A open letter to Iggy Pop
It's been a long time now since I got into your weird and thrilling trip.
You are now suddenly back in my spotlight, my TV eye so to speak, with the new Stooges track, Scarecrow, which, for me, is a brilliantly grungy and beautifully dumb piece of rock n roll aggro that reminds me of how much I love your gonzoid, death trip that acts stoopid but is actually high IQ.
At one level primitive and another poetic- isn't that the essence of great rock n roll?
Iggy, I feel like I've known you for years and even if we have never met we have both been breathing in the same high octane holy stuff. I recall the pre punk music press and those shots of you with that silver dickie bow on and that bizarrely chiseled body and those eyes that obviously said ' I take drugs'.You looked very enthusiastic about life, probably a bit too enthusiastic for your own good.
Initially we were not too sure who you were and what you sounded like. We were young then and Stooges records were quite rare in Blackpool. There is a theory, put about mainly by myself, that every two Stooges fans in every beat up town in the UK would become the framework of the early punk scene and I think that's been borne out by history.
It's not like anyone could hear your records at the time, even John Peel never seemed to play them and you were already one of those people who was far more famous than your record sales suggested. You really were god's forgotten boy, marooned into the half life of someone who had neither won or lost the rock n roll war.
God knows what would have happened to you if the Dame David Bowie and punk rock hadn't turned up and somehow conspired to give you a hallowed and deserved place in the pantheon of rock n roll gods.
It's not like you didn't have the talent.
It's more that rock n roll is a cruel and shallow place where a million lost souls hit the scrap heap and even your natural ability and ultimate rock star ability were still not enough, at the time, to stave off the burn out before everyone caught onto your trip, especially Bowie who wanted to be you and all the young punks who worshipped you.
Maybe you would have found a way, because, lets face it Iggy, you are the greatest frontman in the history of rock n roll. A frontman who somehow manages to combine the fabled sex, style and subversion that is much talked about and little displayed in the freak out, freak show of high energy, high decibel danger and somehow you remain the street walking cheetah with a hide full of napalm, as you stare 70 in the face with those steely blue eyes.
I am writing to you Iggy because I just heard your new single, Scarecrow, and I love it. It's a great, grunting, dumb piece of rock n roll with James Williamson, the Stoges second great guitar player, gurning out out a dirty ass , grungenomic, high amp trogg- riff that doesn't sound like he wasted those unlikely thirty years in real estate whilst your were out there every night building up the legend.
Of course, being the Stooges, the single has split the camp in two. It's just like the old days out here when you were treated as rock's shamanic leper by the hipsters.
Those things never change do they?
Some people say the song sounds dumb but that's the whole point. Just like uour classic No Fun, the wisdom is boiled down to a couple of perfect words instead of your hero Jim Morrison's verbal Tourette's of genius baroque poetry.
All you need to know in rock n roll is that life really is no fun and you gotta do something about it before the whole shithouse comes down and that's why the 2013 Stooges still rule. Your music was always instinctive and simple, grunted like James Brown blasted on angel dust and screamed like Little Richard rediscovering the demon of sex after flirting with the church. You always said as much as the free jazz greats and the freak world music you were dieting on at the Stooges house in 1970 along with your macrobiotic food and smack addiction….
Oh Iggy, whilst I'm here I would just like to ask you- what was the thinking behind eating healthy and living druggy, druggy, dangerously! That is so late sixties meltdown and then boiled down to intense fucking yin and fucking yang simplicity and therefore so Stooges.
People are still going on about that car insurance ad and how you let down punk rock. I'm not sure if they ever checked out their history books but I could swear you were never punk rock in the first place- you were from ten years before and I'm still baffled why you cop the Ad flak and the Fall or John Peel, two other great institutions of our noisy times get away scot free.
I hope you spent the money wisely, I guess you spent it on fine art instead of the crazy powders you would have once invested in.
We especially love you Iggy because you looked the devil of rock n roll in the eye and went beyond, you found freedom in the high decibel and you escaped the mundanity of so much in life. You flew like bird, flapping away like Charlie Parker. He did it with his playing and you did it with the way you moved and that voice that caught the pure yelp at the heart of rock n roll.
In the late sixties when the lunatics took over the asylum no-one could hold a candle to you, probably because you would have grabbed it and rubbed the hot wax all over yourself (and you did ). You danced with a divine madness and you sang in tongues and invented just about every stage move for everyone else to utilise for decades.
I still love that weird duck walk you used to do and that falling down flat down on the floor, grabbing the mic stand thing. There is also that famous film clip of when you went out into the crowd at a long lost festival and a bemused crowd backed off as you climbed onto their shoulders like a rock n roll Jesus in bacofoil gloves. We always loved the bizarre, bemused commentary on the clip of the gig, 'he's got peanut butter' they explain in baffled voices as you smear yourself in the buttery stuff. It should look ridiculous but it looks iconic and cool.
You were signed as a surrogate Doors to the same label and you had the same nihilistic path as big brother Jim but somehow you survived and then you kept on surviving, like a prize fighter who gets knocked down and keeps getting back up again.
You stormed back in the seventies with The Idiot and Lust For Life, two of the greatest comeback albums ever made and created a whole new style of music to wander around in. You settled easily into this stark new landscape and it was easy, because, although you acted the gross out rock n roll pig, with your chest slashing and your bad ass behavior, you were also deeply intelligent and intellectual – the most dangerous kind of rock star. You were the high IQ, bored maniac who took his frustration about the world out on the stage in a downward spiral of inner self loathing that must have been ugly to go through but was inspirational for every fucked up smart ass who cared to watch.
And I can hear all this madness in your croaking voice on the new single and I can see it in your face in the video. Every chink, every crease has been earned and yet you are bizarrely well preserved. You have seen it all, those endless world tours, those endless solo albums, the eternal cult star with all the fame but hardly any entries in the Guiness book of hit singles. The Passenger was a rock classic that never charted but is a song that everyone knows.
Your peers had huge hits, number one albums and stadium tours and you usually scraped the top 75 and yet you were their equal because no one could touch that live whirlwind, where you owned every stage you worked on and pumped out more energy than anyone thought possible. We know that and they know that.
You reformed the Stooges in the nick of time and the sight of Ron Asheton dressed like a man going out on a fishing trip, dealing out those classic, gonzoid riffs was one of the great rock n roll moments for me. I'd met him a couple of years before when he was playing with J Mascis and he sounded great then as well. After the gig I chatted with Ron and he seemed astonished that anyone had ever heard of the Stooges, I guess he was still using the Beatles as his benchmark for your average band!
Ron's last few years touring with the Stooges probably made him realise just how loved the band was with end to end festival appearances. Of course you were still tearing it apart Iggy, this was more than a reformation it was a reaffirmation and still set the standard that every rock n roll band had to measure themselves by.
When Ron sadly died you did the only thing possible and got James out of retirement . He may no longer have looked like his riffs but, fuck me, he sounded like them! and the Stooges, like cockroaches that survive anything the Apocalypse could throw at them, rose again.
When James came back it made us think of the legendary Scala gig in London, the one where Mick Rock got those defining pictures of you smeared in make up- a smudge of glam rock added to the semi naked, lizard king with silver pants and attitude, a creepy crawling, king snake let loose over the audience who looked like a terrified knitting circle compared to your demanded lunacy. Could that be the evening that punk rock was born?
It has to be one of the great rock n roll moments
I'm cranking your new single tonight and celebrating your decades of insanity on the frontline. Few people have seen the truth in rock n roll and you are one of them and as you wrap the noose around your neck whilst dressed as a scarecrow in the song's video you are even daring death to have a go.
Iggy, I hope this letter finds you in good spirits whilst you are sat there at home in Miami with the alligators and the endless sun and also finds you in a rude health, an especially rude heath one would have thought.
Yours in rock n roll
brother John Robb