A Streetwalking Geek With a Hide Full of Napalm: Sony VP James Williamson Will Tear Your Freaking Face Off

It has been said that geeks are cool. I disagree. Cool is for chumps. Geeks, not to mention weirdies, grotesques, exiles and stone cold superfreaks, are better than cool and have their own pantheon that transcends cool.

Depending on your age and predilection, the Stooges stand atop the altar of that pantheon or occupy a niche at the side, but they’re there, somewhere. Little did we know, however, that one of our own, a geek, was responsible for the most vicious guitar playing and savage songwriting in rock history. Raw Power-era guitarist James Williamson became a computer chip programming geek and Vice President for Technology Standards at Sony. And vice versa.

Williamson, guitarist and co-writer of the songs on the seminal, and still threatening, Raw Power, and later producer for lead singer Iggy Pop’s squally shambling pop records, including New Values, has high geek cred. After a short, savage life of strangling guitars, Williamson turned his back on music for 30 years. He joined Sony, where he helped to shape the very instrument you are reading this on.

Eventually, Williamson became a Vice President at Sony. He also served as a member of the Standards Association Board of Governors and the Corporate Advisory Group at IEEE. He worked at Sony for 30 years, living in Silicon Valley the whole time. Then, last year, as he told the Guardian, he took early retirement. Now he’s back playing with Iggy.

Let’s recap. Williamson was the loudest, most frenetic, genre-crushing guitarist in rock history. Then he geeked out. Designed computer chips. Then he became Vice President at one of the most important electronics companies in the world. Then he “retired.” Now, at 61, he’s back out on the road with Iggy, dedicating himself to ripping the shit out of your ears. Neither you nor I have any excuse. None.

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