Thursday, 21 July 2016
"Fun House" by THE STOOGES [featuring IGGY POP] (2005 Elektra/Rhino 'Deluxe Edition' 2CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...
Rock has produced its fair share of talented loony bins - wild men born to upset and excite - Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Jim Morrison and Michigan's most famous front man - James Jewel Osterberg - IGGY POP to us mere mortals.
Even now in July 2016 as I write this - I look at the release date of 'December 1970' for "Fun House" by THE STOOGES and my jaw drops to the floor. I mean The Velvets were out there for sure as far back as 1967 - but not like this. Listening to the sheer sonic assault of "L.A. Blues" where the guitars threaten to bleed all over the Laura Ashley bed linen (its only five minutes of feedback but hard to take even now) or the fantastic hammer-down riffage of "Down On The Street" – The Stooges were so friggin’ PUNK before anyone even knew the meaning of the word – a band more likely to wear barbed wire in their hair than a flower.
In fact - if this early Punk jewel had arrived December 1977 in the UK – I’d argue it would have made Top 10 if not Top 5 - hailed as a genre masterpiece - and not suffered the ignominious fate of not even making the Top 200 in the USA on original release. I worked for Reckless Records in London for near 20 years as a Rarities Buyer and Mail Order head honcho – and I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen an actual British-pressed 'EKS' red label Elektra original. It sold nothing and never got promoted. An odd thing considering that you can literally feel the template for four decades of Punk, Grunge, Hardcore and Alternative screaming out of these 1970 grooves – a staggering legacy for such an overlooked album. Let's get to the in-house details and allow some Detroit mayhem into our nice orderly Feng Shui living rooms...
UK and USA released August 2005 - "Fun House" by THE STOOGES on Elektra/Rhino 8122-73175-2 (Barcode 081227317522) is a 2CD 'Deluxe Edition' with a new remaster on CD1 of the album and outakes/singles first issued on the 1999 Rhino Box Set "The Complete Fun House Sessions". It plays out as follows...
Disc 1 (36:40 minutes):
1. Down On The Street
3. T.V. Eye
5. 1970 [Side 2]
6. Fun House
7. L.A. Blues
Tracks 1 to 7 are their 2nd studio album "Fun House" - released December 1970 in the USA and UK on Elektra Records EKS 74071. Produced by DON GALLUCCI - it didn't chart in either country.
Disc 2 (73:28 minutes):
1. T.V. Eye (Takes 7 & 8)
2. Loose (Demo)
3. Loose (Take 2)
4. Loose (Take 22)
5. Lost In The Future (Take 1)
6. Down On The Street (Take 1)
7. Down On The Street (Take 8)
8. Dirt (Take 4)
9. Slide (Slidin' The Blues) (Take 1)
10. 1970 (Take 3)
11. Fun House (Take 2)
12. Fun House (Take 3)
Bonus Single Mixes:
13. Down On The Street
Tracks 13 and 14 were released December 1970 as the A&B-sides of a USA 7" single on Elektra EKM 45695
THE STOOGES was:
IGGY POP - Lead Vocals
RON ASHETON - Guitar
STEPHAN MACKAY - Tenor Saxophone
DAVE ALEXANDER - Bass
SCOTT ASHETON - Drums
The 20-page booklet is a pleasing affair - an introductory note by Jack White of The White Strips where he famously describes "Fun House" as 'the definitive rock album of America' - a quote they use on the jewel case sticker. PAUL TRYNKA supplies a truncated version of his "Fun House" liner notes from the 1999 six-disc blockbuster that included every take. It's accompanied by trade adverts, a facsimile of the Lester Bangs review in Creem Magazine and fantastic colour photos of Iggy and the band from the period (as well as the usual reissue credits).
DAN HERSCH and BILL INGLOT - long-time Audio Engineers whose history with Rhino and the vast WEA catalogue stretches back decades – have newly remastered the album onto Disc 1 (different to the 1999 issue) – and what a job they’ve done. The passion and sheer attitude captured by original Producer Don Gallucci (he let Iggy sing live into the mike to capture the energy) is amplified into something akin to The Ramones in your living room. This sucker ROCKS and the 1999 Remasters of the outtakes on Disc 2 perfectly distil the huge Box Set into one usable alternative chunk – giving the listener a cool yin-yang listen. Both CDs have the Elektra Butterfly label logo and beneath the see-through CD tray there’s even a garish colour picture of the band sitting obediently on a carpet as they look like altar boys out at the camera. Apparently Producer Gallucci removed the carpets and mufflers from the Elektra Studios for the song-a-day sessions to properly capture the sheer shock 'n' awe of the band...
"Fun House" storms into your man cave with "Down On The Street" - Iggy grunting, growling and yelping behind a riff that intends to hurt your granny. Things continue on their 'destroy all in our path' mission with the fantastic "Loose" - a properly huge guitar sound blasting away in the slightly echoed distance - a garage band telling you how they 'stick it deep inside' (oh dear tell me we're not talking about those naughty drugs boys). Iggy screams "LORD!" at the beginning of "T.V. Eyes" - another fab riff that The Sex Pistols would have nobbled a close family member to attain. Side 1 of this organised mayhem ends with "Dirt" - seven minutes of slow Doors-like Blues meets a menacing Stooges Rock groove – Ron Asheton's guitar playing a total revelation.
Side 2 offers the genius of the 'I feel alright' riffage of "1970" where Steven Mackay’s wild Saxophone playing finally makes itself known – followed by everyone's crave – the title track "Fun House". The near eight-minutes of "Fun House" was chosen as the LP's representative track on the gorgeous 5CD Elektra Records "Forever Changing" retrospective in 2006 (see my full in-depth review of that amazing set) and it's easy to hear why. More angry guitars and screaming Saxophone take no prisoners as the band wig out like their lives depend on it. But in truth I find the final screaming feedback and general slaughtering of your eardrums of "L.A. Blues" just too much to take (forgive me punk overlords) - but it doesn't stop me from being blown away by the album overall...
As someone who couldn't afford the lavish 1999 Rhino Set "The Complete Fun House Sessions" - Disc 2 offers up a mouth-watering prospect - an edited variant I can actually use - a sort of alternate "Fun House". I immediately went to "Slide" which is essentially a run-through for "Dirt" but with Saxophone thrown into the mix. I'm totally loving the slow groove of "Lost In The Future" even if Iggy's vocals show that he's still grappling with the words. And my God but the 'demo' of "Loose" could easily have been a single there and then - release it - leave it alone mother (love that feeding back guitar). Take 2 of "Fun House" runs to 9:31 minutes while Take 3 goes even longer to 11:30 - both are amazingly good and the Audio Remaster full of punch for all the right reasons.
As the album "Fun House" was released in late 1970 and few wanted to know let alone buy it - Heroin reared its ugly head and everything went to pieces for The Stooges (Bowie would rescue Iggy and some say vice versa). But remember them this way - snotty, raw and doing it for the little guy. Genius and then some...