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2023/4 Albums Thing 276 - Iggy Pop “The Idiot/Lust For Life”

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I haven’t listed these two separately as my copies are part of a Euro budget release packaged as a double LP so you too are getting a twofer deal today.

These are Iggy’s two “Berlin” albums, recorded when he and David Bowie decamped to Berlin (at the time the Heroin capital of Europe) to escape the drug culture in the USA that was seriously damaging both of them. “The Idiot” was in actuality recorded between France and Munich and “Lust For Life” at Hansa in Berlin where Bowie also made “Heroes”. The musicians on “The Idiot” were Bowie’s band at the time, Bowie himself, Carlos Alomar (guitars), George Murray (bass), Dennis Davis (drums) plus session guitarist Phil Palmer. For “Lust For Life” the rhythm section was Hunt and Tony Sales (later to re-appear in the laughable Tin Machine with Bowie), Alomar plus Bowie’s then guitarist Ricky Gardiner and keyboard/vocalist Warren Peace.

The musicians aren’t the only things shared across the pairs albums, “The Idiot”s opening song “Sister Midnight” became “Red Money” on Bowie’s album “Lodger”, something Iggy was apparently none too pleased about, and Bowie covered “China Girl” on “Let’s Dance”. From “Lust For Life” Bowie covered both “Tonight” and “Neighbourhood Threat” on his 1987 album “Tonight”. 

“The Idiot” was Iggy’s first solo album post the Stooges. It does seem like an incredibly long time between The Stooges splitting in 1974 and this album being released in 1977 but that is what happened. Bowie contributed most of the music with Iggy writing lyrics to fit what Bowie produced while laying on the studio floor. The title was taken from Dostoevsky's indentically titled novel and the artwork was inspired by German artist Erich Heckel's painting Roquairol. While we’re on the subject of the artwork, if you also own “Heroes” and Patti Smith’s “Horses” have you ever laid the three out next to each other ? Try it, Bowie on the left, Iggy on the right and Patti in the middle, they make quite the striking triptych.

Soundwise “The Idiot” is very different to Iggy’s previous proto-Punk Rock with The Stooges. It has far more in common with Bowie’s “Low” (which he began recording as soon as “The Idiot” was finished). Iggy described the sound as “a cross between James Brown and Kraftwerk”. That description doesn’t really fit “Sister Midnight” which sounds much more like “Station To Station” period Bowie. Interestingly “Sister Midnight” was the first track on what could be seen as the pair’s “Berlin” period albums, while Bowie’s rewrite of it, “Red Money”, was the last track on “Lodger”, the last of the “Berlin” albums. 

Iggy’s James Brown/Kraftwerk analogy is much easier to hear on the next two tracks, “Nightclubbing” and “Funtime”, the former icily covered by Grace Jones 4 years later, the latter the closest Iggy gets to the old Stooges sound on this album and Bowie very prominent on backing vocals, both of them big on the dancefloor at the Bowie/Roxy/Futurist nights of the early 80’s. Iggy’s take on “China Girl” is not at all the twee pop song Bowie turned it into on “Let’s Dance”. By the time he gets to the end he’s screaming the lyrics frantically and sounds far more menacing.

Nightclubbing - https://youtu.be/XOSajEshJWA?si=WGp-LHV2a3yhMe7K


If you didn’t know anything at all about Iggy Pop you found out about him if you were a fan of the movie “Trainspotting”. Hunt Sales stampeding drum intro soundtracked Renton and his pals escaping from security guards after a shoplifting spree on Edinburgh’s Princes Street. “Lust For Life” (the song) is a genuinely groovy romp and it’s not the only one within. The first four songs are all the sort of thing that could convince me to cut a rug. “Sixteen” has Iggy straining out his desires to the very young object of his desire, “Some Weird Sin” I can almost hear Bowie singing, a pounding boogie with a great chorus. Then there is “The Passenger”, a warped reggae romp about seeing life pass you by from the window of a car, or a train maybe. Another Iggy classic that filled dancefloors in the clubs we were hanging out in around the early 80’s.

“Tonight” at the close of Side 1 and “Turn Blue” over on Side 2 both deal with Heroin abuse. “Turn Blue” specifically addresses a 1975 recording session with Bowie when Iggy was in the depths of drug use and got as far as the plea of “Jesus, this is Iggy”. “Success” is a fabulous call-and-response number about that, or the lack of it perhaps, and collapses into much silliness toward the end, “oh shit”indeed.

“The Idiot” is almost a Bowie demo for what he was aiming for on “Low“ and “Heroes”. It’s said to be one of the last records Ian Curtis listened to before taking his own life. “Lust For Life” is much more of an Iggy Pop record. Both are great and both still seen as hugely influential albums.

Lust For Life - https://youtu.be/HuBU3pzy7is?si=GqbcbocmgEHl8hjr

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