A Little More About Scott Asheton…

I wrote this when I found out about Scott “Rock Action” Asheton’s death, but it didn’t make it public right away for circumstances that are not important here. At any rate, here it is now.

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“Rock and roll has a fixation, that bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, mama heartbeat. I don’t like hypnotics. You see, I’m doing a non-hypnotic music to break up the catatonic state.”

-Captain Beefheart

 

I’ve always thought this statement to be the beginning of an interesting thought, but that Beefheart had failed to follow it to its logical endpoint. The “mama heartbeat”, after all, is exactly what makes good rock and roll powerful. Hypnosis, trance, Dionysian frenzy… call it what you will, but rock and roll’s hypnotic rhythms (or variations thereof, whether they’re found in gospel or in dubstep) are integral to a full and satisfying life, one that at least occasionally moves beyond intellectual claptrap into joyous, even transcendental, states. No wonder the guy gave up music.

Scott Asheton, drummer for The Stooges, left this world on Saturday, March 15, at the age of 64, the victim of an as-yet unspecified illness. He was, whether Beefheart appreciated it or not, the mama heartbeat of what I have long considered rock and roll’s apotheosis.

To wit: many bands have been influenced by The Stooges over the years, from the Sex Pistols to Kraftwerk to the White Stripes. All acknowledgments of the band are deserved, but there’s a tragic irony in there, too: the Stooges’ very existence, which has influenced so many, also rendered its progeny obsolete, even superfluous. The Stooges had already taken rock and roll to its pinnacle and/or its nadir; all we’ve had since are decades of sloppy seconds.

Though we both lived around Ann Arbor, Michigan for much of the last decade, I never met Scott Asheton (I met his older brother Ron, but only briefly and strictly in a musician/drooling fan context). I’m not sure just why things happened this way. I’ve had many mutual friends with both of the Asheton brothers, but for whatever reason, we just never crossed paths. That said, it doesn’t matter much, as I’m not sure what I would have said. To me, the Asheton brothers were what someone like Lady Gaga is to a 13 year old girl. The Stooges were, and always will be, my Beatles.

If you’ve ever lived in Southeast Michigan with rock and roll as part of your life, then The Stooges were also a part of your life, whether you acknowledged it or not. There were naysayers, sure, but it was mostly sour grapes: when the arrogant asshole whose mediocre prog-rock band was more popular than The Stooges “back in the day” would talk about how they “couldn’t really play”, it only strengthened my resolve that they were the greatest rock and roll band that ever existed (this deluded prick also loved to boast that he “taught Ted Nugent everything he knows”… yeah, good job there, guy). The original Stooges lineup, which recorded their eponymous debut and its unspeakably perfect follow-up Funhouse, were a force of nature, a massive thunderstorm that one could only hope to approximate on record. What was captured, though, is enough: even though I wasn’t even born until almost a decade after they disbanded, The Stooges’ music, particularlyFunhouse, will always be the most important music in my life (I don’t feel nearly as strong about the reconfigured, Bowie-damaged Raw Power, but there are a lot of people in mourning who do, so I’ll keep my mouth shut).

I only saw The Stooges once. It was in 2003 in suburban Detroit, their first Michigan show in almost three decades, and it was one of the best live shows I have ever seen. As much as Funhouse means to me, this was still a surprise: reunion shows are usually fun walks down memory lane at best, and cynical cash grabs at worst. I was expecting, and comfortable with, the former, but this was a different animal entirely. The Stooges were on fire that night, and the crowd was right there with them. I’d say it was like they had never left, but I doubt that’s really true: after all, this was a band that was at least as loathed as they were loved in their heyday. When they returned, history had finally caught up with them. The Stooges weren’t freak underdogs anymore… they were the losers that had finally won, a rock and roll Revenge of the Nerds. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry multiple times that night.

Iggy Pop has said that he moves about the stage differently when he’s backed by the Asheton brothers, in a fashion more visceral and primeval than he does with his other collaborators. I believe that’s true. To me, The Stooges died when Ron Asheton succumbed to a heart attack in the last days of 2008. With Scott gone, Iggy will almost definitely never move the same way again, but more than that, neither will rock and roll.

 


Dustin Krcatovich is a cartoonist, writer, designer, founder of FM DUST, and a collector of certain curios and ephemera (with a focus on 20th century "junk culture"). His writing and illustration work appears frequently in The Quietus, Tiny Mix Tapes, and Esquire's Culture Blog. He is also a former editor and contributor to Secret Zen Garden,Saagara's illustrated mindfulness/wellness blog for young people. He currently resides in Portland, OR.

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  1. Pingback: Okay, Fine… Here’s My Year-End “Lucky Seven” - FM DUST

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