The year is 1970, the date May 11th, the Ann Arbor four piece punk band known as the Stooges are sent to L.A. for two weeks to the Elektra Sound Recorders to cut what would become their 2nd long player Fun House. This was no easy road, in 1969 Elektra records company head, Jac Holzman, found The Stooges to be uninteresting after the initial flop of their self-titled album. Holzman thought the other punk rock group of the Ann Arbor area, MC5, had more potential and had wanted to switch Elektra's attention to them. Unfortunately for Holzman the studio time was already booked and he had decided to put the keyboardist from the Kingsman, Don Gallucci, in charge of producing this record. Gallucci accepted this challenge after seeing the group live, but thought there would be no way to capture the live feeling on tape. Nonetheless he tried and the results ended up being one of punk rock's 10 commandments.
The Stooges had kept their same line up of Iggy Pop – vocals, Ron Asheton – guitar, Dave Alexander – bass guitar, and Scott Asheton – drums from their last album, but added saxophone player Steve Mackay to play on two of the tracks on this monumentus 2nd record. One of the big issues the band had with this record was how they recorded it. While Gallucci meant well, Iggy Pop had to do his vocals with just the bass and drum tracks in the headphones, and the bass and guitar were recorded side by side causing bleed into the mics. The amps were loud enough and close enough to cause a rattling of the snare through out the album. On top of this the band had to do almost a dozen takes of each song on a normal day to find the take they preferred. But flaws aside Fun House went on to be a huge cult classic and a undeniable part of the punk rock movement that was the come in the mid 70s.
Fun House starts with the song "Down on the Street" a mid-tempo romper that captures the overall feel of the album in one song, this track has perhaps Iggy Pop's most prominent vocal. A single version of this song was put out the same month as Fun House with Gallucci playing organ, this charted slightly better than the album. Everything about the album seems raw at this point, there's a sense of anger, emotion, and a sense of being carefree with the duel lead guitar solo with Iggy Pop barking in the background.
"Loose" is to follow with The Stooges pulling their obvious Rolling Stones influence; the song ringing of "Jumping Jack Flash." Iggy Pop is quoted to have said that Howlin' Wolf "was really pertinent for me on Fun House. That stuff is Wolfy, at least as I could do it." The band had wanted this song to be the opener for they thought it was a stronger track, but Elektra records shot it down.
Fun House kicks off even harder with "T.V. Eye", yells precede the start of the song with driving bass, drums, and sporadic guitar licks. It seems apparent at this point that the lyrics are not very substantial and often repetitive. The energy of the band is very collected here.
"Dirt" is next, the 2nd longest song on the album at seven minutes, it starts with a bass and drum groove and twinkly guitar chords. This is not only an important song for punk rock, but also important to the future Post-Punk and New Wave that was to come. I believe this song to be the best composed song on Fun House.
Flipping the record over we have "1970", a song that I think sounds nothing like the year, the fastest song on the album with Iggy Pop yelling most of the song. We hear some wonderful wah-wah guitar on this track, a staple of the time period. Saxophone is also introduced on this track, driving just as hard as the rest of the tune.
Fun House spirals more out of control from here on with the same groove and phrase "Feelin' Alright" carrying over to the self-titled track. The saxophone is back and a groovy bass line makes this a catchy tune. This song clocks in the longest at seven minutes and forty six seconds, the guitar and saxophone harmonize well on this track. You'd almost expect yourself to be looking in a fun house mirror with your face melting and body stretching.
The final track "L.A. Blues" perhaps shows the Stooges frustration of the overall recording process. Iggy Pop screeches like a cat and the music explodes in chaos, seeming like a after-note of the previous song, no structure is present here and one is left to feel uneasy by the sounds of this. My only thought can be that Elektra wanted one more song so they spit this garbage at them. This goes on for about five minutes.
Overall I think the message is received here, the energy of the Stooges is felt on this album in a very raw and live way, like being in a fun house of dismay. Even as it reaches 50 years since release, Fun House still sounds just as crisp as the days they recorded it, proudly displaying the pissed of anger of Michiganders in the nearly punkless world of 1970.
8 out of 10
Favorite track: Loose
- Ryne's Reviews