“We invented some instruments that we used that first show. We had a blender with a little bit of water in it and put a mike right down onto it and just turned it on. We played that for like 15 minutes before we went on stage. It was a great sound, especially going through the PA all cranked up. Then we had a washboard with contact mikes and Iggy would put on golf shoes and kind of shuffle around.”
Ron Asheton of the Stooges in 'Please Kill Me'.
In a week where the UK’s TV viewers have been treated to Iggy Pop’s shameful selling of insurance, the news of fellow Stooge Ron Asheton’s tragic death comes as a further, yet far more upsetting occurrence for those who hold the Stooges as a totem of all that is pure, simple and true in rock n roll.
Asheton who has died of a suspected heart attack aged 60, was a founder member of The Stooges. A man of simple pleasures who loved playing the accordion and obsessed about the Beatles, he nevertheless created a a blistering guitar sound that came to define and mirror punk attitude 10 years before his snotty English disciples sold it to the world.
Emerging from Detroit, their early shows supporting the MC5 created a perfect storm of primitive rebellion it’s hard to even imagine these days. Signing to Elektra Records in 1968, their John Cale produced debut still stands as one of the 20th Century’s truly wonderful works of art. Decamping to New York in June 1969, they recorded the songs from their seven month old live set. Recording took two days.
If you want to know all about Ron Asheton try digesting this: in that one night between sessions Ron came up with the riffs for two additional new songs Not Right and Real Cool Time. A day later and the perfect album was hatched: angry, fucked up, sexy as hell, today it still burns with a fire that few bands have even imagined in their widest dreams. This album will brand itself onto your soul and kick your ass down the stairs. Believe.
Asheton’s sullen, malevolent wah-wah underpins the whole thing with a devilish menace and slabs of noise like 1969, I Wanna Be Your Dog and No Fun are now rightly seen as standards. Check out the bit during the stuttering clatter of No Fun when Iggy cajoles Asheton to let rip with a yelped “C’mon Ron!...C’mon Ronnie” and Asheton spits out a molten spurt of fuzz so ugly it’ll knock you sideways. Beautiful.
1970’s Fun House saw the Stooges further animate both mind and body with an album so loose it seemed to mix James Brown’s tight pants funk with the Stones low slung sleaze to create a whole new synapse in your brain – one where normal human tasks became constricting chains and paranoia was the place to be. Smeared all over it like radioactive slime was Asheton’s stratocaster. Ron’s guitar playing here and throughout the entire album is like none other on record. You’d be hard-pressed to find any semblance of comparison with any other guitarist who preceded him. There really is no guitarist like Ron Asheton, and never will be again, ever. On Fun House, Ron laid down the solos in real time, overdubbing the rhythms afterwards!
Perhaps true believer Lester Bangs summed it up best “The Stooges carry a strong element of sickness in their music, a crazed quaking uncertainty and errant foolishness that effectively mirrors the absurdity and desperation of the times, but I believe that they also carry a strong element of cure, of post-derangement sanity."
It was Ron that gave them this “crazed, quaking uncertainty”. Iggy meanwhile described him as “basically a thug”.
Rest in Noise brother Ron.