Some pictures just demand having some words attached to them, a song added and then being shared online. This picture of The Stooges on some swings in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1969 is one such picture. It looks like it’s autumn ’69, the leaves have fallen and there’s a chill in the air. Iggy, Ron, Dave and Scott are at the playground in their leather jackets, hair grown out, Iggy in impractical white trousers and shoes. It’s the end of the year and the end of the decade, a decade which began with sunshine and optimism, John F. Kennedy, The Everley Brothers, Jim Reeves and surfing songs and ended with Richard Nixon, Vietnam, Altamont, Charles Manson and The Stooges.

In the middle of the following year The Stooges would release Funhouse, a perfect distillation of voice, guitar, bass, drums and raw repetition, machine like riffs and stripped down simplicity. In the studio they pulled out all of the wall coverings, all the baffles and carpets, got rid of the screens that separate the musicians from each other. They set up the kit close together as if to play as they would at a gig. Iggy would record his vocals holding the microphone in his hands as if singing live to an audience, no pop shield or mic stand. He’d gave the band their cue, his vocals leading the songs. They were drilled. On the album’s song named for the new decade they added the free jazz skronk of saxophonist Steve Mackey.

1970 (Take 1)

The sound of The Stooges on Funhouse is the very essence of punk rock, the primordial swamp from which everything else eventually crawled, a sound that by the end of the century could sell out stadiums and soundtrack adverts on TV. At the tail end of the 60s however it was music for freaks and weirdos, made with single minded obsession by a group of musicians who almost everyone else derided and dismissed. The Funhouse box set contains the entire session, every take of every song, each barely distinguishable from the next.

Loose (Take 4)


A double celebration for us today, two parties, both with their origins in November 1969. The magazine covers above all date from fifty years ago- Cosmopolitan asking whether you’d rather be his wife or his mistress, Vogue leading with Twiggy, winter fashion and beauty and tarot cards for good measure and Popular Science with jet-packs.

This afternoon we are at a party for my parent’s fiftieth wedding anniversary, who got married fifty years ago yesterday. I came along in May 1970- it was quite late on when I worked out the maths on that. Then tonight we are at a friend’s 50th birthday party- his birthday was yesterday as well so he was born as my Mum and Dad tied the knot. Here we all are half a century later.

1969 in song gives so many opportunities but I’m going for this from The Stooges, the high octane, electrifying, wild, end of the decade brilliance that opens their debut album. Ron Asheton’s wah wah guitar intro and the single hammer bang drum lead in Iggy’s ‘well alright’ and then the group swing in bludgeoning the speakers, Iggy reeling off his stupidly clever lyrics about being twenty two and having nothing to do- meanwhile Vietnam burns and tears the USA in two, Nixon is in the White House, the FBI declares war on the Black Panther Party, Northern Ireland simmers with discontent, men walk on the moon, the hippie tribes gather at Woodstock and the Isle of Wight, the Stonewall riots mark the birth of the gay rights movement, the Manson Family commit mass murder, a coup in Libya brings Gaddafi to power, Brian Jones drowns at Pooh Corner, William Calley is charged with murder following the massacre at My Lai, Scooby Doo, Monty Python, Sesame Street and The Clangers all debut, the USA and USSR meet to talk about nuclear weapon reductions and the year ends with Rolf Harris at the top of the UK charts. ‘Oh my and a boo hoo’.


The press didn’t take to The Stooges debut album. Rolling Stone said it was ‘loud, boring, tasteless, unimaginative and childish’. The Village Voice called it was ‘stupid-rock’. In retrospect however those criticisms (apart from the bit about it being boring which it clearly isn’t) make it sound utterly perfect.

See That Cat?

Fun House is the most conceptually perfect garage rock album. Side 1 has four songs built around stripped back repetition- repetitive guitar riffs, metronomic drums, reductive lyrics/vocals- recorded live in the studio and as electric and alive as any band has ever been. Down On The Street, Loose, TV Eye, Dirt. Iggy and the 3 Stooges absolutely on it. Side 2 is a little wilder- 1970, Fun House and L.A. Blues bring in a looser feel and Steve Mackay’s punk rock saxophone. If there is a better recording and expression of being in a garage band than these 7 songs, I’ve yet to hear it.

From the Fun House boxed set, The Complete Fun House Sessions, this is the first take of TV Eye, opening with a run around the drum kit, some studio chatter, Iggy introducing the song and then the holler of ‘Looorrd!’. According to Kathy Ashton, younger sister of the Ashton brothers Ron and Scott (guitar and drums respectively), TV Eye stood for Twat Vibe, slang among her and her friends to signal a man who was leering at them. Iggy took this and turned it into a song.

TV Eye (1st Take)

New Year’s Eve

Right then, New Year’s Eve, an over-rated excuse for an enforced piss up if ever there was one. But staying in watching Jools, waiting for the clock to run down, is no good either.

Like many of you (us, the whinging, metropolitan, liberal elite out to deny the democratic voice of the British people) I won’t be too unhappy to see the back of 2016, a downer of a year in many ways. 2017 promises more of the same (in the shape of Trump if nothing else). All we can do is continue to rage against the dying of the light with good music, people we like and trust and a hope that things may get better. To celebrate seeing the back of the year here’s some tunes….

Durutti Column first, the combined talents of Vini Reilly and Martin Hannett, and a song to see the winter out- it’s getting a bit brighter every day and has been since December 21st. That’s something to cheer about.

Sketch For Winter

Some more guitars, this time the squealing, distorted and overloaded kind courtesy of James Williamson and Mr James Osterberg’s Stooges. The start of this song is phenomenal, like the engineer pressed the record button a fraction too late but the band went for it anyway.

Search and Destroy (Mono)

Now some proper four-on-the-floor house music from Chicago in 1987. It contains a spoken word section that has some of the best kiss off threats to the other girl ever recorded (see below)

You Used To Hold Me

It’s all about midnight, count it down. There, done.

Peaking Lights with some chilled out midnight dub sounds to ease 2017 in.

Midnight Dub

And to finish, because all nights should finish with this…

Come Together (Weatherall Mix)

Spoken word section from You Used To Hold Me…

Now honey let me tell you something about my man.
You know he’s a good looking sweet lil’ thing.
That man knows how to satisfy a woman
You know what I’m talking about?
Girlfriend let me tell you,
He bought me this fur coat
A brand new car and this 24 carat gold diamond ring
Ain’t it pretty?
Girfriend you know how it is,
When you got a good man,
You start doin’ things like wearing those high heel shoes
And the lace pocket with the garter belt,
And putting on that sweet smellin’ seductive perfume.
Hm hmm
But you know what?
I’m gonna have to put some lame brain in check honey
Cause she got her locks on my man.
But baby I ain’t givin up on this here good thing not for nobody.
Cause what that dorky chick got wouldn’t satisfy a cheese stick let alone my baby
She better take her big long haired butt and move on ’cause he’s mine all mine

Freaked Out For Another Day

In their 1993 and third Peel Session The Orb launched a sonic assault that was a long way from the trippy ambient dance they were renowned for- a cover of No Fun. Sit up and listen to this it seemed to say. It’s raucous, as snarly as Johnny Rotten on a bad day and could harsh your mellow, if it weren’t so much fun.

No Fun (Peel Session)


One of the books I got through on holiday in France was John Lydon’s autobiography Anger Is An Energy. It was in parts entertaining and infuriating (like the man himself), but eventually became a bit boring. I’ll come back to it in a bit.

John Lydon willed himself into becoming Johnny Rotten in his late teens, a complete one-off, unique, an utterly new frontman for a rock ‘n’ roll band. The three men he joined were essentially a sped up pub rock band using stolen gear until John found his voice and wrote lyrics that did more than describe boredom, they actually took on the British establishment. Their recorded legacy is out of all proportion to their influence and importance- four astonishing singles, one breathtaking album (containing all four astonishing singles) and a B-side (The Stooges cover No Fun). Lydon freely admits in his book that he had no idea how to sing when he joined the band, had never thought of joining a group or singing. His vocal style is perfect for those songs and had to be found quickly, in rehearsal rooms and then on stage. His lyrics on Anarchy In The UK and God Save The Queen are supreme, his delivery on Pretty Vacant is hair raising, not to mention Bodies or Submission. Rotten wasn’t just about the words, he knew image and presentation were important, stamps of identity and markers. The visual sense of Rotten and the Pistols and their entourage is as important as their sound.

In 1976 Tony Wilson put them on Granada TV at tea time (Lydon slags Wilson off in his book, calling him smug and sarcastic, which is a bit silly).

The Sex Pistols were, given the personalities involved, always living on borrowed time and their split can’t have surprised anyone. The Winterland gig in 1978 contains the greatest onstage comment ever (at 6.39).

Lydon’s book is good on the Pistols years, his upbringing and his dirt poor childhood of North London in the 1960s, the Irish and Jamaican diaspora, his illness and recovery (meningitis, not nice) and the rise from nothing to pioneering punk band and public enemy number one. This is all good stuff and well told. But, and you knew there was a but, eventually it all gets very wearing. The book is written in Lydon’s voice which gives it authenticity I suppose, but after a while all the phwooaars and wowzers and BITS-IN-CAPITAL-LETTERS get irritating. Not to mention constantly referring to himself in the third person. He also slags off almost everyone except his wife and family- Malcolm McClaren (no surprise there), Vivienne Westwood, all his fellow Sex Pistols, most of the other punk bands, Joe Strummer, everyone in PiL especially Jah Wobble and Keith Levene, his live audience (who can’t keep up with him apparently), the record buying audience, Britain, journalists (he’s never had any good press apparently), Jon Savage… and so on. He claims to have invented almost everything that’s happened since the mid 70s from punk (fair enough) and social comment in songs, to house music and hip hop, even David Beckham’s haircuts… Everything he’s done was always the right decision (including inviting Sid in to join the Pistols, which partly led to the demise of both the band and Sid). He sees himself as a walking version of the Millwall FC song- no one likes him, he doesn’t care. On top of this he is wildly contradictory. He claims Sid was both clever and stupid within a few pages. He claims to abhor violence, lives the life of a Gandhi loving pacifist yet gets a massive kick repeatedly out of hanging around with Arsenal’s top boys, drinking in pubs used by London’s gangsters, and using his minder/manager Rambo to cause trouble and crack heads. On and on he goes, circling around, falling out with everyone he’s ever worked with, most of whom are portrayed as money grabbing parasites while his motives are always pure and artistic. He does admit he must be hard to work with. The chapter on the 1996 Sex Pistols re-union is a joke- Jones, Matlock and Cook were all this, while he was that, it wasn’t about the money, he doesn’t have any money, he did it for the art unlike the others, they insulted him with a demo for a new song etc etc. It wore me out to be honest and by the last few chapters detailing his television work I’d pretty much lost interest. Which is a shame because he was one of the true, stand alone giants in music.

It may be of course that the whole book is just a wind up. In which case, pffft.

I’ll get to PiL later.

Tony, Scott And Gary

The Grim Reaper has taken his toll recently and while the rush to Tweet/blog/post about celebrity deaths is a bit odd sometimes I thought I should pay tribute to three men who’ve all affected me at one time or another.

Tony Benn has been the subject of many words, now that he’s died all complimentary, many spoken by people who wouldn’t have had much good to say about him in his heyday- but that’s politics. I saw him speak in the late 80s, the best political orator I’ve had the pleasure to listen to. He was a constant champion of the left. I’ve read some of his diaries and can recommend them thoroughly. He was pipe smoker of the year at least once.

Scott Asheton was the drummer of The Stooges and if you listen to Funhouse or the first album you’ll know why he was such a crucial part of their neanderthal sound. He had a stroke a few years ago and tried to continue with Iggy and the reformed Stooges. He died at the weekend.

TV Eye (Take 1)

Gary Burger was the lead singer of mid-60s proto-punks The Monks, surely one of the most bizarre bands ever- a group of US G.I.’s with tonsures and robes, stationed in Germany, playing organ led garage rock, freaking out the flower children with songs of hate.