AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #183 : IGGY POP

A GUEST POSTING by SWISS ADAM
http://baggingarea.blogspot.com/

Iggy Pop-Just A Modern Guy

An Imaginary Compilation Album

Since 2016’s Post Pop Depression album, a record made as if to book end his career with a Berlinesque sounding set of songs, Iggy Pop has given the impression he’s winding down his activities. A radio show here and there, the odd guest vocal, but not much more. Then, out of the blue in summer 2018, Underworld announce an ep with Iggy providing vocals to four new songs, two, maybe three, of which sound like late-career classics. So, I thought an Iggy Pop ICA was in order. Part of me then thought that looking back at a back catalogue which can easily be described as patchy, the safest ICA would be to cherry pick 5 songs from each his pair of 1977 albums, The Idiot and Lust For Life, his solo career high points. Iggy has seemed to struggle to meet the sounds and standards of these two albums ever since. But that seemed a bit reductive so I’ve tried to limit myself to only two songs from each of the Bowie/Berlin albums and cast the net for the rest of the ICA a little wider.

Iggy has been part of my life since 1988. Dimly aware of his 1986 hit single Real Wild Child and his connection to Bowie I went to a basement bar in the student’s union of Liverpool University, only a few weeks into my first year there, in October 1988. It was deserted apart from two men playing the records, both of whom looked like they could have been members of Birdland (the late 80s indie band not the New York jazz club). I stood near a wall with a pint and shortly the opening chords of 1969 blared out. And that was that, at a time when Iggy Pop was a long way from the centre of popular culture, acid house and Manchester, indie and hip hop. It took me a long time to put the various pieces together. In the pre-internet, pre-cd reissue culture age, getting hold of records was a matter of searching, dedication and luck. In 1996 Trainspotting thrust Iggy back into people’s faces, the film opening with Lust For Life and suddenly Iggy was in the spotlight again (and finally getting paid). His music began to be used for adverts, he came over the UK for Tv and chat shows- his appearance on Channel 4’s The White Room in see through PVC trousers being a memorable television encounter.

For this ICA I’ve kept to the post-Stooges albums. The Stooges require and deserve an ICA of their own (for what it’s worth, it would might something like this- 1969, I Wanna Be Your Dog, No Fun, Real Cool Time, Loose, Dirt, TV Eye, Search And Destroy, Gimme Danger, Death Trip). Iggy Pop’s solo years are a different animal and his back catalogue has records to love and records to file away quietly and not return to. I’ve also not included anything from his very recent Teatime Dub Encounters record with Underworld but I think that given time one of the four songs on it would force its way onto a rewritten ICA in summer 2019. I haven’t forgotten his album with James Williamson, Kill City, recorded as a demo in 1975 and then polished a little and released in 1977. I just didn’t think anything from it, even the title track, was good enough. The other song missing from this ICA is Repo Man, title track from the Alex Cox film of the same name. A decent enough stab at 80s punk rock, written and recorded in 20 minutes. It just didn’t quite make the cut. If you want it as a bonus track, I posted it recently at Bagging Area. So, with Tony Sales’ drums thumping out Iggy’s calling card intro, we begin….

Lust For Life

The best Iggy Pop solo song and the only way to open an Iggy compilation (in fact more or less any compilation), Lust For Life is a raison d’etre, a justification, a celebration of survival, a middle finger to the doubters and the cynics. Bounding in on that huge, sped up Motown beat, a rhythm based on the Armed Forces network call signal and then Bowie’s guitar riff (written on a ukulele), Lust For Life is a guaranteed floor filler, an irresistible party song. The lyrics were partly inspired by William Burroughs, clearly partly autobiographical and also very funny. Trainspotting launched it into mainstream culture but it has survived many cover versions and TV tie ins because it is the very stuff that rock ‘n’ roll is made of.

I’m Bored

1979’s New Values gave us seven good Iggy pop songs, more than any Iggy album would for a long time afterwards- the title track (which has a very tail end of punk lyric, from one of punk’s progenitors, ‘I’m looking for one new value but nothing comes my way’), the strutting, cocksure Five Foot One, The Endless Sea, Girls, Don’t Look Down (later covered by Bowie), the album opener Tell Me A Story and this one, I’m Bored. The jerky guitar riff is the base over which Iggy gives us his latest message, ‘I’m bored, I’m the chairman of the bored’. Once you’ve written that line, the rest of the lyric takes care of itself. Two former Stooges, James Williamson and Scott Thurston contribute with writing, playing and production and Iggy was still rolling from his ’77 albums at this point, signed to a major label and with some record company clout behind him.

I Need More

A moment of clarity from Iggy. ‘I need more intelligence… more culture… don’t forget adrenaline’. Despite his dum-dum Iggy persona, James Osterberg is an intelligent and well-read man. Iggy is the persona that performs the songs. This one, co-written by Glen Matlock, rattles along at the start of the 80s, a decade which would be pretty dismal for Pop. I Need More was also the name of his 1982 autobiography, now out of print and going for silly money second hand. If you ever see it cheap, buy it. The album I Need More was off, Soldier, came out in 1980 on Arista (for whom Iggy recorded three duff-ish albums). There was conflict throughout the making of it, between James Williamson and Bowie and between Bowie and Glen Matlock (whose guitars allegedly went missing off some songs in the final mix). Simple Minds were recording next door and ended up doing backing vocals on Play It Safe. The only other song off Soldier you might consider worth keeping, to these ears, is Loco Mosqioto which has a fairly chaotic sound and Iggy naked in the bath in the video.

Sister Midnight

Sister Midnight opens The Idiot, an Iggy/David Bowie/Carlos Alomar co-write and deeply entrenched in the Chateau d’Herouville and Berlin sessions that would deliver not just Iggy’s best pair of solo albums but also three of Bowie’s (Low, ‘’Heroes’’ and The Lodger). Sister Midnight opens with a lurch and Iggy’s vocal, a numbed out, reverb drenched rasp- ‘calling sister midnight, you got me reaching for the moon’. The synths and rhythm keep the song grounded, the beat dragging slightly behind the music, and the sound is wonderfully murky, a three-note bassline pushing things along. Iggy sounds like he’s singing from a hole. ‘What can I do about my dreams?’ he pleads. I’d love to include Nightclubbing here as well, a song which is so well recorded, so detached and so cool, so Iggy, that it deserves a place but I’m trying to avoid including multiple songs from the 1977 high points.

The Passenger

A killer riff, the perfect punk rock ‘n’ roll riff, written by Ricky Gardiner. Iggy, narrator and punk outsider, riding around Mitteleuropa in David Bowie’s car, seeing the city’s ripped backside, the hollow sky and everything else, through the window of the car. Little touches can make such a difference in recordings- note the bell ringing at the start. I read somewhere that The Passenger is Johnny Marr’s favourite song. A song that is both impossibly exciting and as numb as it can be.

Gardenia

The comeback. Joshua Homme sought Iggy out and they corresponded by letter and postcard before meeting at a studio at The Joshua Tree to record an album. Gardenia is a tribute to a stripper that both Iggy and Allen Ginsberg were ogling, decades earlier. The band were totally simpatico with an aging Iggy, who suddenly sounded tuned in and was making a record he wanted, needed, to make. Somehow, there’s as much James Osterberg in the voice on this album as there is Iggy Pop. Other songs off Post Pop Depression could easily take this one’s place- American Valhalla, Panama, Break Into Your Heart. Iggy saw this album as the end. ‘I feel like I’m closing up after this’ he said, a 68-year-old man still expected to take his shirt off every night on tour and throw himself into the crowd.

Bang Bang

A 1981 single, from the album Party, co-written by guitarist Ivan Kral. There’s some tension here, Iggy sounds engaged and focussed on what seems to be a song about girls. New Wave keyboards and some organ flesh out the song while Kral contributes some squealing guitar parts. The best thing on a pretty ropey album that doesn’t sound much like a party. Not one you’d enjoy being at anyway.

Funtime

Funtime, also from The Idiot, is a must for any Iggy compilation. Another Bowie co-write with the Thin White Duke playing guitar, synth and providing backing vox. Funtime was inspired by the Sex Pistols cover of his own No Fun and by Neu!, plus Bowie playing a riff borrowed from The Rolling Stones. All this combines to make Funtime a blast of Motorik tension. ‘Hey I feel lucky tonight’ Iggy sneers, ‘I’m gonna get stoned and run around’. Sounds like fun. Bowie’s guitar is part deranged. The room at Hansa Studio never sounded so good.

Avenue B

In the late 1990s post-Trainspotting, Iggy discovered a new way of singing, much deeper, almost crooning and made a different kind of album. Eventually this would lead him to make a jazz album based around Michel Houellebecq’s The Possibility Of An Island, in French in 2009. Before that, in 1999, he put out Avenue B which had several songs in which Iggy unpicked the end of his marriage to a younger woman and concluding that it wasn’t her, it was him. The album split opinion but it is much overlooked and showed Iggy a way out of cool, dumb fun. And while the album is on the whole reflective, melancholic, laid back, and a response to divorce and turning 50, it also has some rockers, a song in Spanish, a cover of Shakin’ All Over and a song called Nazi Girlfriend.

Success

Breaking my rule about only having 2 songs from an album, I had to include Success (from Lust For Life), an ad-libbed, on the verge of falling apart song. Another Pop/Gardiner/Bowie co-write, Iggy apparently made the lyrics up in the studio and the backing singers were told to just follow what Iggy did- which they did, brilliantly. The idea that Iggy Pop would see success in 1977 must have appealed to his and Bowie’s sense of humour but having been rescued from a mental hospital, moved to Berlin to clean up and having little in the way of support, financial or otherwise, the sheer glee in Iggy’s singing, the backing vox and the band’s playing, is success in itself.

Bonus Track

Aisha

Iggy has contributed guest vocals to various tracks over the last few years, Peaches and the group currently calling itself New Order for example, but the starting point was back in 1999 with Death In Vegas and their Contino Rooms album. I’d like to have found room on the ICA for Iggy’s guest vocal on Aisha where he dons the role of a serial killer. When Iggy growls ‘Aisha I’m confused, Aisha I’m vibrating’, he sounds completely believable. If you only have one guest vocal track, it’s this one.

SWISS ADAM

RE-ISSUE, RE-PACKAGE TO CASH IN ON NEW EXPOSURE

The the film Trainspotting back in 1996 brought Iggy Pop to a whole new audience. In what is one of the most memorable opening sequences ever committed to celluloid, two of the main characters run as if their lives depend on escaping their pursuers (it would transpire they were running to evade capture after a shoplifting expedition to feed their drug habit), to the accompaniment of Lust for Life.

It led to Virgin Records, for whom Iggy had been recording since the early 90s, to re-release the single complete with video in which Iggy did his topless Iggy-dance interspersed with clips from the movie. The re-release got to #26 in the charts. I found a copy of the single in a charity shop years later for 20p…an absolute bargain given it had two live tracks and an admittedly appalling cover version making up the b-sides:-

mp3 : Iggy Pop – (Get Up I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine
mp3 : Iggy Pop – Lust for Life (live)
mp3 : Iggy Pop – I Wanna Be Your Dog (live)

Lust for Life was recorded at an outdoor festival gig in Ireland in the summer of 1993 while I Wanna Be Your Dog was from the Rock For Choice event at the Hollywood Palladium in 1995.

JC

TALK ABOUT POP’S MUSIC

iggy-pop

Long before the sad and sobering adverts for car insurance, James Osterberg Jr made some very important and very influential records. Particularly two LPs that were released in 1977 – The Idiot and Lust for Life – both partly-written, wholly produced and very heavily influenced by David Bowie.

It was the Bowie connection that led to Mrs V purchasing both albums at the time, and they take a proud place in among the many other bits of plastic that sit within the cupboard just yards from where I’m sitting typing these words.

Its quaint to read the words printed on the back of The Idiot:-

Stereo records give full stereo reproduction when played on a stereo record player. They can be played om most modern mono players fitted with a lightweight tone arm and pick-up head and the sound reproduction will be monoaural. If you have any doubts and wish to avoid damaging your equipment or records, consult your dealer.

Given the prodigious amounts of drugs that were consumed during the course of making these records, I’ve a feeling that Iggy Pop would have been consulting an altogether different type of dealer.

Lust For Life contains one of the greatest songs ever recorded. Fact.

mp3 : Iggy Pop – The Passenger

Hard to believe now that it was passed over as a single and instead relegated to the b-side of Success, which was the only 45 lifted from the LP at the time.

And I wonder how many readers are aware of a very strong Scottish connection with The Passenger…..

Well, the music was written by Ricky Gardiner who first came to prominence in the very early 70s as a founder member of Beggars Opera, a prog rock band from Glasgow (although Gardiner himself was from Edinburgh). They never achieved much as a band, but Gardiner was by the mid 70s part of Bowie’s backing band and part of the entourage that hooked up with Iggy. And its his playing of the distinctive riff that has filled many a floor at an indie disco the world over.

One of the best tracks on The Idiot is this:-

mp3 : Iggy Pop – Nightclubbing

It is highly representative of the dark and raw sound that dominates the LP.

A few years later, Half Man Half Biscuit took the piss out of it somewhat:-

mp3 : Half Man Half Biscuit – Seal Clubbing

Sadly however, the The Idiot is an LP that for many has become synomomous with tragedy, thanks to the fact that it was the last record played by Ian Curtis on the night he hanged himself….whether or not it was actually playing as he took his last breath we will never know.

WHAT COMES INTO YOUR MIND WHEN YOU HEAR THIS SONG?

R-533838-1237053715

mp3 : Iggy Pop – Lust For Life

For years, it was always the downstairs alternative disco within Strathclyde University’s Student Union.  Level 8 was the main place for live acts and a half decent indie and pop disco but two floors down, in what usually functioned as the main dining hall, you’d find a DJ playing more obscure and cult material. Iggy Pop featured every week, alternating between The Passenger and Lust For Life (it was vinyl in those days and I’m guessing that was the only LP that the student union had!)

Moving forward more than a decade and the song became synonymous with the opening few minutes of the film Trainspotting as Renton (Ewan McGregor) and Spud (Ewan Bremner) sprint down Princes Street in Edinburgh pursued by security guards after a shoplifting incident gone wrong. The joy and surprise of seeing so many familiar locations come to life on the big screen was part of what made that film so special, and every time I walk up Leith Walk and pass its junction with Calton Road I instantly recall the moment where Renton sprints down the sorts set of stairs and seconds later narrowly avoids getting killed by a car emerging from a side street as Iggy’s song pounds away in the background.

Almost 20 years later and I’ve a third abiding memory and that’s of Johnny Marr and his cohorts blasting out a tremendous live version from the stage of the O2 Academy in Glasgow. In a gig packed with many highlights, including some astonishingly good versions of Smiths songs, the unexpected blast of Lust for Life was just as much a stand-out.

It wasn’t originally released as a single in the UK but was readily available on import from the Netherlands where it went Top 3, with this same track on the b-side as had been put on the UK release of The Passenger:-

mp3 : Iggy Pop – Success

1977?  Still sounds incredible and fresh today.