11 Apr 2017

The Sampler: The Stooges and The Move

From The Sampler, 7:30 pm on 11 April 2017

Nick Bollinger reviews notable new compilations of The Stooges and The Move.

In an age where you can find almost everything on You Tube or Spotify and everyone makes their own playlists, is there still any point in the compilation album? Maybe – but it had better be really good.

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‘Gimme Danger’ originally appeared in 1973 on Iggy and The Stooges’ Raw Power album. It’s riff (courtesy of guitarist James Williamson) remains one of the most ominous sounds in rock ‘n’ roll, and it’s both the title and opening track of a new Stooges compilation.

Essentially it’s a soundtrack, the companion disc to Jim Jarmusch’s recent documentary about this seminal band and their remarkable survivor-frontman Iggy Pop. Yes, you could find all fourteen of its tracks online without too much difficulty. If you’re a fan you may already have them on disc. Still, if you didn’t know anything about this band, this hour of music is a valuable education.

Of course it’s got ‘No Fun’, from the first Stooges album, and the prototype for punk rock. Recorded in 1969, this was one of the first songs The Sex Pistols reached out to cover when they formed in London half a decade later, and it might have been the blueprint for their own brand of mischievous nihilism.

The Stooges had formed in Ann Arbor, Michigan – during the so-called Summer Of Love - around the dangerously extroverted and magnetic frontman James Osterberg, otherwise known as Iggy Pop. You might hear in their fuzzy riffs some trans-Atlantic echo of Pete Townshend or Dave Davies, but The Stooges took it somewhere else; consciously fashioning a music that expressed their particular brand of alienation; one that was peculiarly American and even more extreme and disaffected than those English art schoolers who hoped they’d die before they got old.

There are also historic cuts here from a couple of Iggy’s pre-Stooges bands, The Prime Movers and The Iguanas (from which he acquired the nickname Iggy.) More obviously in the thrall of the British Invasion, he was nevertheless already committed to making a ferocious noise.

Jarmusch’s film is deeply affectionate and makes the most of what little footage exists (though there’s more than you’d expect) of a band whose fame only really came long after they had broken up. Even so, you sense it only hints at the strange combination of destruction and euphoria that The Stooges pursued and captured, earlier and better than anyone else. For that, the best evidence remains in the recordings. And this compilation is a pretty good place to start.

The other recent compilation that does the business for me is of another band with its origins in the 60s, The Move. A very different kind of band, though, and from the other side of the Atlantic.

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‘Walk Upon The Water’ is a Move song for which I’ve always had a place in my heart. It was the B-side of the single ‘Fire Brigade’, which I bought as a 10-year-old pop fan in 1968, and I only discovered it when after playing the A side about ten times in a row, I turned it over to see what was underneath. A sort of bystander’s account of English twits on acid, the way these working class Birmingham lads break into those posh accents for the choruses might sound like cheerful whimsy but has a satirical bite. Both songs appear, along with 20-odd others, on Magnetic Waves Of Sound, a new collection spanning the years from 1966 to 1972 in which the group was active. And if it’s intrinsically English, pyschedellically-suffused 60s pop you’re after, you could hardly do better than this.

The Move went through various incarnations before eventually splintering into various groups including Wizzard and E.L.O. But always at the centre during its six-year stint was songwriter and guitarist Roy Wood. His finest moment might have been ‘Blackberry Way’. Produced by Jimmy Miller between sessions with Traffic and the Rolling Stones, it epitomises the fine balance between rock and vaudeville, wistfulness and whimsy that British pop of this period did to perfection.

One thing Magnetic Waves Of Sound has over earlier Move compilations – and there have been several – is an accompanying DVD of some 20-odd film clips, mostly from live television. Again, you might be able to find most of this stuff if you trawled YouTube, but the footage mostly seems to come from close to the source. And, like the music, it’s certainly convenient having it all in one package.

Gimme Danger is available on Rhino.

Magnetic Waves of Sound is available on Esoteric.

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