The Stooges

Not to be confused with Stooges Brass Band or The Three Stooges.
For The Stooges' self-titled debut album, see The Stooges (album).
The Stooges

The Stooges performing at the Hammersmith Apollo (2010)
Background information
Also known as Iggy and the Stooges, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, The Psychedelic Stooges
Origin Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States
Years active 19671971, 19721974, 20032016[4]
Associated acts
Past members

The Stooges, also known as Iggy and the Stooges, were an American rock band formed in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1967 by singer Iggy Pop, guitarist Ron Asheton, drummer Scott Asheton, and bassist Dave Alexander. Playing a raw, primitive style of rock and roll, the band sold few records in their original incarnation and gained a reputation for the confrontational performances of frontman Pop, which often involved self-mutilation.[5] After releasing three albums and disbanding briefly, the Stooges broke up in 1974. The band reunited in 2003 and was active until 2016 following the deaths of several original members.

The Stooges are widely regarded as a seminal proto-punk act[5][6] and as instrumental in the development of punk rock, alternative rock, heavy metal music and rock music at large.[7][8] The Stooges were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.[9] In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked them 78th on their list of the 100 greatest artists of all time.


Formation (1967–68)

Iggy Pop (born James Newell Osterberg, 1947 in Michigan) played drums in several Ann Arbor-area bands as a teenager, including the Iguanas and, later, the Prime Movers. The Prime Movers nicknamed Osterberg "Iggy" in reference to his earlier band.[10]

Osterberg was first inspired to form the Stooges after meeting blues drummer Sam Lay during a visit to Chicago. He returned to Detroit with the idea that simply copying established blues performers was not enough – he wanted to create a whole new form of blues music. Brothers Ron Asheton (guitar) and Scott Asheton (drums) and their friend Dave Alexander (bass guitar) composed the rest of the band, with Osterberg as main singer. Osterberg became interested in Ron Asheton after seeing him perform as part of a covers band, the Chosen Few, believing "I’ve never met a convincing musician that didn’t look kind of ill and kind of dirty, and Ron had those two things covered!"[11] The three nicknamed Osterberg "Pop" after a local character whom Osterberg resembled.[12] Shortly after witnessing an MC5 concert in Ann Arbor, Osterberg began using the stage name Iggy Pop, a name that he has used ever since.

The band's début was at a Halloween concert at their house in State Street in 1967. They did not play live again until January 1968.[13] During this early period, the Stooges were originally billed as the "Psychedelic Stooges" at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit, Michigan, and other venues, where they played with the band MC5 and others. At one of their early Grande Ballroom performances, Asheton's guitar neck separated from the body and forced the band to stop playing during the opening song, "I Wanna Be Your Dog".

The group's early sound was very different from their later music; critic Edwin Pouncey writes:

The Stooges' early musical experiments were more avant garde than punk rock, with Pop incorporating such household objects as a vacuum cleaner and a blender into an intense wall of feedback that one observer described as sounding like "an airplane was landing in the room." Homemade instruments were also incorporated to flesh out the overall sound. The 'Jim-a-phone' involved pushing feedback through a funnel device which was raised and lowered to achieve the best effect. There was also a cheap Hawaiian guitar which Pop and guitarist Ron Asheton would take turns in plucking to produce a simulated sitar drone, while drummer Scott Asheton pounded away at a set of oil drums with a ball hammer.[14]

First two albums and first breakup (1968–71)

The Stooges soon gained a reputation for their wild, primitive live performances. Pop, especially, won fame for his outrageous onstage behavioursmearing his bare chest with hamburger meat and peanut butter, cutting himself with shards of glass, and flashing his genitalia to the audience. Pop is also sometimes credited with the invention or popularization of stage diving.

In 1968 the Stooges were contracted by Elektra Records company, which had sent DJ/publicist Danny Fields to scout the MC5. He contracted both acts, paying the MC5 $20,000 and the Stooges $5,000 as revealed in Jim Jarmusch film Gimme Danger. The next year, the band released their self-titled debut album, but it did not sell very well, nor was it well received by critics at the time. Legend has it that half of the album, which was produced by former Velvet Underground bassist John Cale, was written the night before the first session.

A second album, Fun House, followed in 1970, which featured the addition of saxophonist Steve Mackay. Many consider Fun House to be the best representation of the Stooges, as the main goal of the album was to represent the manic energy of their live performances. On June 13 of that year, television recorded the band at the Cincinnati Pop Festival. While performing the songs "T.V. Eye" and "1970", Pop leapt into the crowd, where he was hoisted up on people's hands, and proceeded to smear peanut butter all over his chest. In a broadcast interview at WNUR Northwestern University radio station in Evanston, Illinois in 1984, Stiv Bators of the Lords of the New Church and the Dead Boys confirmed the long-standing rumor that it was he who had provided the peanut butter, having carried a large tub from his home in Youngstown, OH and handing it up to Iggy from the audience.

Fun House, like the debut album, was poorly received by both the general public and the critics. Alexander was dismissed from the band in August 1970 after arriving at the Goose Lake International Music Festival too drunk to play.[15] He was replaced by a succession of new bass players: Zeke Zettner[16] and James Recca. Around this time, the band expanded their line-up by adding a second guitar player, roadie Billy Cheatham,[10] who was replaced by James Williamson.

By this time, the Stooges, with the notable exception of Ron Asheton,[10][17] had all become serious heroin users. The drug was introduced to the band by new manager John Adams.[10] Their performances became even more unpredictable, and Pop often had trouble standing up on stage due to his extreme drug abuse. Elektra soon eliminated the Stooges from its roster, and the band had a hiatus for several months. The final line-up was Pop, the Asheton brothers, Recca and Williamson.[10]

The breakup of the Stooges was formally announced on 9 July 1971.[18]

Raw Power and second breakup (1972–74)

With the band in hiatus, Pop met David Bowie on 7 September 1971 at Max's Kansas City,[17][18] and the pair instantly became good friends. The next day, on the advice of Bowie, then at the height of his Ziggy Stardust-era fame, Pop signed a recording contract with pop music manager Tony DeFries' company, MainMan. A few months later, Tony DeFries and Pop met Clive Davis from CBS/Columbia Records and got a two-album recording deal.[18] In March 1972, DeFries brought Pop and Williamson to the UK,[18] and the pair attempted to reconstitute the Stooges with British musicians, but finding no suitable additions, brought the Asheton brothers back into the band (this "second choice" decision rankled Ron Asheton, as did his change from guitar to bass). This line-up, billed as Iggy & the Stooges, recorded their third album, the influential Raw Power (1973). At the time, the album was criticized by diehard fans who said that Bowie had mixed it poorly. (During subsequent years, various unofficial fan recordings were assembled and released as the album Rough Power. In 1997, Raw Power was re-mixed by Iggy Pop and re-released.) Raw Power would go on to become one of the cornerstones of early punk rock, although the album sold rather poorly, and was regarded as a commercial failure at the time of its release.

With the addition of a piano player (briefly Bob Sheff and then Scott Thurston[10]), the Stooges toured for several months, starting in February 1973. About this time they also made a number of recordings that became known as the Detroit Rehearsal Tapes, including a number of new songs that might have been included on a fourth studio album had the band not been dropped by Columbia soon after the release of Raw Power. During early 1973, James Williamson was briefly dismissed due to criticism from the band's management company; guitarist Tornado Turner replaced him for a single gig (on 15 June 1973 at the Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, Illinois[19]), but Williamson soon returned to the group.[13]

The Stooges disbanded in February 1974 as a result of Pop's ever-present heroin addiction and erratic behavior (at least off stage).[13] The last half of the band's last performance of this era (on 9 February 1974 in Detroit, Michigan) was captured and was released later (in 1976) as the live album Metallic K.O. (along with the first half of an earlier show on 6 October 1973 at the same venue). A 1988 expanded release of the album with the title Metallic 2X K.O. included the two halves of each show. In 1998, the album was re-released under the original title with a reverse show order, (mostly) expanded track lengths and more complete set-lists.

Post-breakup (1975–2003)

Iggy Pop on October 25, 1977; at the State Theatre, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Photo: Michael Markos

After drug rehabilitation, Pop began a successful solo career in 1976, beginning with the albums The Idiot and Lust for Life. Relocated to Los Angeles, California, Ron Asheton formed the short-lived band the New Order (not to be confused with the UK band New Order), with Stooges alumni Recca and Thurston. Ron Asheton later joined Destroy All Monsters. Williamson worked with Pop as a producer and engineer during his early solo career – the Kill City and New Values albums are a product of this collaboration – but began a long break from the music industry in 1980. Scott Asheton performed with Sonic's Rendezvous Band and the Scott Morgan Group. Dave Alexander died of pulmonary edema related to his pancreatitis during 1975.

In 1997 a reissue of Raw Power remixed by Pop was released. In 1999, re-issue label Rhino Handmade released the seven disc box set 1970: The Complete Fun House Sessions, composed of the entire recording sessions associated with the Fun House album. 3,000 copies were pressed, selling out in less than a year.

In 2000, indie rock music veterans J Mascis (of Dinosaur Jr) and Mike Watt (of the Minutemen and Firehose) teamed with Ron Asheton and drummer George Berz to perform Stooges covers (and other material) live. Billed as J. Mascis and the Fog, the band performed sporadically before Pop became aware of them in 2003.

Reunion and Ron Asheton's death (2003–09)

Pop and the Ashetons first reunited that year, sharing four songs on the Skull Ring album with Pop on vocals, Scott Asheton on drums, and Ron Asheton on both guitar and bass. Soon afterward, the Stooges reunited officially, performing a series of live shows in the United States and Europe, with Watt on bass at Ron Asheton's request,[20] and Fun House-era saxophonist Steve Mackay. Their Detroit homecoming show, postponed by the 2003 North America blackout, was released as the DVD Live in Detroit.

On August 16, 2005, Elektra Records and Rhino Records issued newly remastered 2-CD editions of the first two Stooges albums, featuring the original album on disc one and outtakes (including alternate mixes, single versions, etc.) on disc two. Unlike the 1997 Raw Power reissue, which was a total remix from the original multitracks, these remasters are faithful to the original mixes.

Iggy and the Stooges - Sziget Fesztivál, 2006.
Iggy and the Stooges - Sziget Fesztivál, 2006.

In 2007, the band released an album of all-new material, The Weirdness, with Steve Albini recording, and mastering done at Abbey Road Studios in London, England.[21] The album received mixed to negative reviews from the press. The band also contributed a cover of Junior Kimbrough's "You Better Run" to a tribute album for the late blues artist.

The Stooges spent the years between 2003 and 2008 touring extensively, playing shows on five different continents. Highlights included performances at several events involved with the All Tomorrow's Parties concert series, Pop's 60th birthday on the stage of San Francisco's Warfield Theater,[22] touring with the Lollapalooza festival, and a performance of two Madonna covers at the Michigan-born singer's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in protest of the Stooges' failure to receive an induction into said institution despite six nominations. (Two years later, the band was successfully inducted.) A low of this touring era occurred in the August 2008 when the band's equipment was stolen in Montreal, Quebec.[23] Initially, the reunited band's sets consisted solely of material from The Stooges, Fun House, Skull Ring, and The Weirdness. By 2008, they had added "Search and Destroy", "I Got a Right" and "Raw Power" to their set lists. The band's final show with Ron Asheton was on September 29, 2008, in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

On January 6, 2009, Ron Asheton was found dead in his home, having reportedly suffered a heart attack several days earlier.[24][25] He was 60 years old. In their official statement, the group called Asheton "irreplaceable".[26]

On October 1, 2009, The Stooges: The Authorized and Illustrated Story by Robert Matheu and Jeffrey Morgan (authorized biographer of Alice Cooper) was published in hardcover by Abrams.[27]

Return of James Williamson and final breakup (2009–16)

Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Katowice Off Festval, Poland, on August 4, 2012

In a May 2009 interview, Pop announced the band's plans to continue performing with James Williamson returning as guitarist.[28][29] Pop stated that "although 'the Stooges' died with Ron Asheton, there is still 'Iggy and the Stooges'".[30] Their first concert occurred on November 7, 2009 in São Paulo, Brazil. The band added material from Raw Power and several of Pop's early solo albums to its repertoire.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted the band through their Class of 2010.[31] The band had previously been nominated for election seven times, each unsuccessful. Their performance for the event included a guest appearance by former keyboardist Scott Thurston. Performances with Williamson continued, including the 2010 All Tomorrow's Parties festival in Monticello, New York, where they performed Raw Power in its entirety. A re-release of Raw Power was released on April 10, 2010, including the first remastering of the David Bowie mix and a live 1973 performance. The following year, Detroit author Brett Callwood published The Stooges - Head On: A Journey Through The Michigan Underground, a book which focuses heavily on the Asheton brothers' activities after the initial decline of the Stooges.[32]

On February 25, 2013, Iggy Pop reunited with the Stooges to release what would become their last album, Ready to Die. The album was released on April 30 on Fat Possum.[33] Iggy and the Stooges played the final date of their 25-city 2013 world tour with a performance at the C2SV Festival in San Jose on September 28, 2013.[34]

On March 15, 2014, Scott Asheton died of a heart attack, aged 64.[35][36] Saxophonist Steve Mackay died in October 2015 at age of 66.[37]

In 2016, Jim Jarmusch directed Gimme Danger, a documentary film about the band.[38]

On June 22, 2016, guitarist Williamson made an official statement for the band saying that The Stooges are no more.

"The Stooges is over. Basically, everybody's dead except Iggy and I. So it would be sort-of ludicrous to try and tour as Iggy And The Stooges when there's only one Stooge in the band and then you have side guys. That doesn't make any sense to me."

Williamson also added that touring had become boring, and trying to balance the band's career as well as Pop's was a difficult task.[39]


Band members

The last line-up

Former members






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