Ph: Getty / Richard Aaron
Of the original army of rockers that dominated the sixties and seventies, Iggy Pop was never going to be high on the ‘those destined to make it to old age’ list, yet somehow, here we are today celebrating the Godfather Of Punk’s seventieth birthday. Although Mr Jim Osterberg’s wild stories of excess and destruction are legendary, the original ‘street walking cheetah’ hasn’t used up all of his nine lives yet. He is still performing high-energy rock n’ roll, still hurling himself into the crowd and still creating inspiring music, most recently with Josh Homme on last year’s excellent ‘Post Pop Depression’ album. Happy Birthday Iggy Pop, you freaking legend! There’s plenty of life in this ‘runaway son of a nuclear A Bomb’ yet.
1. This story quoted in Rolling Stone from Iggy’s manager, Danny Fields sums up his desire for living life on a knife edge perfectly from an encounter at the Whisky in LA:
“It was a very star-studded, Jack-and-Anjelica-and-Warren night. He was waiting for his dealer, to cop, intent on getting his shot of heroin before he went on. But he had no money. So he went to the VIP booths one at a time and explained the situation. He said, ‘Look, you’re here to see me, and I can’t go on until my dealer is here, and he’s waiting to be paid, so give me some money so I can fix up, and then you’ll get your show.’ He got more than enough money. He stood off to the side and shot up. The lights went down, the music went up, he stood onstage and collapsed. Without a note being sung. He’d OD’d in front of everyone. And had to be carried off. I think that was one of his greatest shows ever,” says Fields. “It was so minimally perfect. It just says a very great deal.”
2. Self-mutilation became Iggy’s favourite entertainment for crowds during his live shows after he once fell on a broken glass accidentally on August 29th, 1969. This unfortunate incident excited fans at the time so Pop decided that self-harming would be part of his stage show. Whether it was with knives, drumsticks or broken bottles he managed to let the blood flow for psycho-dramatical effect sharing his fluids with anyone who would watch him. He also found a love for puking all over people and himself on stage, inspiring the punk scene in the 70s that followed his gross, drug-fueled antics. Roadies were always worried he would end up slashing a vein in the wrong place as he writhed across shards of broken glass covering the stage but it didn’t stop him. It was common practice for Iggy to crawl off stage covered in blood, spit, booze and sweat, heading for the accident room to cut out the shards that were left in his skin.
3. Amongst the speed, coke, heroin, LSD, downers and uppers available, Iggy once attended a music festival in Goose Lake, Michigan where, “I was snorting something they said was coke but I learned later was ketamine. I couldn’t remember who I was for about 12 hours.”
4. Iggy was punched out cold in a bar by Detroit bikers in February 1974 who were incensed by his Danskin ballet outfit and big mouth so Iggy offered out the local chapter for a fight over radio airwaves at the final Stooges gig at Michigan Palace. The band were pelted with pieces of ice, eggs and beer bottles in response to Iggy’s audience baiting. You can hear the glass smashing against the stage on the infamous Metallic K.O. bootleg.
Ph: Guitarist Ron Asheton whipped Iggy on stage with electric wire and accosted him with a noose that Iggy made for this show. August 11th 1974. Getty / Michael Ochs.
5. Iggy once found himself tucking into some prostitutes in the Mondrian Hotel in 1974 enjoying a jar full of exceptionally fine coke. When the stash ran out, Pop and one of the girls drove off to an apartment to score more when a gang suddenly burst into the room with loaded guns shouting, “everybody freeze!” Iggy then found a barrel pointed at his temple until they realised who he was and let them both go. Another lucky escape.
6. Iggy’s maniacal stage performances had impressed a famous Ford Agency model named Bebe Buell who was the girlfriend of musician Todd Rundgren. Around the release of Raw Power, Iggy found himself asleep on valium in their bath as it overflowed into the rooms downstairs. On inspection, Iggy was found with Bebe’s two dogs cuddled into his shoulders. He had fed them both valium too. All three of them survived drowning.
7. In a desperate attempt to get off heroin, Iggy’s parents helped him switch over to a form of methadone called Dolophine. Following a relapse one afternoon, Iggy was chased by cops whilst driving for over 7 blocks before crashing his car directly into a tree whilst traveling down a one way street the wrong way. When the cops busted him he fell out of the car door and was taken to hospital and tested. There was so much cocaine in his system that it had cancelled out the alcohol and didn’t register him being over the legal limit.
Ph: Getty / Michael Ochs
8. Iggy once avoided death by gas explosion once after quite an impressive incident found by Danny Sugarman, as quoted in his book Wonderland Avenue:
“After we scored, we hurried to Wonderland. That’s when we found Iggy. Actually, we saw the mess first. We couldn’t have missed it if our eyes had been closed: we would have smelled it, we would have stepped in it. It began at the front door and continued down the hall: chicken bones, egg shells and crayons. The volume of garbage increased as we neared the kitchen. Crusts of wholewheat bread, Saran wrap out of the box unrolled across the floor, coming to rest at a broken mayonnaise jar, more broken eggs. The refrigerator was face-down against the bar counter, contents spilling and dripping out. The toaster was flipped over and open and there were three burnt slices of toast, cold, inside. The oven door was open and on top, all four pilot lights were out. Nothing was lit. The house reeked of gas. Had we decided at that moment that we wanted a cigarette and lit a match, we would have created a crater on Wonderland Avenue. And there on the floor, not more than six inches away from a broken jar of Skippy crunchy peanut butter, face down and bare-ass naked, lay my hero and friend. Iggy had pulled similar Cat in the Hat type stunts before, but never this severe.”
9. Just this week Iggy Pop was the victim of an internet death hoax. “On Thursday (April 20th, 2017) the singer’s reps officially confirmed that Iggy Pop is not dead. He joins the long list of celebrities who have been victimized by this hoax. He’s still alive and well, stop believing what you see on the internet,” they said. To be fair, this is of the less dangerous threats to Iggy’s life. But he still survived.
Raise a glass to one of the remaining legends in the rock n’roll game on his 70th birthday. The music scene today and everything in between that is savage would not have been the same without his influence.
Watch the documentary Danny Says. It’s an amazing story where Iggy’s early career in the Stooges features heavily.
Pick up the book, Total Chaos by Jeff Gold book. Highly recommended.
Read Wonderland Avenue by Danny Sugarman, it’s an incredible story of his life around the carnage of Iggy and LA rock stars in the 70s.