In 1977 my life was pretty well-organized and manageable. Or limited, it all depends on the way you look at it. Then again, why wouldn’t it be? I was only 11 years old.
New music showed itself to me during the weekly broadcast of the televisionshow TopPop and by meticulously going through my father’s big music collection. Queen was the big favorite during my early years. Just as my equally young peers, punk was non-existent to me. Until Iggy Pop showed his face and ‘wrecked’ the TopPop studio. Thrills in The Netherlands!
David Bowie and The Stooges
1977 was one of the best years of David Bowie’s career. He released two of his best albums that year, Low and “Heroes”. Despite his own work, he had some time left. During his Berlin period, Bowie was oftentimes accompanied by his, by then, friend Iggy Pop.
When Pop and Bowie met for the first time in 1971, Bowie was a big admirer of The Stooges. Iggy Pop’s career and health were deteriorating and Bowie decided to help Pop and record an album with him. This ultimately led to the classic Iggy And The Stooges 1973 album Raw Power, which was produced by Bowie.
After this Bowie’s career was moving ever more forward. Pop got off track and (once again) drowned in drugs and neglect. However, Bowie kept in touch with Pop and visited him during his rehab(s). In 1976 Bowie invited Pop along on his Station To Station Tour and, slowly Pop got back on his feet.
Iggy Pop solo
The (end)result was the start of an interesting, unstable, yet always gripping solo-career. Bowie and Pop wrote the songs for the first album The Idiot. Bowie played on the album and produced it. On March 17th, 1977, the album was released: a classic, which, besides Sister Midnight, Nightclubbing and Funtime, contains the original China Girl, which was later re-recorded by David Bowie and scored him a world wide hit. A (short) tour followed. Bowie was part of Pop’s band, playing keyboards and providing background vocals.
Lust For Life – the album
And still, this all was not enough. Within six months (!), on August 29th, the second solo-album was released: Lust For Life. Bowie (co-)wrote 7 (of a total of 9) songs and played on the album again as well. The album was a critical and (relative) commercial success. And quite rightfully so, for the album contains classic, after classic, after classic song.
In the year punk finally broke Iggy Pop’s image as The Godfather of punk was efficiently used in the advertising campaigns surrounding the album. Although the album was a hit, it could have been bigger. It was meagerly available for quite some time. On August 16th, 1977, Elvis Presley died. Presley’s records were all released by RCA Records, the same recordcompany that released Lust For Life. All plants producing RCA records were instructed to assign all of their attention and resources to re-pressing Elvis’ back catalogue…
Lust For Life – the song
40 years ago today, the Iggy Pop single Lust For Life was released. One of Pop’s most well-known songs and a (punk)rock classic. Listening to it, still is an adrenaline inducing experience.
The music is written by David Bowie (using an ukulele) and the lyrics are by Iggy Pop. The song is widely known for its drumbeat that opens the song. The rhythm (and the riff) are based on the morse-signals of the Armed Forces Network. Bowie and Pop heard it as they were waiting for an episode of the television-series Starsky & Hutch.
The Armed Forces Network “was one of the few things that was in English on the telly and it had this great pulsating riff at the beginning of the news”
He wrote the [chord] progression on ukulele, and he said, ‘Call it Lust For Life, write something up’
Iggy Pop on David Bowie
The drumbeat has been used in many songs ever since, but the rhythm wasn’t original. It’s a re-interpretation of the rhythm that was used in the 1966 hits You Can’t Hurry Love by The Supremes and I’m Ready For Love by Martha and the Vandellas. Hunt Sales’ drumbeat accompanied by his brother Tony Sales’ bass made for an irresistible riff. Guitar player Carlos Alomar said the riff was so dominant, that it was just impossible for anyone to not go along with it. The song’s lyrics are the result of free word associations. It hints to the health regime both David Bowie and Iggy Pop upheld, while being in Berlin. Bowie wanted to shake his cocaine habit and Pop tried to quit heroin.
No more beating my brains with the liquor and drugs
© Iggy Pop, Lust For Life, 1977
The line “that’s like hypnotising chickens” comes straight from the character Johnny Yen of William Buroughs’ novel The Ticket That Exploded. The opening lines of the song have become classic and is something I can proclaim in my sleep:
Here comes Johnny Yen again
With the liquor and drugs
And the flesh machine
He’s gonna do another striptease
Hey man where’d you get
That lotion? I been hurting
Since I bought the gimmick
About something called love
Yeah something called love
That’s like hypnotizing chickens
Well I am just a modern guy
Of course I’ve had it in the ear before
Cause of a lust for life
© Iggy Pop, Lust For Life, 1977
In 1996 the song turned into a hit once again, when it was used in the popular movie Trainspotting.
Many people in The Netherlands remember it like it was yesterday. At one of the episodes of the weekly music chart show TopPop, Iggy Pop appeared, seemingly out of nowhere: nihilism, punk and excitement. That was something else compared to everything that had come before. It almost seemed there was a time pre-Pop and a time post-Pop’s appearance. Pre-Iggy Pop was indolent. For just as many people it was their introduction to punk, which, until then, was a predominantly English happening. Among the average music-lovers in The Netherlands its impact was still not too great. One year later this had shifted dramatically.
On October 8th, 1977, recordings were done in the Dutch AVRO studio. Iggy Pop was going to do his Lust For Life. According to various sources he was completely disconnected from this world (so much for sobering up) and in a foul mood. He was pissed he had to playback the song. He was under the assumption he was going to play the song live with a band. TopPop‘s productionteam tried every different angle to get Pop to cooperate. After the other planned shootings were done (Nana Mouskouri and Dutch symphonic band Kayak), Pop Still refused to get out of his dressing room. The leader of the productionteam decided that Penney de Jager (leader of the steady showballet connected to TopPop) should improvise some dance moves to the song.
At the moment the Lust For Life tape was started Penney was all set to go on the stage. With a wild jerk the door to Pop’s dressing room flies open and Pop comes running to the stage. No shirt, blood on his chest and a complete white made-up face. The recording manager is pulled along by Pop and is barely able to set himself free. Penney runs from the stage. Pop then starts demolishing the set and throws himself unto a plant (palmtree). He writhes and rolls about on the stage. In the meantime he playbacks the song, making no effort at all to emulate the words convincingly. Another plant gets demolished and then it’s over.
It sounds too dumb to be true, but at the time these 5 minutes were a complete shock and a breath of fresh air. I read somewhere that Pop was billed afterwards for two plants and some cardboard ornaments. I have no idea what happened to that bill.
There are not too many songs around that are so overwhelmingly good that they deserve to be judged at their own merits. Lust For Life most certainly is one of those songs. What do you think of the song or the TopPop performance? Let me know!
Iggy Pop & David Bowie 1977 image: snapgalleries.com
TopPop logo image: waarkeekjijvroegernaar.nl
Iggy And The Stooges – Raw Power image: spincds.com
Iggy Pop & David Bowie – The Idiot Tour – Evening Standard review image: kickstarter.com
Iggy Pop – Two 1977 albums image: wikipedia.org
Iggy Pop – Lust For Life – Ad image: free-zg.t-com.hr
Iggy Pop – The Idiot Tour – Ad image: theamazingkornyfonelabel.wordpress.com
AFN Berlin Logo image: wikipedia.org
Iggy Pop – Lust For Life – Toppop image: youtube.com/ad.nl/apoplife.nl
Iggy Pop – Lust For Life (single) image: wikipedia.org
Iggy Pop – Live London 1977 image: rocktrain.net