January 6, 2009 – Ronald Franklin Ron Asheton was born in Washington D.C. on July 17, 1948. As a founding member of the legendary Stooges (Iggy Pop), Asheton forever changed the face of rock & roll, his raw, primordial riffs presaging the rise of punk by a decade. His distorted guitar was a hallmark of the Iggy Pop-led group.
He first surfaced in the teen band the Dirty Shames before joining the Iggy Pop-led Stooges in 1967; the Ann Arbor, MI-based group made its live debut on Halloween of that year, earning immediate notoriety for its frighteningly intense live presence and blistering, primitivist sound. Although celebrated in certain underground circles, the band – which also included Asheton’s drummer brother Scott and bassist Dave Alexander – was otherwise almost universally reviled, but still was signed by Elektra to record its self-titled 1969 debut LP; the album sold poorly, as did its successors (1970’s Fun House and 1973’s Raw Power), but the Stooges’ long-term impact was incalculable – in effect, their aggressive, take-no-prisoners approach laid the groundwork for the emergence of punk. He appeared as guitarist on the Stooges first two albums, and later appeared as bassist for their third, “Raw Power”, when he was replaced in both instrument and songwriting prominence by The Stooges’ new guitar player, James Williamson.
The First and the Last
After the Stooges disintegrated in the wake of Raw Power’s commercial failure, the Asheton siblings formed the short-lived New Order, issuing a self-titled LP on RCA in 1978; Ron next surfaced in the famed Detroit cult outfit Destroy All Monsters, who were briefly darlings of the British music press on the strength of punk-era singles like “Bored” and “Meet the Creeper.” In 1981, he joined ex-Radio Birdman members Deniz Tek and Rob Younger in their underground supergroup the New Race, recording the live LP The First and the Last; quiet for the better part of the decade that followed, Asheton returned to active musical duty during the mid-’90s, recording Thin, Slim & None with the Empty Set while also teaming with fellow Destroy All Monsters alum Niagara to release The Last Great Ride under the name Dark Carnival. He also teamed with Mudhoney’s Mark Arm, Mike Watt, and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Steve Shelley in the one-off project the Wilde Rattz, recording a handful of tracks for 1998’s glam rock-era film drama Velvet Goldmine.
The Stooges, including Asheton on guitar, reunited in the early 2000s, touring extensively and releasing a new studio album, The Weirdness, in 2007.
Asheton was found dead on his settee in his Ann Arbor home on January 6, 2009, having died of an apparent heart attack several days earlier at age 60.
Arguably he had been named the 29th greatest guitarist of all time in 2003 by Rolling Stone. Taken from that Rolling Stone issue:
Nobody ever accused Ron Asheton of being a nice guy. “Any guitar player worth his salt is basically a thug,” his lead singer, Iggy Pop, once said. “They test you with that thug mentality. They ride you to the edge.” Asheton was the Detroit punk who made the Stooges’ music reek like a puddle of week-old biker sweat. He favored black leather and German iron crosses onstage, and he never let not really knowing how to play get in the way of a big, ugly feedback solo. This spring, Asheton joined Iggy and the other Stooges for their first gigs in nearly thirty years. He still sounds like a thug.