Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Ron Asheton RIP

It's Tues. Morning, Jan. 6th, 10 AM NYC time. I just got word from my friend Michelle in Michigan that the great Ron Asheton passed away. Age 60. I'm in total shock. I'm re posting my Oct. Stooges posting because it's got some rare photos and rare tunes. One thing I mixed up back in Oct. In the bottom photo it's Bill Cheetam on the far left, Zeke Zettner second from left. Give a listen to the two takes of Jr. Kimbrough's You Better Run posted below. Pull out the Funhouse box. He changed the world with three chords and a Maltese cross. R.I.P.
I also wanted to mention Ron acted in five horror movies (his filmography can be found here) including a memorable appearance as a park ranger in the Mosquito (1995) which shows up on late night cable now and then. I've also added a picture disc 45 that Ron autographed for me for you handwriting freaks. Also, the Ron Asheton signature guitar can be found here. Ron's last TV appearance (MTV) is here: http://www.mtv.com/videos/news/329919/late-stooges-guitarist-ron-ashetons-last-interview-with-mtv.jhtml Halloween marks the forty first anniversary of the first Stooges show. As unlikely as it would have sounded at the time of their first show, they're still out there and despite a 29 year sabbatical, still the best rock'n'roll band on the road.
Rock'n'roll re-unions, at best are disappointing (the Velvet Underground), and usually just plain suck (the Byrds, New York Dolls), but the Stooges are always the exception to the rule, Hell, I've seen 'em three times since they've reformed and they were no less than great each time. Who would have imagined it? Hearing them on TV commercials doesn't bother me, I don't begrudge 'em a cent, hell Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, Little Richard and Jimmy Reed all did commercials. Good enough for Jimmy Reed, good enough for anybody. I even like the Stooges last LP The Weirdness which nobody likes, but nobody ever likes their albums until they're twenty years old. There's not much left to say about the Stooges, but here's some rare sounds and pics for you. First off are two takes of Junior Kimbrough's "You Better Run" recorded for a tribute to Junior Kimbrough LP (which I've never seen, was it even released?). First one is here and the second take is here. Iggy really sounds like he's having fun, especially on the spoken part which he copies from Kimbrough's original verbatim.
If you missed the Funhouse Sessions seven CD box you really missed something great. I bought three copies but gave two of 'em away. From the first session from that classic set here's the very first take of "Down On The Street" and here's the first take of" Funhouse". There's more than twenty takes of some tunes, even two takes of "LA Blues". How did they decide which one was the keeper? Even the studio chatter is interesting. The box is worth killing for in my opinion. It's nice to have the whole mess on the hard drive so the various takes show up when I leave the box on shuffle. I'm constantly getting up to check the computer screen-- "Loose take 17", gotta remember that one", then I forget which take it was and what was different about it (some have completely different lyrics). The weird thing about the box is that since Ron overdubbed a second guitar part on the first three tunes, sp we never actually here the issued versions of "Down On The Street", "Loose" and "TV Eye". The issued takes are present but without the overdubs.
More Stooges tidbits-- The first LP has been re-issued with the John Cale mix thrown in as bonus tracks. Iggy's mix is better but it's fun to hear. I'll post some of those tunes some day. Speaking of mixes, Sundazed has re-issued the 45 version of "Search & Destroy" b/w "Penetration" which is still the best mix of any Raw Power tracks. I hated Iggy's remix of Raw Power (Ron agreed with me), all the Ig did was remove the effects from Williamson's guitar and make his own voice louder (and let the fades play through to the endings). I thought the one thing Bowie got right were the vocals and guitars, all Raw Power needed was for the bass and drums to be turned up. So you still need your old vinyl copy. The bass and drums are audible on the WABX tapes but the sound quality on those bootlegs are so lousy I can't recommend 'em.
Paul Trynka's bio Iggy: Open Up and Bleed (Broadway Books, 2007) is a hoot and well worth reading. Much better than Joe Ambrose's awful bio (the first edition of which was pulled from the market due to plagiarism, he literally stole about 1/3rd of it from Please Kill Me, uncredited). Ambrose hates Funhouse, so why bother writing an Iggy bio? He's practically illiterate, did none of his own research and has awful taste in music. It may be the lamest book ever published about a major musical figure, and that's saying something. Trynka's book however is extremely well researched and full of fun gossip, my favorite parts are Iggy's crazy sabbatical in Haiti, and the entire story of the recording of New Values (Williamson producing at gunpoint!).
The video clip of course is from the tv show Midsummer's Night Rock which aired in 1970. I saw it then, at age 11, and it was a galvanizing, life changing moment. It took a couple of years to track down their first two LP's (which I eventually got for .39 cents in a department store bargin bin along with the first Mc5 album) but from that first glimpse of them on TV I knew the Stooges were what rock'n'roll was all about.
The two bottom photos show the Stooges in odd line ups. The top photo is the Stooges in '71 with James Williamson (center) and Jimmy Recca (second from left) added to the band on guitar and bass respectively. Recca would later play with Ron Asheton in a band called New Order (not the English disco group). Williamson (who came into the Stooges from a band called the Chosen Few with a detour to reform school in between) would make a power play and force Asheton to bass when they reformed the band in '72. The bottom photo shows the group in late 1970 with members of the road crew, the late Zeke Zetner and Bill Cheetam in the line up. I'm not sure which one played guitar and which one played bass but Zetner is on the far left, Cheetam second from left. Since my wife got the photo framed before I could make a copy I re-shot it through the frame. We have another photo from the same session that's not framed that I may post some day. Since we seem to have the only copies of these photos that exist if you use them without permission I'll know where you stole 'em from.
Back in the early 70's in wasn't so much that the Stooges were unknown so much as they were utterly hated. If you met another Stooges fan back then chances are you'd be friends for life. Most of my oldest friends were people I bonded with over the Stooges.

13 comments:

Todd McGovern said...

Very sad news - just read an article from the Detroit Free Press - said he may have been dead a few days.

Karate Boogaloo said...

Shocking & sad. Thanks for the post.

Tim

Anonymous said...

............?

Wardens World said...

Great post. RIP to a Stooge, part of one of the most influential bands in history, at least as far as the punk rock genre is concerned.

roscoe said...

man...
sorry to hear that.

G said...

When I was like 16 or so with no fucking clue how to play the guitar yet sure that I was supposed to be playing it, Asheton's stuff on the first two Stooges records (both of mine were loose shrink-wrapped JEM Canadian imports with stickers that said "Punk" on them ) was like a gift from god. To be completely hypnotized by a sound and for once actually able to figure out how to play what you were hearing (sorta) was like finally getting the keys to the Caddy. Ron Asheton made things possible at an age when everything should be but nothing is. Man I wish I had that fucking Rhino box right about now...

Paul said...

I bought a crappy-looking record when I was 16 - crappily designed, but the cover had Iggy on stage, wearing silver lamé gloves. So that looked good. It turned out to contain everything from the first two Stooges records except LA Blues and We Will Fall. So, all the real good stuff. I listened to it till my ears bled. Then I listened some more. That was way more than twenty years ago. A couple years back I went to see the Stooges play Funhouse in London. I called in sick to work (I was working in another country at the time) and flew to the gig, stayed up all night, flew home, went to work. It was the greatest night of my life. Thanks, Ron. You were, without doubt, the greatest. I'm devastated.

J.D. King said...

He was the best.

And for whatever it's worth, he's one of about, maybe, three or four, guitarists who has a direct influence on my little self-taught and idiosyncratic approach to playing guitar.

A few years ago I heard a story about how he was in a restaurant in, I think, Miami, and someone came running out of the kitchen chasing a cat with a meat cleaver. According to the story, Ron leapt to the cat's rescue. Maybe someone here can confirm this? Or add some details?

Anyhow, I love cats and I love The Stooges.

RIP, Ron Asheton.

The Hound said...

Was it a Chinese restaurant?

The Hound said...

JD,
my wife who conducted the Ron Asheton interviews for Please Kill Me at his Ann Arbor home confirms that Ron was indeed a cat lover.

The Barman said...

I gagged when I read your comment about Ambrose's shiftful Iggy bio being pulled for plagiarism. The guy stole chunks of interviews with James Williamson from www.i94bar.com

I engaged him in a long e-mail exchange in which he claimed he'd been laid up in a Moroccan hospital and signed off off on the galleys under duress.

He avoided attribution in the second edition and at one stage threatened to sue me for defamation!

Anonymous said...

THE MIAMI CAT INCIDENT;

Stooge Watch No. 3: The Ballad Of A Cat Called Eleven February 2003



Yes, their music may be raw, ferocious stuff. But never let it be said that the Stooges aren’t gentlemen of honor, willing to come to the rescue of vulnerable creatures.

"I have a little power, and for something good, I’ll use it," said Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton. And recently, he had to use that power to come to the aid of a stray cat that was being abused at the hands of some knife-wielding, feline-hating kitchen help in Miami Beach, Fla.

Ron and his brother Scott were in the Sunshine State to record some new tracks for Iggy Pop’s upcoming Virgin release. And while the folks on CREEM's Stooge Watch desk have been breathlessly awaiting the results of those sessions, we were interested to hear more about this tale of heroism.

The scene was a place called the 11th Street Diner, near the Ashetons’ hotel in Miami Beach. "Iggy took us there the first night," Ron said. "I was going there for my pre-studio food, and when we were done I’d go back. I was spending about $100 a day there. I loved the diner, and I was stuck on it."

Part of the diner’s attraction was the food, part of the attraction was sitting on the patio, Ron said. But a big attraction was a stray orange-and-white cat with a crooked smile. "For me, that cat was part of making me go to the diner every night," Ron said.

The cat was shy and looked bore the telltale signs of the rough life of a streetwalkin’ cheetah. "Somebody had already kicked his head in once, so his face was kind of smashed," Ron said. "He’s got a funny little smile."

But with patience and table scraps, the brothers were able to gain its trust. "My brother would finally get him to take a piece of ham out of his hand. I finally got to pet him, and people were saying ‘Not many people get to pet him,’" Ron said.

So while he was in town, Ron took care of the stray, which he described as a "mascot" for the diner. "I’d bring him cat food and put it in his favorite spot," he said.

The night before Ron was coming back to Michigan, he found himself again dining with his brother. "All of a sudden, I hear scuffling and stuff, and I hear my brother saying ‘Hey! Hey, don’t do that,’" Ron said. The cat had gotten into the kitchen, and a couple of workers were chasing it. One picked up a knife, the other picked up a table, and both were threatening to kill the cat. Apparently, these guys were fucking with the wrong cat. They hadn’t reckoned with Stooge Power.

"It was weird. I had to stop it," Ron said, saying that he and Scott jumped to (rock) action and let the would-be cat killers know they meant business. "Just my yelling, they just kind of slunked back into the diner."

Even though it was late at night, Asheton was so furious he had to call a good friend back home. "I was so angry that I called Dara. I was just raving, ranting about it, and she spread the word," Ron said, noting that Mike Watt and Thurston Moore were among those who were alerted and who spread the word.

Ron stressed that his beef is with the cat-abusing help, not the diner itself, which he still maintains is a cool place.

Arthur Rambo said...

I saw the reunited Dolls two days before I saw the reunited Stooges (at the Bumbershoot festival in 2005) & I just have to say the Dolls blew the Stooges out of the fucking water - both live & when you compare their latest albums. I was shocked by this because I am a much bigger Stooges fan than I am of the Dolls. I fucking love Ron Asheton and collect everything I can find by the man (DAM, New Order, anyone?) but the Weirdness was/is a terrible album

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