Ron Asheton, nostalgia, age, generation, Stooges and death

I was pretty bummed out by news of Ron Asheton's death this week.  I consider him one of my favorite guitarists because of his ability to play with music for the sake of sound and emotion on truly immediate levels instead of precision of notes and clarity of intonation.  As I was driving home from band practice last night, I caught WMNF's Surface Noise paying tribute to Asheton by playing some of his songs and discussing his legacy.  My closed minded preconceptions of Tampa Bay's cultural buffoonery happily dashed for a few minutes, I reflected on death and nostalgia in my brain while I drove up depressing 66th street. 


Recently, The Stooges reformed, toured a bunch and put out the solid album The Weirdness in 2007.  Standing out in the rash of comeback tours and reunion shows, Ron Asheton's guitar playing, while slightly more refined than 35 years ago, cut through preconceptions of people losing relevance with age.  Simplicity in riffs and biting imperfect leads influenced and continues to influence generation after generation or underground mutants.  The Stooges always made me want to play music, regardless of my skill level.  Anyone who can open their mouth and emit sound can sing, anyone who can pick up a guitar can play and getting old doesn't mean you have to be lame and irrelevant.    


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*side note: Obviously Asheton didn't wait around for Iggy to call him up and play again for 35 or whatever years.  Check out some of his other really great sounding guitar bands like The New Order (not THAT New Order) and Destroy All Monsters.

How did my mom go from owning such a wide range of Rock n Roll records from the Beatles to Black Sabbath to devoting her ears solely to Celine Dion?  Living in the land of oldsters and hipsters (some people are both), this question ultimately pervades every aspect of existence in Tampa Bay.  Issues of marketed generation norms, like older people being more mild mannered and set in their ways and younger people experimenting with sex and drugs, maintain arbitrary divisions between age groups and sonic preferences.  Generalizations of "Summer of Love" 1960s are quickly ripped to shreds by records by bored mutants like The Stooges. Their self titled record in 1969 and Fun House in 1970 destroyed notions of singular cultural experience by being nasty and unlearned instead of nice sounding and well trained.  All that to say, history has never been as cut and dry/black and white as we are led to believe (likewise our present continues to be very complicated).

All my life I've heard things like, "now that John Lennon could sing" or "Eric Clapton knows how to play real guitar music" or other such flapdoodle.  Those statements assume a right or correct way to sing or play guitar, and other musicians being inferior or getting it wrong to do something else.  Iggy Pop's snarling vocals and Ron Asheton's unsophisticated, immediate and exceedingly raw approach to the guitar challenged these notions of perfect technical skill as the ultimate goal in music. 

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