In April, Vinyl Me, Please Essentials members will receive The Stooges like it’s never been heard on vinyl before: Instead of the version you all know from these last 51 years, this version is the original, rejected-by-the-label edition of the album mixed by John Cale. It boggles the mind that there’s a version of The Stooges that is more raucous, more gnarly, and more anti-commercial, but there is, and it’s appearing on vinyl for the first time ever as our Record of the Month. Pressed on 180-gram red and black galaxy vinyl, you can read below for why we picked this album, and more about what makes it different.
VMP: So, it’s pretty crazy that we’re getting to do this edition of this legendary album that’s never been on vinyl before. How did that happen?
Andrew Winistorfer: Well, there’s sort of multiple stories happening here right? First, there’s the story of the album, which is that when the Stooges recorded this, 51 years ago, it was produced by John Cale, fresh off quitting the Velvet Underground. And he immediately realized that the Stooges should not sound like the Doors, or the Byrds, or whoever else. They were raw power, a barely contained riot, a train bearing down on you as you’re tied to the tracks. So he gets them to record their eight songs — one of my favorite side stories is that the Stooges showed up only having five songs, thinking that was more than enough for an album, and then lied and said they had eight when questioned and had to write three more basically overnight — and he mixes the album like it’s this murder in real time, just all fuzz, and violence and ooze. The suits at the label hear this mix, and say what — in retrospect — everyone would say about the version that came out: That it sounded like shit, that it sounded dumb, that it was too uncontrolled to see release. So they fire John Cale, and ditch his mixes, and Iggy and Jac Holzman from Elektra re-mix and resequence the record, which is the version that comes out.
I was going to ask about that; it’s a different sequence on our release.
Yeah, John Cale’s original vision was the album as sort of a redemptive arc; his version ends with “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” which he saw as Iggy deciding to fall in line with society. The label saw it as one of the singles, so it’s on side one on the original version.
So anyway, the original Stooges comes out, and it’s a bomb. But it secretly influences basically every hard rock band that has come since; it’s not an over-exaggeration to say that there’s basically no hard rock if the Stooges don’t lay the groundwork for punk on this album. It’s rightly lauded as one of the most important albums of all time.
And that’s the version that’s existed!
Yeah, so meanwhile, there’s this version of the album that basically just lived in Stooges lore, that John Cale’s mix existed but was scrapped. And then in the early ’00s, these tapes walk into Rhino, and somehow, someone has a copy of the John Cale mixes. The speculation is that someone cut an unauthorized walking version of the album — basically, one to take home — and they confirmed with John Cale that what was on the tapes were his mixes. So they put the album out in digital form in 2010, however, they realize later that they actually released the album at too slow a tempo; the version on the tapes they found was likely recorded not from a deck, but from an echo machine, so for almost 10 years, the version known as the “John Cale Mix” was actually way slower than it should have been.
So what, chopped and screwed?
(laughs) Yeah, more or less. They corrected the tapes for the 50th Anniversary edition that came out last fall digitally. And this is the final part of the story: How we got involved. Basically, WEA/Rhino came to us to ask if we wanted to do the first original vinyl pressing of this album, and once we realized what they were asking, this was a no-brainer. We all listened to it, and I, for one, couldn’t believe that songs I’ve loved since I was a teen could sound even more like they were coming from the end of the scariest alley in town. We’re getting to present one of the most important albums in rock history, and doing so in the way it was originally meant to be heard. It’s a tremendous honor for all of us on the music team.
We essentially have two covers for this, right?
Yeah, our album art is an alternate cover: It’s taken from the same photo shoot where the photo for the original cover was taken. But given that the album is darker sounding, the cover had to be darker, too (laughs). And then this month’s art print is the original cover, so, basically, we’re giving you both options on this one.
It comes on red and black galaxy vinyl, and from lacquers cut by Bernie Grundman himself. We went all out on this since there’s only one chance to do this album for the first time.