Iggy and the Stooges “Raw Power”

When the David Bowie-mixed version of “Raw Power” was released in 1973, it was ignored just as the Stooges' first two records were ignored. It didn't help that Bowie had nuetered the ferocity of the band (at the behest of the record company), turning growls into meows and diluting the brutality of the songs with a tinny, thin mix. The Stooges, simply put, were too scary for the rest of the world.

No fan would deny that the album is brilliant and severe. The band threw gasoline into rock'n'roll and did more to scare up the spectre of punk rock than any other band. But Bomp Records knew that Mr. Ziggy's version wasn't what it was supposed to be when it released “Rough Power” in 1994, a collection of the original mixes and demo versions recorded in 1972. Granted, they sound crude and probably had record company executives envisioning dollar signs swirling down the same dirty toilets that Iggy puked in. “Guaranteed Bowie-Free!!,” the Bomp CD bragged.

Listening to both versions, one can tell that most everything is there on the tapes; the band nailed it in the studio and just needed someone competent and compassionate at the board. In the self-congratulatory booklet interview with Iggy Pop in this newly remixed version, he says, “Everything's still in the red, it's a very violent mix. The bottom line is that this is a wonderful album but it's always sounded fragile and rickety, and that band was not fragile and rickety. That band could kill any band at the time and frankly can just kill any of the bands that built on this work since, just eat any of those poodles.

“I feel that now I have the wherewithal, the position and the expertise at my disposal to give this this thing its due sonically, and I didn't have that before. So it's kind of like I'm finishing that off. I don't think you can beat David's mix, it's very creative. But this is just a simple, straight band mix of a powerful band.”

Pop's remix certainly is the final say. It's loud, harsh and frightening. Pop lets “Gimme Danger,” “You're Pretty Face is Going to Hell” and “Death Trip” end properly rather than fading out and he reinstates the “1, 2, 3, 4” countoff on “Shake Appeal.”

A surprising but pleasant celeste now appears on “Penetration” and more fierce interjections of “Hey!” show up on “Search and Destroy.”

But the real difference is the mix. It is in the red; it's almost as fuzzed-out and full as it can be — as it was meant to be. Unfortunately, Ron Asheton's bass must've been recorded poorly because it's still buried, but James Williamson's guitar is mean and Iggy's vocals are up front and forboding.

If drug abuse and the music industry hadn't cut the Stooges career short, the band could've saved the world from drum solos and Peter Frampton. But the three albums and numerous outtakes these seminal punks produced still have more raw power than anything that's been released in the 25 years since. The original release sounds like a worn slab of vinyl so don't get it unless you're a completist. Don't throw it out of you already own it — but if you really want to scare the neighbors, this remix is the perfect weapon.

By The Billy Keaggy | Originally published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 1997i am keaggy.com