Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Ron Asheton 1948-2009
"Asheton is the architect of the cathedral
that shatters granite and pinewood"- Rich Millett, "For Lester Bangs"- 2000
First time I ever heard the Stooges---Xmas 1995. Sure, I had heard tons of covers "I Wanna Be Your Dog", "Not Right", "No Fun", and so forth, but never the real thing. That Xmas I got Funhouse (Tim had already been listening to Raw Power and telling me how great they were), and a bunch of Bob Dylan records. I snuck away from the family and guests and down to the basement to listen. Since I had a whole stack of Dylan to absorb, I figured I might play Funhouse first, kind of as an appetizer, and also knowing that if I jumped into Bob, I might not come out for a while. One and a half seconds. That's all it took for me to be converted forever to the Stooges. If you've ever heard "Down On The Street", Funhouse's perfect opening, you know exactly what I mean. That furious burst of the E-string leading straight into the relentess riff and crashing first downbeat. Hell, I never needed to listen to the rest of the song, let alone the album to be convinced of Ron's superhuman talents. I used to hit the back button on my CD player twenty times in a row playing that one and a half seconds over and over before finally throwing the remote across the room and reveling in all the Funhouse glory. Have you figured out by now it took me months to play those Bob Dylan albums?
"Funhouse" is my favorite LP"- no fuckin kidding...
Ron Asheton died a few days ago of a heart attack. Iggy referred to him today as "my best friend". Wasn't he everyone's best friend? None of us are Iggy, none of us can even hope to be (or as some might point out, want to be)...no it was RON, the heart the soul the SOUND, that's who I aspired to be, that's who made me lose sleep playing "1970" over and over and over again. Ron we could maybe push ourselves into becoming, forever grinding it out in the engine room of God's spazz factory.
I have not come to mourn Ron Asheton, but to praise him and give him the fucking RESPECT he deserves.
Driving home from work, I had three of his riffs from Destroy All Monsters going on simultaneously in my head. This isn't cuz he died. Ron's guitar playing is my metronome. When ISN'T a riff of his in my head? Or yours? Fact- over the course of two albums our fuckin man wrote as many indelible unforgettable note perfect riffs as Keith Richards or Pete Townshend had in their entire careers. Do the math- I am not wrong. And neither was Ron.
Ron's favorite TV show was Beavis & Butthead. Why? "Cuz they talk shit".
Christ I could quote every line he has in Please Kill Me, that perfect craggy deadpan sense of wry nail it on the head humour. Also, let's face it a man of great grace...he else would have moved over to bass in the band they formed? Would Keith have done that? Not only did Ron move over to play bass, but he played with such heart and passion on Raw Power only to be mixed down and out. And it still didn't make him cynical- listen to the Open Up & Bleed box, and hear Ron totally full on going for it, every concert, every take after take in the recording studio.
Look, rock music is supposedly the home of the driven maniacal artist, but most of these folks are driven by ego or drug hunger, etc. Ron was and forever shall be the real thing, what every motherfucker at the Empty Bottle wishes they were. The list of people who played it as real as Ron is very very short.
There was always something in Ron's eyes...so much honesty and vulnerability. Tremendous sincerity. I remember Iggy saying he could tell Ron was a remarkable musician before he even heard him play just by looking at his hands. He could see the sensitivity. Then there was something in his sartorial choices...simply the man looked amazing in jackboots and Afrika Corps finery.
Ron had a voracious musical appetite, he took in everything from the Byrds to Ravi Shankar. You can hear his intelligence without him ever having to impress you. What's the word? Elemental. Elemental isn't a style or a technique. It's a force. And fuck off with primitive, I've been listening to garage bands my whole life and most of em would be stumped to write and perform all the brilliant things that Ron did. How many bands ape the Stooges? How many bands fail at aping the Stooges? How many hours of my life have been wasted listening to bands hoping they'd have learned a thing or two from the man, only to try and out primitive each other? This guy invented an entirely new sound, just as much as Chuck Berry or Jimi Hendrix did...you don't do that by being a dummy. Elemental...hey stand in the sun naked for a week, and tell me about primitive. Get lost in an ocean and tell me about primitive.
I had the privilege of seeing The Stooges in 2007 in Chicago. No, I'm not going to say how incredible it was. That would be patronizing. Let's say this...I have NEVER EVER EVER seen a band move mountains the way they did that night. Simply put, we were all in the presence of greatness, and we damn well knew it. Here's a snippet of what we saw that night...
Here's the thing...I have not come to mourn Ron Asheton, because the man spent the last years of his life playing to sold out audiences the world over. He was LOVED. We all sent him LOVE constantly, and he knew it and felt it...
"It's great playing to an appreciative audience," Asheton said in 2007. "We feel like old bluesman, because we had to wait 30-some years to get accepted by everybody. It took some time for the world to catch up to us. But it was worth the wait, because this is the most fun I've had playing onstage all my life."
When I saw Ron, I was shocked, not cuz he met what I knew he could play, but cuz he went way passed, I've spent my life worshiping the Stooges albums, but all of a sudden they seemed inadequate, Ron played some things I didn't even know were on his map. It's like, those records were so perfect and captured so much, yet there was still more? It didn't get EVERYTHING down on tape? This guy has all these other facilities at his disposal? FUCK!
It's very important to have love in your life. Ron knew how much he was loved. Pardon such a dreadful cliche, but the man went out on TOP. The man sold more records in the last ten years of his career than he did in the first. Even his lifelong hero Pete Townshend told him how awesome he was.
And of course of course he will be missed, but goddammit, he will never be forgotten in myhouse or in millions of other houses across the world. And loved, and cherished, and celebrated. That's why I have not come to mourn the man...his music his life was a celebration, a vindication of the elements.
I am sad for his brother, Scott, his sister Kathy, and the rest of the Asheton family. I'm sad for Iggy and Watt and Steve Mackay. They lost a brother and friend. They knew him personally. They have loss. What I have and what we all have is down on tape and video forever. It's impossible to lose what we've been given. It's irreversible in the best way.
and now for some music...take a ride on the pretty music...
COME ON RON, TELL EM HOW I FEEL