In the latest instalment of OQ Primer series, Kevin Walker gives his personal introduction to Iggy Pop, including a Spotify playlist of the greatest moments of the Wild One
What the hell happened to this kid? Four years after this high school photo was taken, he had become Iggy, singer in The Stooges. Later he became Iggy Pop, one of the most enduring rock personas ever. The sensitive young man in the photo is James Osterberg, born 1947 in Michigan. Material abounds online about Iggy and I’ve no intention of blabbing on like a twat about formative years and all the usual bio blurb, it’s been done. I was born in 1965 (the year the school photo was taken) and first came into contact with Iggy Pop in 1979, the year he released New Values. You can have my copy of this fine record when you pry it from my cold dead hands. Piss off and buy your own.
In those days at the end of the 1970s, there existed a holy trinity in rock music (or unholy, depending on your point of view). I´m talking about David Bowie, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop. If you liked one, you liked them all: Bowie, the fabulous artist. Lou Reed, the medium for all things too dark and too real. Iggy, the court jester, the lovable buffoon, the emperor of being off your trolley and running around causing havoc.
The Stooges, The Stooges 1969. Produced by John Cale.
Funhouse, The Stooges 1970. Produced by Don Gallucci.
The Idiot, Iggy Pop 1977. Produced by David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Tony Visconti.
Lust for Life, Iggy Pop 1977. Produced by David Bowie.
New Values, Iggy Pop 1979. Produced by Iggy Pop
Soldier, Iggy Pop 1980. Produced by Pat Moran.
These few titles, studio albums from the first eleven years of his career, comprise my must-hear short list for the Iggy Pop novice. 1977 is the hands-down winning year. Fabulous collaborations with David Bowie, The Idiot and Lust for Life are quite simply the finest work by Iggy Pop, responsible for cementing his reputation as a serious artist and one of the most questionable role models of all time.
The Stooges were a band. Iggy was in the band. Ron Asheton was the astonishing guitar player whose sound was the furious heart of that band. These two iconic albums from 1969 and 1970 still work their magic on me, sounding as fresh and vital now as the day in 1979 when I was first exposed. Ron Asheton. Check him out. Now.
I never made an effort to see the Ig and then all of a sudden I’m going to Flow Festival and still a bit sceptical, thinking… “is this going to be really sad or just very sad?” How wrong I was. It was great. Not a bit sad. Feeling clueless about the band motivated me to do a bit of after the fact surfing and some interesting info was easy to find.
Kevin Armstrong – guitar. Responsible for penning the classic I’m In Love with a German Filmstar by The Passions. Armstrong has also worked with Bowie and Morrissey.
Ben Ellis – bass. Death in Vegas, Paul Weller, Madness, Ian Dury and the Blockheads.
Seamus Beaghen – guitar and keyboards. Death in Vegas, Morrissey, Barry Adamson, Madness.
Mat Hector – drums. Also works with Thomas Dolby.
These guys were well up for it. The choice of material was great: some Stooges stuff and some real treats from his 1977 and 1979 albums. The best song of the gig for me was “Mass Production” from The Idiot. Second and third best were “Some Weird Sin” and “Lust for Life” from Lust for Life. The band were so on top of these three songs, I was moved. I got all lip trembly and tingly. “Five Foot One” from New Values also hit the spot. “The Passenger” was the song the crowd wanted to hear and they were not disappointed. I thought it was a bit semi and so I advise all and sundry to go YouTubing and check out the live clip of “The Passenger” from the 1977 Manchester Apollo gig. Iggy backed by possibly the sleaziest looking band ever. Thanks Iggy.
There are many stories true and false about Iggy Pop and his antics (drugs, insanity, destruction of private property etc.) If you like that sort of thing, check out Danny Sugerman’s book Wonderland Avenue, tales of glamour and excess. It’s not a great book, but it is a fun read.