Iggy Pop is coming to stir up trouble in Australia for Bluesfest 2019 (with some extra dates thrown in) – and we’re so looking forward to it. If you’re taking the Pop plunge, don’t be without these gems.
The luminaries are falling – our 20th Century Gods are giving way. In late 2015, Lemmy’s physical being finally succumbed, and mere months later Bowie disappeared again – this time, permanently. Prince then died alone in an elevator, and suddenly Lou Reed’s 2013 passing – seemingly seismic at the time – was now just a sad reflection of life’s inevitable end. But, the dirty rock’n’roll animals – The True and Mean Real Things – have one more vanguard standing, one more warrior shaking the cage bars, one more firecracker whose mortal enemy is mediocrity.
His name is Iggy Pop, and he is coming to Australia.
James Newell Osterberg (born 1947) grew up around the distinctly unglamorous town of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Raised on the heavy industry of America’s car manufacturing heartland, The Cold War and the anti-ADHD drug Ritalin, rock’n’roll was both a likely outcome and a sanity saver for a young man who got his first taste of the life playing drums in a local band called The Iguanas (hence the nickname ‘Iggy’). Iggy Pop founded The Stooges in 1967 with his friends Ron and Scott Asheton (guitar and drums respectively) and Dave Alexander (bass).
The three records he made with permutations of this line-up (The Stooges, Fun House and Raw Power) are some of the most important ever created: primal slabs of anti-pop, anti-hippy noise that attacked music, life and the wider world. The Stooges – who first broke up in 1971 – somewhat inevitably imploded in 1974, as the line between James Osterberg and ‘Iggy Pop’ disappeared into a drug-addled blur. Spirited out of hospital and then to a nondescript suburb of West Berlin by his longtime friend David Bowie, Pop rebuilt his career and his life.
With THE STOOGES
Raw Power (1973)
“I’m a street walkin’ cheetah/ With a heart full of napalm.” There is not another more powerful opening line in all of rock’n’roll; it blows open the doors of the mighty Search and Destroy, the first track on Raw Power. Before The Ramones, before CBGB/New York punk, and long before Malcolm McLaren spied Johnny Rotten in an ‘I hate Pink Floyd’ t-shirt, there was Raw Power. Recorded in the UK with a reformed Stooges line-up (Ron Asheton moved to bass, James Williamson joined on guitar, Bowie salvaged the mix in a day), in just over 30 minutes it annihilates the 1960s and burns a terrifying path into a nihilistic, brutal if exhilarating future.
Gimme Danger (DVD) (2016)
“I think I helped wipe out the ’60s… [but] I don’t want to be a punk. I just want to be.” Jim Jarmusch’s documentary on the story of the notorious Stooges is one for the fans, but it’s also a film that opens a window to the truly unstable and threatening experience the band was – they weren’t ‘controversial’ or ‘revolutionary’, they were the gutter come to life, and to 99 per cent of Americans in the early ’70s, they were an actual public enemy.
The Idiot (1977)
Pop’s solo debut is another gem from the musician’s late ’70s European sojourn living with Bowie. Curiously, it divides some purists who feel Bowie’s influence – he produced and wrote much of the music – renders it a Bowie record-by-stealth, with lyrics and vocals by Iggy Pop. No matter: The Idiot is a bona fide classic. From the menace of opener Sister Midnight, the classic Nightclubbing (made famous by Grace Jones), the rip and riot of Funtime and the original China Girl (later turned into a global chart hit by Bowie), The Idiot doesn’t waste a track. The detached, cool, late ’70s Euro production that took its cues from Kraftwerk and the so-called ‘Kraut Rock’ of Can and Neu, is perfectly suited to material like Dum Dum Boys and Mass Production. (Available as a twin-CD pack with Lust For Life)
Lust For Life (1977)
As soon as the thundering tramp gallops from the speakers and louche guitars sleaze their way into your ears like an addictive bad boyfriend with nasty habits, you’re there, at Ground Zero. If you’d never heard Elvis, Little Richard, The Beatles or Stones, The Ramones or The Clash, the opening bars of this album’s title track would tell you all you’ll ever need to know about rock’n’roll – all before Iggy has even howled the immortal opening stanza: “Here comes Johnny Yen again/ With the liquor and drugs/ And the flesh machine/ He’s gonna do another striptease…” Can you imagine the opening scene of Trainspotting without it? (Available as a twin-CD pack with The Idiot)
This double set draws on The Stooges self-titled debut, 1970’s Fun House, and the abovementioned Raw Power, along with gems from Lust For Life, The Idiot, James Williamson collab Kill City, 1993’s sensational American Caesar, and some other kickers. A great one-stop.
Post Pop Depression (2016)
Essentially an Iggy/Josh “QOTSA” Homme collaboration (billed as a solo release), this sustained screed of complaint against the rubbish nature of modern life – given hypersonic rocket launch power by Homme/his associated dudes – was an explosive, thrilling surprise. The closer Paraguay sees Iggy ranting about getting away “to a new life, where there’s not so much f-cking ‘knowledge’… ‘I don’t want any of this ‘information.'” Bless.
American Valhalla (DVD) (2017)
A faithful (and therefore riveting) look at the genesis and creation of Post-Pop Depression, and why shaking off the shackles of your past and living in the moment is the only way to be.
As unlikely collabs go, this one’s a monty. UK techno powerhouse Underworld dream up subtle and truly sublime backing to Iggy’s unfettered and undeniably entertaining stories, drawn directly from his life. Bells and Circles is an uproarious rant against the tut-tut nanny state world (a story of smoking on a long-haul flight to Australia while trying to pick up an air hostess is worth admission alone). In contrast, I’ll See Big looks back (almost) wistfully on the changing nature of friendship over his long life, from the late Asheton brothers and onwards.
Iggy Pop plays Sydney Opera House April 15 + 17, Bluesfest Byron Bay April 19 and Melbourne’s Festival Hall April 21.