas are ‘Hey Baby’ — an off-kilter main riff and lots of extemporizing and “yeah yeah” level lines — and ‘She Creatures Of The Hollywood Hills’ — which has a strangely funky vibe, and crashes into a solo after barely a minute. They’re both pretty rough jams with a few attempts to shift the dynamic but in ways that feel off-the-cuff rather than purposeful. The latter reappears at live shows in far more enticing form: check out the performance from the Whisky-A-Go-Go, Los Angeles, in September. It’s become a high pressure drum shuffle with a grinding guitar riff, a heavy breakdown at the three-and-a-half minute mark, before a signature Williamson solo, all made complete by more Pop lyrics focused on sexual conquests and fear of possession. For the final minute-and-a-half things get a lot noisier and the guitars pinball so many held notes and screams across the sound-field that it’s impossible to hear the drums — then a final kiss-off from Pop over feedback: “a man’s soul, you can’t buy a man’s soul, not even in Hollywood. You can’t buy a man’s dreams! Not even in Hollywood, USA.” As a note, there are other song titles that float around but can’t be pinned down, namely, ‘Black Ace’, ‘Love Light’, ‘Sack O’ Shit’ and ‘My Veins Are Crying’.

With Williamson as Pop’s key foil in this era (and perhaps with Bowie’s influence too) The Stooges certainly shifted direction, but — in some ways — some of the 1973 material is a bit of a regression, leaning on roughed up fifties rock ‘n’ roll tropes which sounds punk at first glance but was nowhere near as innovative as what they were doing on The Stooges or Fun House (perhaps it’s telling that the punk generation would adopt the far more nihilistic ‘No Fun’ and ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ as standards). As well as a rough shot at Otis Reading’s ‘Can’t Turn You Loose’ — on which Pop is almost entirely inaudible — in terms of originals, ‘Cock In My Pocket’ is a prime tribute to rock ‘n’ roll’s original raunchiness, updated to straightforward seventies crudeness, with some upbeat piano and standard issue fifties guitar riffs. It’s a presence throughout this final phase of The Stooges but, really, it just isn’t that interesting musically or funny lyrically. It’s a prime example of Pop (and the band’s) slide that part of their set is now half-remembered music from their childhoods matched to playground juvenility. ‘How It Hurts’ (AKA ‘Rubber Legs’) goes in the same direction musically, sparky and upbeat guitar riffs over a bright piano — again, there’s not much structural development or flexibility, it just hammers away at its rock ‘n’ roll clichés.

In the same territory of pastiche lurks ‘Jesus Loves The Stooges’: on Heavy Liquid it consists of a duet of piano and drums and, though pretty, is a fairly inconsequential bit of middle-of-the-road ivory-tickling. A few takes with vocals and full band exist on Bomp-released compilations, apparently from the same February dates, that reconfigure things into a slurred boogie woogie cabaret tune of varying length depending on the take. That’s another area where my enjoyment of the last year of The Stooges can often wear thin given the fairly one dimensional, but excessively prominent, piano work. Maybe I should just blame it on the rise of Elton John as rock ‘n’ roll’s most prominent force at the time, an attempt alongside the Bowie relationship to ape rock’s latest success story? Maybe it was an attempt to move forward as well as a reaching back but for the first time it feels like cribbing someone else’s moves.

  • Head On (AKA Head On Curve)
  • Emotional Problems (AKA Wild Love, or My Girl Hates My Heroin)
  • Johanna
  • Open Up And Bleed
  • Till The End Of The Night (AKA I Got A Problem)
  • Born In A Trailer (AKA Nowhere, or I Come From Nowhere)
  • Hey Baby
  • She Creatures Of The Hollywood Hills
  • Cock In My Pocket
  • How It Hurts (Rubber Legs)
  • Jesus Loves The Stooges
  • Can’t Turn You Loose
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