“Search and Destroy” by The Stooges
Yes, “Search and Destroy” was in fact inspired by the Vietnam War, which by the way was still ongoing when it was released in 1973. But that does not mean that listeners should hastily conclude that for instance the vocalist is literally taking on the role of a soldier.
Rather, based on the way Iggy Pop has described this piece, it is more as if he was inspired by the terribleness of the war to criticize the world at large, i.e. how it is being run by the powers that be. And this includes the vocalist bringing it to the music industry, though in a subliminal sort of way.
Or for the sake of argument, let’s say that rock music is the White youth’s equivalent to rap. Of course the former has been around longer than the latter, as made evident by the existence of this song. And being that this piece does indeed date back to the early-1970s, The Stooges are using the opportunity to vent alright, but this era was marked by more-conservative censorship than that which has defined the music business in more recent times. So even though the singer may be spazzing, he is still doing so in a poetic manner.
Narrator is Counter-Mainstream
For instance we have Iggy defining himself as the “world’s forgotten boy”. Going back to his own explanation, that’s basically his way of saying that he’s counter-mainstream. Or as he more precisely put it, he felt as if the leaders of the world, including those in control of the music industry, are out of touch with the youth of the day.
Or put differently yet again, they don’t really care about what they are selling to the up-and-coming generation. The way the bigwigs feel rather is that if they put it out there, then the youth would digest it, whether they are actually feeling it or not. And as such, they don’t actually have to prioritize coming out with a product that youngsters actually dig.
So in that regard what the vocalist seems to be criticizing is something like marketing practices, which in the world of politics can rather be termed as propaganda.
So theoretically, the way such an idea would relate to the Vietnam War is that at the time, said conflict was regularly being broadcast on television, in the press and what have you. In fact the initial inspiration for this song was derived from an article Pop came across in Time magazine.
So just as music execs force their products onto the public, so too does Iggy seem to view politicians, the media, etc. in terms of the Vietnam War. But being a free thinker, he’s not compelled to go along with the flow, i.e. approving of haphazard bloodshed. Instead, as illustrated in the second verse for example, he is espousing “love in the middle of a firefight”.
So putting all of this together, what the “world’s forgotten boy” would be “searching to destroy” is something like mainstream ideologies. The world, as he sees it, is being manipulated into a state of chaos and dissatisfactory conformity, neither being modus operandi that he approves of. And as such, he has become akin to a disillusioned outcast. So all things considered, this can ultimately be taken as an anti-war song, though one that is relatively indirect in its approach.
When was “Search and Destroy” released?
This track is from “Raw Power”, the Stooges’ album that Columbia Records put out on 7 February 1973.The Stooges was a band from Michigan that was fronted by Iggy Pop. And “Raw Power” was one of their more notable projects, especially as far as rock fandom is concerned.
Who wrote “Search and Destroy”?
This song was written by Iggy Pop and James Williamson, who was his Stooges’ bandmate. Iggy also co-produced “Search and Destroy”. In producing it, Iggy worked alongside another music legend, David Bowie (1947-2016).
Bowie was brought in to remix the entirety of “Raw Power” because Columbia Records was unimpressed with what Iggy had done in that regard beforehand.
“Search and Destroy” did come out as a single but apparently didn’t make any noise chart-wise. However, that did not prevent Rolling Stone magazine from declaring it one of “the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” when they first compiled said list in 2004. That said, it should be noted that it does not appear on the magazine’s updated 2021 ranking.
VH1 also placed this track on their “Top 100 Hard Rock Songs” ranking of 2009.
It has also been noted that whereas the commercial and chart performance of “Raw Power” also wasn’t anything to write home about, as with “Search and Destroy”, it has come to be regarded as a true rock classic, even amongst some of the biggest names in the game. And as such, this song has been covered by legends such as:
- Red Hot Chili Peppers (1998)
- Sex Pistols (2001)
- Def Leppard (2005)
- Soundgarden (2011)
Besides for Iggy Pop on vocals and James Williamson playing guitar, the other Stooges to participate on this song are siblings Ron (1948-2009) and Scott Asheton (1949-2014). Ron and Scott respectively played bass and drums.