• Stooges, The: Head On

    Stooges, The: Head On

    Written by: Brett Callwood

    Released by:
    Wayne State University Press
    Released on: September, 2011.

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    Brett Callwood’s book, The Stooges: Head On, is not an Iggy Pop biography. This is made very clear early and reiterated a couple of times throughout the book’s one hundred and sixty black and white pages. Brett Callwood’s book is, however, a Stooges biography, and most fans will realize that as closely knit as the two stories might be, they’re not the same thing.

    The book takes us back to the Michigan of the 1960s and introduces us to two brothers, Ron and Scott Asheton. We learn of their pre-Stooges endeavors and learn how they met up with James Osterberg who would later take on his more famous stage name, Iggy Pop and we learn how they’d all eventually wind up living together at various points at a home dubbed, for obvious reasons, Stooge Manor. As the band starts to come to some prominence on a local and then national level, turmoil within the band results in a line-up change and a name change, and we all know, after the self titled and Funhouse albums were recorded, the band would take Ron Asheton off guitar and put him on bass and give the six strings to James Williamson. Renamed Iggy And The Stooges and under the watchful eye of David Bowie, the band would record the seminal Raw Power album… and then more or less fizzle out with Iggy obviously going on to a successful solo career.

    But what of the Asheton brothers? What of sax player Scott MacKay? What of James Williamson? This book answers some of those questions, but focuses very heavily on the involvement of Ron and Scott in the early years of the band and then goes on to document their post Stooges careers, particularly Ron’s as it would see him play with the short lived New Order (not to be confused with the British pop act) and avant garde noise punk band Destroy All Monsters. Of course, eventually The Stooges would reform a few decades later with Mike Watt on bass and after recording their reunion album, The Weirdness, Ron would pass away all too young. Williamson would come back in on guitar and the group would wind up touring pretty heavily not just in North America but in Europe and South America as well – playing to far larger and much more appreciate crowds than they ever did during their initial run.

    What’ll happen next in the band’s still growing history remains to be seen but Callwood’s book is a welcome addition to the library of any Stooges fan simply because it sheds so much light on the Ashetons where most other books understandably put more focus on Iggy. Callwood was actually able to interview the two brothers fairly extensively (no small feat considering that they’ve not exactly been the type to barge into the spotlight over the years) and let them tell their stories from their point of view. It’s not always a happy story and both Ron and Scott admit to mistakes having been made on both sides of the Stooges’ camp, but it’s always an honest one and for that reason, among others, this makes for a pretty great read. Scott Mackay even shows up in a couple of spots to offer his insight into the band, reunited and original line ups, while Mike Watt and a few different surviving members of the MC5 also offer insight into what the Detroit rock and roll scene of the sixties was like and why The Stooges mattered so much at the time. This isn’t so much a love letter to the band, nor is it a gossipy ‘tell all’ book but rather it’s a document of one of rock and roll’s most important acts that manages to delve into the behind the scenes details and cover ground that hasn’t been as well tread as it probably deserved to be.

    At a hundred and sixty pages it’s a quick read, maybe too quick to be honest as there could have been more done to flesh things out, but a few pages of black and white photos and intro’s and outro’s from Alice Cooper and Glenn Danzig respectively are welcome additions. All in all though, this is a solid read that will definitely appeal to the band’s loyal fanbase.