A Raw Power trip - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #54

A lot of people, and sometimes me in the dark hours of the morning with nothing but a beer jacket between me and locked-out hypothermia, wish that Hendrix had lived. Joplin didn’t have to leave us, Lennon had faster reactions (or Chapman had worse aim) and that Cobain had been able to see it through to the end. I frequently wish HST hadn’t typed ‘counsellor’. As if, by remaining alive instead of departing this world in a firework flash all these geniuses would have been able to nail the beauty. We have always been scratching at the door of perfection and there was a feeling that with just a little more time one of these cats could have nailed it. Personally I’ve enjoyed the ride too much to see the ‘greatest rock song of all time’ be written and end the whole farce. Death is every bit as much a part of rock and roll as the cars in the swimming pools and the drugs and the music. A lot of people wish rock stars back to life, I wish Iggy had died right after Raw Power got nailed in the studio.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against him, it’s just when any idiot drearily dreamily brings up wishing Hendrix or Cobain was still alive, I quickly find that insurance advert with fucking Iggy in it and say to them “just you fucking imagine Hendrix or Cobain in that car talking about fucking 60 second quotes? Yeah motherfucker, that’s the horrifying sentence for rock stars who live” (by this point I am usually drunk). Nah man for rock stars it ought to be like Logan’s Run, 27 and pop. It’ll inspire them to work hard before they get taken behind the shed and put out of their misery. Just pity Iggy, this is the man who pretty much singlehandedly helms the Stooges utterly mesmeric Raw Power and now look at him, there’s nothing left alive but a pair of glassy eyes, raise my feelings one more time. Naw man, give me danger any time.

(Well this article is just reference-tastic, innit?)

Raw Power is, in my eyes, one of the perfect albums. I don’t use that word often or lightly and let me clarify. It is perfect. There isn’t a side, there isn’t a song, there isn’t a chord, there isn’t a drum hit or an exhale that is wrong. The entire thing, from top to tail and from start to finish has no flaws. Also attending this prestigious club is Wire’s Pink Flag and Sleep’s Dopesmoker. Which is particularly odd because when I first heard it was underwhelmed. I’d read oodles about it and got really excited that when I first set my copy a’spinnin’ I was left with a certain worry and upset that comes with any lo-fi recording, but it remained throughout. There were sparks, but I just couldn’t shake the vocals and the roughness of the experience. His wails and equipment-straining screeches were just a little too much to bear. I listened to it once through and resigned it to the bin of the rock and roll hall of fame also-spun. Records that have been indoctrinated either into the actual hall of fame or receive rapturous praise from someone-or-other who supposedly knows his arse from his elbow and when you actually get your hands on them you’re cursing the creep because you’ve been savagely burned. It’s happened to me countless times and I’m starting to savour it because getting viciously burned on a hard-to-locate record by some snotty prick who’s forgotten that not everyone has pro rock writer money is just part of being a rock and roll devotee.

But then at the behest of yet more Raw Power praise I listened again, and again, and again and again until suddenly it hit me like a diamond bullet. This is genius. No vocalist has done what Iggy does on this record, before or since. This is a one-time deal and luckily was recorded for posterity so that we all could fall in step behind the swaggering, jeering masterpiece. In fact the only real record in the same vein that approaches Raw Power is Holy McGrail’s Raw Power Suite, a re-recorded tribute to Raw Power in the most vicious and reconstructed mode.

The Suite, the real trip.

For the most part it plays like the classic Raw Power, except melted under the furious light of thirty years’ scrutiny. Songs are horribly warped and barely audible above the distortion and noise. Search and Destroy is half as long as it should be, while Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell (or Hard to Beat Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell as it’s referred to on here) is twice as long as it ought to be. I Need Somebody makes the album feel like the director’s cut of the Wicker Man, the once-ripped out scenes tossed back in like old rotting organs into a living body and the juxtaposition is intriguingly jarring. Replaced with the beautiful iron lunged female tones the song takes on a perplexing place amongst the outright ruined sound of the previous side. There’s a shockingly out of place angelic backing to the chorus made up of backing vocals and maybe some organ shit too, I don’t know for sure, I’m too scared to listen again. It isn’t that it’s bad, it is so stunningly different from the Raw Power I thought I knew, perverted and ripped quite literally apart. It’s like Raw Power might sound if Iggy dropped into his own dream in some movie...

Shake Appeal is of course the contact point. That first moment where you start to like Raw Power inevitably comes from acknowledging that Shake Appeal has the best riff in the Stooges repertoire. Shake Appeal on Raw Power Suite isn’t without its violences, there are twists and turns and strange electronic noises that drop in at intervals. This motherfucker keeps the Shake Appeal riff running, as the centre of attention, without interruption of vocals or pauses for nearly fifteen fucking minutes! It’s almost a third of the total runtime of the record spent mercilessly flogging this poor dilapidated riff until it is just gasping for any kind of oxygen left in the airless room. After that the reimagining of Death Trip into two separate acts is really just an exhausted flop onto the exercise mat, because make no mistake, this is a solid workout for you as much as it is for Holy McGrail.

It’s a holy mess of an album, Raw Power Suite. Really all it does is piss all over one of the perfect albums. But you know why I love it anyway? Why I continue to cling to enjoyment of all of its melted vinyl wails and empty echoes of what were once such full and rich grooves? It’s the kind of thing that would get made if Iggy had died. It is the sort of record that fell through a time-hole from an alternate universe where releasing a record means one only lives to 27. He’d just have had time to finish Raw Power.

Written under duress by Steven.

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