By Madeline Bocaro
© Madeline Bocaro, 2017. No part of this site may be reproduced or re-blogged in whole or in part in any manner without permission of the copyright owner.
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 (with David Bowie anonymously on keyboards) recording began for Lust For Life at Hansa Studio by the Wall in West Berlin, in April. It was Iggy’s second solo post-Stooges album (his third collaboration with David Bowie – including Bowie’s infamous production of the Stooges’ Raw Power album in 1972). Lust For Life 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 conserve the writing of their fan letters to just 25 words or less. (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 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 solo album on RCA Records. Bowie composed most of the music. The lyrics are pure Iggy improvisations. Bowie’s used this technique of immediacy on his next album, “Heroes” released just two months later in October. Lust or Life was produced by Bowie, with Iggy Pop and engineer Colin Thurston, under the name ‘Bewlay Bros.’ (a song on Bowie’s Hunky Dory album).
Despite the obvious fact that the song is about liquor, drugs and sex, the song has sound-tracked so many ad campaigns that it’s nearly 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 song is also on the Trainspotting film soundtrack.
The catchy riff of the title track was inspired when, in Berlin, the Glammer Twins were listening to American Forces Network News, which had a Morse code call signal. Bowie first played it on a ukulele, and the beat was later interpreted in the studio by the drumbeat of the brilliant Hunt Sales, adding crashing cymbals. The beat resembles the keyboard/guitar riff of The Doors’ song ‘Touch Me’.
The lyrics about being ‘just a modern guy’ 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.
Iggy also incorporated these lyrics in his November 1977 live in San Francisco performance of a fast blues number called ‘Modern Guy’ (which appears on the Nuggets bootleg). He also references Burroughs’ novel, Naked Lunch.
Modern guy, modern guy
Full of liquor and drugs
Modern guy modern guy
You eat a naked lunch
The Lust For Life album includes some sick little songs. In ‘Sixteen’ Iggy lusts for a young girl…
“I’m an easy mark with my broken heart
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 and Geoff MacCormack in 1975 in Los Angeles. It was first performed live during The Idiot tour and was originally titled ‘Moving On.’ The album version has different lyrics – the same lines that Iggy was singing live on tour. The lyrics of this song are mysteriously missing from the album sleeve. The song closely resembles Dylan’s ‘Three Angels’ from his 11th studio album New Morning released in 1970.
‘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 traveling on the S-Bahn (Stadtschnellbahn) rail system in Berlin, which Iggy rode almost every day while living there. 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 among 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 line with the improvised call-and response theme of the song. Iggy’s repetition of the words ‘Got ta, got ta, got ta…’ are in reverence to James Brown’s same evocation of the phrase on his 1966 song ‘Don’t Be a Dropout’ which urged teenagers to stay in school. ‘Success’ was the only single from the album, which did not chart. Bowie later used the two-chord progression and dramatic, climbing excitement of ‘Success’ as the basis of his song “Heroes.”
‘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.
Also see my Soupy Sales story:
I was a Soupy Groupie
My review and photos of Iggy’s live NYC show on the Lust For Life tour – when the band were introduced onstage by SOUPY SALES!
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The 40th Anniversary reissues of The Idiot and Lust For Life (2017)