Pop Goes The Iggy
The absolute worst concert I ever attended was the Rolling Stones performance at the Pontiac Silver Dome (home of the Lions) in the 80’s. The Stones took to the stage and raced through their set….it was like listening to a 33 1/3 album at 78 rpms…Jagger and Company absolutely sucked. Thankfully the promoters had the foresight to add two warm up acts that saved the day.
Carlos Santana (whom I had seen many times in San Francisco) and Detroit’s hometown homegrown lunatic…Iggy Pop! When Iggy took to the stage, delighted and slightly deranged Deee-troit fans started tossing aluminum cans, hot dogs and other foods at Iggy. He loved every moment of it as it was a Detroit trademark and in Detroit that was how we showed we loved Iggy… I have no idea how that started. Hell, we toss an octopus on the ice when the Red Wings play…too much beer I think is responsible, either way..Iggy started kicking the cans back into the audience then picked up the food on the stage and lobbed it back like he was tossing grenades at German tanks in Berlin!
Then the amps kicked in and the crowd went wild as Iggy launched into “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and threw himself into the crowd from the centre of the stage! Bob Seger on “Live Bullet” recorded at Cobo Hall in Detroit (I was fortunate to have my backstage pass for that show) says on the album as an intro to one of his best: “They tell me that Deee-troit (yes, he says Dee-troit!) rock and roll audiences are the best around…pause…pause…drums and bass riffs underlying…then he concludes with a shout…”Shit…I’ve known that for 10 years!!!” So, not only do we have Seger, but shit…Fuck the Stones…We Got POP!
In the science and art of Detroit rock and roll there are two theories of relativity. The first is that E=MC5 and the second is Iggy + Pop = Raw Power!
The Road to Iggy: Blue Collar Beers and Amps Cranked to Breaking Point
Iggy Pop the deranged and unabashed rockster is considered the godfather of punk music. Born James Osterberg in 1947 in Muskegon on the west coast shores of Lake Michigan. His family eventually moved to a trailer park in Ypsilanti between the brawn of Detroit and the brains of Ann Arbor. Ypsilanti (pronounced Ipsilanty) was nicknamed Ypsitucky due to the influx of southerners who flocked north to the factories of the Detroit area, and Ypsi manufactured bombers during WWII at the Ford Motor Company bomber factory in town. It was —and is— blue collar to the bone as was Detroit and that hard edge coloured the music as a raw and powerful anti-Christ to the shrill of the Brill Building music factory of Carol King and Neil Diamond, as well as the do wop wimps of Philthidelphia’s street corner crooner pretty boys. Lets face it…Iggy and Rob Tyner weren’t Fabian and Bobby Rydell!! Nope, this was beer drinking blue collar territory with a highly amplified high decibel Detroit rock and roll sound, and Iggy was about to jump into the great lakes of motor city rock and roll with the likes of the MC5, Mitch Ryder, Grand Funk, Ted Nugent, and Bob Seger.
Before Iggy and the Stooges however..one of those “In the Beginning” moments in time…Osterberg joined a local Ann Arbor High School band, called the Iguana’s as their drummer. (Later he started calling himslf Iggy as a nickname, it was a play on the former band’s name) The name stuck and he soon added the “Pop” for his new persona. He was heavily influenced by Jim Morrison of the Doors who he saw in concert at the University of Michigan in 1967. Morrison’s onstage antics were the trigger that Iggy needed as he adopted many of them and ad libbed his own innovations such as diving into the audience from the stage as though he were Johnny Weismuller as Tarzan jumping into alligator infested waters to save Jane. Exposing himself on stage was borrowed directly from his idol Morrison. Being a fan of the blues, Chicago blues to be exact, young Osterberg traveled to Chicago and filled in playing drums with some of the blues bands in the city. He had met Paul Butterfield and through one of the Butterfield band members Iggy got gigs, and after making his bones, returned to Detroit.
He was also a fan, as most Detroiters are, of the comedy trio the Three Stooges; and as a tribute wanted to name the new band he was forming after them. In those days there were two comedy icons in Hollywood who had listed numbers in the LA phone book..one was Stan Laurel of Laurel and Hardy fame and the other was Moe Howard of the Three Stooges. Iggy picked up the phone and called his hero Moe to get permission. In a later interview in Cream Magazine he said that Moe took his call and when asked about using the name Moe said in his irascible Stooge way…”What the hell do I care what you call it, just so it ain’t The Three Stooges!” Osterberg thanked him and along with “Iggy Pop” the Psychedelic Stooges were born..nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!
Iggy was making a name for himself on the local circuit and club scene in Detroit playing venues like the Michigan Palace and the Grande Ballroom with other local bands, Mitch Ryder, MC5, Seger, the Hodge Brothers, and others, and his high energy shows led to a recording contract for the Stooges from Elecktra Records in 1968. His first two albums were produced by John Cale of Velvet Underground fame. John also produced albums by other underground cult artists including another Velvet alumni, Lou Reed. It soon came to a crashing halt as The Stooges broke up due to Iggy’s increased dependence on heroin. Iggy had lost his Pop and the hypodermic replaced the hype.
From Drugo-Sphere into the Stratosphere: Belting out the”Punk” Whilst Punch-Drunk
As all stories of personal redemption, a moment that can only be called an epic epiphany occurred. That is where Iggy and David Bowie, the Tall Thin Duke met in New Yawk City..yeah Yawk..with Bensonhurst accent……raw power was heating up once again and was about to return like a volcanic rock and roll eruption of punk and glitter.
David had always been a fan of Pop’s, and the meeting was fortuitous for both of them. Bowie wanted to produce an Iggy album and he was ready to take on the Motor City’s Rock and Roll Wild Child in the studio, but at this point it was all talk that would soon culminate in two of Pop’s landmark albums, but…but… to prepare Iggy checked into a mental institution to dry out from his growing heroin addiction and dependence. Not totally cured by any Iggy stretch of the imagination, in 1976 both Iggy and David moved to Berlin and went into the studio with Bowie at the controls as main producer. Here they recorded “Lust for Life” and “The Idiot”
Bowie and Iggy collaborated on songwriting ala Lennon-McCartney and the music and lyrics flowed like Niagara Falls as they came up with song after song, including the classic “China Girl” (which both artists recorded) and then they hit the Autobahn for a European Iggy Tour with Bowie playing keyboards in the new band. Germany was raw power hungry and Iggy took the country by a stormtrooping blitzkrieg stomp. The financial success led promoters in other countries to take notice and soon there was a tour planned for Down Unda..if there is a rowdier rock and roll audience than Deee-troit..it has to be those loveable Aussies…Kangaroos and Ale made an appearance by Iggy appear to be rock and rolls original aboriginal.
Diversifying & Depth-Defying: Iggy goes Telly & Starts Getting Recognition Worldwide
It was now Raw Power Powered as Iggy became more popular worldwide. He began writing songs for films such as “Repo Man” and recorded the title song with Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols on guitar. He also took acting lessons and soon the small screen beckoned and he got a part as an alien on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in a segment that was a parody of “The Magnificent Seven” Being a stage performer it was only natural that he would end up in live theatre when he was cast in the rock opera “The Manson Family” He’s been a character in video games, did voice over work for cartoons, a duet with Debbie Harry, and his “Lust For Life” song became the theme for a television commercial touting a cruise ship line! The Love Boat…Iggy Style!
Andy Warhol, the soup can Marilyn Monroe pop artist, said about Iggy Pop in an interview…..”I met Iggy in 1966..and can’t understand why he isn’t bigger than he is….” In Deee-troit..Iggy was always big…we may throw food at our beloved hometown rockers, but that is how we are..we ain’t sissies or Seattle! The Stooges were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010…ok on the Drew Carey Show..the title song goes “Cleveland Rocks” looking at the vast array of music and madness from Detroit…MC5, Seger, Mitch the Bitch Ryder and Iggy…it’s clear that Detroit is the Home of Rock and Roll….and to prove it…next time you put on “I Wanna Be Your Dog”…remember Pop Goes the Iggy!!!