Q&A: Iggy Pop
The punk godfather on stage-diving at Carnegie Hall, making ‘Raw Power’
After seven rejections, the Stooges are finally members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “That’s one more thing I can relax about before I croak,” says the punk pioneers’ 62-year-old frontman, Iggy Pop. There’s another reason for Stooges fans to rejoice: In April, their 1973 punk masterpiece, Raw Power ”“ produced by Iggy and mixed by Iggy and David Bowie ”“ will get a deluxe reissue treatment, featuring all sorts of unreleased gems and live goodies, including a particularly nasty and combative 1973 gig at an Atlanta roadhouse. (At one point, Iggy taunts the crowd, “Do you wanna get your fuckin’ face punched in, you little cracker boy?”) “I was on fire that night,” Iggy boasts. The Stooges will continue to celebrate Raw Power this year with a string of special gigs featuring former guitarist James Williamson, who has stepped in for the late Ron Asheton. “James is the only member of the group who returns my e-mails,” says Iggy. “He’s motivated, and we’re playing well.”
At the recent Tibet House benefit at Carnegie Hall, you stage-dived during ”˜I Wanna Be Your Dog.’ Why?
Because in the centre of the crowd, there were just these people looking at me. Standing there. I looked at them. They looked at me. I just thought, “I’m gonna jump ’em.” So I did. They weren’t bemused, or confused, or offended, or excited, they were just like, “What are you doing?!” When I landed, it hurt, and I made a mental note that Carnegie Hall would be a good place for my last stage dive.
What was your first thought after you got the call about getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
For the first 15 minutes, I thought of everybody that never liked me, and I thought, “How do you like me now?” Then it settled in, and I felt overwhelmed, a little bit choked up, angry and teary”¦
Almost 40 years ago, you recorded ”˜Raw Power’ in England with David Bowie. What was London like?
The most civilised place I’d ever been. Everybody would get a little bottle of milk on their doorstep, and no one would steal each other’s milk. It was very good milk. Rupert Murdoch hadn’t bought the Times yet, so it was still published with the beautiful old typeface. Anorexia was in. We lived in a nice little neighbourhood, with the Forum ABC movie theatre on the corner and a little Turkish restaurant called Baghdad, where they’d play Neil Young records and sell you a joint. We thought we’d died and gone to heaven.
Where were you when you wrote the opening line of ”˜Search and Destroy’:
“I’m a streetwalking cheetah with a heart full of napalm”?
Under a big oak tree in Kensington Gardens, on the edge of Hyde Park. I wrote a lot of the lyrics there. There were green spaces where you could stretch out and have a little privacy. I went to Harrods and bought black silk pajamas and a pair of carpet slippers, and they were so cool I just wore them all the time.
What do you remember about the live show on the ”˜Raw Power’ reissue?
I don’t remember that specific night, but I remember that stand real well. One night, I was so hung over the band just threw me in the bushes in front of our motel. I never made it home. The next day I wasn’t in shape to sing, so we were trying all these home remedies. I’m just hanging on to the mike, trying to get through a song, and a huge gorilla came out of the side door and grabbed me. It was Elton John pranking us.
What music has stood the test of time?
Highway 61 Revisited and Bringing It All Back Home. I always liked ”˜Love Minus Zero/No Limit’ ”“ that’s really beautiful. My favourite, though, is “Darkness at the break of noon, shadows even the silver spoon”¦” That one, ”˜It’s Alright, Ma,’ is a killer song.
Ever hang out with Dylan?
Once, at a dinner at Yoko’s, and again at a birthday party at Bob’s place in Malibu. Don Was and Leonard Cohen dragged me out there. Bob was a good guy. I haven’t heard it myself, but I heard on a “dog”-themed segment on his radio show he actually played ”˜I Wanna Be Your Dog.’ [Imitating Dylan] “Here’s one of the best dog songs ever written”¦” That made my life, dude.
Did you catch any of Leonard Cohen’s recent shows?
No, it was terrible, because the Stooges’ European tour was three days behind him everywhere we went. We’d get to town and they’d say, “Leonard Cohen was fantastic and sensitive, and played for three hours!” I’d say, “Well, we’re the Stooges, our typical song has 11 words, and after an hour and a quarter you’ll want us to leave!”
Years ago, some girl wrote in the classifieds saying she was looking for a man “with the poetic sensitivity of Leonard Cohen and the raw power of Iggy Pop,” so Leonard tried to get me to set up a three-way with her [laughs]. He said, “Dude, we can give her both!”