Friday, September 4, 2015

fun house

The Stooges came to play live and loose in the studio with a real low mind on this primitive punk freak out.   The Detroit band had defied expectations with their audacious live shows with lead singer Iggy Stooge (James Newell Osterberg aka Iggy Pop) gyratic outrageously and diving off of the stage into the audience.  Guitarist Ron Asheton says:   "I empathize with [Iggy] only in the sense that he had set a precedent with his stage antics, and he had to come up with stuff all the time. I didn't know, he actually told me that he took acid for every show for a year. And I went "What?" I was so used to him, I didn't even know he was on acid. His eyes always looked like he was crazy. He just smoked a bunch of pot...He had to come up with stuff, and it did start to drain him, mentally and physically, and he found the heroin probably to be relaxing in the beginning, but then it was like oh, man...When we did ['Fun House'], we still liked each other, we were still a band, all that was smoked was hashish or marijuana, that was the only drugs. No one was least I wasn't, or Dave or Scotty; Iggy was taking acid. In other words, it was just back to the so-called soft drugs."

Although their eponymous debut had only charted at number one hundred and six on the US album chart, the band got the green light to record another album.   'Fun House' was recorded during two weeks in May of 1970 at Elektra Sound Recorders, Los Angeles.  The sessions featured  Iggy Pop on vocals,  Ron Asheton on guitar, Dave Alexander on bass guitar, Scott Asheton on drums, and Steve Mackay on saxophone.  Don Gallucci, who at the age of fourteen had played keyboards on the Kingsmen's classic "Louie Louie", was brought in to produce and even played organ.    Gallucci remembers:   "Iggy was using the mic just like he did onstage, and you're going to get distortion that way.  We used limiters, but there is only so much they can do! We didn't think it hurt for this record to have distorted vocals.  No one wanted to wear headphones, except for Ron Asheton...We all knew it was awful.  However, there was no subsequent big discussion about a different recording technique. Iggy was clearly frustrated. He wanted to have close contact with his guitarist. He wanted to be able to lean over into Ron's amp and hear the guitar jump out at him. I knew nothing could sound worse than what we had, so we got rid of the baffles, set the band up just as they would be onstage and brought in the P.A. speakers [and split the singer's mic feed between the P.A. amplifier and the recording console]...That way Iggy could be comfortable and have the live sound experience he was used to, and he didn't need headphones. We absolutely wanted everything to bleed. That gave us the much-needed natural sound quality and the familiar aural environment the band wanted.  I think some of the best recordings-at least in terms of fatness, texture and warmth-were made with one microphone at the back of a bar, so I thought it was at least worth a try...Everything in music had gotten so fey. At around the same time as Fun House, I went to this big Columbia Records dinner, and the main event was Simon & Garfunkel performing 'Bridge Over Troubled Water.' That's a beautiful song, but to The Stooges, taking rock and pop and making it so acceptable and refined was sacrilegious. Their whole thing was to go Zen, to cut the music right back to its essence."

Ron Asheton reveals:   "Gallucci had a very cool concept. He wanted to find another aural direction for The Stooges, to capture a total live feeling, one where the sounds would encompass themselves like onstage. And that's the beauty of that record, because it was as close to our live sound as could be captured in a studio  ...  They picked him, and we didn't even know that he was coming to a lot of shows in the beginning, and seeing us play, and then we kinda met him, and knew he was gonna be there, and "He's gonna be your producer," and we're like, "Hunh?... He was a short guy, he was always impeccably dressed in a really nice suit, and I'm going, "How is this guy, who's dressed in this really nice suit, gonna relate to the Stooges?" But he did an excellent job. He wanted to capture the show. I think he only changed the order of the set; he switched two songs, I can't even remember. What was even more amazing is when we first met him and we met the engineer, Ross Meyer -- he was pretty quiet, probably in his 50s at the time -- and I thought "Oh boy, we're in trouble." Little did we know we had very competent people in the control room. He finally started talking a little bit, and he goes, "Yeah, this stuffs all right. It's a big change from Barbara Streisand. " Hunh? He just got done doing Barbara Streisand's record. From Barbara Streisand to the Stooges... Whaat?  It turned out they did a fantastic job. And we had a great time, and we'd just come off the road, so our chops, we were there. I mean, it was literally off the road, a week to get our house in order so we could go to L.A. for a month. So we were ready to go, and that's why that record was as smooth and good as it was. We did minimal takes; I don't think we did more than five takes, or four takes, and a lot of times we'd take the first one or the second one. It went really well...Well, basically by then, everybody had learned to play and had a little bit more of a handle on what to do. The first record was a big pain, because all we knew was stack of Marshalls on ten. And that was the big fight. "You can't play a double stack of Marshall amps on ten in this little studio." I'm going, "Yeah, but man, that's the sound." So there'd be big fights...I think the compromise was I went down to like nine. But still, they overcompensated, taking a lot of the edge off. And I used the Flying V for half the tunes, every song but three.  But by the Fun House record, I went down to a Marshall 50, which could be on nine, ten...just a smaller cabinet, what I call "the refrigerator top;" I think it had six tens in it. And Dave just used a hundred watt with one speaker. So yeah, it was a bigger studio and it was a lot more fun. And we were treated like not stupid kids, but actually "professional musicians," which was like Hunh? I mean, that was only the second time I'd ever been in a recording studio. But by then, being that we'd been on the road so long, we really progressed. We learned an awful lot in a short amount of time. You can see the progression of our playing from the first record to the second record. Gee, that was like a year. We just played so much, everyone's abilities just increased unbelievably. I never thought of it until just recently..."On the job training." That's how the Stooges learned everything..."on the job."...That whole Funhouse album was our set. Gallucci wanted to capture our set the best he could on record. He did a good job. We were playing all those tunes at the time we recorded them, but we didn't have to be in the studio and go, "Oh, we need some more songs." It was already all there."

 'Fun House'  didn't even chart in the US, and despite going on to become cited as a major influence on the punk movement that came years later, the album has still only sold less than a hundred thousand copies.   Iggy considers:   "I have a suspicion that the design of some of the songs was ahead a few years. I've always hated that phrase "it was ahead of its time", but it was. Some of the albums, like Fun House, but certain parts of each of the three... Some of the lyrics have allowed the songs to stick around, but then again some of the terms and phrases were a little out there when we were coming up with them. But right now, it fits. The music itself in all its aspects may have may have found a utility for younger musicians that it didn't have when we started. In other words, I know when I was first starting John Lee Hooker was incredibly useful to me...In 1965, when great young white artists in the English-speaking world were successfully re-channeling hillbilly and black music-- you know Bob Dylan, Ray Davies, Pete Townsend, Keith Richards-- they didn't get any money at first. They were all broke. All those giant people had to stay around quite a while to cash in because the industry ripped them off more efficiently."

"TV Eye"
live in Cincinnati
June 13, 1970

"Funhouse Freak" (aka LA Blues) first take
Iggy says:   "We used to call that song "Freak Out", and when we recorded Funhouse, because we were in L.A., I gave it the title "L.A. Blues". On the very end of that record, you'll hear me repeat that lyric a little different. I think I say the phrase "I am", and then the last sound on that record is the word "you" and for some reason I enjoy doing it live. The one thing it means to me, maybe, is that I'm still that person in the audience. Maybe that's what I'm trying to say there, because for some reason I'm still…I get outraged when I see some fat bottom creep…I can't explain it. It's as near to a religion as I ever got, this thing, and I really don't like getting any more than casual about it, but I do have certain deep feeling about it that do come out time to time."

 'Fun House' 
full album:

All songs written and composed by The Stooges.

Side one
1. "Down on the Street"   3:42
2. "Loose"   3:33
3. "T.V. Eye"   4:17
4. "Dirt"   7:00

Side two
5. "1970" (aka "I Feel Alright") 5:14
6. "Fun House"   7:45
7. "L.A. Blues"   4:52


Lost In The Future – 5:42

Slide [Slidin' The Blues] – 4:35

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