An Album That Changed My Life: Fun House by The Stooges
My childhood was a fairly strict Catholic one and rock ‘n’ roll was frowned upon with a muscular brow. Mix-tapes were exchanged in shadowy corridors of the high school, to be auditioned privately with the aid of headphones and it was in this way that I first heard The Stooges’ Fun House - a record which for me, even to this day, serves as the benchmark for rock ‘n’ roll. Like a dog finally breaking through the bone to the visceral reward of the marrow, such was this revelation to me.
The Stooges’ 1970 sophomore release leaps off the platter, grabs you by the throat and shakes you until your ligaments lose their definition. Barely seconds in, the listener is confronted with the atavistic whoops and shrieks of Iggy Pop, fortified by the thuggish rhythm section of Scott Asheton and Dave Alexander and the loose and sprawling guitar of Ron Asheton. Fun House also features the tenor saxophone of Steve Mackay, whose inclusion hints at the influence of the free jazz movement on the band (as demonstrated also by Detroit pals and label mates MC5 on their 1971 LP High time) and serves to escalate the recklessness of this record.
At the time of this album’s release the hippie movement was dead and punk was scarcely a twinkle in the collective eye of a bored generation. Rock ‘n’ roll had been corporatised, cleaned and polished, made palatable for the ever-expanding waistband of middle America, creating a vacuum for the disenchanted that would soon be filled by punk rock (which itself was nothing more than a re-branding of rock ‘n’ roll). In the meantime the Stooges carried the flag.
Exploring themes of teenage sexual frustration and misanthropy set in a background of socio-economic hopelessness, Fun House is a wet dream for the disenfranchised and disillusioned teenager, but it is so much more. The cathartic power of this record cannot be overstated. Its brute simplicity combined with a surly disregard for convention climaxes in the orgiastic cacophony of ‘L.A. Blues’, a potential anthem for the revolution which sadly never came.
Front men like Iggy don’t exist anymore, probably because ADHD is these days quickly diagnosed and treated, but even he and the current incarnation of the Stooges are incapable of making another Fun House. Any attempt would be futile and should be discouraged.
Rock ‘n’ roll is not polite, it is not sophisticated, it does not apologize and it does not care about you. Rock ‘n’ roll is supposed to be dangerous…danger is fundamental to its appeal. In Fun House the Stooges were dangerous. In fact they may have defined it.
Roland Bisshop is a bookseller at Readings Carlton.