The Stooges' Raw Power turns forty today

Categories: Music History

The album's two "ballads" follow, with "Gimme Danger" on the opening side and "I Need Somebody" on the flip. The former finds Pop sounding serpentine and morbid in a way that Jim Morrison only ever dreamt of sounding, disturbing and desperate in a delicious way. The latter is slightly less creepy, if no less desperate -- an almost standard take on the needy, lonely-guy formula, or at least as close to standard as such a song can sound delivered in Pop's eerie, growling croon.

The remainder of the album sticks pretty closely to the "Search and Destroy"/"Raw Power" formula -- Pop screeches and shouts and cajoles over Williamson's shredded guitar and a hypnotically direct bass and drum thump. Songs titled "Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell" and "Death Trip" pretty much deliver on their promise, and there's not a bad song to be found on the album, even if nothing quite measures up to "Search and Destroy."

That's hardly a criticism, though, considering "Search and Destroy" is easily one of the greatest songs ever (Rolling Stone ranked it No. 468 in its top 500 songs of all time, and that's a criminally low rank).

Despite the terrible sales, critics saw the value in Raw Power from the beginning. Rolling Stone gave the album a rave review at its release, and Robert Christgau rated it a B+. Later reviews from outlets including Pitchfork, Spin and AllMusic concur, rating it near the top of their respective scales without fail and naming it to any "best of" list it qualifies for.

Listening to the album today, it still carries its weight and then some. The odd, lo-fi mix -- reportedly done by David Bowie in a single day -- doesn't always offer the sonic impact the tunes deserve, but later attempts to fix it, such as Pop's own mix reissued in the '90s, suffer from their own issues.

Mix issue aside, the album holds up as a timeless classic, linked inextricably to the bands that followed in its wake without ever being overwhelmed or bested by them. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of bands have since done their level best to follow in the Stooges' footsteps, creating dozens of albums that are classics in their own right, but no one has ever quite managed to top the album's unmitigated madness and pure, simple rock and roll power.

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