Things You May or May Not Know About Iggy Pop
Iggy Pop is One Busy Guy
For a man who declared to Rolling Stone Magazine back in March of 2014 that he had no plans to do any touring in the next couple of years, Iggy sure has been busy. Though he did take a short break after appearing in a benefit show for Tibet House at Carnegie Hall in New York on March 11th of 2014, he played several dates in Europe and the U.S. in 2015 and went on tour in 2016 in support of his 17th solo album..
The "Post Pop Depression" tour made stops across North America and Europe, including a stop in Toronto. And what a night that was. He delighted the sold-out crowd at the Sony Centre – particularly when he finally bared his torso – with an energetic set list that included some gems from both The Idiot and Lust For Life, and was rounded out with tunes from Post Pop. And though he has dialed it back a bit, and doesn’t crowd-surf to the extent he did in the bad old days, he is one seriously engaging performer.
So, as he rolls his show out across Australia in 2019, here are some things you may or may not know about Jim Osterberg.
Who is Jim Osterberg?
Lots of crazy sounds have emerged from all over the great state of Michigan, including ? And The Mysterians, The Amboy Dukes with ol’ Cat Scratch Fever himself, Ted Nugent, MC5, Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels, Bob Seger, Cradle, one of the early hard rock girl bands featuring Suzi Quatro, Alice Cooper, and Grand Funk Railroad, to name a few. But nobody could have anticipated what the future would hold for one of Muskegon Michigan’s son, Jim Osterberg.
Jim was born prematurely on April 21, 1947 to James and Louella Osterberg. James Senior had lived in an orphanage until he was 14, when he was adopted by two spinster Jewish sisters, which is where the family name Osterberg came from. Jim Senior played minor league baseball and even tried out for the Brooklyn Dodgers at one point. When baseball didn’t work out for him, he took a job teaching high school English. Louella had a full-time office job, and doted on Jim Junior.
The family was a bit of an anomaly in those days; an only child, both parents working, living in a trailer park called Coachville Gardens. As a boy, young Jim liked to hang out on a shelf over the tiny kitchen in the trailer and watch tv. A cheeky and outgoing kid, Jim worked hard to make friends with the cool kids in junior high. Blue eyed and good looking, he had a penchant for preppy dress, played golf and was on the school’s debating team.
Iggy Pop’s Early Musical Days
While in junior high school, he started to really hone his passion for the drums, and in 1963, he formed a two-man band called The Iguanas with a guitarist named Jim McLaughlin. His ever-accommodating parents even gave up their master bedroom in the trailer to allow Jim more room for his kit.
When the two Jims got to Ann Arbor High School, they recruited a sax player and cut a demo in McLaughlin’s father’s studio. The addition of a bass player and guitarist really rounded out their sound, and they soon became a local fixture, playing dances and parties. Ann Arbor High also saw the germ of what would become Osterberg’s stage persona; a flamboyant, alter-ego named Hyacinth, based on a poem that he had written.
In 1964, The Iguanas cut a second demo, and things really got rolling. In early 1965, they recorded three more songs at the United Sound Recording Studio, including Osterberg’s first original song, “Again and Again.” The band frequently opened for big names including The Four Tops. Osterberg was starting to develop quite a reputation as a Blues drummer, and in 1966 he left The Iguanas to join the Prime Movers. Though the band never recorded, mostly because they refused to abandon blues for rock and roll, they were huge figures on the local music scene, and even ventured to the west coast to play some gigs. The other members of the band called Jim “Iguana”, which later became Iggy.
In 1966, Iggy played a number of gigs backing up blues harp player Big Walter Horton.
Iggy Pop 1980
I was looking at a book on Egyptian antiquity. And [I realized] the pharaohs never wore a shirt. And I thought 'Gee, there's something about that!'— Iggy Pop
Iggy Pop and The Stooges
Iggy left the Prime Movers early in 1967 to start his own band, the Psychedelic Stooges. With brothers Ron and Scott Ashton, and a bass player named Dave Alexander, the guys quickly made a name for themselves as one really loud band. With their connections to the MC5 and the rest of the Ann Arbor scene, they debuted their act at a Halloween party at the home of Ron Richardson, manager of the Chosen Few. They were raw, they were loud, and nobody had ever seen anything quite like them before.
Jim had seen the Doors perform on October 20th, 1967, just prior to the house party, and was totally mesmerized by their lead singer, Jim Morrison. He had watched in awe as Morrison stumbled around drunk and incoherent. Jim was thus inspired to become the front man and singer in his own band.
The first professional show featuring the Psychedelic Stooges occurred January 20th, 1968 when they replaced the Amboy Dukes at the Grande Ballroom, a barn of a place in Detroit that had been built in 1928 with retail stores at street level and a huge dancehall on the second floor. They would play the Grande many times as house band and opened for names like Blood, Sweat & Tears and Sly Stone.
In 1968, the Stooges, as they were now called, signed a deal with Elektra. Their self-titled first album, released in August of 1969, was a flop in terms of sales, but established the band as pioneers of a very distinct sound that influenced punk. The only memorable tune from the album, “I Wanna Be Your Dog”, was a staple in their live shows. The album Fun House followed in July 1970, and like its predecessor, didn’t sell well. Worsening drug and alcohol abuse by the various band members led to their first breakup in 1971.
The guys did eventually get back together in March of 1972, long enough to record their third album, Raw Power, which was co-produced by David Bowie. Their second breakup came in February of 1974. Tweaking of the lineup, including who played what, hadn’t helped to bring them commercial success, and Iggy’s heroin addiction had compounded the various addictions of other members. Later incarnations of the band fronted by Iggy resulted in two more albums together in 2007 and 2013.
The name Fun House came from the name the band had given an old farmhouse they shared outside of Ann Arbor.
I Wanna Be Your Dog
Iggy Pop and David Bowie
Much has been written about the relationship between Iggy and David Bowie. On September 7th, 1971, the two artists met at a nightclub called Max’s Kansas City, a happening New York place that was a favorite of Andy Warhol and The Velvet Underground.
Iggy has said that David Bowie saved his life, though it must have seemed at times in Berlin as though they were each going to end up the way many rock stars had as a result of drug abuse. David helped both write and produce Iggy’s first two solo albums, Lust for Life and The Idiot.
Iggy Pop 2012
The album title The Idiot was inspired by the book written by Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
Iggy Pop Songs
Among Iggy’s fans – and they are legion – tunes from The Idiot and Lust For Life rank right up there. The Idiot’s opening song, “Sister Midnight”, was written by David Bowie, and is an illustration of one of the many ways that David tried to help his friend Iggy. “China Girl”, co-written by Iggy and David, later appeared on Bowie’s Let’s Dance album in 1983.
Lust For Life was Iggy’s only real commercial success in terms of album sales, and produced the popular song “The Passenger”, written by Iggy while aboard one of the trains in Berlin’s public transit system.
Speaking of Trains...
Tommy Boyce, known for writing “Last Train to Clarksville” with his partner Bobby Hart, helped produce Iggy’s Party Album. What was Arista thinking?
Iggy Pop The Passenger
Iggy Has Many Talents
Iggy truly has a lust for life, and throws himself into whatever comes his way. He has dabbled in movies, including a couple with Johnny Depp, has done voice work, has appeared in episodes of several tv series, and has collaborated musically with numerous artists including Slash, formerly of Guns N' Roses.
Iggy is also the executive producer of a four-part series on the history of Punk. The documentary "Punk" features interviews with such diverse artists as Debbie Harry from Blondie, Wayne Kramer from the MC5, Dead Kennedys’ Jello Biafra and John Lydon of Sex Pistols fame.
The Idiot? Not for a moment.
© 2016 Kaili Bisson