Tag Archive: acid

The Stooges – Fun House – 7/7/1970

Let’s be honest: rock and roll is a dirty business.  I try as much as I can to elevate it to its true height, emphasizing its beauty, grace and transcendent nature. But I often forget or ignore that rock has some rough edges. Not even rough, though; sharp, dangerous. If you get a cut from one of them, it could become infected and before you know it your foot is being amputated. Sometimes rock and roll is just a great big pile of crap.

Did that sound negative? It’s not, really. I have to admit that I like the crap of rock and roll at times. It feels good to rub it on my skin, to feel the waste circling back to me, and find that it’s not waste at all. When an animal takes a crap on the ground, the ground is nourished. It doesn’t smell that good, but it takes that crap and says “thank you.” We should all be so grateful.

Wow. I just disgusted myself a little; I can’t imagine how you must be feeling.

Iggy Pop is someone who must understand the excrement nature of rock music better than anyone else. Watching one of his live shows, even archival footage, is like sitting square in the middle of a pit bull’s brain. He’s shirtless, unwashed, sweaty and gross. He leaps around wildly and ungracefully. He spits, growls, shouts and verbally abuses his audience. The climax comes when he unzips his jeans, loosens them a little, then leaps up and down wildly, letting gravity do the rest. Sometimes he’s wearing underwear, sometimes he’s not.

When Fun House came out in 1970, few people knew or cared about Iggy and his band, the Stooges. But just enough people cared that they could operate, release albums, do shows and the like. They were satisfied with that. It took quite some time, but Fun House eventually became one of the most respected albums ever, and if you have even the smallest spark of punk in you, it’s easy to see why.

What do I mean by punk? It’s difficult to explain, but I’ll try. “Punk” has been around much longer than the term or the genre of music it lends its name to. Any time you are being told what to do and not do and you feel the fire of anger in response, that’s punk. In the musical sense, it could be said that punk rock is the boiling down of rock music to its most elemental form, stripping away every added social aspect until what’s essential remains. And what remains is rebellion – often for no apparent reason.

The Stooges’ self-titled first album was relatively tame. It was produced by John Cale of Velvet Underground fame, about a year after he split from that group. Despite a good pedigree, The Stooges didn’t have the grit and grime of their second album, Fun House, and also didn’t capture even an iota of the energy of their live shows. But for Fun House, Don Gallucci was at the helm, and he took a very simple approach: just let them play and get in on tape.

Consequentially, Fun House has an untamed and dangerous tone from the first seconds of the lead-off track. Lyrically, “Down On the Street” is pretty clumsily written, as all Stooges songs are. It wasn’t until Iggy teamed up with David Bowie and went solo that “real” lyrics emerged. “Down On the Street” is about an acid trip, but the real gold is in the music. Iggy hoots and growls like a caged animal, and his voice has a primal, untreated quality to it. Then the chorus comes, the cage disappears and the animal is loose.

“Loose” is also the name of the very next song. It continues the wild and dangerous musical motif that is present for most of Fun House. It’s hard to miss the meaning of “I’ll stick it deep inside.” As the chorus declares in forceful tones, Iggy is indeed loose; loose on your daughters, on your morals, and on the youth of America. Protect your family! The Stooges will destroy the very fabric of our society!

Oh, come on; who doesn’t love moral panic jokes?

Tomorrow: what is a T.V. eye?


3-year-old Julian’s picture that inspired “Lucy”

When I was in elementary school, there was a girl in my class a few years named Lucy. At the beginning of the year, we would all take our desks, then go around and say our names. It seemed like every year it would come around to Lucy, she would say her name, and the teacher would say, “huh, like that song.” Then the teacher would sing the first line of the chorus to “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds” and say, “I love that song.” Lucy would just nod. She must have heard that a billion times.

The responsibility for “Lucy” lies with John Lennon’s son Julian. He was 3 years old when he brought home from school a picture he had drawn. Kid pictures are a funny thing. We praise and laud them to the kids as if they’re the prize of the century, and hang them on the fridge. Viewed with a critical and objective eye, of course, kid pictures unilaterally suck, but that’s not the point. It’s the kid that made the picture that matters, not the picture itself. And if it’s our kid, then Jackson Pollock better make way. Aside from their usefulness as a window into the child’s psychology, they make parents feel proud of their kid. And they can even inspire a song.

“Lucy” was one such song, and a big fat thank-you needs to go to Julian, and the real-life Lucy who in turn inspired the picture. It’s a wonderful piece of psychedelic whimsy, and has a childlike boppiness. It also features a shift from a 3/4 time in the verses to 4/4 in the chorus. This normally annoys the crap out of me (especially when it’s accompanied by a big tempo change), but it works here. The lyrics speak of tangerine trees and cellophane flowers and marshmallow pies, but the strange and perhaps drug-induced imaginings of the narrator don’t make the listener feel ill-at-ease.

I can hear the question on your lips before you say it. “Is the song about drugs?” There’s the simple fact that it’s called “LUCY in the SKY with DIAMONDS.” L. in the S. with D. LSD. Any 2nd grader (with an unsettling knowledge of controlled substances) could figure that one out, so that’s not enough. But the song has a weird, other-worldly quality, encouraged by the celeste-like intro. The picture I get from the lyrics is of a crazy, colorful world, but it’s more Dr. Seuss than Timothy Leary. Personally, I don’t buy the drug subtext thing, but here’s the main reason. It’s a quote from John himself.

“It was purely unconscious that it came out to be LSD. Until someone pointed it out, I never even thought of it. I mean, who would ever bother to look at initials of a title? It’s not an acid song.”

That settles it for me.