In a timeline of the subjectively greatest moments in rock ‘n’ roll history, whether it be The Beatles on Ed Sullivan or Nirvana’s “Nevermind” getting the top spot on the “Billboard” album charts out of the blue, each pinpoint can be over-analyzed to become the new seminal moment in rock history.
There is always a basis for these events, however, that is often underplayed, hence saying “over-analyzed” — typically a band, given far less credit, directly influenced the act that is now considered to be breaking ground. This past Saturday, the world lost a member of one of these acts that wasn’t deemed pioneering until later on. That musician was Scott Asheton, 64, drummer of The Stooges, who passed away of an unspecified illness.
Perhaps most distinguished by their first few records, from the self-titled debut (1969) to “Raw Power” (1973), The Stooges consistently failed to garner an audience early on, at least one that could support their craft. Listening now, it seems unbelievable; The Stooges were punk before anyone else was, and sonically speaking, it was Asheton who propelled the gruff spirit of it all. As reflected in some of their most notable works, such as “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and “Search and Destroy,” the band’s sound was chaos, especially compared to the pop-rock, singer-songwriter/folk (think The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel) material that was being largely thrown around at the time.
“Rolling Stone’s” Andy Greene writes in regard to The Stooges and Asheton’s death: “It’s almost impossible to imagine how the 1970s would have unfolded had (The Stooges) not formed.” Greene’s right, but narrowly so; The Stooges, to me, were elemental to my understanding of music when I started to comprehend that music was made by artists and not the radio. Though that might belittle my relationship with The Stooges compared to that of fans much older and nerdier, much of the music I choose to listen was formulated by this band. The music is cathartic in its roughness and unabashed timbres — I love it for that; it was audacious for me at the time of my discovery of it.
Clearly, I wasn’t alone. As I became clued into punk and punk-inflected gems of later days, I realize that it was The Stooges, with Asheton armed at percussion, that concocted what we understand as punk rock today: fast, loud, scruffy, unapologetic. Rhythmic templates for the genre were derived partially by this band (yes, they might have had some help from MC5), with connections being seen later on in The Ramones, as well as in later hardcore acts such as Black Flag. Mind “Nevermind,” too, as Nirvana’s core was very much collected from the riffs stylized by The Stooges’ members.
Luckily, with more music breaching our libraries and more means of getting it, I imagine The Stooges are receiving a lot more attention nowadays, with Asheton finally getting the acclaim he deserved on top of it. Asheton was a progressive, establishing a fresh style of rock music that is continually thwarting against the uncomfortably amiable ear. His drumming leaves a legacy that will literally be echoed forevermore, and I look forward to what that brings.
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