Remembering Scott Asheton



The first time a song plays, if there’s anything there at all, there’s a gut reaction and a sense memory created. But how often does that memory stick with the listener, and how many songs are able to conjure up that initial response every single time it plays?

Like a lot of songs, I first heard The Stooges’ “Loose” in my car after picking up the Fun House CD at one of several now-defunct retail chains in Dartmouth, Mass. I knew “Down in the Street” and “Fun House,” but not much else, but the unholy wail of the second track thew me for a loop. “Loose” is memorable primarily for Iggy Pop’s delightfully explicit lyrics, and he’s not subtle in their delivery; he’s screaming. Behind him, the band — Ron Asheton on guitar, his brother Scott Asheton on drums and Dave Alexander on bass — are just thrashing. Ron’s guitar strings feel like they must be melting, while Scott and Alexander are locked into a primal groove. This was ugly and unlike anything else. The Stooges were important, that much was immediately clear.

The Stooges didn’t get their due in their time and broke up after three records. Iggy Pop went on to become a revered cult hero in music, and eventually The Stooges got a second chance at the spotlight when they reunited in 2003, but without Alexander, who had died in 1975 in a premature, alcohol-related death. Ron followed him in 2009, dying of a heart attack at age 60 and taking his furious guitar with him.

And yesterday, Scott Asheton died at the age of 64. A driving energy in this world is gone.

I had to look back to an old notebook to even remember what I wrote after seeing The Stooges for my first and only time, but the lingering memory there has just been one of ridiculous, relentless energy. Mike Watt was up there on bass and in a brace after blowing out his knee earlier in the tour. James Williamson and Steve Mackay were playing in demonic time, wailing away and creating the sonic bed for Iggy to unleash chaos on the stage and the crowd and, more than once, both at the same time. All the while, there was Scott, methodically slamming away on the drums and giving all of this a menacing clock.

I saw the Mk II reunion of The Stooges, having missed seeing Ron before he passed. The band plugged on, repeating history with Williamson reclaiming the guitar slot and giving fans a chance to see the Stooges in all their ragged power. Still, it will forever be a hole that I couldn’t see Ron shred through on “Fun House,” and it’s forever a hole in the music world that he can’t make that noise anymore.

It’s all part of the blunt reality of life. We’re here and then we’re not, and the best hope is that the noise we make goes on a little bit past us. I never met Scott Asheton, but I got to see him once, and that night of furious music made an indelible impression. I know I’m not alone, and if that’s the minimum of his legacy, then he’s leaving a great one behind.

But it goes beyond that. It has to. He leaves behind friends and family and people he met who will have stories of him to pass on, and hopefully they do. I have this one, and he never even said a word to me. And we all still have the music, and I can still play “Loose” in the car for friends both delighted and horrified. That’s a powerful thing.

March 17, 2014

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