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The Stooges’ eMusic Essentials

To celebrate the new Iggy & The Stooges album Ready To Die, we invited guitarist James Williamson to rifle through eMusic’s catalog and talk us through some of his favorite albums. You can read about the legendary guitarist’s choices below.

Andrew Perry interviews the band about their remarkable comeback album here.

  • I love Muddy Waters, he'd always have a couple entries in my Top 20. I saw him play in Detroit. I actually liken that scene to The Stooges, because at that time all the British guys were coming over and playing the blues back to us [Americans], and at some point, you go, "Well, that's good, but it ain't the real thing," so then we'd start going [back] to the old guys... and listening to them, and in a way that's what happened to us: people are coming back to watch us, because we did the original work. We're kind of the old blues guys of rock!

    Iggy went to live in Chicago, pre-Stooges, to check out that scene. He was the drummer for a band called The Prime Movers, and they were very much a Chicago Blues-style band. They were quite good actually.

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  • There's a lot of real esoteric original delta blues — Robert Johnson and all those guys — and you just can't touch them. I haven't tried to play it much, but I love to listen to this stuff.

  • I didn't ever see him myself, but Iggy took him out on the road, and I think they made a record, or at least a couple of songs together. I initially got in contact with Fat Possum because RL Burnside, Junior and all those guys were on that label. I started looking at their catalogue, and I said, "Hey you guys, I'm this guitar player, could you send me some of your... stuff?" and they ended up sending me this huge boxful of almost everybody that was interesting on their catalog. So I'm quite familiar with their stuff!

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  • I like the Black Keys, especially this later stuff. It's some of their best songwriting.

  • All this Motown stuff was in the air while we were growing up in Detroit. Stevie Wonder would actually play at the state fair, which was just an open field basically with a bunch of equipment, and he'd be on a stage which wasn't more than two feet high, with four guys around the edges so he wouldn't fall off, and he'd play "Fingertips," right up close and personal. I love "Superstition"... too — it's a great song.

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  • Coltrane was a master. A Love Supreme, that's also an amazing record. He was completely plugged into something.

  • My favorite is the Köln Concert by Keith Jarrett, which would've been in the mid-to-late '70s, but Spheres is pretty good, too, from around the same time. He's an improvisational pianist, and some of the things he's done are just incredible, very free, almost jazzy sometimes, but very melodic. He's also played with a ton of very good musicians.

  • I was a huge Yardbirds fan, I saw them play both with Jeff Beck and with Jimmy Page. That was prominent in my evolution. They were so exciting. They had a big hit over here with 'For Your Love', and then that attracted a lot of people to get their albums and stuff, and those albums were incredible, like Over Under Sideways Down — all those songs. Jeff Beck is one of... my very top guitar heroes. A couple of years ago, we were in France, but we came over to the UK to see an artist, and he was playing with her, so I got to meet him backstage, and that was a big thrill for me.

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  • Before I joined The Stooges, we had a friend in common: Ron Richardson, who was the manager for the first band I helped found, called The Chosen Few. He was someone Ron Asheton knew, and he went out to California for the Monterey pop festival, and brought back home Are You Experienced? It was just a game-changer for all of us — after that, nothing was the same.

  • I was into Bob Dylan even more than Iggy was. I patterned my whole life around Bob Dylan. He would be No. 1 on my list, every record he made except for a few, I like 'em all! Bringing It All Back Home is a great album.

  • The MC5 were well established at the time when The Stooges started. I wasn't in the band at that time, but I saw all those guys play at the Grande Ballroom and so forth. They were pretty mindblowing, I always liked them. They were quote-unquote, high-energy. Kick Out The Jams was a great tune, but the thing about the 5, though, was that they were all caught up with this political thing,... too. They had that Trans-Love thing going on, and lots of hippie politics. That aspect of the band didn't really resonate with me, but they were good guys, and great players, and they still are, the ones that are left. Fred Smith was a really good songwriter — real simple.

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  • I loved that Loaded album [final Velvet Underground album, from 1970], I used to play it all the time. A couple of years later, the Raw Power Stooges played Max's Kansas City [legendary rock 'n' roll club] in New York, and Lou came in and sat down at our table and was trying to pitch us to do a couple of his songs. Because of course he was in the last wave... of the Tin Pan Alley music writers. I had to inform him, "We write our own songs, Lou, we don't want any of yours!" Maybe in hindsight we were stupid, because he does write good songs.

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  • She's a good friend. When I first went to New York in The Stooges, we always would stay at the Chelsea Hotel, and they had coffee makers in the room. I was making coffee, and in those days I was using sugar, so I knocked on Ig's door and said, "You know anybody around here? I need some sugar." And he said, "Well, I know this girl upstairs," so I went knocking... on her door, and I said, "Hey, I'm here in the hotel with the Stooges, and, er, do you have any sugar?" So that was the first time I met Patti Smith. She lived there of course, so she had sugar!

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  • We were contemporaries of The New York Dolls, and I really liked those guys. We'd see them on tours and stuff, and hang with them sometimes when we were in New York. I knew The Ramones a little bit as well. When they'd come out to Hollywood, they'd hang with me. They were nice guys!

  • This album was the heyday for those guys. It's a good record. They were great players unlike some bands in the punk era, and Mike's really a talented musician. Today, in his own band, he's writing what he calls operas, but they're basically a huge string of one-minute songs, and they play them back to back [à la vintage Minutemen], and it's amazing to see how they can remember all that stuff... — there's maybe 30 or 40 of those things back to back. He's a very astute student of the industry as well, so he an interesting guy to work with.

    I didn't pay attention to any of this kind of music when I was out of the business. At first I didn't even believe that all these guys were copying my style. I'm like Rip van Winkle, I just left everything and went to sleep.

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  • We played in Australia with them. I do feel that Nick's live act — I think he's taken a few pages out of Iggy's book. There's nothing wrong with that — I mean, even The Boss [i.e. Bruce Springsteen] crowd-surfs now. You gotta go with what works, right?

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