When the word punk comes up in conversation, two figures impossible to look beyond remain the undoubted legacies of both Iggy Pop and John Lydon. Without The Stooges, who knows whether the Sex Pistols would have ever made it off the ground, a pivotal moment that could make British culture look a lot less kaleidoscopic in their absence.
With The Stooges, Iggy Pop and his bandmates lit the flame that subsequently led to the boom of the punk rock movement in what was the defining counterculture of the decade. Like the Sex Pistols, the group were written off as primitive during their career, yet, eventually, they proved there was more substance to their material. The Stooges forcefully smashed through the glass ceiling with the David Bowie-produced record Raw Power, which is an album that Lydon holds in the highest esteem.
When Iggy Pop energetically swept his way into Lydon’s life with that LP, the material had a seismic impact on him as a budding artist, forging an instant connection that would run through the immediate creative years that followed. Unsurprisingly, even when Lydon is positive about The Stooges, he still finds a way to bring the group down by saying he never viewed them as “early punks”.
Although Rotten failed to see them as the forefathers of punk, this is somewhat undermined by the fact that he listed Raw Power as the soundtrack to his life at 20 years old, which crossed over with the infancy of the Sex Pistols.
“I’d never seen the Stooges as early punks or anything — that’s media manipulation of facts; I loved them, but I was always appalled with their long hair,” Lydon told Pitchfork in their 5-10-15-20 feature.
“By this time my record collection was enormous and expanding, and my tastes were extremely varied,” the singer continued. “During the punk years, I really loved the Raincoats and X-Ray Spex and the Adverts, groups that were doing things way out on their own. There was plenty of experimentation going on musically in all areas, particularly reggae.”
“I lack prejudice except for music that I find to be reminiscent of somebody else’s work — I find no need for endless Chuck Berry versions, which was very popular at the time,” Lydon said.
The vast amount of music that was coming out in the 1970s just didn’t sit right with Lydon’s pallet, and he was seeking something fresh, which is where The Stooges came in. They were incomparable with anybody else, and Lydon found it alluring – it was an attitude that would serve Lydon well with The Sex Pistols as they rattled the music industry from top to bottom.
He continued, “And I had little time for what was coming out of America; bands like Television never really grabbed me, I just couldn’t connect. It was all too clever for its own good and wrapped up in too much Rimbaud poetry: Get over it and write about your own life, not what you find in books. I still can’t find a place in my heart for music like Television.”
In truth, Lydon skillfully refrained from offering too much positivity about The Stooges in his analysis of the album. After all, it simply doesn’t come naturally to him. Characteristically, praise doesn’t come too easily for the singer, but reading between the lines, they seemed to have been the only band that the singer found exhilarating.
While they perhaps didn’t directly influence The Sex Pistols’ sound, if Lydon’s comments are anything to go by, their direct and forceful approach undoubtedly bears a resemblance to The Stooges, which in all likelihood subconsciously infected the singer.