A highly significant step towards a new genre today, as we delve into punk rock origins with “Fun House” by the Stooges, led by punk pioneer Iggy Pop. This album, like many on this list, was not an immediate commercial success, but it has risen in consideration over time and is rated as the #94 album on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
I have always had an unusual, awkward and often uncomfortable relationship with punk rock. One of my earliest concert memories is with a dear friend and sometimes reader here who took me to see the Circle Jerks in a small concert hall in Denver in the 1980s. Fully immersed in classic rock at the time, the chaotic intensity of the music and show was frankly too much for me, and I quickly retired across the street to K-Mart to look at more traditional rock albums while I waited for my friend to exit once the show was over. A few years later, a band that really isn’t that punk, The Red Hot Chili Peppers came to my college as an up-and-coming group, and I was shocked and frankly pissed off when people began throwing themselves at me at full speed once the music began to play. I like the raw intensity of punk, especially in short, explosive bursts, and I prefer it when it still has a trace of hook and melody to the track versus complete abrasiveness. I tend to drift as the song runs on, and the repetition of the idea can be drawn out excessively, and of course this mindset applies to most music I listen to.
On “Fun House”, I hear some of each. The first two tracks, “Down on the Street” and “Loose” are exactly what I want them to be. Raw, rough, and edgy, particularly for 1970, full of anger and rebellion, exploding in three and half minutes of joyful rock. After that, the album tends to drag a bit in my eyes, as songs like “Dirt”, “1970” and the title track, “Fun House”, are just a little too much of a good idea. The last track is a struggle for me. The punk rock equivalent to “Revolution #9” by the Beatles, it is almost five minutes of industrial rhythm, angst-ridden vocal wails and cacophonic sounds. It is quite the ending to the album, but honestly, I was just glad it was over.
I really appreciated this eye-opening music lesson today in a genre I know more by legacy, friendship and watching from afar than I know and understand up close. Iggy Pop is compelling to watch and you can feel every ounce of his heart in this album, and at its best, sets a great blueprint for so many who would follow.