For 40 years,
since he first led the Stooges out of mid-'60s Motor City, to
prove there was more to Detroit than cars, bars and Motown, Iggy
Pop has been a legend.
that take him to such heights are legion. "Iggy Pop,"
the man himself later reflected, "was this guy who
used to stick pencils in himself, throw peanut butter, puke and
do crazy things, play wild music." There was more. Broken
glass and candle wax, broken teeth and death dives from the amplifiers,
headlong into an audience that was too scared to catch him - Iggy
Pop, the papers said, was a one man self-demolition squad, and
his Stooges were the wrecking ball from which he swung.
youd call it Punk Rock," Iggy mused. "Although
it wasnt called that at the time." Instead, it was
a brain-charring noise that slashed so gloriously through the
naval-gazing of the late '60s rock scene that the bands
two albums (a self-titled set and the leviathan Funhouse)
sound as frighteningly vital today, as they were demented and
demanding back then. When the Stooges broke up in 1970, most observers
were simply amazed theyd survived that long.
later, the Stooges were back. 1973s Raw Power continued
the bands beautiful, bludgeoning ballet and, if history
had gone according to plan, Elton John was in line to oversee
their next record. But the band broke up once again, shattered
on the bottle-strewn stage immortalized across the Metallic
KO live album, and Iggy sank into a dark world of rumor, a
shadowy Godfather for Punks first generation, but alive
more in theory than anything approaching fact.
he returned, riding two new albums in the space of eight months.
The Idiot and Lust For Life were both created with
David Bowie, but they were Iggys show regardless
the pair toured together in spring 77, Bowie never uttered a word.
He just chainsmoked at the side of the stage, playing keyboards;
a lot of people didnt even know he was there. Iggy was back.
For all his
notoriety, however, Iggy Pop never used to get played on the radio,
and that bothered him. "Radio neglect has hurt me more than
anything else. Ive written some great songs, and I know
if more people had heard my music back when
." In 1985,
he decided to do something about that. "I realized it was
very important that this record sound as polished, as competitive
as possible. I didnt want there to be any obvious reasons
why it shouldnt get on the radio."
his collaborators carefully. Renting a house in LA, he hooked
up with Steve Jones, the former Sex Pistols guitarist, and the
pair spent four months demoing songs. Then, back in New York,
he called up David Bowie, and played him the tapes. A month later,
the pair was kicking off a six-month working holiday, flitting
between the Caribbean and Switzerland, swimming and skiing, writing
Then Bowie booked the pair into his own favorite hideaway, Mountain
Studios in Montreaux, and brought Queens engineer, David
Richards, in to co-produce with him. He pulled musicians from
his own band, guitarist Kevin Armstrong and Turkish multi-instrumentalist
Erdal Kizilcay; and, just two weeks after the tapes started rolling,
Blah Blah Blah was complete.
the album from both the stockpile of songs hes written with
Jones - the rock anthems "Cry For Love," "Winners
And Losers" and "Fire Girls"; and the newer material
hed created with Bowie: "Isolation," "Hideaway,"
"Baby It Cant Fail," "Blah Blah Blah,"
"Shades." The first thing that his public was going
to hear, however, was a cover.
single from the album was "Real Wild Child," written
back in 1958 by Jerry Allison, a member of Buddy Hollys
Crickets, and Iggy quickly proved that he intended living up to
its title with a vengeance. Promoting the record in the UK, he
managed to get himself banned from both the flagship music show
Top Of The Pops (for damaging a piano by dancing on it),
and the entire ITV network (for simulating sex with a giant stuffed
teddy bear). But the single was a hit regardless, and when Blah
Blah Blah followed in onto the streets, the reviews were as
excited as the album itself.
relentlessly behind Blah Blah Blah, while a string of further
singles flew off the album - hed never released so many
from one record, but they did the trick. They kept him on the
radio, while the extended 12-inch mixes (gathered together here
for the first time on CD) ensured he was never far away from the
club circuit either. By the time he was ready to begin work on
his next album, Iggy Pop was quite possibly closer to household
name status than hed ever been in his life.
his insurgence with a dynamic return to basics. Instinct
was so titled, he said, because it was instinctual. Linking up
with New York producer Bill Laswell, and drawing Steve Jones back
into the fold, Iggy kicked off the new record with a statement
of intent as ferocious as any he had ever delivered in the past,
the grinding "Cold Metal." The remainder of Instinct
simply followed on from there.
explained, "this was not complicated music. It was more about
overall feel and energy than about a precision performance,"
and that is precisely what they delivered, a testosterone-driven
monster that commenced the battering at the start of the disc,
and didnt let up till the end. And if the studio recordings
were incendiary, the live show was positively explosive.
a new band together as he hit the road - guitarist Alvin Gibbs,
from British punks UK Subs; bassist Andy McCoy from Hanoi Rocks,
keyboard player Seamus Beaghen and drummer Paul Garristo. Together,
not released a live album since 1978s TV Eye. Exactly
10 years later, A&M decided it was time to release another
and, although Live At The Channel (recorded in Boston on
July 19, 1988) was only ever intended as a promotional release,
to be handed round to journalists and favored media contacts,
its reputation quickly spread a lot further.
a classic live set, new material rubbing up against the old, and
bringing with it the freshness that Iggy always demanded from
his concert performances. Onstage, everything sounded like a long-loved
classic, and so "Instinct" swooped into "Kill City";
the band slammed out of "Penetration" and into "Power
And Freedom"; and, to close the show, the crowd hung almost
breathless as Iggy swerved from "Squarehead" into "I
Wanna Be Your Dog." It was effortless, seamless, peerless,
and the show was over.
was still just beginning. Blah Blah Blah and Instinct
marked a career rebirth that finally hauled him away from the
cult status that had surrounded him for so long; placed him among
that rare breed of performers who were as comfortable shaking
up classic rock radio, as they were teaching the kids how its
done on the hippest new alternative show.
From Brick By Brick to Skull Ring, from reissues
of Raw Power to the reformation of the Stooges, Iggy Pop
remains one the most uniquely individual performers, and breathtakingly
brilliant showmen that rock n roll has ever produced.
And this package shows you why.
Veteran music writer Dave Thompson is a regular contributor writing
on hard-to-find rarities. Dave is the author of many well reviewed
rock biographies, including the recent Virgin Books' Red Hot Chili
Peppers biography, works on The Cure and Kurt Cobain. He wrote
Cream: The World's First Supergroup which was published early
last year. In the past, Dave has written for Live! Music Review
and he is also a regular contributor to Rolling Stone, Mojo and
Q magazines. Click
here to buy Dave's e-books.
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