R.I.P. Scott Asheton, drummer of The Stooges

The Stooges
The Stooges

The Stooges (L-R Dave Alexander, Iggy Pop in front, Scott Asheton in back and Ron Asheton) in the studio in 1970, during the making of their second album, Fun House.

Drummer Scott Asheton (August 16, 1949 – March 15, 2014) best known as the drummer for the rock band the Stooges and founding member of the pioneering punk band died on Saturday at the age of 64 following an unspecified illness.

Scott Asheton and his brother, guitarist Ron Asheton, were a couple of bad boys roaming around Southeastern Michigan in the late 1960s when they met the ultimate musical partner in crime, Iggy Pop. They began playing with bassist Dave Alexander as The Stooges – experimental sounds that broke down the rules of rock ‘n’ roll nearly a decade before punk bands like the Sex Pistols made punk a threat to good households everywhere.

GLOWERING LIKE A ROCK’N’ROLL golem behind Iggy Pop and brother Ron on the iconic cover of The Stooges’ eponymous 1969 debut album, Scott “Rock Action” Asheton (pictured above, right) was the real thing: a personification of defiant street attitude whose atavistic beat powered his band ever onward, in the teeth of audience hostility, critical ambivalence and other trifles.

He appeared indestructible, but after a medical emergency on a plane in 2011, Asheton had to wind down touring commitments with the reformed Stooges, though his contributions to their most recent album, 2013’s Ready To Die, were familiarly boisterous. Whenever behind the drums there was a part of him that looked and sounded like it was beating a 50 gallon oil barrel with mallets – just as Asheton did for real at the earliest Stooges shows in 1968.

“Scott was a great artist,” Iggy Pop said in a statement on his Facebook page. “I have never heard anyone play the drums with more meaning than Scott Asheton. He was like my brother. He and Ron have left a huge legacy to the world. The Ashetons have always been and continue to be a second family to me. My thoughts are with his sister Kathy, his wife Liz and his daughter Leanna, who was the light of his life.”

For an instant understanding of what made Asheton great, listen to the tribalistic boogie of 1969, the relentless zombie march of I Wanna Be Your Dog, the trashy Elvin Jones clatter of Real Cool Time or the chest-wound snare blam of Down On The Street. Appreciate the telepathic meld of Scott’s drums with the saw-blade riffing of brother Ron. There have been fewer sonic experiences more thrilling in the entire pantheon of music made with guitars.

And when the Stooges reformed in 2003, it was Scott’s beat that underlined the authenticity of the experience. Anyone who witnessed the Iggy, Ron, Scott, and Mike Watt line-up rolling back the years in their soap-opera version of The Unforgiven – say, at Glastonbury in June 2007 – will attest to their scabrous glory.

Sadly, the death of Ron from a heart attack in 2009 drew a line under that version of the group, though Iggy and Scott ploughed on, with guitarist James Williamson helping revive the Raw Power era of the band.

In a statement he released, Iggy Pop wrote:

“Scott was a great artist, I have never heard anyone play the drums with more meaning than Scott Asheton. He was like my brother. He and Ron have left a huge legacy to the world. The Ashetons have always been and continue to be a second family to me.

My thoughts are with his sister Kathy, his wife Liz and his daughter Leanna, who was the light of his life.”

Best wishes go out to the Asheton family, and anyone touched by the music of The Stooges.

Watch select highlights from Asheton and The Stooges’ career below.