Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Approaching Ashton (re: NO CHOPS!)

Just a quick note about the passing of Ron Asheton. There is no denying this man’s influences on everyone, including the Wolf. The first song the young Myles Broscoe, aged 9, learned on his guitar was I Wanna Be Your Dog. Upon Arrival in the Greek town of Sarigakis, family vacay ’95, my cousin Stavros, a real card, pulled his Baz off the wall and fired up an uproariously feral version of TV Eye. Whether because there was a north american audience present or the copious amounts of ouzo and greek coffee running through his veins, he doubled, maybe quadrupled the length of the solo, turning the whole thing fully bonks, screaming in Greek, likely not the real lyrics.
They say everyone owns a fuzz and wah because of Asheton, which is likely not true. Jimi Hendrix used the fuzz and the wah to create an electric, multi-hued abstraction of the blues...which has of course come to be the dominant and played-out form and praxis of popular music. But at the time the gesture was huge.
Asheton, not long after and using the same raw materials, reduced everything to a purr. Did he even know what he was doing? Surely not. But there you go, he was the funkiest, the heaviest, and the sparsest. And the music, at times more violent than contemporaries like the Velvets or the MC5, was so amazingly streamlined. Real autoplant shit.
Of course, Asheton, dies the sad fate into an emptiness. His band is still not in the Hall of Fame, erasing any illusions about the venerability of that hacky sack institution. His final years, sadly, found him playing in a Stooges cover band, with the former bass player from Firehose, their equipment heisted from under their noses.
Whatever, in the cruel and thankless profession that is rock and roll, 60 is ancient. I’m sure when Death passed his little cart passed Eddie Hazel’s house, perhaps Ashton’s truest contemporary, nobody cared.
But, please, let us now put Asheton and his playing behind us. This long trend line, crawling out of the 20th century into our own, should be put to rest. The current bumper crop of underground bands are still stuck in Ashton’s style, if only because it remains the sexiest one to cop. Many of these bands I like, but now, more than ever, would be a good time, for some serious radical re-approaches. Which is what Asheton did, in the first place. His playing was Radical in the purest sense, modified “from the roots”.
There is always Brian Sullivan from Mouthus or the ladies in Mayor Daley both with different variations on the Insanely Non-approach Approach. Although I’m sure they’d disagree fervently , I’d argue there is no Ashton there. Or if there is, its in trace amounts, at the edges and perhaps simply guiding by way of no approach.

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