Littered with casualties, early deaths and drug misuse, for many of us that is the story of Rock and Roll. The recent litany of deaths – Bowie, Prince, George Michael and now Aretha Franklin got me thinking. I decided that a death could be sad and unfortunate (Curtis Mayfield), but could also be self inflicted (Brian Jones). But hold on, then there is Iggy Pop!
Iggy follows in the great Keith Richards’ tradition of cocking a snoot at the Grim Reaper. This acrylic painting I produced a while back is based on a series of photographs taken by Mick Rock in 1972. Iggy and his band The Stooges came over to the UK in 1972 to record the classic album Raw Power. Totally iconic and at a time when Iggy was living life to the excess, this image summed up the lot. The album a sort of punk/metal thrash was initially hampered by recording/remixing. CBS drafted in Bowie to remix it adding to its legendary status.
The ‘Godfather of Punk’ always seemed on a path to self-destruction. Consider the facts: excessive drugs and booze, self-mutilation and audience confrontation on stage and an offstage lifestyle of total squalor and degradation. Mental institutions and rehab became a feature of Iggy’s life, particularly in the 70s. Bowie finally got him out and was able to get him performing and recording again. This was just in time for the launch of punk rock, Iggy’s spiritual home.
There are many stories about the Ig, but a couple come to mind. In Detroit at the Stooges last gig in 1974 a gig full of bikers caused mayhem by constantly pelting the band with eggs. Iggy lost it and challenged the audience. The result? A 6 ft plus biker pummelled Iggy (Iggy is 5ft 1in)!
Another bizarre story is after a drug induced night of popping pills Iggy decided to eat a couple of beefburgers. Turning on the gas for the oven and bending down with the burgers he had a seizure with his head stuck in the oven. He couldn’t move and would have gassed himself if it wasn’t for the next-door neighbours smelling the gas. They broke into his house and dragged him out. If he had have died this would have appeared as a really odd Rock and Roll suicide. As Iggy later commented “what would they have made of the beefburgers?”
The game-changer for Iggy was probably Bowie recording China Girl and having a hit with it in 1983. Since this point Iggy’s career has had a more upward trajectory. Whether it’s commercial spin offs from the film Trainspotting, acting, radio work or the Stooges reunion. The Stooges were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010. At 71 years old he is now an elder statesman with an almost national treasure status. He’s still worth checking out, his last album Post Pop Depression (2016) stands up pretty well.
It’s a roller-coaster story, but what of the music? Here is a list of some Iggy/Stooges songs with links in no particular order. Have a listen.
Lust for Life – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQvUBf5l7Vw
Nightclubbing – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3OaMZojJRg
The Passenger – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0nlygb1Qfw
New Values – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSpAJwv9iI8