Iggy and the Stooges “Raw Power” mixes

On Record Store Day 2012, a special double-LP edition was released of Iggy (Pop) and the Stooges’ Raw Power (Legacy 88691959351), containing the David Bowie mix of the album which was originally released in 1973, as well as the 1997 version of the album as remixed by Iggy Pop. The Bowie mix was out of print during the late-‘90’s and in the ‘00’s after it was deleted in favor of Iggy’s mix. Iggy’s newer mix has received much criticism, but this is one case where I personally don’t prefer one mix over the other. The two mixes are very different, and each of them serves its own purpose. Bowie’s 1973 mix is clearly the one that is historically important. When you hear musicians and magazine writers discussing the impact of Raw Power on the evolution of rock music, they are certainly not referring to the 1997 version. But Iggy’s mix possesses a raw power of its own.

Raw Power was the third and final album by the Stooges before the start of Iggy Pop’s solo career. Unlike the band’s two Elektra releases before it, this Columbia album billed the band as Iggy and the Stooges, instead of just the Stooges. Original lead guitarist Ron Asheton played the bass on this album, replacing the troubled Dave Alexander. James Williamson played the lead guitar on this album. There is no denying how influential the 1973 album was to the punk rock movement that emerged a few years later. The music sounds like a primitive, garage-based form of heavy metal. Iggy comes on like a barbaric, nihilistic anarchist, much like the angry and hostile screamers who appeared later in the decade.

The original 1973 release (Columbia KC 32111) was mixed by David Bowie after the folks at Columbia refused to release the too-raw initial mix turned in by Iggy and company. Although Bowie made the album more presentable, he also made it sound quite bizarre in some ways. Doing all of his work in one day, and using equipment that was archaic even at the time, Bowie tended to place Iggy’s vocals way up front in the mix, with the lead guitar at almost the same level, while pushing the other instruments further into the background. Although Raw Power is considered to be an early punk album, the 1973 mix clearly sounds pre-punk despite its unapologetically primitive sound. The ballad “Gimme Danger” sounds much like an Alice Cooper song from the period, and on the particularly wild closing track “Death Trip”, Iggy very much resembles an even more uninhibited Jim Morrison. (Ray Manzarek reportedly considered enlisting Iggy to replace Morrison in the Doors). This version of the Stooges packs a harder punch than the band did on the first two albums; “Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell” is reminiscent of “I Wanna Be Your Dog” from the 1969 debut, except that it noticeably rocks harder. The 1973 album is a raw and powerful musical statement, for that time and this one.

The 1997 Legacy reissue (Legacy CK 66229) was remixed by Iggy at the label’s request (sound familiar?). With benefit of newer technology, a bigger budget, and over two decades’ worth of perspective, Iggy made the material sound more cohesive, and gave it more immediacy for ‘90’s alternative listeners. No one can accuse Iggy of watering these tracks down; while they sound less primitive, they certainly still have loud, brutish power. Iggy himself described his mix as “very violent”. But a more sophisticated mix isn’t necessarily a better one. Part of the album’s importance comes from the fact that it was ahead of its time. For that reason, the 1973 Bowie mix sounds both dated and timeless at once. Therefore, making the album sound more contemporary and less chaotic does not necessarily improve it. The good news is that Iggy’s mix usually does not hurt the material, either. One arguable exception is “Penetration”, which loses much of the sleazy Stones-like charm of the 1973 mix, although it rescues the xylophone sounds that Bowie nearly buried. The 1997 re-release of Raw Power is still a potent, barbaric burst of hard-rock energy. Just don’t think of it as a replacement for the 1973 mix.

Beware of the 1989 CD issue of Raw Power from Columbia (Columbia CK 32111), which is reputed to be a poorly remastered edition of the Bowie mix. The 2-CD Legacy Edition from 2010 (Legacy 88697 65714 2) contains the newly remastered Bowie mix on the first disc, and a second disc with previously unreleased live tracks and studio outtakes (many of which were later issued on Rare Power).

In 1995, two short years before Iggy’s mix hit the shelves, the indie punk label Bomp issued Rough Power (Bomp 4049-2), which purportedly contains the Stooges’ original pre-Bowie mixes of the Raw Power tracks. If the first seven tracks (from which “Shake Appeal” is missing) really are the mixes that the Stooges originally submitted to Columbia, then it’s hard to blame the company for wanting the album remixed. (Personally, I’m guessing that they are either not the first-generation masters, or that anomalies have formed from the aging of the source tapes, or both). On “Search and Destroy” and “Gimme Danger”, Iggy’s vocals sound less glam-rock-y, and they don’t stand out enough from the instrumentation. This is even more true of the messy “Hard To Beat” (the original title for “Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell”), where Iggy’s vocals almost disappear; one can easily understand why Bowie felt compelled to bring the vocals further to the front in his mix. “Death Trip” doesn’t sound bad here, but Bowie definitely improved on it. On the upside, “I Need Somebody” sounds just right as a specimen of ‘70’s garage rock. Meanwhile, “Penetration” and “Raw Power” are decorated with xylophone sounds that are more audible than they were on Bowie’s mixes; Iggy’s vocals sound more raw on the former, and more distorted on the latter.

Rough Power also contains a Detroit radio broadcast from early 1973, featuring yet more rough mixes of several songs, and on-air comments from Ron Asheton. This broadcast sounds like it was sourced from someone’s homemade cassette recording, which actually adds to the fun. Although the CD packaging states that it is “Guaranteed Bowie-free!!”, a few of these tracks from the broadcast may actually be the Bowie mixes filtered through white-noisy recording; for example, it’s hard to tell any difference on “Search and Destroy” and “I Need Somebody”. But the tape and/or broadcast distortion actually adds an extra edge to “Raw Power” and “Shake Appeal”, almost giving us a feel for how those songs probably came across to ’73 listeners. This version of “Hard To Beat” is a bit too scratchy, but it’s better than the other version on this CD. The outtake “Not Right” sounds as if it wasn’t fully formed, but that doesn’t stop it from being a good, sloppy rocking-out track.

The last three tracks on the CD are listed as “still more Stooges mixes” which are “possibly” from November of ’72. Wherever and whenever those three tracks came from, they are redundancies scraped from the very bottom of the barrel, and have truly subterranean sound quality. The types of obsessive Stooges fanatics who actually listened to the entire 6-CD Rhino box set 1970: The Complete Fun House Sessions are probably the only ones who will need to hear them.

See also Rare Power

Iggy and The Stooges - Raw Power

Track Listing for 1973 and 1997 Raw Power releases:

1. Search and Destroy
2. Gimme Danger
3. Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell
4. Penetration
5. Raw Power
6. I Need Somebody
7. Shake Appeal
8. Death Trip

The Stooges - Rough Power

Rough Power Track Listing:

1. Search and Destroy (3/10/72)
2. Gimme Danger (3/10/72)
3. Hard To Beat (Pretty Face) (4/10/72)
4. Penetration (4/10/72)
5. Raw Power (3/10/72)
6. I Need Somebody (4/10/72)
7. Death Trip (4/10/72)

Complete WABX broadcast, early 1973

8. I Need Somebody
9. Hard To Beat
10. Death Trip
11. Raw Power
12. Search and Destroy
13. Shake Appeal
14. Not Right (previously unknown outtake)

Bonus: still more Stooges mixes (possibly 11/28/72)

15. Raw Power
16. Shake Appeal
17. Search and Destroy


Thee Trucker said…
It hardly matters which mix you pick. The problem isn't in the mixing, but in the recording. That's why no one has been able do anything with it. Nevertheless, the performances cut right through the botched recording. It's painful to think what this album could've been. Yet, in spite of its serious flaws, it one of the greatest rock records, ever.