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James Williamson's 10 albums that changed his life


James Williamson photo by Heather Harris

By Martin Popoff

Guitarist James Williamson is most famous for his work on the incendiary “Raw Power” album — James, of course, being lead Stooge in Iggy and the Stooges. But he’s also on the latest Stooges album “Ready to Die,” and he is the producer of one of Iggy’s most underrated solo albums “New Values,” from 1979.

In any event, Williamson is back with a cool project for Leopard Lady Records called “Re-Licked,” which presents new recordings of the 16 compositions that would have served as the material for the follow-up to “Raw Power,” had the band not lost its deal with CBS and slowly disintegrated.

We present to you a “10 Albums” from James, a particular challenge as James is famously and curiously known for paying little attention to outside music once he joined the Stooges in late 1970.


The Beatles, Rubber Soul The songwriting was amazing. The Beatles were moving away from kind of a sweet, poppy band to a more introspective band. And all that stuff came across. And I think that the sound of the record was pretty incredible, too. Per se, I’m not really a dyed-in-the-wool Beatles guy, but I’d have to say that was a very impactful album.


Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited Certainly many albums by Bob Dylan had a huge impact on me. So, right off the bat, I would take “Highway 61,” and then I would pick “Blonde on Blonde.” And he continued to inspire me in the ‘70s.

Jimi Hendrix Experience Are You Experienced

Jimi Hendrix, Are You Experienced I mean, that was enormous and has to be noted. You know, I’m not even sure what heavy metal means but... Jimi certainly raised the bar on what a guitar player could be and what it means. If you’re gonna call somebody the best guitar player, I think it’s him. All these guys like Eric Clapton and so forth... he was a fine guitar player, but they completely got smoked when Jimi Hendrix came around. Jimi was a really, really talented guy who had his own thing.


The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band

They were just enormous. Paul Butterfield, especially that band in that time, was one of the first sort of interracial blues bands that came up. You knew those guys were down and dirty, and they knew how to play the blues. And, so, for white, Middle America kids, that was more accessible than, say, a real blues player, even a real Chicago blues player — because we didn’t really know that many of them. But they sort of introduced us to all that stuff.


Rolling Stones, Aftermath Again, the Stones were evolving into a better writing unit, and so Richards and Jagger are actually writing better songs. And I think they were more cohesive as a band. So, it was an evolution for them and for me, as well.


The Who, My Generation I can’t name off albums without naming The Who, “My Generation” in particular. But all that stuff was enormously impactful.


The Yardbirds, Having a Rave Up with the Yardbirds “Train Kept A-Rollin’” and all those numbers were huge in my period of sort of growing up. Jeff Beck’s lineup of the band was pretty smoking hot. I am very, largely a rhythm guitar player, although I guess I play a lot of everything. That’s kind of why I play with one guitar in the band, because I don’t leavea lot of air for people in my writing or in my playing. So, yeah, I always like a good beat and a good syncopated rhythm and so on, but Jeff Beck is much more than a rhythm guitar player (laughs).


Elvis Presley, Elvis Presley My very first records were singles, and they were actually Elvis Presley. My sister brought home “Hound Dog” and “Love Me Tender” and all those singles. I watched him on Ed Sullivan just like the next person at that time and was totally impressed. Probably if I had to name a single influence on why I bought my first guitar, he was it, even though I couldn’t play it.


The Rationals, The Rationals Locally, I was never a big MC5 guy, and I actually was in a band with Scott Richardson from SRC. But The Rationals, I thought, were a tremendously good band. But they just never made it to the national stage.


Little Stevie Wonder, The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie The Motown influence, at the time I moved to Detroit, was enormous. I’m talking about an environment where I could go — and I did go — to the state fair and have Little Stevie Wonder playing on a stage about two feet high with four guys on each corner, you know, so he wouldn’t fall off, and playing “Fingertips” right there for free (laughs). So this was entirely different environment.