Iggy Pop: Here comes Johnny Yen again

Pop remains the world’s forgotten boy, who is undeniably unforgettable.

Iggy Pop. There have been many monikers used to describe Iggy Pop: “rock ‘n’ roll Wildman” and “self destructive street poet” are just a few. Pop is most famously known as the Godfather of Punk due to his tenure with the groundbreaking proto-punk band The Stooges.

During the mid-70’s after various stints on the street, in insane asylums, and in low rent motels, Pop was literally saved by David Bowie, and the two decamped to Berlin and France to record two of Iggy Pop’s most accomplished albums: first with The Idiot, then Lust for Life. We will be discussing Lust for Life.

Lust for Life opens with the title track containing the infamous drum intro (borrowed by modern acts such as Jet) that has been successfully used to sell cruises since the mid 90’s. “Lust for Life” is an anthem about getting clean, no more beating our brains with liquor and drugs.  Pop famously cut the vocals free form, with the lyrical content thought up on the spot while recording the vocal track.

Track 3 “Some Weird Sin,” bounces long briskly with a steady beat and a quirky guitar hook; Pop sings the praises of veering from the straight life in search of some weird sin (which, as reputation would lead to believe, was fairly frequent).  Pop is backed by an all-star band consisting of brothers Tony Sales on bass and Hunt Sales on drums, Carlos Alomar and Ricky Gardiner on Guitars, and David Bowie on keys and background vocals.

Track 6 “The Passenger” opens with a cleanly strummed guitar line that bounces heavily off the up-beat of the track. Inspired and taken from a Jim Morrison poem, Pop utilizes his well know baritone croon to paint a picture of a passenger who rides a commuter train through Berlin. He rides through the cities ripped backsides, windy ocean drives and starry night’s skies. “The Passenger” is possibly Pop’s most well known track outside of “Real Wild Child” his mid-80’s top 40 hit from his Bowie Produced album titled Blah, Blah, Blah.

Track 5 “Tonight” opens with a Pop/Bowie overdubbed, deranged-sounding gospel choir which gives way to Pops opening lines:  “I saw my baby/she was turning blue/oh, I knew that soon, her young life was through”. The opening cry for salvation suddenly morphs into an almost joyful plea to Pop’s young lover that “everything will be all night tonight” backed by Bowie’s always spot-on backing vocals that weave in and out of Pop’s deadpan delivery

Track 7 “Success” is downright Pop at his kookiest, a celebratory anthem about reaping the rewards of, well, Success. Opening with a harmonized twin guitar attack that sounds like a cartoonish Thin Lizzy, Pop then sings about all the things he will soon obtain from his newfound success: Chinese Rugs, new cars, hopping like frogs. Pop’s final word? In the last ditch, he’ll think of you.

The highlight of “Success” is the free-form, improvised ending in which Pop shouts out various ad-libs such as “hopping like a frog” “here’s comes the zoo” ending with a resounding, “Oh Shit!”

Track 9 “Fall in Love with Me” plays like some seedy European barroom scene from a surrealistic German film set in 1930’s Berlin. Rhyming would with wood, we are presented with some of Pop’s finest simplistic lyrical imagery  that he is best known for. A rousing love song that was possibly directed to some random occupant at one of Berlins many dark watering holes, as well as the perfect ending to a classic album.

Fans and critics alike often point to Pop’s first solo album The Idiot as his best along with 1979’s New Values. For me, Lust for Life is his most consistent album with some of his sharpest songwriting. Most of the tracks on Lust for Life remain in Pop’s live set list to this day. The title track can still be heard in various cruise ship commercials, as well as “The Passenger” on various T.V. and movie soundtracks. Sure, he had a helping hand from Bowie, but this is not a bad attempt from an artist who just 2 yrs prior was deemed as washed up and forgotten.

Pop remains the world’s forgotten boy, who is undeniably unforgettable.

I look through my window so bright/ I see the stars come out tonight/ I see the bright and hollow sky ~ The Passenger

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