Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Apple #308: Iggy Pop

So another thing I did while on vacation was watch the inductions into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The way the ceremony works, apparently, is somebody gives you a long and full-of-praise-and-maybe-some-jokes introduction, then you get to speak your long and self-indulgent speech, and then you get to perform a few of your songs.

Madonna was one of the people inducted and her segment pretty much went that way, except she didn't perform her own songs, Iggy Pop did. I gather that she asked him to do it and he agreed. I'm assuming it's because of the whole we're-from-Detroit thing. Because otherwise, I never would have put those two people together. But maybe that's precisely why he agreed to it.

Anyway, seeing him on TV reminded me of my recent personal discovery of Iggy Pop and The Stooges. I had heard people say before that Iggy Pop essentially started punk rock, but I'd also heard he was insane and I had this idea that he just did a lot of screaming onstage. I like a little harmony with my angst, so I never investigated.

But then not too long ago, I bought a copy of Raw Power. And holy crap, why did no one ever tell me just how much they kick ass? It's not senseless noise, it's bad-ass rock & roll with wicked-dirty guitar riffs. And Iggy gives himself so completely to what he's singing it's almost scary. My only wish is that I'd started listening to this decades ago.

Iggy Pop from the cover of Raw Power (1973)

"punk rock is a word used by dilettantes and heartless manipulators, about music that takes up the energies, and the bodies, and the hearts and the souls and the time and the minds of young men who give what they have to it, and give everything they have to it."
  • The name Iggy Pop's parents gave him is James Newell Osterberg, Jr.
  • He grew up in a trailer park in Ypsilanti, Michigan and went to Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor.
"The rent was a dollar a day for the plot [in the trailer park]. I slept over the dinette, on a shelf. We were definitely the only college-educated family in the camp."
  • In 1963, he was the drummer in a cover band in Ann Arbor called The Iguanas. He really liked Jim Morrison a lot, especially the things he did on stage, and I think The Iguanas was probably a lizard-king reference.
  • After a few years his band broke up, and though he joined a blues band next, people kept calling him Iggy in reference to The Iguanas.
"There is something about that name [Iggy Pop] that is just extra-fucking-ordinary, and it used to be like throwing a fucking firebomb into the party. I could walk into a room, and if it was the wrong room, and someone said my name loud enough, you would see sneers of revolution on the faces of the fraternity men of America. It was just really intense. Real interesting."
  • In 1966, he'd met the three other guys who would form the Stooges. Before they had a band or even started writing songs, they did a lot of hanging out at guitarist Ron Asheton's house, dropping acid and watching Three Stooges movies.
  • When MC5 asked them to play at a Halloween show in 1967, they billed themselves as the Psychedelic Stooges. They made a ton of noise using a microphone in a blender, a washboard with a microphone on it, bongos, oil cans, and Iggy playing a Hawaiian guitar.
"It's intrusive music. But only for squares. It's fun, it's for fun."
  • Over the next couple of years, while they became less noisy, they were no less raucous and experimental. They didn't really plan any of their songs much in advance of their shows, fights broke out onstage or between Iggy and people in the audience, it was pretty much chaos put to music.
"I had a maternity dress on and a white face, and I was doing unattractive things like spitting on people."
  • Other things he did included smearing himself with peanut butter and jumping into the audience (now known as stage diving and which many people say he invented), cutting himself with broken glass, exposing himself, vomiting, somehow getting his teeth broken and continuing to sing despite bleeding from his gums, etc.
"Music should never be too good, too tight. It should excite you. The Stooges' music is supposed to make me feel good."
  • In 1968 after a show with MC5, Elektra Records signed both MC5 and the Stooges. MC5 got a $20,000 advance, and the Stooges got $5,000. At that point, they dropped the "Psychedelic" and became The Stooges.
  • Within two years and three albums, the band was already on shaky ground, partly due to poor record sales and the fact that they didn't have a lot of money, but mainly due to their rampant drinking and Iggy's worsening heroin addiction.
  • Then in 1972, he happened to meet David Bowie, and they teamed up to help each other get clean. But I think what actually happened was Bowie helped Iggy to stop using and in return, Iggy was Bowie's musical sounding board. Among other things, Bowie paid to produce another album.
  • The Stooges signed with a new record label, went to London, and recorded another album, Raw Power -- which is exactly that, by the way. But still, not a lot of sales.
"I'd been in an impossible band, living an impossible life"
  • He fell back into the heroin, hung around with Bowie some more and then recorded two records on his own, The Idiot and Lust for Life, both of which enjoyed some commercial success.
      • By the way, the song "Lust for Life" did not become super-popular until it was used in the soundtrack of the "heroin romp" movie Trainspotting in 1996.
  • Pop went back to more of a Stooges-like feel with his next album, sales dropped, problems with the heroin came back, Iggy checked himself into a hospital, and Bowie helped him out again. This time, it was the royalties Bowie earned from his successful album, Let's Dance, that paid for Iggy's rehab from heroin.
      • And actually, Iggy wrote "China Girl" and first recorded it on The Idiot
  • That's pretty much the pattern of his career -- Stooges-land, self-destructive behavior, recovery, commercial success, rebelling against that, self-destructive behavior, etc.
"Well, the stuff that has become more commercial doesn't have any edge."
  • Except over the years, add to that pattern a ton of duets and collaborations with people, appearances in several films, and the fact that he seems, finally and mercifully, to have put the heroin demon down.
"I get a lot of respect now. On airplanes, regular family folk now call me 'Mr. Pop' -- with no irony. I like that."
  • Things he's done that were commercial hits:
      • "China Girl" and "Let's Dance," with David Bowie (1983)
      • "Real Wild Child" (1986)
      • "Lust for Life" (1977 / 1996)
      • "Candy," with Kate Pierson (1990)
      • His songs have been used on 18 movie soundtracks
  • Some of the TV shows and movies he's appeared in:
      • Lil' Bush (Comedy Central), voice of Lil' Rummy
      • The Rugrats move, voice of the newborn baby (1998)
      • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, various episodes
      • Tales from the Crypt, host, various episodes in the 1980s
      • his body movements were the basis for Peter Jackson's version of Gollum in Lord of the Rings movies.
      • The Crow: City of Angels (1996)
      • Tank Girl (1995)
      • The Color of Money (1986)
      • Sid and Nancy (1986)
"I've always used my records as stimulants, all my life . . . It can make me get out of bed and wanna do something and get all huffy and puffy."
  • Apparently he's been hanging out with Madonna for a while now:
      • Opened for her on her Reinvention World Tour in Dublin (2004)
      • TV commercial for a Motorola phone (2005)
  • And rumor has it that she asked them to perform at her induction because she wanted to protest to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for not inducting The Stooges, even though they've been nominated six times. Aw, Madonna!
  • And hey, his birthday is coming up: April 21. He'll be 61 years old. He looks damn good for a 61 year-old ex-junkie.

Iggy Pop on the cover of A Million in Prizes: The Anthology (2005)
"I'm here because I'm still into it and I probably got a thing or two to prove."

  • One last thing: I had noticed, when I saw him perform Madonna's songs, that one of his legs looked shorter than the other. It occurred to me that that might be why he moves all snake-like with his torso bowing out on one side now and then. Here's the explanation:
    "I have one leg about an inch and a half shorter than the other. When I was thirteen, I was run over by a big guy playing junior high football, and the right leg ended up a quarter-inch shorter. By my mid-twenties, it was a half-inch. Then in the Eighties, I had no money and was taking packed economy flights everywhere, night after night. The combination of that schedule and a fall I took dancing on an amplifier left me with my spine twisted and a slight limp."

"The Rolling Stone Interview: Iggy Pop," [which is excellent] by David Fricke,
Rolling Stone, April 19, 2007
Interview: Iggy Pop by Bret Gladstone, Pitchfork, August 13, 2007
"The Death Trip Supernova Of The Stooges," original source uncertain, partially reposted at The Stooges MySpace page
Iggy Pop interview on the Tom Snyder Show 1980, YouTube posted at NME
NNDB, Iggy Pop
IMDB, Iggy Pop
Wikipedia, Iggy Pop

1 comment:

  1. If Iggy was in The Iguanas in '63, he could not have been influenced by Jim Morrison unless Iggy was hanging out at high school parties in Florida! Morrison didn't hit LA and form the Doors until '66.


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