IGGY POP – LUST FOR LIFE

by Madeline Bocaro
1977 brought us two Iggy albums within five months. How lucky are we?! Just one month after the release and live tour of The Idiot on March 18, 1977 recording began for Lust For Life at Hansa Studio by the Wall in West Berlin in April. Iggy’s second solo post-Stooges album (also his second collaboration with David Bowie) was released on August 29.
The crooning cadaver who crawled out of the magnificent murkiness of The Idiot appears with a big goofy grin on the close-up cover portrait on his following album. On the cover of Lust For Life, Iggy Pop comically resembles his lyrical mentor Soupy Sales, who encouraged kids to keep their fan letters to a minimum of words. (Hence the Stooges anthem “no fun my babe no fun”.) Coincidentally, the Sales brothers (Soupy’s sons) Tony and Hunt appear on bass and drums. (They would later form the rhythm section of David Bowie’s future band Tin Machine). Lust For Life also featured Ricky Gardiner and Carlos Alomar on guitar. The cover photo was by Andrew Kent, who had also shot the cover of The Idiot, and documented Bowie’s Station to Station tour in stunning black and white.
Lust For Life was Iggy’s second album on RCA Records. Bowie composed most of the music. The lyrics are pure Iggy, mostly improvised on the spot. Bowie’s used this technique on his next album, “Heroes“, released just two months later in October. Lust For Life was produced by Bowie, Iggy Pop and engineer Coin Thurston under the name ‘Bewlay Bros.’ (a song on Bowie’s Hunky Dory album).
Despite the obvious fact that it is about liquor, drugs and sex, the title song has become incidental for so many ad campaigns that it’s impossible to mention them all. This cheapens the magnificence of the song because it is the soundtrack of life – and especially of Iggy’s life. The catchy riff was inspired while in Berlin, the Glammer Twins were listening to American Forces Network News, which had a Morse code call signal. This was interpreted by the drumbeat of brilliant Hunt Sales, with crashing cymbals. It resembles the riff of The Doors’ song ‘Touch Me’. The lyrics refer to an addicted character and phrases (Johnny Yen, ‘the flesh machine’ and ‘hypnotizing chickens’) in William Burroughs’ 1961 and 1962 novels, The Soft Machine and The Ticket That Exploded.
In 1995, biographer, Danny Sugerman, appeared on an Australian music video program and discussed “Gypsy Johnny, Iggy’s homosexual ballet dancing heroin dealer” immortalized as Johnny Yen in “Lust for Life.”

“His black Porsche said ‘Gypsy’ on it, and he wore a scarf around his head. He used to be a ballerina, and he was homosexual, and very hot for Iggy’s parts—body parts. ‘Yen’ is a term that William Burroughs uses a lot describing the craving for heroin. So there’s a line, “Here comes Johnny Yen again, with liquor and drugs…” and that’s Gypsy Johnny coming up to Wonderland Avenue with his scarves and his drugs and his motorized dildos and whatever else he had, his balloons full of Mexican heroin that was killing all of us. – Danny Sugerman

Lust For Life includes some sick little songs. In ‘Sixteen’ Iggy lusts for a young girl…
I’m an easy mark with my broken heart 
Sweet 16…
I must be hungry ’cause I go crazy
Over your leather boots 
Now baby I know
That’s not normal”
Two songs are heroin-themed. ‘Turn Blue’ was written with Bowie in 1975, and was originally titled ‘Moving On’. The lyrics of this song are mysteriously missing from the album sleeve. At the end, it is deliberately unclear whether Iggy is shooting himself, or shooting heroin. ‘Tonight’ has a beautiful opening verse, which is omitted on Tina Turner’s version with Bowie on his 1984 album also titled Tonight.
“I saw my baby she was turning blue
I knew that seen her young life was through
So I got down on my knees beside her bed
And these are the words to her I said
Everything will be alright tonight…”
Pop also quotes William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch (“No one talks, no one reads, no one walks”) in the chorus of ‘Tonight’.
In ‘Some Weird Sin’ Iggy yearns for a ‘license to live’ in this upbeat song, as he stands at the world’s edge. Amidst some cowbell and with Bowie’s backing vocal, Iggy laments that ‘things are ‘too straight’ and he ‘can’t bear it’. Though he yearns for a normal life, he instinctively prefers his own primal life of deprivation.
“I’m trying to break in
Oh, I know it’s not for me
But the sight of it all
Makes me sad and ill
That’s when I want
Some weird sin”
‘The Passenger’, with its amazing guitar groove by Ricky Gardner is a perfect driving song, inspired by travelling with David Bowie on his Station To Station tour. It was released as a B-side of the only single from the album, ‘Success’ on September 30. ‘The Passenger’ is lyrically based on an unnamed poem by Jim Morrison in his collective book The Lords and The New Creatures.
“…Modern life is a journey by car. The Passengers 
change terribly in their reeking seats, or roam 
from car to car, subject to unceasing transformation. 
Inevitable progress is made toward the beginning 
(there is no difference in terminals), as we 
slice through cities, whose ripped backsides present 
a moving picture of windows, signs, streets, 
buildings. Sometimes other vessels, closed 
worlds, vacuums, travel along beside to move 
ahead or fall utterly behind.”
Bowie covered ‘Neighborhood Threat’ as well as two other Iggy songs on his 1984 album Tonight (along with the aforementioned song ‘Tonight’ with Tina Turner, and ‘Don’t Look Down’ from Iggy’s next album New Values). On ‘Neighborhood Threat’, Iggy is once again an outlaw.
“No, he don’t share your pleasures
Did you see his eyes?
Did you see his crazy eyes?”
The totally fun ‘Success’ was Iggy’s personal Declaration of Independence. With his friend Bowie’s help, he was now his own man. He can taste success, while playfully mocking those who have become overwhelmed with material possessions. Iggy gets his Chinese rug in a litany of all the riches coming his way. At the end, Iggy is liberated, ‘wigged’, hopping like a frog and doing anything he wants. When his final ad-libbed lyric doesn’t fit the measure, he playfully yells, “Oh shit!’ which the Sales brothers repeat, in theme with the improvised call-and response theme of the song. This was the only single from the album, which did not chart.
‘Fall In Love With Me’ is an ode to Iggy’s German girlfriend Esther Friedman. The band members swapped instruments for this long jam, edited for the album.
The album’s highest chart positions in 1977 were No. 28 in the UK, and 120 on Billboard’s charts. RCA label mate Elvis Presley’s death derailed the label’s attention from promoting Iggy’s album when they focused on reissuing Elvis’ back catalogue. 
Iggy’s Lust For Life tour included seven shows in the USA (starting at Santa Monica Civic on November 18, and ending at New York City’s Palladium on October 6, with the Ramones as opening act.) At the Palladium, the band was introduced onstage by Soupy Sales himself! Iggy came prancing out in patched jeans and white T-shirt, one black shoe and one white as he sang ‘Sixteen’, wearing a beautiful horse’s tail! There were two dates in Canada, one at London’s Rainbow theatre and one in Rotterdam.
In time, this legendary album by just a modern guy has earned a million in prizes! It was the last great collaboration between The Idiot and The Oddity until Iggy’s eighth solo album Blah Blah Blah in 1986.
In 1978 RCA Records offered Iggy an easy way to deliver the third and final album of his contract. They paid him $90,000 to release a live album of soundboard tapes from three of his 1977 gigs (some featuring Bowie on keyboards, and on some, Scott Thurston). Iggy spent $5,000 re-mastering them and pocketed the rest. The album was titled TV Eye (1977 Live).

4 thoughts on “IGGY POP – LUST FOR LIFE

  1. Always fun to read your stuff Madeline. I’ve a burning desire to hear this near-mythical Armed Forces Network jingle (the inspiration for the ‘Lust for Life’ riff) – any idea where I can find it?

    Like

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