You’ve heard this song before, except it was called Red Money and David Bowie was singing it. (Having cleaned up the Oedipal references.) Well, this is the original, and it is, like Iggy Pop himself, a scary out-of-control rampaging motherfucker. It’s a good example of the creative symbiosis of minds that Iggy and David enjoyed during their years of being drug-fueled BFFs. It was some of the most creative times for them both, despite or because of the binges. It doesn’t prove, despite popular belief, that drug abuse fuels creativity, but I think it shows that having an adventurous life and like-minded collaborators does.
If you were to predict which rock superstar would make a concept album inspired by the writings of Michel Houellebecq, Iggy Pop would probably not even cross your mind. You also probably were not expecting Iggy Pop to make a jazz-inflected record on which he sings in French. But yet he did just that, and yes, it was one of his weirder moments. You may think that old Iggy has gone soft and pretentious in his sunset years, but his explanation was characteristic; he was “sick of listening to idiot thugs with guitars banging out crappy music”. With his perennial shirtlessness and his habit of rolling around in broken glass, Pop’s hardcore punk credentials are unassailable, but even he has to look askance at the influence he has wrought. For every acolyte who grew up to be David Bowie, there were thousands who grew up to be mindless jerks who think that feedback and nudity are all that it takes to be edgy. But being naked, loud and stupid does not make you an edgy rebel, it just makes you naked, loud and stupid. And Iggy Pop, for his part, was the son of an English teacher and developed his intellectual side from there. Being the godfather of one of the less intellectually rigorous musical genres, he may have kept his interest in French literature to himself, but rest assured he knows more about French literature than most of you numskulls.
Iggy Pop continues to confound all expectations. First and foremost, he’s managed to outlive most of his peers great and small, despite having tried to do nothing but the opposite. Just being alive isn’t enough, though. Iggy Pop has to be a road warrior. He still performs a lot and he doesn’t do it the genteel way. Where anyone else would gather their laurels around them and maybe pull up a chair and string quartet, Iggy still bursts out half naked, not the least bit ashamed to flaunt his damaged body. Yes, he risks looking like a freak…what the hell, he looks downright grotesque. But looking good isn’t the point; even if he’d lived nicely he wouldn’t be a pretty boy anymore anyway. The point is that Iggy Pop is more punk than anyone will ever be; and the point is, even when he was young and sexy he was a freak, a grotesque, the kind of person who gets up on stage because there’s no real place for him in the world. What’s the point to pretend otherwise? Iggy has to be Iggy because he can’t survive as Jim. Most confounding of all though, is the music, of course. Iggy Pop can be a sweaty, shirtless, terrifying old man just as he used to be a sweaty, shirtless terrifying young one and transcend the merely freakish, because he’s always had great songs and he still does, and it may or may not come as some surprise that he’s come out and made a fucking great album again. He’s had some bad years. A while ago he made a record where he sang – in French no less! – about how much he likes dogs. He can get away with that as long as he plays the hits. But he also has things to say besides reminding us for the millionth time about his lust for china girls. No one ever accused Iggy Pop of being socially conscious, but he is pissed off about the world, all right. This song is a bonus track from his excellent new album Post-Pop Depression. The man may have broken every part of his body, but his voice still sounds commanding.
Spastic, sweaty, and magnificent. Explaining the significance and appeal of Iggy Pop defeats the purpose. When you see Iggy, bloody and half-naked, writhing around and abusing an innocent potted plant, either you see a kindred spirit, or you run away screaming. When in a quandary, ask yourself what Iggy Pop would do, then do one-tenth of it. (You might still die.) If you hear a sanitized version of his ode to heroin addiction in a children’s movie or a television commercial, know that Iggy Pop don’t care. He’s way too punk for your hipster ideals of integrity. He’s spent too many years scraping rock bottom to say no to a fat paycheck and some free publicity. But don’t ask him to play at your wedding, because he’ll probably get naked and trash the place, just for old time’s sake.
Oh, crazy old Iggy. Nothing can stop him. He’s a guy who gambled big and won. By all rights he should’ve been dead years ago. He’s had a pretty amazing career trajectory. He’s basically shot himself in the foot every time he’s had the slightest bit of success. The Stooges got some buzz going? Do drugs and act crazy. Got offered a solo contract? Do drugs and act crazy. Had a hit record? Do drugs and act crazy. Iggy has spent his entire career using every dime he earned to do drugs and act crazy. He keeps hitting bottom and bouncing back again. He could’ve died and become a one of those figures who are more famous for being dead than anything else. Or he could’ve just disappeared into a life of depravity and been roundly forgotten except as a minor influential cult figure. Or he could’ve made his most famous albums and then died and been remembered for being cut short in his prime. But, amazingly, he’s stuck around through thick and thin and achieved the highest level of iconicity. He’s the indomitable, unsinkable Iggy Pop, who everyone looks up to. He can do whatever he wants and his livelihood is assured. It’s really heartwarming that the old loon has finally earned the respect and stability that eluded him when he was young. Except I suspect he never wanted respect or stability or hoards of youngsters using him as a role model. I wonder how he feels about being declared an elder statesman.
Mmm, kinky. Who wouldn’t want Iggy Pop in a leather collar? I mean the young Iggy. Young Iggy was hot. Iggy now, uh, not so much. Having seen him up close on a couple of occasions, I can report that he resembles nothing so much as one of those dried up bog men from Jutland. His body has acquired an interesting beef jerky effect. He also appears to have one leg significantly shorter than the other. I’ve heard that years of abusive stage behavior has given poor Iggy a bad back and joint problems, and he has to wear orthopedic shoes in his offstage life now. But do any of those things slow him down? Of course not. He’s Iggy Pop, and once one has become Iggy Pop, there is simply no choice but to continue being Iggy Pop until the bitter end. If he’d wanted to have a dignified old age, he should of thought of it before he became Iggy, although I suspect that for Iggy, living to 65 was an unplanned for twist of fate. As it were, Iggy continues to deliver Iggy, with the demeanor of a man who knows exactly how awesome he is. If being the godfather of punk and god knows what else is your calling, you might as well pump it for what it’s worth for as long as you can, and fuck wearing shirts in public!
Some people grow old gracefully. Some turn into beef jerky versions of their younger selves and seem not to notice. Iggy Pop looks like he’s undergone some ancient Egyptian mummification procedure, but has lost none of his vitality. At 64 he looks both grotesque and weirdly sexy, but that’s no big thing, because he’s always looked like that. And if it seems like he’s not behaving in a dignified manner for his age, that’s no big thing either, because he’s never given an eff for dignity. That’s just Iggy. It doesn’t matter that his hips, knees and spine are shot from years of abuse. He’s still as allergic to shirts as ever.