Crate Digging is a recurring feature in which we take a deep dive into a genre and turn up several albums all music fans should know about. As The Stooges’ Fun House turns 50 this week, we look back at 10 unruly albums that planted the seeds for punk’s raucous reign.
Released on July 7th, 1970, The Stooges’ Fun House accomplished precisely what a sophomore LP should: it continued the foundational vibe of its predecessor while also adding more growth and variety to the band’s palette. In particular, it largely eschewed the more psychedelic and poppy elements of The Stooges in favor of a harsher, darker, and more investigative mindset (complete with bits of jazz). Although it wasn’t immediately successful, it has since achieved quite a legacy as not only one of The Stooges’ best outings, but as a quintessential blueprint for what would become punk half a decade later.
Fun House was created at Elektra Sound Recorders in Los Angeles (in May 1970) and produced by Don Gallucci of The Kingsmen, who aimed to capture the group’s live sound in a studio setting. To do this, they set up just as they would on stage and removed things like isolators and soundproof padding. Vocalist Iggy Pop has mentioned that blues singer Howlin’ Wolf was a specific inspiration, too. Unlike its predecessor and follow-up (1973’s Raw Power, which featured a different lineup), Fun House didn’t chart on the Billboard 200; nevertheless, countless critics have sung its praises in the years since it came out. Likewise, dozens of artists — like Henry Rollins, Radio Birdman, Jack White, The Damned, Joey Ramone, Rage Against the Machine, and Nick Cave — have cited it as a favorite album, if not also a direct influence.
Obviously, Fun House is just one of many deeply arresting and stimulating albums that, in hindsight, fit within the proto-punk classification. More of a retrospective term than its own subgenre, proto-punk refers to music made between the mid-’60s and mid-’70s that mixed styles — garage rock, Merseybeat, avant-garde, glam rock, R&B, jazz, etc. — to yield relatively chaotic and unpolished compositions brimming with outsider mentalities, uproarious attitudes, and taboo subject matter. It foreshadowed the anarchistic/anti-establishment accessibility and stripped-down arrangements of punk rock proper while also incorporating more nuanced, wide-ranging, and tuneful aspects. Naturally, The Stooges’ second full-length outing is a textbook example of that development.
To commemorate Fun House’s 50th anniversary and the movement as a whole, we’ve put together this list of 10 proto-punk albums every music fan should own. Going all the way back to 1964 and stopping at the precipice of punk itself (1975), the following picks pinpoint some of the most commanding, significant, and farsighted records to emerge from the era. Full of engrossing energy, raw views, and innovative sounds, they’re essential to understanding how punk began. (Of course, there are many other important acts whose albums didn’t make the cut — such as The Dictators, The Seeds, Pink Fairies, The Fugs, The Sonics, and Neu! — so feel free to share your thoughts on them and others below!)