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Fun House enjoys a much cleaner production when compared to The Stooges debut album, and while fans of the punky debut might disagree I think it makes Fun House a more accessible album. There's also a slight jazz influence to be found; especially within the title track which is an interesting touch and the album has a good flow to it and oozes a certain class. ''Loose'' and ''Burn'' are two of my favorite Stooges tracks and so it's no surprise Fun House is, on balance my favorite Stooges record.
The album as a whole is filled with iconic hits, I mean "T.V. Eye", "Loose", "1970" - it's still gritty, lo-fi down and dirty garage rock, filled with attitude, energy and youthful angst. It actually sounds like it could have been recorded live because of the fantastic way they seem to play off of one another and the rough nature of the recording. For fans of 70's rock this is an essential album which stands the test of time and comes fully recommended from me.
Famous for their wild live performances and erratic performance due to heavy heroin use The Stooges were active 1967-1974 and reformed in 2003.
The original release of this album in 1970 had the original line-up; Ron Asherton on guitar, Scott Asherton on drums, infamous vocalist Iggy Pop and the late Dave Alexander on bass. Alexander would be fired later that year for turning up to a gig too drunk to play. It was recorded as live and was intended to capture the energy of their live shows; however it was received poorly by the public and critics alike. However, today it is thought of as one of the forefathers of punk. It was voted loudest album ever in 2007 by Q Magazine and Black Flag's Henry Rollins describes it as the best rock album along with Velvet Underground's 'White Light/White Heat'.
The 2-CD version was released by Electra Records and Rhino Records in 2005. The first CD was a remastered version of the original album, while the second album featured outtakes and remixes. The second disc sees the band relying far too heavily on the saxophone for excitement and fails to deliver more often than not. It is however interesting to see how the album got to its final cut.
Iggy Pop - Vocals / mixer
Dave Alexander - Bass
Ron Asherton - Guitar
Scott Asherton - Drums
Steve MacKay - Saxophone
Don Gallucci - Producer / Organ overdub
Disc 1 (original album)
Down on the Street
'Yeah deep in the night
I'm lost in love'
Driven by a bass riff with the harsher lead following suit along with occasional tweaks. There are two layers of guitars; one matching the bass, while the other is more erratic. The bass gives the track a heavier feel. The basic and unmelodic vocals are distant with reverb, relying on emotional intensity for the changes. During the bridge the guitars appear to be working against each other. As it reaches its climax they fade slightly and become more whimsical and less structured before building themselves up again.
'I took a record of pretty music
Now I'm putting it to you straight from hell'
On the whole this track is fairly tame and undistinguished despite attempts from guitar and vocals. A jam like intro kicks of a drum beat which slips into simple bass riff which is followed by the guitar for the most part. The opening is distinctive, but it soon becomes more mundane. The bass and percussion hold the track together while the echoing vocals and guitar are more erratic for the chorus and tamed for the verses. The vocals try to keep up an exciting tone, but it doesn't quite work and the guitar follows suit. Very little happens with the percussion, just some simple cymbal work and basic drum rolls.
'See that cat
Down on her back
She got a TV eye on me'
A faster track with a distinctly faster and more central bass riff though it appears to lack the energy it would have live with a sense that it is holding back. It opens with a scream, and then strikes up a guitar riff which is taken up by the bass. The typically sullen vocals take centre stage building tension and leaving everything else in the background. This breaks a little for the bridge which finishes with an intense build up from the guitars, bass and percussion with screaming vocal outbursts that sound painful. Then a brief pause before moving on. The outro features empty and heavily reverberated guitars with basic percussion and vocals that appear to come to an end before taking the listener by surprise and leading into a jam.
'I'm just a dreaming this life
And do you feel it?'
One of my favourite tracks on the album contains a beautiful guitar riff which inspires the mood and drifts in and out of the main focus. It couldn't be described as tuneful or melodic, but it does give over intense emotion. Opening on a drum roll this track has an eerie, spaced out feel with more haphazard instrumentation. Shortly after the drum roll there is a bluesy bass riff which remains unchanging throughout while a wailing guitar plays short lines. The pace is slow and tension building and use of a wah wah pedal add to the dreamy mood. The guitar picks up the end of each vocal line and in turn dictates the mood. The vocals are sometimes dreamy, sometimes abrupt and often mingle with the guitar while the bass and drums remain distinct. The long bridge is intense and melodic with the bass and percussion keeping everything in line broken occasionally by vocal whispered mumblings (adding the hypnotic ending to the bridge) before the almost imperceptible drift back to the main body as they become more prevalent. It also includes a nice, typically 70s solo.
'Radio burnin' up above
Beautiful baby, feed my love'
An abrupt scream at the start takes the listener away from the reverie of 'Dirt' and straight into intense guitar and bass riffs. The fast paced and addictive bass riff is most prevalent over the basic percussion and simple guitar composition, though there is a nice guitar solo for the bridge all be it a little erratic. It is held in check by the relentless and steady bass and percussion and there's that experimental jazz sax again coming in for the outro, introducing more melody to an otherwise plain outro. The strong vocals appear lost; lagging behind at the beginning, but get increasingly erratic before losing their strength and becoming high pitched and awkward towards the end as the sax loses its composition and the sanity of the track is lost.
'Yeah, I cam along to play and I mean to play around
Yeah, I came along to play and I mean to play real good'
This track opens on a basic bass riff and jazz saxophone taking the foreground in a very long introduction. The vocals are infrequent (though none the less compelling) and don't come in until after the first minute, when they oppose the guitar and saxophone melody. During the bridge the saxophone comes forward even more with the vocals building the tension with indistinguishable words, yelps and screams. There is an attempt half way through to give an erratic and disorganised feel, but it feels forced and continues for too long. At 5.19 the vocals instruct 'take it down' and the instruments play a toned down version of the melody with the vocals using elongated syllables, but this doesn't really do the job of creating tension as it should before it breaks for the outro. The outro itself lasts 2 minutes. Here we see the band loses control for real, building on the tension, but it suffers from an anti-climax finishing on an untidy drum roll and feedback from the guitars.
I use the term 'instrumental' here in its most liberal sense. This track is like someone has taken an extremely bad trip and put it down on vinyl. It opens on a scream and a cacophony of noise. There are some indistinguishable vocals with high pitched screams, clashing guitars rife with feedback, a painfully off key sax that screams like a tortured animal and 2 layers of percussion to add to the chaos. It ends with Iggy growling into the microphone.
Disc 2 (Outtakes and Remixes)
TV Eye (Takes 7 and 8)
Introduced by someone who sounds a lot like a pirate, who is subsequently booed off stage and the band begins. The track features the same catchy riff, but slower and more in the background with a stronger bass. I prefer this version to the album version as it has more of a rock n' roll feel to it, especially with the guitar and percussion, but this is spoilt a little at the end by some bizarre vocal noises. The vocals are in general too whiney for me and become irritating fast. As the percussion speeds up the guitar becomes more monotonous until the bridge where it livens things up a bit. The bridge is rather long, but remains exciting and gripping with a great guitar solo and does a great job of building tension with the percussion and pushed on by the bass up to a powerful finish. The outro uses basic instrumentation against the erratic vocals to bring the track in screaming to an abrupt climax.
The demo is nothing like what would appear on the album and is only recognisable from the bass riff. With painful feedback throughout and lacking strength the guitars sound like the only professional part. It has the feel of a garage band (the rock version, not that wet pop stuff) and cuts off abruptly.
Loose (Take 2)
This version sounds a lot closer to the final cut used for the album. Already on the second take it is a lot stronger with more melody, all be it a bit rough around the edges. In many ways it is more commercial with a cleaner sound, that surprisingly I find I enjoy more. It is more vocal based and although 8 seconds longer, it feels goes quicker and more natural. It wasn't until I listened to this version that I realised that the main riff is very similar to the one used in 'Smoke on the Water' by Deep Purple. The guitar solo has more of a rock n' roll feel to it, only spoilt by the vocals coming in late for some sections.
Loose (Take 22)
Of the three extras for this track, this one, with its forced excitement and more mundane attitude (which I guess is what happens after 22 takes), is the closest to the track used on the final album. The now familiar guitar riffs have so much reverb that it is hard to make out and the clear resounding opening that form the hook riff has been lost. The vocals are more natural sounding and percussion more distinct. Interestingly, there is no guitar solo for the bridge. Instead, the guitar plays a more expressive riff that is toned down by the bass.
Lost in the Future (Take 1)
'Well I'm sitting all alone
And screamin' all the time'
Of all the tracks on the second disc, this is my favourite. It has a whimsical opening to a more sombre piece with melancholy vocals and guitar that affects the mood with drops in pitch. A blues inspired saxophone melody makes a surprise entrance at 2 minutes which lightens the monotony with high pitched melody and long low notes. Unlike other tracks the saxophone is crucial to this song making it one of my favourites on the entire album. It takes up the vocals melodies and takes them somewhere much more emotionally charged. With the heavy grinding bass, gently melodic guitars and harsh vocals there is a hint of where grunge would go, especially Alice in Chains. Overall the track is less erratic than those used for the final album, but at the end Iggy suggests that they take it again as the beat could be 'steadier'.
Down on the Street (Take 1)
A long introduction to a song whose vocals is weaker, although clearer, but end up sounding bored. The stronger and louder bass riff is instantly noticeable, but on the whole it is rather lack lustre. Iggy stops it short saying they are not in tune.
Down on the Street (Take 8)
The first thing you notice with this take is a far rounder sound than take 2 and more reverb with the hook riffs and small guitar tweaks punctuating the end of each line. Unfortunately the bass never changes so it is quite dull. It is also more composed and structured, though it does still have its wilder moments. The percussion is more tinny, with more cymbal work. The bass is also stronger and the chorus more exciting and compelling. We also get to hear the guitar solo, backed up by muted vocals. However, it is still a little lack lustre and there is little composition though the guitar and bass do perform well together. The outro centres on the guitar and bass getting progressively stronger.
Dirt (Take 4)
This track shares the distinct bass melody from the album cut that makes it my favourite track on the original album. However, the sound is hollower and vocals are muted. The guitar is also slow to pick up the melody for the chorus which results in it losing some of the eeriness of the album version. The guitar solo gives the listener the feeling that the emotion is being just barely kept in check by the bass. The vocals in the album version use strong and soft tomes to extenuate both. Here, they are far too similar. As a whole the track gets better towards the end as the vocals become more heartfelt, but this is spoilt by the guitar over-using reverb and therefore losing the melody though its dreamlike quality makes it perfect for the outro especially when matched against the desperate vocals.
Slide (Slidin' the Blues) (Take 1)
'Yeah I want to slide you baby, slide'
This track has a vocal introduction that leads in blues ridden bass and guitar riffs, with the guitar at the forefront. The saxophone comes in with a blues melody, but it is very erratic and dances around the vocals, while everything else becomes background. This track stands out and it is very different from anything else they have produced on these two albums, particularly the saxophone. Unlike other tracks where the saxophone is irritating, here it makes the track great and provides all the interest against the more subdued instrumentation from everything else. There is a great duet between the sax and the guitar which forms the outro. It could really do without the vocals which seem to detract from the instrumentation.
1970 (Take 3)
This guitar lead track lacks the heavy bass riff that made it stand out on the album; in fact it can only really be heard during the bridge where it is all but drowned out by the guitar. The vocals are, for me, more enjoyable as they are more natural. The guitar does play main stage with that riff, but it no where near as compelling. The outro, which lasts for about a third of the track, is dominated by the random saxophone again and it just feels like it's never going to stop, while everything else is so repetitive it's painful. There is no structure for the sax while far too much for everything else. Thankfully it does eventually wind down.
Fun House (Take 2)
This track is much longer than the album version and is far too busy, though it tones down as the vocals instruct them to. The introduction alone is a minute and a half long. Right from the start it is more erratic and open with a saxophone adding to the tension with high pitched squeals and erratic melody that soon become irritating. The guitar follows the saxophone's lead, achieving a more natural and chaotic sound than the album version. The vocals are more distinct for the first verse, but become distorted. It is the bass that takes the foreground and holds the track together. The bass remains steady and relentless and the percussion follows suit. Five minutes in there is an attempt at a tension building bridge with little bursts of interest from the guitar and sax, but this is soon finished off with yet more random noise and by then the listener has lost interest and this continues for 3 minutes. There is no substantial composition other than a monotonous bass and percussion and a brief vocal melody. On the whole it's a good track ruined by elongated streams of nonsense, however there is a nice little poem from Iggy at the end.
Fun House (Take 3)
As if this track needed to be any longer, now we have an over 11 minute long version, making the line 'Just a little too long' ironic. It is more controlled than the album version with the guitar following the bass more closely to begin with. The random saxophone that quickly becomes irritating, becomes the centre of the track along with the guitar with tiny bits of melody, but largely erratic nonsense. Iggy's attempts to create tension by screaming into the microphone go some way to achieving the desired effect, but not far enough for such a long track, though he does appear to be genuinely enjoying himself this time. The introduction is a cacophony of noise. The sax solo seems a little out of place to begin with and becomes a seemingly endless composition-less section which was cut for the album version. The vocals are too hoarse to be enjoyable. On the whole the track is fair, but it is way too long and repetitive. At just past 8 minutes the sax plays a haunting melody proving that MacKay does have talent, but this just doesn't shine through enough. Where everything else is subdued the sax overwhelms it all.
Down on the Street (Single Mix)
This is exactly what you would expect from a single. The whole track has been rearranged to make it more sellable with reverb on the vocals, a layered and cleaner sound and generally just more accessible. The addition of a trendy (for the time) organ gives the whole track a more psychedelic feel, but also loses the excitement, making it more tame. They keep the 2 guitar riff for the bridge, but the organ takes centre stage for the outro. It is also much shorter and fades out to finish where it would have carried on.
1970 (Single Mix)
A vague introduction that breaks abruptly into a burst of chords. This version sounds cleaner and less raw than the album version. The vocals are brought more into the foreground with more reverb, while the guitar does the exact opposite. The pitch is set higher, possible due to it being produced faster and the bass is lost almost altogether. The bridge consists of a guitar solo, but nothing spectacular and is cut short. An erratic saxophone plays out to fade.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Down On The Street
3 T.V. Eye
6 Fun House
7 L.A. Blues
Disc #2 Tracklisting
1 T.V. Eye (Takes 7 & 8)
2 Loose (Demo)
3 Loose (Take 2)
4 Loose (Take 22)
5 Lost In The Future (Take 1)
6 Down On The Street (Take 1)
7 Down On The Street (Take 8)
8 Dirt (Take 4)
9 Slide (Slidin' The Blues) (Take 1)
10 1970 (Take 3)
11 Fun House (Take 2)
12 Fun House (Take 3)
13 Down On The Street (Bonus Single Mix)
14 1970 (Bonus Single Mix)