The Stooges were never a great band musically. Like a lot of the punk bands that followed in their footsteps, they weren’t masters of their instruments. Did it matter? Not at all. With little talent to fall back on, they relied on raw passion to see them through, pumping more enthusiasm and energy into their live performances than any other band were capable of. While that excitement didn’t always come across in the studio, when it did, the results were epic. Here, we rank the 10 best Stooges songs of all time.
The Stooges were like no band that had come before. Iggy Pop was like no other frontman. Their full-throttle rock and roll was vicious, raw… almost guttural. When Iggy sings “Now I’m putting it to you straight from hell”, you know he’s not messing around. There’s no fluff, no sugar coating. If parental warnings were a thing in 1970, Loose would have been slapped with a big one.
9. Fun House
Described by Rate Your Music as ‘slippery nihilistic funk-blues,’ Fun House is a bass-heavy track with a slippery guitar and a chilling performance from Iggy. The Fun House might have been a place of self-indulgence and carnal pleasures, but Iggy gives the impression of being trapped by it. Unfortunately, most of the rest of the band were too – shortly after its recording, the entire band (with the exception of Ron Asheton) descended into heroin addiction. Dave Alexander, who was dismissed in 1970 after turning up to a gig too drunk to play, would die from alcohol-related causes within 5 years. Whatever else the Stooges’ clubhouse was, it wasn’t light-hearted fun – but it did give us some great music.
8. Down on the Street
By the time their debut album was released, the Stooges were already a band to be reckoned with. Their primitive performances and onstage antics had earned them a reputation for outrageousness. But smearing your chest with peanut butter and flashing the audience doesn’t necessarily translate into album sales. Their debut bombed, both with the critics and the public. But Elektra records kept their faith, hooking the band up with producer Don Gallucci for a second album. The result was, in a lot of people’s eyes, the greatest rock’n’roll album of all time. Fun House was lean, mean, and savage, and Down on the Street was too. Agile, threatening, and underscored by an animalistic performance from Iggy, it’s 3.44 minutes of pure perfection.
When Fun House was released, it flopped, critically and commercially. The band, with the exception of Ron Ashton, succumbed to heroin addiction, and within a year, they’d announce their first breakup. But flop or not, Fun House was an exceptional album, filled with more attitude and more energy than almost anything else that was coming out at the time. 1970 is one of the highlights. Primal, raw, and relentless, it’s mayhem – in a good way.
By 1972, the Stooges had been dropped by Elektra, succumbed to heroin, and disbanded. The band was over…. or so we thought. And then along came David Bowie. Bowie moved Iggy to London, helped regroup the band, and mixed what would turn into one of the greatest rock albums of the 1970s. Raw Power wasn’t for the weak-kneed or the lily-livered, but if you were a punk not a pretender, it was nothing short of epic. Penetration, one of the album’s many gems, is visceral, slightly deranged, and altogether majestic.
5. Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell
If you want a dose of undistilled rock and roll, give Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell a listen. James Williamson is at his best, delivering some truly blistering solos. Iggy spits out the lines like a man possessed. The lyrics are damning, making a cruel stab at women who use their beauty as a weapon while they have it but who, as Iggy says, won’t be whistling such a ‘smartass tune’ in ten years’ time. According to AllMusic, the song was one of the first the band played after signing to David Bowie’s management company in 1972 – and one of the main reasons manager Tony DeFries sent them back to the recording studio to come up with something a little less poisonous. Whether or not they succeeded is a matter of opinion.
4. T.V. Eye
T.V Eye is yet another highlight of Fun House. After Iggy opens things up with the bloodcurdling cry of “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to violence, the word and the act,” Williamson kicks in with some blistering guitar riffs, Scott Asheton pummels out some rapid-fire drums, and Iggy weaves in and out of the chaos with a barrage of primal screams and rasping snarls. He even manages to throw in a few hacking coughs for good measure. It’s the most aggressive track on an already aggressive album, dishing up a simple ferocity that might betray the band’s limitations at times, but is never anything less than passionate.
The first track to the band’s first album is a rock and roll tour de force. Build around a Bo Diddley style rhythm, 1969 is more punk than the Sex Pistols, with a ferocious two-chord riff, a stabbing guitar, and lyrics that could easily be interpreted as a call to apathy. According to The Guardian, Iggy wrote the song after playing a disastrous support slot for Cream, most of which he spent tripping on acid while the audience called out for the main band. Speaking about it years later, he recalled “It was one of our worst gigs ever. I was heartbroken. I thought, my God, this is 21. This is it. Things are not going well.” After sensing things weren’t going well for the rest of the US either, he penned this nihilistic anthem, thus birthing punk rock and one of the Stooges greatest ever tracks.
2. Search And Destroy
With David Bowie on production duties, Iggy in dress-up mode, and Williamson delivering some of the best guitar work of his life, the Stooges took on glam rock on Search and Destroy with more attitude and more poison than anyone had done before. The result is one of the most glorious pieces of rock and roll ever created. Dripping with venom, it’s a sucker punch of a song that was too far ahead of its time to be appreciated in 1973, but would find its audience soon enough.
1. I Wanna Be Your Dog
I Wanna Be Your Dog was the first blues song Iggy ever wrote. Rumbling, menacing, and powered by a one-finger piano that gets in your ear and stays there, it tackles the familiar themes of lust and longing in such a subversive way, even the Velvet Underground couldn’t have bettered it. It’s one of the band’s most covered songs, with everyone from the Sex Pistols to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers doing their best to re-capture the raw potency of the original. Some of them have come close, but none have succeeded.