Musically speaking, the years 1969 and 1970 were not good years for me. Raised on the Yardbirds, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Big Brother and Blue Cheer, I watched in mute horror as my friends and fellow enthusiasts melted away into the more melodic, thoughtful, easy listening arms of Poco, Gram Parsons and Steely Dan, as well as various monsters of prog rock.
Friends who, at age 16, could play “Purple Haze,” note for note – and well – were suddenly putting down their Telecasters and picking up pedal steel and dobro. It was a plague of tasteful arrangements and excessive musicianship. You could barely attend a musical event without enduring an extended bluegrass solo, or 35 minutes of some jerk in a cape noodling away on a Mellotron.
So, The Stooges’ first album, an antisocial masterpiece of do-it-yourself aggression and raw, nasty, dirty rock and roll, came as a welcome emetic. A friend played it for me at his house with the volume down, careful, as we both sensed this stuff was dangerous.
And in fact, in those dying days of the ’60s, when you showed up at school actually carrying a vinyl album under your arm – to advertise the fact that you thought the Allman Brothers were awesome (they weren’t), or that you knew every note of Flying Burrito Brothers, or that you had the good taste and discerning nature to appreciate the works of Fairport Convention – carrying a Stooges album set you apart. And not in good way.
Only speed freaks (not a high-prestige set in 1969) and guys who worked on their cars too much liked the Stooges. “Problem” kids. Tormented loners. Guys about whom there were terrible rumors. (“He went mental and beat up his mom.” “He shot somebody with a zip gun.”) That’s the kind of guy who appreciated songs like the sado-masochistic “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” the bleak “No Fun” (which pretty much summed up high school for me) and the psychotic “TV Eye.”