Tag Archives: Iggy Pop

Proto-Punk? Yes. Post-Punk? Yes. Punk? Eh, Not So Much

When I was a teenager I discovered The Clash and with them, punk-rock. There was a certain immediacy and urgency that appealed to my teenage self. Everything was vast, loud and angry. Even if I didn’t exactly understand what they were referring to (this was the case for many Clash songs in my younger years) it didn’t matter. It was exciting and visceral.

Sometime later, a friend of mine took me to an Anti-Flag show about ten years ago, and I found the whole experience completely boring. Sure, the songs were played at break-beck speed, but they mostly stuck to their studio incarnations and seemed lackluster. I also didn’t enjoy being shoved every which way as the kids around mossed themselves in oblivion. I couldn’t understand why no one paying attention to the band – they only seemed intent on bashing each other.

Punk-rock it seemed, didn’t fit my personality after-all.

This isn’t to say that I totally dislike punk. I still rate both The Sex Pistols and The Clash among some of my favorite groups. The Clash and Nevermind the Bullocks are some of the most exciting and classic albums of rock and roll. It seems to me that no matter how hard any punk has tried subsequently they’ve never been able to better those two albums. There’s a reason why The Sex Pistols imploded, and the Clash moved on embracing other musical styles. The standard three-chord attack of punk only offers so much for a song.

I however, have a huge fondness for proto-punk and post-punk. Readers of this blog will surely know my affinity for Iggy Pop and The Stooge and of course, the Velvet Underground. The blue-print for punk was more or less created with these artists. As the 60s closed and the 70s began, mainstream rock became a little stagnant with the advent of prog-rock, bands whose names sounded more like law-firms, and other bands who took their names from cities and other locations.

In come The Stooges with their abrasive sound and Iggy’s legendary antics. It should also be noted that their first album also updated early rock and roll, giving it a more aggressive and wild sound complete with tightly controlled feed-back solos. Iggy seemed to be attack the “golden god” singers of the era when he declared, “Your pretty face is going to hell!”  Both the Stooges and The Velvet Underground’s proved that any one could make rock and roll. You didn’t have to be an expert or a virtuoso to get attention.

Punk of course, took that philosophy to the extreme. Naturally, the next groups of artists to emerge would combine punk’s do it yourself freedom, but not completely sticking to its three-chord ethos. Elvis Costello wasn’t strictly a punk-rocker at the beginning, but his first two albums – My Aim Is True and This Year’s Model – combined punk’s punchiness with a songwriter’s mentality. He also looked and acted like Buddy Holly who could punch you in the face and have no trouble stealing your girlfriend in the process. The Police managed infused their punk with tinges of reggae and in the process became one of the world’s biggest bands. The Talking Heads took avant-garde to a mass audience without ever forgetting their roots as a bar-band in CBGBS.

There are dozens of more bands I could list as favorites who were influenced by punk’s attitude, but not so much its sound. For me, punk has always been about freedom and too often a lot of “punk” bands seem stuck in one mode.

 

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Bowie Collaborations: “Sister Midnight”

I bought the Iggy Pop anthology ” A Million in Prizes” a few years back.  I wanted a good introduction to his career, and I only had the Stooges albums at that point.  The only solo song I knew by Iggy was “Lust for Life”, which I loved.  I expected most of the set to be hard rock, and in the vein of either “Lust for Life” or the Stooges.

The last thing I expected to hear on this set was electronic, Kraftwerk-inspired, sounding funk.  Pop sang into a distorted almost, monotone voice, that recalled little of his Stooges’ days. With any given Stooges song, you felt as if the earth might fall beneath you.  Anything could happen. “Sister Midnight” on the other hand, was tied together tightly, and well constructed.  Yet, the song gave Iggy enough room to breathe something that was rare in a Stooges’ song.  (The only major exception is “We Will Fall”,  a slow-burn of a song, but not representative of the band’s output.)

Bowie co-wrote The Idiot (on which “Sister Midnight”appears) with Pop.  The Idiot is generally regarded as one of Pop’s best albums, and would have an enormous influence on punk and post-punk.  The Edge has cited it as major influence in interviews, and Ian Curtis of Joy Division was found dead with The Idiot spinning on his turn-table.

For Bowie, this collaboration was important in many ways.  Having been strung out on coke during the making of his last album, Station to Station, Bowie moved to Berlin with Pop to begin work on The Idiot, and its follow-up Lust for Life, and what would become known for Bowie as the Berlin Trilogy. Taking the helm for The Idiot, allowed Bowie to experiment and find out what sounds he wanted for his own albums.  As Bowie himself says about The Idiot:

Poor Jim, in a way, became a guinea pig for what I wanted to do with sound. I didn’t have the material at the time, and I didn’t feel like writing at all. I felt much more like laying back and getting behind someone else’s work, so that album was opportune, creatively.

 

 

 

“Sister Midnight”:

 

 

 

 



 

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Albums You Respect But Don’t Love

After reading Paul Trynka’s Iggy: Open Up and Bleed, I was struck by his observation that Pop’s first solo album The Idiot is more respected than loved.  I thought about the statement for a bit, concluding The Idiot is a far more interesting album if you look at its influence as a pre-cursor to the new-wave movement.  You can hear the ghost of The Idiot in much of Joy Division’s work (indeed Ian Curtis had the album in his record player when he hanged himself.)  Just as The Stooges’ stripped down had paved the wave for punk years earlier, it’s only natural that their lead singer would create a work that would signify the death of punk, just as it was starting.

But I don’t really listen to The Idiot very much – I tend to listen to Lust For Life or any of the Stooges albums.  But this got me thinking: what other albums do I respect, but don’t love?

Bob Dylan – The Times They Are A-Changing

Obviously, this is an important record.  It’s Dylan at the height of his protest-era.  The title track is among his best, and will always be immortalized as an anthem for  “the people” frustrated at the government.  The Times They Are A-Changing works extremely well as a protest album, but that is also it’s major flaw.  For me, Dylan’s albums have always been varied but  The Times They Are A-Changing is a little too one dimensional in its attack on the establishment.  It almost seems like a slight step backward after the masterpiece of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan which found Dylan humorous, angry, and sad.

The Clash – Sandinista!

It’s easy to make a snide comment about the album triple album monster that is Sandinista! I once commented  it was ironic that for a band that bitched about prog-rock, they made one of the most pretentious albums of all time.  I don’t entirely take back that statement, but I’ve grown to appreciate Sandinista! more in recent years.  This is the sound of a band taking on every single genre of music (with mostly mixed results.)  There a few gems – “Charlie Don’t Surf”, “Somebody Got Murdered”, and “The Call-Up”.  But what other band besides The Clash would dare put out a 36 track album and weave their royalty fee so it would be priced at lower rate?

M.I.A. – Kala

I actually bought this album before “Paper Planes” blew up all over the charts due to the glowing reviews it got.  I listened to it a few times and forgot about it.  It’s an interesting album – full of samples from The Clash (“Paper Planes”) and the Pixies (“20 Dollar”) and setting third world music to a hip-hop beat.  Perhaps Kala will be seen as a water-mark for music in a few years.  For now my consensus is that it sounds awesome when you’re listening to it, but except for “Paper Planes” I couldn’t tell you how any of the songs go.

Beck – Odelay

One of the defining albums of the 90s for sure, but I’m not sure it’s aged well.  Its reliance sound relies on a collage of sounds, it seems stuck in the late 90’s.  Like Kala it sounds awesome, but too often I find Beck is so full of ideas that he incorporates as much as he can into one song – “Hotwax” and “Where It’s At” for instance.  And “Where It’s At” mock-rap just sounds embarrassing 14 years later. A great product of its time, but ultimately not timeless.

The White Stripes – Elephant

This album used to be on the “love” list actually.  “Seven Nation Army” remains of the best guitar-heavy singles of all time.  It also was inventive – the guitar sounded like a bass, and its hook wasn’t a vocal melody but rather a hypnotic guitar line.  If I complained Odelay was too scatter-shot, Elephant sounds too focused even while the songs rock.  Jack White wanted to achieve his own place in rock history with Elephant by making a modern days blues record.  But with the exception of “Seven Nation Army”, he failed to add bring anything new to the table.

What albums do you respect, but don’t love?

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Best Frontmen

Recently saw that the British music magazine Q created a list of the 100 best frontman in rock.   I’m shocked that they named Liam Gallager of Oasis as number one.  Maybe Oasis was bigger in Britain,with their brand of Beatles re-writes turned up 10 11,  but Liam Gallager could not command an audience.  He just stood at the microphone and sang.  Not much of a frontman if you ask me.

So here’s a list of who I’d consider to be among the best frontmen: (no particular order).

Mick Jagger

Bono

Bruce Springsteen

Joe Strummer

Iggy Pop

Ian Curtis

John Lennon & Paul McCartney

David Byrne

Eddie Vedder

(Note: I would include such greats as Little Richard, Sam Cooke, Elvis, and James Brown who were all great performers, but they’re not part of a group.)

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Pavement Article

Just read an article on Pavement’s reunion from Spin.com.   I like Pavement (actually just bought their best of CD Quarantine the Past) but I find Stephen Malkmus comments about reunion rather odd:

“If you’re 40, and you leave your family and fly to Australia to do shows, and you’re doing it for the art, that seems kind of weird. If you’re doing it for the art, stay home with your family.”

I understand wanting to get paid, but isn’t the point of making art to show it to people?  So you just want people who make art to stay at home and show it only to their families, Stephen?  This goes down as one of the most ridiculous things a musician has said recently.  At least one musician (who originally started out with modest sales) has something substantial to say about art in music.

Iggy Pop from a Clash magazine 2010 interview:

That wasn’t the dream. Maybe for some of the other guys – I never talked to anybody about this, including the guys in the band – but my dream was just to do something really good and really cool. I didn’t think I’d heard music that sold millions – the really good music that sold millions was by people much more accomplished than us, so I knew we weren’t gonna sell like that. And the bad stuff that sold millions, I thought, ‘I don’t care about that, because if we make an album and we’re better and we just sell a few, I would rather be the guy to do something better selling a few than be the fuckin’ schmidiot idiot selling a bunch of shit.’

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Raw Power Legacy Edition Vs. Iggy’s Remix of Raw Power

As I’m sure most of you are aware, Iggy & The Stooges’ Raw Power is one of my favorite albums.  It was recently reissued as a double-disced set containing the original David Bowie mix of the album (which has been out of print for a while in favor of Iggy Pop’s new mix in the 90s) and a live CD as the bonus disc.

Raw Power more than lives up to its title.  This is the album that almost single-handed created the blueprint for punk. So how does the original Bowie mix stand up to Iggy’s reworking?

The original Bowie Mix:   This recording is more primitive, making the album sound like it was recorded in a tin can.  Also, I’m not a fan of the fade-outs particularly on “Search & Destroy” and “Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell”.  Pop has often described Shake Appeal as him getting his Little Richard on, and I’ve often wondered what he was talking about.  Bowie’s version has a little more bounce, so now I finally see what Iggy was talking about.

Iggy’s remix: This version is loud. Even in its original incarnation, Raw Power was musically one of the loudest albums ever, but Iggy’s re-mix ranks as one of the loudest sounding albums ever.  Pop put the audio levels in red, so it would purposely cause distortion.  He also added in vocals that originally had been taken out.  While I like Bowie’s mix, I prefer this one because this is the version I am used to, and it sounds like a band pummeling everything in their path.

Georgia Peaches Bonus Live CD. Iggy has often said that the Stooges were more musically proficient than they were sometimes given credit more.  This live CD showcases both the anarchy and musical power of the Stooges at their best.  At first I wondered what the hell the Stooges were doing with a background piano player, but without the addition of the piano it would be too out of control.  Somehow, the piano holds it together.  Iggy baits the audience even yelling, “you want to get your faced?” to an audience member.  While other groups may have had better stage shows in the mid 70’s and control, there was a true sense of urgency with the Stooges live shows that makes them among the most exciting acts ever.

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The Stooges – Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

As Billie Joe Armstrong says at the end of this speech, “It’s about fucking time.”  More so than any other band, The Stooges represented the wild side of rock and roll.  When their self-titled album came out in 1969, the country was in turmoil.  And while other bands and artists protested through their words, The Stooges protested in the only way they knew best – loud, aggressive, and in-your-face rock and roll.  It didn’t matter if the word sounded like they were thrown together.  The simplicity in the lyrics and the music was a double finger finger to both overblown lyrics and psychedelic rock.  Without Iggy and the Stooges there would be no punk rock.  Period.  

One of the things I’ve noticed about their self-titled debut though, is how much it is based on the early rock & roll of the ’50s.  Even though I Wanna Be Your Dog and 1969 are drenched in Ron Asheton’s wah-wahs they also contain a Bo Diddley rhythm and Buddy Holly-eque simplicity in the songwriting.  1973’s Raw Power is a bit different, but it still retains the same spirit.  Coming at at time when rock was at its most bloated – The Who’s Quadrophenia, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon were released that year, and Led Zeppelin was touring the US  playing 45 minute versions of “Dazed and Confused” – Raw Power lived up to its title.   Rock singers with the golden god complex were put in their place when Iggy screamed, “Your pretty face is going to hell!”  

Jim Morrison (who I can’t stand) and Mick Jagger (who I love) are often cited as two of the greatest frontmen in rock.  But the title really belongs to Iggy.  He (almost) single-handed invented the stage-dive, and proved that peanut butter was good for another thing besides eating. Sometimes you get the feeling that a lot of front-men have a persona on stage.  Though Iggy says he does turn off the stage act, I can’t see the energy that he possesses dissolve instantly.  I can totally see him bouncing around his living room to whatever he’s listening – because that’s simply how he exists.  

Audio only, but check out The Stooges playing live in 73:

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