April 19, 2014

Guitarist James Williamson Previews “Re-Licked” Stooges LP with Record Store Day Exclusive

Iggy and the Stooges achieved a sense of having come full circle with last year’s Ready to Die, their first album of new material since 1973’s Raw Power. For guitarist James Williamson, however, some unfinished business remained, namely with music he'd composed with Iggy Pop in the mid-seventies—songs that were intended to comprise the follow-up to Raw Power—which was neither properly produced nor officially released. 

“I think that body of work is very, very strong,” says Williamson, “and the only thing people have ever been able to hear are the bootlegs of us performing it live back in the day, but a lot of the songs were only partially developed.”

In a Record Store Day exclusive 7” vinyl release of “Open Up and Bleed”/“Gimme Some Skin,” Williamson teams up with Texas blues troubadour Carolyn Wonderland to preview Re-Licked (due this fall), which features a batch of lost Stooges classics (including “I Got a Right,” “She Creatures Of The Hollywood Hills,” and “Wild Love”) interpreted by a roster of vocalists that also includes Ariel Pink and Mark Lanegan, among others.

One artist not on the roster? Iggy Pop. “If we had done them with Iggy singing them there would be the comparison between the early Stooges and current Stooges,” says Williamson, “and we decided that was not a good idea.”

Recalling his ambition for “Open Up and Bleed,” Williamson says that he sought a vocalist in the vein of Janis Joplin. An old friend tipped him off to Wonderland by way of a YouTube video, which was incentive enough for Williamson to hop on a plane bound for Austin, Texas to behold the singer in the flesh. “I was just floored,” he says. “This girl has got the voice that Janis Joplin wished that she’d had. She’s phenomenal.”

“Oh hell, I can’t live up to that,” says Wonderland with an unassuming chuckle, adding that she appreciated the opportunity to stray beyond her blues-drenched stomping grounds. “It’s neat to challenge [yourself] to do somebody else’s stuff, especially something so groovy.” 

Of course, like the rest of the songs on Re-Licked both “Open Up and Bleed” and “Gimme Some Skin” were written for Iggy Pop to perform in his inimitably virile way, a realization that Williamson suggests became all too apparent in working with Wonderland.

Thinking back to the “Gimme Some Skin” session in particular, Williamson says, “That lyric is like a total Iggy-throwaway lyric—‘Typhoid Mary, she’s got soul/Fucks all night on an old asshole...’—and here’s Carolyn Wonderland, and I’m asking her to sing this song. I told her right up front, ‘Hey, look, I don’t want to offend you with these lyrics,’ because I didn’t know her at all. 

“But shit,” adds Williamson, “she’s a Texas blues singer; she doesn’t care. It’s actually kind of a fun song. Anyway, she got on it—she brings it alive.”