Ron Asheton and the Birth of Punk
I love punk rock, but not unconditionally. Despite my passion for British rock, my punk tastes are extremely American and far-removed from the bands of today who, however erroneously, bare the same label (I’m looking at you, Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance).
For me, the spirit of punk rock was born as early as 1964, the year that gave us both the gnarly, slashed-amp sounds of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” and the guitar feedback opener in The Beatles’ “I Feel Fine.” The vibe was amplified the following year when the Velvet Underground hit smarter ears like a hypnotic, rhythm-and-blues subway train from Hell. But if Velvet Underground poured the gasoline on punk, it took the Stooges to set it ablaze.
It’s no accident that the Sex Pistols incorporated The Stooges’ “No Fun” into their set. The Stooges are punk. Irreverent, evocative, modern, dangerous punk. This is Bauhaus rock; only the most communicative elements are retained. In spite of their deliberately minimalist arrangements, the band grew tremendously from 1969’s self-titled debut to the more gut-wrenching, no-holds-barred approach of Fun House (1970). But it would be 1973’s Raw Power which would leave the greatest abrasion, distilling the band’s sound into a product free of compromise and influence; it remains the purest statement of the group’s aural impact.
Iggy receives and will continue to receive a more pronounced percentage of the Stooges’ belated celebrity, and with good reason. As frontman, Iggy is less a vocalist than an absolute force-of-nature. But guitarist Ron Asheton’s importance cannot be over-estimated—his guitar gave the Stooges their mystique. Classic riffs in “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” “T.V. Eye” and many others established hooks from which the audience could accept the band’s otherwise abrasive stimuli. His playing was rhythmic, his arrangements hypnotic, and his influence on punk is arguably even greater than that of his bandmates.
Ron Asheton died on Tuesday from what appear to be natural causes, but his music will continue to be the anthem for every kid growing up artier than conservatives yet angrier than hippies.
I’ve been hurt And I don’t care Cause I’m burning inside I’m just a dreaming this life And do you feel it? Said do you feel it when you touch me?
- From “Dirt,” off the Stooges’ Fun House