“Lock Up Your Daughters, Iggy’s Here,” ran a Melody Maker headline in 1972, and not that much has changed. Iggy Pop, born James Osterberg on 21 April 1947, continues to push the boundaries and challenge himself and the rest of us. He appears in Terence Malick’s new experimental romantic drama Song To Song, also starring Ryan Gosling and Natalie Portman. And in 2016, his 17th studio album Post Pop Depression became his highest-charting in the US, and his first top ten set in the UK.
Osterberg was born in Muskegon, on the shores of Lake Michigan, and it’s fair to say that as one of the quintessential frontmen and figureheads in rock music history, he’s done ok for a drummer. That was his first instrument in his early local bands, but as rock ‘n’ roll began to mutate into the more flamboyant and libidinous rock format, the man by now known as Iggy Pop took inspiration from the Morrisons and the Jaggers, and developed his own unique personality on stage and record.
With the groundbreaking Stooges, on disc from 1969, Iggy was a hugely magnetic and influential focal point, with a stage persona that made him one of the quintessential wild men of rock. With them, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010. As a solo artist on album, he rose up in 1977 with the one-two attack of the albums The Idiot and Lust For Life, just five months apart. That lust is still what makes Iggy tick today.
“I’ve always been lucky,” he said in that Melody Maker interview. “I’ve wanted everything in the world. I’ve wanted it all. I’m as dishonest as the next guy, y’see. I’m greedy, crooked and vain, and I like to profile. Everybody has a shadow and I like to project a big one.”
By 1978, he was reflecting on the massive influence that the Stooges had on the punk and new wave scene, in an interview for Sounds. “I think it’s as funny as hell,” he laughed. “I couldn’t believe it when I first started hearing that, but now I turn on the radio to some stations where they play this stuff, and I hear these guys are…l mean it might as well be ME playing!
“And… y’know, what can I say? I don’t even play like that anymore, number one, and, number two, what I ever did, the only thing I ever dld was just because I was a kid and could hardly play guitar at all. The way l could play in a band was that l had to play my own music because I couldn’t play anyone else’s: I wasn’t good enough.”
His friendship with, and influence on, David Bowie was a recurring feature of Iggy’s career, especially in the 1970s when he recorded the original of their ‘China Girl’ writing collaboration for The Idiot, and became a central character during Bowie’s Berlin phase. There was the hit single era, what you might call the Pop years, especially in the UK, where Iggy reached the top 10 in 1986 (at the age of 39) with ‘Real Wild Child (Wild One).’
In more recent years, we’ve also been hearing plenty of Pop as a radio presenter, on his inimitable and magnetic shows for BBC 6 Music in the UK. The Stooges’ reunions that produced 2007’s The Weirdness and 2013’s Ready To Die occupied his time as his legend only continued to grow.
Follow the official Iggy Pop: Essentials Playlist.