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Best Stooges Songs: 10 Proto-Punk Anthems Teeming With Raw Power
List & Guides

Best Stooges Songs: 10 Proto-Punk Anthems Teeming With Raw Power

Taking rock’n’roll as far out as it could possibly go, the best Stooges songs captured life lived right on the edge.

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The stories of legendary excess involving The Stooges have a tendency to obscure their pioneering music. Yes, Iggy Pop and co lived life on the edge, but – along with their Detroit neighbours MC5 – they cut a series of ferocious records which imagined punk over half a decade prior to the genre officially arriving on the scene. Yet despite copping a deal with Elektra Records, The Stooges were too tanked-up and pissed off to gain mainstream success during their lifetime, but their influence casts one of rock’s longest shadows, and the likes of Sex Pistols, Motörhead and Nirvana would have been unimaginable without them. In celebration of their legacy, we have a real cool time choosing the ten best Stooges songs.

Listen to the best of The Stooges here, and check out our best Stooges songs, below.

10: Penetration (from ‘Raw Power’, 1973)

By late 1971, The Stooges looked like they’d reached the end of the road. Hobbled by drugs, poverty and the loss of their deal with Elektra Records, the band had already announced their split before super-fan David Bowie stepped in to bring them to London and record their third album, Raw Power.

Peaking at No.44 in the UK on release, the record was only a minor chart success, but it’s since become one of rock’s touchstones, with its primal power significantly impacting on future UK punk frontrunners The Clash, The Damned and Sex Pistols. One of Raw Power’s key tracks, the William Burroughs-inspired Penetration was a little more controlled than its furious cohorts Search And Destroy and Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell, but its haunting, Doors-esque air of menace still sucks in even the most casual listener.

9: I Got A Right (single A-side, 1977)

After Bowie’s intervention, Iggy Pop reformed The Stooges with James Williamson on guitar, Scott Asheton on drums and original guitarist Ron Asheton moving to bass. However, when they began work on what eventually became Raw Power, the band’s initial efforts shocked their management and were summarily rejected, only to surface on multiple vinyl bootlegs over the next couple of decades. One of the more famous 7” couplings featured one of the very best Stooges songs – the incendiary I Got A Right – backed with the equally wild Gimme Some Skin, and these two tracks finally received an official single release through US indie imprint Siamese in 1977.

8: 1969 (from ‘The Stooges’, 1969)

Elektra Records signed The Stooges on the insistence of their Detroit contemporaries MC5, and quickly sent the group into New York City’s Hit Factory, where they recorded their self-titled debut album in a feverish, week-long session with producer and former Velvet Underground mainstay John Cale. The record duly opened with 1969, in which the band served up a mean Bo Diddley-esque tattoo and vamped around Ron Asheton’s menacing, two-chord riff while Iggy Pop drawled his way through a snotty paean to boredom, nihilism and disaffection, effectively drawing up the template for punk without even trying.

7: Down On The Street (from ‘Fun House’, 1970)

The Stooges’ debut album was roundly panned by most contemporary critics, but Elektra had sufficient faith in the band to give them another shot at the title, hooking them up with producer Don Gallucci for their second album, Fun House. Formerly the keyboard player with garage-rock act The Kingsmen (of Louie Louie fame), Gallucci was a better fit for The Stooges than John Cale, and he played to the Detroit quartet’s strengths, encouraging them to blast through the live set they’d honed while gigging in support of their debut. Accordingly, the band sound lean, agile and muscular throughout Fun House – and nowhere more so than on Down On The Street, which finds Pop on especially feral form while his charges revel in riding the song’s heavy, knuckle-dragging groove.

6: 1970 (from ‘Fun House’, 1970)

Brian James, The Damned’s original guitarist and primary songsmith, once referred to 1970 as the sound of “instant mayhem”, and his band paid tribute by recording their suitably chaotic cover (retitled I Feel Alright) for their debut album, Damned Damned Damned. Great through James’ boys take remains, it’s not as reckless and nihilistic as the original, which isn’t just one of best Stooges songs, but is good enough to bear out Classic Rock’s assertion that it “put more fuel in the tanks of punk, noise rock and grunge” than anything else from its era.

5: Gimme Danger (from ‘Raw Power’, 1973)

The dark almost-ballad Gimme Danger reveals that The Stooges had a much greater mastery of dynamics than their critics believed. A showcase for James Williamson’s multi-layered guitars and Iggy Pop’s Jim Morrison-inspired croon, this Raw Power highlight is actually a beautifully-realised set piece which reflected Pop’s then highly turbulent relationship with the opposite sex. “I had sort of worn off chicks at this point,” the singer wrote in the liner notes for Raw Power’s 1997 reissue. “I’d developed an adversarial relationship with them, so the only ones I was really interested in were the ones that would give me trouble – so I wrote about that.”

4: I Wanna Be Your Dog (from ‘The Stooges’, 1969)

It’s now widely cited as a proto-punk classic, but when it first appeared, The Stooges’ self-titled debut album confounded critics and contemporary rock fans alike – most of whom felt it was too brutally simplistic at a time when rock was becoming increasingly ornate and studio-conscious. Most of the best Stooges songs were indeed blunt and uncompromising, and perhaps none more so than I Wanna Be Your Dog, which is built upon a steady, driving beat and one of the best guitar riffs of all time. Chosen as the band’s debut single, it stiffed at the time, but now enjoys its rightful status as a rock classic, having spawned covers from artists as diverse as Joan Jett, Swans and Slayer.

3: Loose (from ‘Fun House’, 1970)

No less a critic than author Simon Reynolds has described The Stooges’ second album, Fun House, as “the most powerful hard-rock album of all time”, and there’s no denying that it contains some outrageously ferocious music. Arguably its high point, Loose is propelled by Ron Asheton’s meanest riff of all and performed with a hunger and abandon which suggests its creators have absolutely nothing whatsoever to lose. Vital and uncompromising, Loose clearly didn’t give a flying one – then or now.

2: No Fun (from ‘The Stooges’, 1969)

The Damned weren’t the only UK punks to show their appreciation of The Stooges on record: a potent cover of No Fun also showed up on the flipside of Sex Pistols’ third single, Pretty Vacant, during the summer of 1977. It was an astute choice for a cover: while its lyric (“No fun to be alone/In love with nobody else”) exuded a nihilism that chimed with punk, it was bolted to a highly hummable melody which – unlikely as it may seem – was originally inspired by Johnny Cash’s I Walk The Line. Certainly one of the best Stooges songs – and arguably the most accessible – No Fun’s enduring, genre-straddling appeal has since lent itself to covers by The Black Keys, Finnish art-rockers 22-Pistepirkko and even ambient pioneers The Orb.

1: Search And Destroy (from ‘Raw Power’, 1973)

Writing in the liner notes to the 1997 reissue of Raw Power, Iggy Pop offered some insight into the writing process behind Search And Destroy, revealing, “The name came from a column heading in a Time magazine article about the Vietnam War. I was sitting reading it, snorting big Chinese rocks of heroin under one of these grand English oak trees in [London’s] Kensington Garden.”

Though perhaps not the sort of creative methodology most of should try at home, it worked for The Stooges, for the lethal, glammed-up Search And Destroy turned into arguably rock music’s greatest nihilist’s anthem of them all. Its DNA is detectable in the music of myriad pioneering acts, from Sex Pistols to Ramones, Motörhead and Nirvana, and such is its ferocity that it doesn’t merely place itself at the head of the best Stooges songs, it simply burns the competition away.

Looking for more? Find out where I Wanna Be Your Dog ranks among the best guitar riffs of all time.

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