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Book Review: The Stooges: Head On, A Journey Through the Michigan Underground by Brett Callwood

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If one searches for “Iggy Pop Stooges” on Amazon, one will get 219 results of books, e-books, and related books on the influential punk band. 219! However, just like any important person, place or thing, there is always more to write about on a subject. Brett Callwood is an author who felt that something was still missing from the Stooges bibliography, so he wrote Head On back in 2007 whre it was released in the United Kingdom. This Stateside version of the book includes more interviews and notes, including some further discussion by Scott Asheton after his brother Ron’s unfortunate passing in 2009.

Even before opening the book, one can tell that Callwood’s book is more of a quick fix of Stooges history than the absolute last word. Topping at 148 pages, (including a nice foreword by Alice Cooper and a puzzling afterword by Glenn Danzig), the book comes across as a strong collection of discussions between Iggy Pop, Ron Asheton and Scott Asheton. If you enjoy reading personal anecdotes of frantic gigs, crazy parties and the struggles of being a member of a pioneer punk band, this book doesn’t let you down.

Many such stories are recalled early in the book as the trio, as well as friends from the band, recount how nights at the run down Stooge Manor and concerts at various places in Michigan were over the top. Many of these stories are presented in large block quotes, allowing the original wordings of the stories to speak for themselves rather than be edited or fluffed up by Callwood.

The first few chapters cover the beginnings of the Stooges’ discography, allowing the reader to get a glimpse into what people thought at the time when those records made their first marks on the public. Many of the mid-to-later chapters cover what the band members did besides play in the Stooges. Along with side projects, there are pages dedicated to the time when Scott Asheton played with J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. There is also a lengthy revisiting of how the band got back together to put out “Skull Ring” and play reunion shows.

The last couple of chapters are dedicated with the effect of Ron Asheton’s death, including people’s remembrance of the man as well as what the Stooges planned to do when one of their main members was gone. With Iggy Pop and Scott Asheton showing clear confusion as to what to do in the aftermath, the book provides a glimpse into what it is like being in a band when emotions and personal decisions are involved and the brash rock image of the group is forced to the background.

Head On may not be the most essential book when it comes to the Stooges, but it is still a great read for those into the punk band that is still chugging on. Those who are new to the group will get their dose of history and mayhem, while long time fans of the Stooges will certainly find a few stories that they have not read elsewhere. Given the length of the book, one will be able to get their fix of the Stooges while not feeling that the subject has played itself out too long.

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