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LPs from the Attic: Iggy Pop — The Idiot

January 11, 2010

Iggy Pop – The Idiot (RCA, 1977)

I’m an idiot for you.
–Sister Midnight

All aboard for funtime!

There’s some Weirdness afoot here in the LPs from the Attic offices. The robots down on the automated warehouse floor have pulled an interesting hat-trick when it comes to picking great, semi-obscure records from around the same year of release–Simply Saucer’s Cyborgs Revisited, Thin Lizzy’s Bad Reputation, and Iggy Pop’s (born James Osterberg) The Idiot were all released in that magical year of 1977. It was a simpler time…. Okay, no it wasn’t. People who indulge in that kind of rose-colored revisionist nonsense are truly idiots (I’m looking at you, Glenn Beck). At any rate, hearing these records around the same time has been a revealing, rewarding experience, as all represent great artists at high points in their careers, no matter their ultimate level of success.

Which brings me back to Iggy. By the time he and the proto-punk Stooges had parted ways, Iggy had almost checked out from the scene entirely and joined the bleedin’ Choir Invisible due to a convergence of several “life-changing events” (as your health insurance provider might call it, if you have any insurance). He was at a transitional moment in his personal life (he’d just kicked heroin and finished a self-imposed stint in mental hospital) and he’d split with the outfit that had made him a jagged, blood-covered star. He wasn’t a young man, but he wasn’t an old fogey yet, either. His naked torso didn’t inspire the same kind of shock and revulsion it does now, for instance, even if his sartorial choices still stirred controversy.

His musical prospects were murky, and real friends were few and far between, or dead, or worse: sober; those that remained were changed by the same forces to which the others had (some famously) succumbed:

What happened to Zeke? / Dead on Jones, man. / How about Dave? / O.D.’ed on alcohol. / Whatever happened to James? / Oh, he’s gone straight….

Dum Dum Boys

What to do next? Naturally, like any struggling rocker of his age and pedigree, you join forces with (read: accept a perfectly timed life-line from) David Bowie (happy birthday, db!) and create an introspective, drug-weary, Euro-trash-strewn m(dis)asterpiece of a stylistic (if not thematic) curve-ball.

So, Iggy calls Sister Midnight and goes Nightclubbing, reaching for the Moon from the gutter. He dances some brand new dances–like the Nuclear Bomb–with his China Doll (full disclosure: I prefer his version to Bowie’s, though I like both. Bowie’s is just too quintessentially 80’s coke-brittle in production). He sings leery ballads as he walks the streets of chance with his Baby (odds: slim to none). He does all in his raw power to avoid getting back on the production line of validating anyone’s preconceived notions about who he is or what he is capable of.

The ode to his boys in the Stooges (“Dum Dum Boys”) and the soul-pulverizing slide-whistle drone of “Mass Production” fight with broken whiskey bottlenecks in the smoke-filled green room for place as my favorite of the album entire. “Dum Dum”‘s repeating, lazily razorous guitar riff pins your ear to the wall. The bass lines funk along ominously. All you can do is bear witness to Iggy’s wry lament for the Good Bad Old Days with his former band-mates and friends.

And we’d sing da-da-da-da dum dum day
–Dum Dum Boys

This reminds of some of my old homies–some that I used to get into trouble or waste time with–that I’ve fallen out of touch or fallen out with, or that have shuffled (or jumped willingly) off this mortal coil, and I decide to act on the warning implied by this:

Now I’m looking for the dum dum boys / Where are you now / When I need your noise?

Sometimes, you need your old boys (or gals). You need your old noise. Or to make some new noise with the right people. Messages received, Mr. Pop. I’m dialing my old college roommate on the cell, ripping off my shirt, diving off my front porch into some thorn-bushes, and smearing myself with glittering metal shavings the very first fucking second after I press the Send button on this piece.

In all, though, this quote deserves promotion to the status of Lift-Out, as it summarizes perfectly Ig’s long-standing M.O.:

I don’t need no heavy trips. I just do what I want to do.


Me, too, James Osterberg. Me, too. I don’t want to be almost like you (you being almost like her). Or almost like him. As I’ve stated elsewhere, I just want to be me.

[Ed.: To Mr. Osterberg/Pop or his reps, we’re still waiting to hear back from you about the RFI/RFP for the Iggy Pop Rock Scholarship.]

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