Iggy Pop At 70 : A Celebration

Iggy Pop © Melanie SmithToo often we have to bury our heroes in print.

The words pour out as the RIP notices go up.

Iggy Pop is quite the opposite, hitting 70 he seems more alive than ever. An electric shock of what rock n roll was about at one time. The tightrope walk of danger, the whiff of cordite and that contrary, feline intelligence.

Iggy Pop remains the greatest frontman in rock n roll history.

Everyone else is just catching up whilst he is the man to be measured up against. Few can walk the walk of the street-walking cheetah who diced with death and insanity in his high-octane stage presence and somehow survived.

All this does not detract from his artfulness. The Stooges stripped rock ‘n’ roll down to its bare minimum but it never lost the edge. Iggy took the poetic madness of Jim Morrison to its logical conclusion and turned the yards of Jimbo poetry and made the same point in two words. Instead of verses of melancholic madness, all he had to write was No Fun. Iggy knew this as he made the the perfect rock ‘n’ roll statement.

This stripping of rock ‘n’ roll and performance to its bare bones saw Iggy invent the template for punk rock and much of modern rock music. The Stooges burst out of Detroit in the late sixties, arriving with the sound ten years before anyone else. They were at war with the music establishment and crash landed in 1973 – tired, broke and hooked on drugs. They were a real messed up deal and looked all set for the minor footnote in rock history, burnouts and fuck-ups, until everyone else went in their direction.

Luckily they were more than proto-garage thugs and Iggy’s intellect saw him through. The Stooges may have sounded simple but their music was loaded with an intelligence and depth that was missed the first time round and in those avalanches of sound they threaded in so much. It’s a tough trick and few have been able to capture so much in so little. Rock ‘n’ roll minimalism. That’s what makes their albums stand the test of time to this day.

Drying out in the sanatorium Iggy was saved by David Bowie and their seventies collaborations of The Idiot and Lust For Life saw Iggy make a tantalising reach out in a different direction and create two new templates for music that have been much loved and copied ever since.

For the past three decades, the Ig has been on an erratic solo career peppered with brilliant tracks, the gems stand out a mile, but it’s his charismatic and genuinely wild performances that have left him as the patron anti-saint of rock ‘n’ roll. Last year’s Post Pop Depression saw him make arguably one of his greatest albums – typical Ig, doing things back to front and the good work in the twilight years.

Somehow he turned his youthful chest slashing, self-destructive madness into performance art and took his hate and anger and turned it into the purest expression of the thrill of the electric performance, making walk the tightrope of rock ‘n’ roll with an inspirational and thrilling display of the art of performance.

You never get to see a bad Iggy gig and it’s his live work that has maintained his status as the living embodiment of rock ‘n’ roll.

His live shows are legendary, every sinew taut, he’s the ballet dancer from hell who ignites the riot, the shamanic conductor of the raw power of noise. It’s his secret weapon which, allied to his great vocal, which is just as effective as the teenage yelp at the heart of the culture to the wise old crooner, that makes him still vital.

The reformed Stooges caught the wave and this balance of wildness and sonic craziness has somehow survived to make them one of the greatest live bands on the planet. Iggy remains imperious, defiantly half naked physically and emotionally, still defying the taunters and still celebrating a genuine wild looseness that most bands fake.

The detractors that yell ‘car advert’ never understand that Iggy was never a punk. He just created the space for everyone else to live in. He moves on instinct and is unapologetic- the greatest kind of artist.

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7 comments on “Iggy Pop At 70 : A Celebration”

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  1. I’m the passenger Iggy’s the driver. Fully comp.

  2. Happy Birthday Iggy . Entirely agree with this piece John , surely the greatest showman in rock . I hope he’s back out on tour soon . His live gigs should be made compulsory viewing for anybody interested in music .

  3. Adrian Bloxham

    Agree with every word, Iggy live is unstoppable either with the stooges or solo. You have to see him live at least once

  4. “… defiantly half naked physically and emotionally” – beautiful!

  5. Nicely done. Too true that you’ll never see a bad iggy gig. Even from the shit seats, seeing him last year at royal albert hall was truly exhilarating.

  6. A thoughtful and well written article on the greatest front
    man, I have ever seen.

    Iggy has reached seventy. From a one time pariah to a
    brilliant public speaker and radio show host with sublime
    musical tastes, it has been an astonishing journey.

    From rags to riches literally.

    Well done, John.

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