Thursday, January 08, 2009

Ron Asheton Awarded Purple Heart For Fighting the War Against the Jive

As Ron Asheton expired sitting on his sofa in Ann Arbor this week, it took a few days for people to notice he was gone. Ron, though, was a larger than life presence, and in the larger scheme of things, he hovers over a generation of rock and roll soldiers. In a long forgotten LP by his band the New Order that was never even released in the US, his band sang "Rock and Roll will keep you alive, we never ever give in, it would be a sin, in the war against the jive." Asheton deserves a Purple Heart for valor in his lifelong battle against the jive. Together with Fred Sonic Smith of the MC5 they were the twin towers of Rock and Roll cementing forever the city of Detroit, and specifically Ann Arbor, as the high energy rock'n'roll capitol of the world. Once scoffed at and ridiculed, now, years later, they are fawned over by bands who arent even worthy of being their roadies.

Perhaps the Stooges took the rock and roll lifestyle to the extreme and then some, and the powers that be back then, the arbiters of taste, declared them talentless, and unfit for coronation. Their sweaty, noisy, malevolent barrage, as captured in all its glory by Don Galluci (of the Kingsmen!) on Funhouse is truly hard to beat, and that remains their landmark. Stoned, piledriving psychedelic blues that rocked so hard everything else sounded like Crosby, Stills, and Nash, who just happened to be the choice of those same "arbiters of taste". It all seems so clear now almost 40 years later, the apocalyptic nature of that LP which took rock and roll places it had rarely been before. The Stooges were not cerebral, but down in the dirt and out of their mind on a Friday night. That celebration of three chords and a screaming singer propelled by a pounding rhythm section, and a guitarist who knew it was not how many notes you played, but how you played them, is truly an album for the ages. Naturally, it would be years before the impact of that LP would be felt, and way before that,the band would succumb to the pressures of their self-destructive lifestyle and an indifferent music world.

The blistering, pounding tunes contained in Funhouse were psychedelic anthems, but there was no talk about wearing flowers in your hair. It was more like having your face rubbed in the dirt and lying in the gutter strung out or just being wired and losing all self-control. Channeling all that energy , and dirt, through his fingers Ron was a true rock and roll soldier, fighting his own private war. The Stooges were just too intense to keep it up, and the great bassist Dave Alexander was the first to go, and it seemed they never were quite the same. Bowie simultaneously resurrected and ruined their career with the flat sounding Raw Power which just seemed to take the wind out of their best songs like "Search and Destroy" and "I Wanna Be Your Dog". At this time, Iggy's peanut butter and glass antics were center stage and the music maybe just an afterthtought. In retrospect, after hearing the amazing remixed and remastered reish of Raw Power, one wonders what could have been. Certainly, the Stooges were on a path of self-destruction regardless. The amphetamine rush of Funhouse caught the band at a peak that remains unequaled, and the Stooges are now, despite being reviled by many in their day, a band the whole world knows.

Ron Asheton would soldier on after the Stooges, first with MC5 alum Dennis Thompson in the New Order, whose lone 6 song LP is full of great tunes abysmally recorded, the incendiary Destroy All Monsters, Dark Carnival and the amazing Aussie/Detroit supergroup, the New Race. All those bands are defintely winners too and Asheton continued to fight his war against the jive. The Stooges reunions of the past few years gave Ron and Iggy a chance to revel in the glory that had always eluded the band. Their last LP, The Weirdness, tried so hard to revive their magic, but in the end made you want to listen to their old LPs that much more. Asheton did never give in though, and additional dates were planned for this year. Im sorry I didnt get a chance to see the band ever, but I am sure there are countless fans out there who will cherish that memory forever. Me, I got the records, still in my collection when thousands of others have come and gone. They are both a testament to and an affirmation of the glory and the power of rock and roll. Ron Asheton may have hung up his guns, but his rock and roll will never die.

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