Wednesday, January 6, 2010

January 6: The Stooges, "Search And Destroy"

Artist: The Stooges
Song: "Search And Destroy"
Album: Raw Power
Year: 1973

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN (will open in new tab)

While it takes a number of artists and songs to form the base of a new genre, there are always a handful of songs without which, the new genre in question simply would not exist. These single songs are so stunningly different, that their influence spreads across this new genre, and the sound is often copied, usually with less powerful results. On this point, while there were countless artists, from Johnny Cash to Woody Guthrie to The Velvet Underground, all of whom played a large role in what would become the punk rock explosion of the late 1970's, there was simply nothing that could have prepared the world for the power and sound of The Stooges and their 1973 classic, "Search And Destroy." As the opening track on The Stooges' equally influential 1973 masterpiece, Raw Power, it serves as one of the greatest lead tracks in history, and it helps to set an amazing tone for what is one of the finest records ever recorded. The song, which is without question one of the most overlooked anti-war songs ever released, also happens to be one of the most outright mesmerizing rock songs in history, and over the years it has been covered by everyone from Red Hot Chili Peppers to Peaches to The Dead Boys to KMFDM. "Search And Destroy" has also found a number of forays into popular culture, most notably finding an absolutely perfect placement in Wes Anderson's 2004 film, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.

Truth be told, there are now two rather distinct versions of "Search And Destroy" in existence, as in 1997, David Bowie and Bruce Dickinson re-mastered the entire album, and this latter version is far more aggressive and features a more stripped down sound than the original mix of the song. Regardless of which version you are listening to (the original is featured in the link above), the song instantly grabs the listener, as the opening guitar riff from James Williamson remains today one of the most pulverizing guitar pieces in history. Like every aspect of the song, Williamson does not slow down in any way at any point during the song, and it is without question one of the finest moments of his entire career. Bringing an equally powerful and menacing feel, the bass work of the late Ron Ashton is one of the most ferocious musical progressions ever written. Perhaps the aggression being partially due to the fact that he had been moved to bass from guitar for this record, Ashton does not miss a step, and his playing makes it sound as if this had always been his instrument of choice. Rounding out the musical part of the band, the drumming from Scott Ashton is equally as impressive, and it often sounds as if he is trying to break the drum kit, with a likeness perhaps to the aggression of Keith Moon. It is due to this stunning musical performance that one realizes the special chemistry that Williamson brought to the group, as well as the fact that the Ashton brothers form what is unquestionably one of the strongest musical pairings in history.

While the music on "Search And Destroy" is nothing short of phenomenal, there has simply never been another performer in history that was quite like the "Rock and Roll Iguana" himself, Iggy Pop. Throughout his entire career, Pop has rarely sounded as brilliant as he does on this track, and it his vocal work that ignites the track into an absolutely stunning explosion of rock power. The energy and angst that is spewed forth from Pop's performance brings with it an urgency that is almost unsettling at times, yet even when he seems to almost be losing his mind in screams, the vocals are clearly and perfectly delivered. Along with his mesmerizing vocal work, "Search And Destroy" also represents one of the finest lyrics that Iggy Pop has ever written. With the title pulled from the heading of an article about the Vietnam War in Time magazine, the fact that this is a very blunt anti-war song is often lost amongst the rock and roll majesty. With the song opening with the lines, "I'm a street walkin' cheetah with a heart full of napalm..." and later dropping the line, " in the middle of a fire fight...," the song is unrelenting in its criticism of the war. Perhaps even more focused on the soldiers themselves, Iggy Pop captures the essence of a man with nothing to lose as he bellows, "...honey gotta strike me blind...somebody's gotta save my soul..." The song seems to push beyond simply throwing relationships to the side, and there is almost a sense of "true" evil within the lyrics. These words, which are often lost amidst the crushing music and stunning vocal performance are without question some of the finest ever penned, and once one understands exactly "what" is being sung, the song takes on an entirely new life.

Taking the harder, more stripped down approach that made their first albums' absolute classics, The Stooges unleashed a true masterpiece in what would prove to be their final album for more than three decades, 1973's Raw Power. Without a dull moment anywhere on the album, the records' opening track, "Search And Destroy," is without question one of the most intense and fierce songs ever recorded. From the decimating musical performances to the sheer force of Iggy Pop's vocal delivery, few songs so perfectly served as the archetype for the punk rock explosion then The Stooges' "Search And Destroy." Released at a time when a majority of music was beginning to go the way of being over-produced and the formation of the "big budget" recording approach, the stripped down, completely raw and in your face sound of the song and record were almost alarming at the time, and one cannot argue that it is largely due to this record that the punk genre would be defined by the sound over the following years. This almost purposeful disregard for "studio gloss" was widely criticized upon its initial release, yet bands from The Ramones to Motörhead to Minor Threat would take this idea and make it the basis for their own sound. Standing today as one of the truly "perfect" songs in history, there is simply nothing that can prepare someone for the stunning power and energy as well as the sheer genius that lives on within The Stooges 1973 musical tour dé force, "Search And Destroy."

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