As Iggy Pop looks down the barrel of his 64th birthday on April 21st. Alan A Hillier gives us his personal take on his genius

ӬAlan A Hillier
”˜A lust for life’
As Iggy Pop looks down the barrel of his 64th birthday on April 21st 2011
Alan A Hillier gives us his personal take on a South Bank production and more

It was late, very late and everything was calm and blissfully quiet”¨I poured myself a large glass of red and sat fascinated watching an online re run of a documentary on Iggy Pop which originally went to air on The South Bank show way back in December 2004 (Isn’t this internet thing wonderful) ”¨

Iggy Pop was born in a trailer park in Michigan in 1947. His parents were well educated and were both teachers in the local university ….(hardly trailer trash…)….. When he was just a kid Iggy met a guy who could play a few tunes on a guitar which triggered something in his mind and left a lasting impression. He always had a slight middle class chip on his shoulder because of his parents and he always felt that the people on his trailer park appeared much nicer than he was. ”¨”¨In 1952 he started school and eventually in the late fifties he met some kids who knew about Elvis Presley and Dwayne Eddy.

He formed his original band the Iguanas and went on to release a cover of ‘Hey Mona’ it was at this point that he realised that being in a band made him very popular in High School. He also realised at that particular moment that the alternatives to being in a band were fucking boring. ”¨”¨In 1966 Iggy got into the blues and he was a drummer who played for 5 bucks a night, anytime anywhere. He loved the atmosphere of the ‘Black’ clubs and reveled in the rowdy environment at these gigs and found himself wanting to be like these ‘Black’ people. ”¨”¨When it dawned on him that he could not be ‘black’ he smoked his first joint and set about making white delinquent suburban music in his own style. ”¨”¨He had a couple of barren years trying to articulate this new musical form and he eventually settled on a formula that allowed him to put his ‘passion’ across to the people without compromising. ”¨He then formed a band………who were totally experimental…….recording stuff that appeared to most people as irrelevant rubbish (Always a good sign in my book).

This band emerged as the Stooges. They were not particularly musically proficient….. Which is a definite punk pre requisite and one of their first offerings…..’NO FUN’ is a great example of three finger chord action driven totally by frantic stage frenzy. ”¨”¨”Iggy’s performance on stage had its own body rhythm……….nobody danced or moved like that …….Did they?” ”¨”¨These two songs ‘No fun’ and ‘I wanna be your dog’, launched the Stooges whole career. Spotted by someone from Electra records in August 1969 (Same time as Woodstock) the Corporate heads of Electra were totally freaked when they saw them live and they actually admitted that they completely hated them ”¨”¨Instinctive Stage Diving  into confused and perplexed  audiences frightened many a gig goer and by 1970 Iggy realised that he could never go on stage without ‘engaging’ with his audience like that and ‘moving’ them in some way………he needed to interact with them which totally freaked out his promoters at these gigs.”¨”¨41 years later”¦. he’s still the fucking same…….brilliant ”¨”¨Out of control????????Or is it the soul of someone else that drives his performance? ”¨”¨By 1970 the John Coltrane influenced album ‘fun house’ came out and highlighted his drug influenced state ”¨”¨’Fun House’ was recorded in L.A. and heroin was just a natural progression from all the recreational drugs that had amused him up until then”¦As soon as everyone else started using heavily…..Everything fell apart (As it always does) ”¨”¨The management of the stooges just couldn’t cope with any of it. The Rock n roll lifestyle was taking its toll

“I am you”………………………………..Yea whatever.

Iggy initially quit the stooges in 1971 where upon he was introduced to David Bowie. Bowie took Iggy to London to record his next album, the final Stooges album (James Williamson guitar……….heroin addict Like Iggy) evidently things became more complicated and the track……’Search and destroy’ was a signature from this album. ”¨”¨In 1972 the stooges played their only gig in London at the Scala in kings X ”¨Allegedly, a very young John Lydon was in the audience that night. ”¨”¨By 1972 Bowie was introducing the Ziggy thing into his live performances and by 1976 the pistols were performing ‘No Fun’………………….Full circle.

The ‘fuck you’ generation was truly born and there is no doubt in my mind that Iggy Pop was a major part of that conception (So much, much, more than the Ramones who seemed to take all the credit in the American media) ”¨”¨Iggys personal life and his performances were peppered with self-abuse. He would cut himself and bleed for his fans. Always on a personal mission …….his performances seemed to articulate not being able to communicate verbally. He was at times, a drug addled mad man…… ”¨”¨In 1974 Iggy suffered a nervous breakdown and the only person to visit him in this troubled time was David Bowie. Eventually Iggy recovered and they went on the road together and ended up in Berlin on the thin white duke tour. Bowie and Iggy were to live together in Berlin for nearly two years. ”¨”¨Iggy wrote his poems and no doubt Dave listened intently…….being a fan……Bowie was transfixed….and I reckon he learned a lot from the instantaneous Iggy Pop. Bowie was never aggressive like  Pop ……who was (in My mind) the real deal. A genuine article and a Rock n roll original………Bowie was always the ultimate courteous professional and simply wanted to suck the rabid, feral essence out of Mr Pop………(as he had done to Bryan Ferry to some extent) who, in his own way always had plenty to give.

Bowie on the other hand was controlled……and chillingly controlling…..He felt Iggy’s reality so intensely and felt Iggy’s power in a way that those who never really ”˜live it’ can only ever imagine. The Title ‘Lust for life’……one of Iggy’s best tracks was suggested by Bowie (Apparently)…………………… ”¨”¨”People with real enthusiasms are prone to getting fucked up” ”¨”¨In my personal opinion and perhaps with high insight after watching this programme, David Bowie (In the 1971 interviews) seemed to try to accept the glory for ‘inventing’ Iggy Pop and the stooges simply because he genuinely understood how important they were.

Bowie was obsessed by bringing them into the main stream….. merely to augment and perhaps emphasise his own ‘cutting edge’ judgement but also to align himself with this crazy motherfucker who, but for Bowie’s recent notoriety would perhaps have remained a ridiculous and crazy side show in suburban America.

To me,  Iggy and Bowies relationship was reflected some years later  in the almost cathartic ethos of Bowie’s  ‘Glass Spider’ concept which recounts the very generous gesture of the ‘Mother’ spider who allows herself to be completely devoured from within until just a translucent ‘shell’ providing life giving sustenance for her growing offspring…….who, when they are ready, drop like SAS soldiers on silken rope from her abandoned hollow body……..New life from the nutrients of the old…. One of David Bowies more reclusive traits and he knew it all too well.

One thing really is for sure and that is the fact that whatever would have happened to Iggy Pop during his darkest day’s……..David Bowie would have remained (As he did) a wide-eyed fan of the undeniable and instinctive talent of this man. ”¨”¨’The passenger’ first released as a B-side in 1977 was inspired by part of a poem by Jim Morrison…….Apparently Jim Morison said that, “You can never get out of your own car, but occasionally you can wind down the passengers window” ”¨”¨Iggy has released 10 plus albums in subsequent years ”¨”¨And he openly admits that it’s been ““fucking tough”…… ”¨”¨Like our old friends the Stranglers”¦”¦..He’s still fucking out there and he’s still having fun and If he’s the last man standing at the end of all of this crazy fucking journey then he will do for me…..he’s still there man”¦he’s a survivor. ”¨”¨He’s doing all right………..but he still wants to be your dog.

A recent ”˜live’ performance on the talent show ”˜America has got talent’ was mesmerizing. Bouncing around like ripped belligerent teenager Pop delivered his soul and his passion like he always did, confusing, challenging, stimulating and unfathomable to the casual observer and somewhat upsetting to the mainstream and to repeat part of a conversation I had recently in a sweaty dive watching a band who simply love to play “There are those that watch and there are those that do””¦”¦”¦”¦..Iggy does.
I don’t admire too many people in the crazy world of rock n Roll these days, maybe it’s because the majority of them are fake. I genuinely do believe in the power of music and the power of the ‘performance’ and I genuinely admire this man for the relentless pursuit of his own ‘TRUTH’ ”¨

”¨It’s still there in his heart, in his soul and in his guts at 64 years old. ”¨”¨I hope it always will be.



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4 comments on “As Iggy Pop looks down the barrel of his 64th birthday on April 21st. Alan A Hillier gives us his personal take on his genius”

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  1. Oh, the passenger
    He rides and he rides
    He sees things from under glass
    He looks through his window’s eye
    He sees the things he knows are his
    He sees the bright and hollow sky
    He sees the city asleep at night
    He sees the stars are out tonight
    And all of it is yours and mine

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