Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Song of the Day: The Stooges - Down On the Street (1970)

Something that's always fascinated me about pop culture is the power of moments. How does one moment affect certain people in just the right way, so that it starts a trope, a movement, a trend, a scene, a revolution? Can we trace these things back to where the snowball first formed? Can we look at definitive points in time as the first roll of the snowball? With certainty, no, we cannot. But argumentatively, we absolutely can. 

So let's imagine punk rock is a snowball. We can point to so many things from the '50s and '60s as aspects of the snowball taking form, but can we find a moment where someone pushed it downhill, and set in motion the ability for it to gain speed and mass? I think that moment is exactly 44 seconds into the first track on the second Stooges album, 1970's Fun House

Everything up to that point in the song, in The Stooges career, and in rock and roll, flirted with that sort of fury, abandon, defiance, and nihilism, but hadn't quite gotten there yet. And then Iggy shouts "In the wall!" like he can no longer be contained by the previous standards of whatever garage rock was up to that point. A new style was necessitated into existence by the power of that scream. 

The Iggy of this period was less a predictable character of energetic craziness that people generally knew how to consume, and more of a genuine danger that was capable of anything. The above photo is one of my favorite images in rock and roll, because of how messianic it looks, like the audience had, in that moment, found the precise deity they needed. 

The thing about any style of rebellion is that eventually it feels tame, usually sooner rather than later. That's why rock and roll had to lead to Rock, to metal, to punk, to hardcore, to noise, to death metal, to hip hop, to grunge, to gangsta rap, and on and on and on. Nothing that your parents rebelled to can ever feel rebellious to you, by very definition. Each generation needs their own soundtrack of defiance. 

But it still retroactively feels like Iggy discovered something fundamental in that moment of screaming for the wall. This was by no means the first time singers devolved to primal scream during rock music, but it does feel like the first time the music devolved right along with the singer. Rock has a long history of excellent screamers, Lennon and McCartney still being two of the finest. But every time they screamed it felt like their rage was kept in check by the beautiful melodies they were counter-balancing. 

Not so here. The Asheton brothers were not keeping Iggy in check during those moments, but rather finding sonic ways to scream right along with him. There would be consequences. 

Check out the Song of the Day Archive!!

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