We Will Fall

Another member of punk rock's bellwether band The Stooges has passed away. Please help us mourn the loss of incendiary guitarist Ron Asheton.

It would be remiss not to mention the recent passing of Ron Asheton, guitarist for Ann Arbor's most acerbic contribution to the late 60s garage rock scene, The Stooges. As reported first in the Ann Arbor News on Tuesday, Asheton's body was found by police in his apartment that morning. Later reports suspect the cause of death was a heart attack days prior. While frontman James "Iggy Pop" Osterberg tended to steal the spotlight (both onstage with wildly histrionic performances and offstage with his volatile drug and alcohol dependencies), Asheton's guitar work (driven by his brother Scott Asheton's drumming) is every bit as crucial to the sound developed by the Stooges, which would influence nearly every rock band thereafter.

The development of this sound is described by Asheton in the book Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, which is really worth checking out if you're at all interested in the subject. In his own words:
We'd never been into a recording studio before and we set up Marshall stacks, and set them on ten. So we started to play and John Cale [of the Velvet Underground, producer of The Stooges' self-titled debut] just says, "Oh no, this is not the way . . ." We were like, "There is no way. We play loud, and this is how we play." So Cale kept trying to tell us what to do and being the stubborn youth that we were, we had a sit-down strike . . . So our compromise was, "Okay, we'll put in on nine." Finally he just said, "Fuck it," and he just went with it.
Which is precisely the attitude that led to the band being the bellwether of the entire genre which became known as punk rock.

Strangely, one of the reformed band's final non-tour performances last year was at the ceremony inducting Madonna into the laugably formal Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, purportedly at her request for the Hall's repeated snubs of The Stooges. Their performance of "Ray of Light" can certainly be read as a grandiose "fuck you" to the mainstream music industry which counted them out so long ago, even as it continues to do so (although they are up for consideration for induction this year, but whatever).

The song linked below, "No Fun," not only features Ron Asheton's trademark, unheedingly overdriven guitar work, but was one of the songs famously covered by the Sex Pistols and helped introduce a generation of British youth (who, it turns out, also loved punk rock) to the Stooges. What's more, I think it's only fitting.

TMN Editor Erik Bryan is living the dream. He grew up in Florida, but he’s from all over. He likes playing chess, making cocktails, smarting off, and not freezing to death in Brooklyn, where he currently resides. More by Erik Bryan

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