Jump to content

Iggy & the Stooges....Ron Asheton Tribute Show


Recommended Posts


Stooges devotee: Henry Rollins reflects on the enduring influence of Iggy and his mates

1:40 AM, Apr. 17, 2011

In the late '60s, the Stooges (Ron Asheton, left, Iggy Pop and Scott Asheton) paved the way for the punk rock movement. Ron Asheton died of a heart attack in 2009.


The late Ron Asheton loved pets, punk rock and classical music.

So Tuesday night's Ron Asheton Tribute, featuring his Stooges band mates and host Henry Rollins, has found a way to combine all three.

Twenty-seven months after the guitarist died, many of Asheton's fans, friends and family members will gather at the Michigan Theater for the sold-out celebration, which will benefit the new Ron Asheton Foundation, with proceeds steered to area animal shelters and music scholarships.

More than a year in the works, the concept was hatched by his sister, Kathleen Asheton. Her first call: Iggy Pop. The Stooges front man immediately hopped aboard, and it snowballed from there.

"It's the big, proper sendoff that we never really did for Ronny," she says. "It's a real homecoming for a bunch of people who were personally involved with him. So that makes it all the more special."

The show's 1,600 tickets sold out in five minutes, and Kathleen Asheton says fans are coming from around the globe. Sirius XM satellite radio plans to air the concert.

Handling many of Asheton's guitar parts during the three-hour show will be friend and fellow Ann Arbor native Deniz Tek. He'll join a lineup that includes Ron's brother, drummer Scott Asheton.

But the night's most intriguing twist could come from an accompanying 12-piece string and horn section, for which Detroit arranger Mark Nilan was enlisted to write parts.

"It's certainly not a new concept with rock. But this is punk, so it's a little challenging," Kathleen Asheton says with a laugh. Nilan had never heard the Stooges songs he was to enhance, but "what he came up with is perfect."

Henry Rollins didn't have to think very long when he was asked to be part of the upcoming Iggy and the Stooges performance in honor of the band's founding guitarist, the late Ron Asheton.

"I said 'yes' about as fast as humanly possible," says Rollins, the former front man of famed hardcore band Black Flag who has gone on to success leading his own band and as an author, publisher, actor and spoken-word performer. "You don't have to twist my arm too hard to see the Stooges."

The ticket buyers who sold the show out in five minutes apparently didn't need their arms twisted, either. On what promises to be an electrifying and emotional night at Ann Arbor's Michigan Theater on Tuesday, Iggy and the Stooges will perform in the town where the band was founded. It's all in remembrance of Asheton, who died of a heart attack in 2009 at his Ann Arbor home at the age of 60.

Punk rock before punk rock even had a name, the Stooges were formed in the late '60s by vocalist Iggy Pop (James Osterberg), guitarist Ron Asheton, drummer Scott Asheton (Ron's brother) and bassist Dave Alexander. Entrenched in the Detroit scene that also spawned the MC5, the band had an uncompromising, assaultive approach that didn't win over large audiences at the time, and things imploded in a fireball of drugs and personal issues. But the group's first three albums paved the way for the punk rock movement and went on to influence countless other musicians.

Some 30 years after first dissolving, Iggy Pop and the Asheton brothers reunited as the Stooges in 2003 and finally found the widespread recognition that eluded them the first time around -- a turn of events that Ron Asheton much enjoyed before his passing.

At Tuesday's show, the lineup will include Iggy Pop, Scott Asheton, James Williamson (who played guitar on "Raw Power"), Steve Mackay (who played sax on "Funhouse") and bassist Mike Watt (who has been with the group since the 2003 reformation), along with several other special guests.

Tying everything together as emcee will be Rollins, whose insanely energetic stage presence was obviously shaped by Iggy Pop's pioneering work. The Free Press caught up with Rollins at the tail end of his latest spoken word tour to reflect on the Stooges and why the group's music is still so important.

QUESTION: How did you become involved with the tribute concert?

ANSWER: Iggy's manager Henry (McGroggan) wrote me and said that we wanted to do this thing and we'd like you to host it and be part of it. ... I'm just completely honored that they asked me to be involved. Kathy (Asheton, Ron's sister and concert organizer) and I have gone back and forth quite a bit working on what my contribution will be. I've been working on a bit of writing where I'll talk about Ron at the beginning of the thing. It's very easy to write about Ron and the Stooges. They're a part of us, and I've played those records so much. Writing about him is almost like writing about yourself, you're so close to it.

Q: Will you be singing as well?

A: Yeah, that's what Iggy wants (me) to do. We could probably do a good "I Got a Right" (from the "Raw Power" album). It's fast, and two guys can sing it together -- or not -- and even if you mess it up it would still make sense I think. So that's an idea. I'm getting out there a couple days early and we'll see what Jim (Iggy) and company want to do, and whatever it is I'll do my best to see if I can hang in there. I'm up for it, I'm loose and I'll do the best I can.

Q: When did you first see the Stooges perform?

A: I only saw the re-up; I never saw them back in the day. I was probably only around 11 when they (originally) broke up.

They were at the Big Day Out (festival) in Australia in 2006, and I saw them play every night of that except for one. Then I saw them play a few more times back in America, and every time it was stunning, just unbelievable. ...

So that first (reunion) show they did at Coachella (in 2003) -- someone gave me a bootleg of that and I was very curious to hear if they were going to pull it off. I knew that I would know within a few seconds if it was going to work. It was going to depend on how Mike Watt and Scott Asheton locked up. The key to the Stooges for me is that pocket, that thing they do in the rhythm section. I don't think they could have found a bass player who better understands why that music sounds and does what it does than Mike Watt. He knows that music and he knows the why of it. I forgot what song they opened with at Coachella, but halfway through I said, "Yep, this is gonna be really good."

Q: When the Stooges played their first Michigan reunion show at DTE Energy Music Theatre in August of 2003, it was beyond anybody's expectations. It's still routinely described as one of the best shows of the past decade.

A: Those get-togethers, when bands re-form, might be good, but they're rarely great. I've seen a few bands of note reassemble and you go (to see them) and walk away with mixed feelings: "Well, that was mildly depressingly and somewhat bizarre." But with the Stooges I've always walked away dumbfounded and wanting to go watch it again. It's that good, terrifyingly good. This one holds water for me. You just want to see it three days a week.

Q: Not many rock singers are so physically committed to their stage presentation as you and Iggy. How important were the Stooges as an influence?

A: I cannot overemphasize what an influence they were on Black Flag; just monumental.

I've always tried to expend as many calories and lock in with the music to make sure that I would have to crawl away from every show. And on an international year-long tour, get back to me on the 60th show and tell me how you feel. Everything hurts and you live with pain until showtime. Then all of a sudden it just goes away and you're out there in that moment, just killing it as hard as you can -- and that kind of inspiration I got from him.

But Iggy is singular; they broke the mold with that guy. I always call him the heavyweight champion of rock. He's Number 1. There are many imitators and they all pale, and it's because he's just being himself. It's all natural and he's not copying someone's thing.

You play that music now and it still does that thing to you. It doesn't sound dated, it loses no velocity. You put on "Funhouse" and it's still better than anything I'm ever come up with. It's been my favorite album for over half my life.

Q: So many musicians have had their careers derailed by drugs and alcohol. Iggy almost died from those issues back when the Stooges were dissolving in the '70s. How have you avoided self-destruction?

A: I never did any. I've always been very ambitious, just trying to get somewhere, and I've always been a live performer, making my name onstage. It was never going to be record sales with a guy like me. It's going to be proving it every night, and every single night you're playing the away game, and every night it's Super Bowl Sunday. Every night is the big one; every single night. So why would you go into a heavyweight boxing match drunk and expect to win? That edge never interested me because of the potential for inconsistency, and oh, death ... it never really held value for me.

Contact MARTIN BANDYKE: martinbandyke.com

Henry Rollins' Five Essential Stooges songs


Editor's note: Warning: The web links in this story contain language that some might find offensive.

The first track of the Stooges self-titled 1969 debut album: "That song's really important for me because the lyric and the tune and Ron's playing and Iggy's delivery and the way the rhythm section locks in and flattens it out encapsulates and perfectly captures what a lot of young American males were going through. It captures perfectly boredom, pent-up aggression and the uncertainty of being alive and of draft age in 1969. You're watching people leave your neighborhood and not come home. Wayne Kramer (of the MC5) told me about how you would see your friend from high school, the quarterback, your friend from down the street, he'd go (to Vietnam) and that was it. He came back in a box."

No Fun

"No Fun," also from the Stooges' debut album. produced by Velvet Underground founding member John Cale: "The Stooges in my mind will always be basically a blues band. It's coming from the blues as far as the heaviness of it, the phrasing, the structure of the songs, and to me 'No Fun' is an ultimate blues number, especially at the end when Iggy is yelling and Ron comes in with that amazing, fuzzed-out, exploding, ripping guitar. Ron was not flashy; to me flashy guitar players are hiding some insecurity. When they dazzle you with fast fret play it's because they don't have any meat. They sizzle because they got no steak. Ron is all steak and no sizzle."

Real Cool Time

"Real Cool Time," a minimalist, hypnotic come-on taken from the debut: " 'Real Cool Time' is really what you want to say to a woman when you're trying to pick up on her. Let's just hang out. You don't have a whole lot to say other than let's interact. Let's get together. The way Iggy lays that down, it's perfect in its simplicity."

Down on the Street

"Down on the Street," the pile-driving opening salvo from 1970's "Funhouse," the Stooges' second album: "The pocket they hit, that groove, I don't think they could have hit that on the first album. You can tell the band has evolved. The whole thing has evolved to a very good place; a very dangerous, heavy place. And the lyric, 'Having a real low mind,' basically zero mind, brainless, mindless. You wish you'd written that lyric. It's so cool; you want to be that cool, that disengaged, so cool you don't care about anything. ... That song's a big deal for me."

Search and Destroy

"Search and Destroy," first song from "Raw Power," released in 1973 by Iggy & the Stooges and featuring James Williamson on guitar, with Ron Asheton bumped over to bass: "That song has some of the greatest lyrics ever written in my opinion: 'I'm a street walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm / I'm a runaway son of the nuclear A-bomb.' Are you kidding? You and I could never put together anything remotely that good if we were given a million dollars each and a year and a half. It's never going to happen. Those are the kind of lyrics you try your whole life trying to write and you just never get there.

"The lineup had changed, and with a proper mix you get to hear that not only was Ron Asheton a great guitar player, he's also one of the best rock bass players who ever lived. ... It's not just some guy plodding along. I don't know if he saw moving to bass as a demotion; I don't know what the politics was, but to hear him play bass it leads to the conclusion that the guy was just a great musician full-stop. You probably could've handed him anything and he would've gotten by just fine."

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...