1947 – Punk rock pioneer Iggy Pop (James Jewel Osterburg) is born in Michigan.
Iggy Pop (born James Newell Osterberg, Jr. on April 21, 1947 in United States) is an American rock singer, songwriter, and occasional actor.
Iggy Pop was the lead singer of The Stooges, a late 1960s/early 1970s garage rock band who were influential in the development of the nascent heavy metal and punk rock genres. The Stooges became infamous for their live performances, during which it was not uncommon for Pop (who traditionally performs bare-chested) to consume narcotics, self-mutilate, verbally abuse the audience, expose himself and leap off the stage (thus being the first or among the first to stage dive). Countless subsequent performers have imitated Pop’s antics.
Pop’s popularity has ebbed and flowed throughout the course of his subsequent solo career. His best-known solo songs include “Lust for Life,” “I’m Bored,” “Real Wild Child,” the Top 40 hit “Candy” (with vocalist Kate Pierson of The B-52’s) and “The Passenger”. A film about Iggy Pop’s life and career titled The Passenger is currently in development. He currently fronts the advertising campaign for the UK-based online insurance company Swiftcover, in his trademark state of shirtlessness.
Iggy Pop was born in Muskegon, Michigan, the son of Louella (née Christensen) and James Newell Österberg, Sr., a former high school English teacher and baseball coach at Fordson High School in Dearborn, Michigan. He is of Irish and English descent on his father’s side, and of Danish and Norwegian ancestry on his mother’s. His father was adopted by a Swedish-American family, hence the family’s surname (Österberg).
Early days: 1960 to 1967
Österberg began his music career as a drummer in different high school bands in Ann Arbor, Michigan. One band was the Iguanas, from the name of which he adopted his future moniker Iggy. After exploring local blues-style bands such as the Prime Movers (with brothers Dan and Michael Erlewine), he eventually dropped out of the University of Michigan and moved to Chicago to learn more about blues. While in Chicago, he played drums in blues clubs, helped by Sam Lingo (formerly of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band) who shared his connections with Iggy. Inspired by Chicago blues as well as bands like The Sonics and The MC5, he formed the Psychedelic Stooges and began calling himself Iggy. The band was composed of Iggy on vocals, Ron Asheton on guitar, Asheton’s brother Scott on drums, and Dave Alexander on bass. After almost two years they made their debut in Ann Arbor.
The Stooges era: 1968 to 1975
The seeds of Iggy Pop’s stage persona were sown when he saw The Doors perform in 1967 at the University of Michigan and was amazed by the stage antics and antagonism displayed by singer Jim Morrison. rolling around in broken glass, exposing himself to the crowd, and vomiting on stage, among many other exploits, Iggy himself would inspire others.
In 1968, one year after their live debut, and now dubbed the Stooges, the band signed with Elektra Records, again following in the footsteps of The Doors, who were Elektra’s biggest act at the time (reportedly, Pop called Moe Howard to see if it was alright to call his band “The Stooges”, to which Howard responded by merely saying “I don’t care what they call themselves, as long as they’re not the Three Stooges!” and hung up the phone). The Stooges’ first two albums The Stooges, (on which Iggy was credited, much to his displeasure, as “Iggy Stooge”), produced by John Cale; and Fun House, sold poorly. Shortly after the new members joined, the group disbanded because of Pop’s growing heroin addiction.
Iggy Pop in Montreal 1973
In 1971, Iggy Pop and David Bowie met at Max’s Kansas City, a nightclub and restaurant in New York City. Pop’s career received a boost from his relationship with Bowie when Bowie decided in 1973 to produce an album with Pop in England. With James Williamson signed on as guitarist, the search began for a rhythm section. However, since neither Pop nor Bowie was satisfied with any players in England, they decided to re-unite The Stooges. It would not be a true reunion insofar as Dave Alexander, who had succumbed to alcoholism, was unable to play on the record; he later died in 1975. Also, Ron Asheton grudgingly moved from guitar to bass to make way for Williamson to play guitar. The recording sessions produced the rock landmark Raw Power. After its release Scott Thurston was added to the band on keyboards/electric piano and Bowie continued his support, but Iggy’s drug problem persisted. The Stooges’ last show ended in a fight between the band and a group of bikers, documented on the album Metallic K.O.. Drug abuse stalled his career again for several years.
Bowie and Berlin: 1976 to 1978
After the second breakup of the Stooges, Iggy Pop made some recordings with James Williamson, but these were not released until 1977 (as Kill City, credited jointly to Iggy Pop and Williamson). Iggy was unable to control his drug use and checked himself into a mental institution to try to clean up. Bowie was one of his few visitors there, and he continued to support his friend and collaborator. It was also rumored that Bowie would smuggle in cocaine to give to Pop. In 1976, Bowie took him along as his companion on the Station to Station tour. This was Iggy Pop’s first exposure to large-scale professional touring and he was impressed, particularly with Bowie’s work rate.
Bowie and Iggy Pop relocated to West Berlin to wean themselves off their addictions. Iggy Pop signed with RCA and Bowie helped write and produce The Idiot and Lust for Life during 1977. Pop’s two most acclaimed albums as a solo artist, the latter with another team of brothers, Hunt and Tony Sales. Among songs they wrote together were China Girl, Tonight, and Sister Midnight, all of which Bowie performed on his own albums later on (the last being recorded with different lyrics as Red Money on the album Lodger). Bowie also played keyboards in Pop’s live performances, some of which are featured on the album TV Eye in 1978. In return, Pop contributed backing vocals on Bowie’s Low.
The Arista albums: 1979 to 1981
Iggy Pop had grown dissatisfied with RCA, later admitting that he had made TV Eye as a quick way of fulfilling his three-album RCA contract. He moved to Arista Records, under whose banner he released New Values in 1979. This album was something of a Stooges reunion, with James Williamson producing and latter-day Stooge Scott Thurston playing guitar and keyboards. Not surprisingly, the album’s style harked back to the guitar sound of the Stooges. Although highly regarded by many Iggy fans (some preferring it to the Bowie collaborations), New Values was not a popular success, despite some strong material including I’m Bored and Five Foot One.
Iggy Pop, Cardiff, 1979
The album was moderately successful in Australia and New Zealand, however, and this led to Iggy Pop’s first visit there to promote it. While in Melbourne, he made a memorable appearance on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s nationwide pop show Countdown. During his anarchic performance of I’m Bored, Pop made no attempt to conceal the fact that he was lip-synching, and he even tried to grab the teenage girls in the audience. He was also interviewed by host Ian “Molly” Meldrum, an exchange which was frequently punctuated by the singer jumping up and down on his chair and making loud exclamations of “G’day mate” in a mock Australian accent. His Countdown appearance is generally considered one of the highlights of the show’s history and it cemented his popularity with Australian punk fans; since then he has often toured there. While visiting New Zealand, Iggy Pop recorded a music video for I’m Bored featuring him outside The Beehive, part of the country’s Parliament buildings, and at a record company function where he appeared to slap a woman and throw wine over a photographer. This was widely aired on New Zealand television.
While in Australia, Iggy Pop was also the guest on a live late-night commercial TV interview show on the Ten Network. It is not known whether a recording of this interview exists, but the famous Countdown appearance has often been re-screened in Australia.
During the recording of Soldier (1980), Iggy Pop and Williamson quarrelled over production (the latter apparently wanted a big, Phil Spector-type sound) and Williamson was fired. Bowie appeared on the song Play it Safe, performing backing vocals with the group Simple Minds. The album and its follow-up Party (1981) were both commercial failures, and Iggy Pop was dropped from Arista. His drug habit varied in intensity, but persisted.
The 1982 album Zombie Birdhouse on Chris Stein’s Animal label, with Stein himself producing, was no improvement on his Arista works, but again, in 1983, Iggy Pop’s fortunes changed when David Bowie recorded a cover of the song China Girl. The song had originally appeared on The Idiot, and was a major hit on Bowie’s blockbuster Let’s Dance album. As co-writer of the song, Pop received substantial royalties. On Tonight in 1984, Bowie recorded two more of their co-written songs, this time from the Lust for Life album, Tonight and Neighborhood Threat, assuring Iggy Pop financial security, at least for the short term. The support of his friend enabled Pop to resolve problems with the IRS and permitted him to take a three-year break during which he overcame his heroin addiction, took acting classes, and got married.
Additionally, Iggy Pop contributed the title song to the 1984 film Repo Man (with Steve Jones, previously of the Sex Pistols, on guitar) as well as an instrumental called Repo Man Theme that was played during the opening credits.
In 1985, Pop recorded some demos with Jones. He played these demos to Bowie, who was sufficiently impressed to offer to produce an album for Pop: 1986’s New Wave-influenced Blah Blah Blah, featuring the single Real Wild Child, a cover of Wild One (Real Wild Child), originally made popular by Australian rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Johnny O’Keefe in 1959. The single was a Top 10 hit in the UK and was successful around the world, especially in Australia, where for the last twenty years it has been used as the theme music for the ABC’s late-night music video show Rage. It remains Pop’s solitary brush with major commercial success. Blah Blah Blah was Pop’s highest-charting album in the U.S. since The Idiot in 1977, peaking at #75 on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart.
Also in 1985, the movie Rock & Rule was released featuring performances by Iggy Pop and Lou Reed for the character Mok. Pop’s song in the film was Pain & Suffering from the final sequence of the film.
In 1987, Pop appeared (along with Bootsy Collins) on a mostly instrumental album, Neo Geo, by Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto. The music video for Risky, written and directed by Meiert Avis, won the first ever MTV Breakthrough Video Award. The groundbreaking video explores transhumanist philosopher FM-2030’s ideas of Nostalgia for the Future in the form of an imagined love affair between a robot and one of Man Ray’s models in Paris in the late 1930s. Additional inspiration was drawn from Jean Baudrillard, Edvard Munch’s 1894 painting Puberty, and Roland Barthes Death of the Author. The surrealist black-and-white video uses stop motion, light painting, and other retro in-camera effects techniques. Meiert Avis shot Sakamoto while at work on the score for The Last Emperor in London. Sakamoto also appears in the video painting words and messages to an open shutter camera. Iggy Pop, who performs the vocals on Risky, chose not to appear in the video, allowing his performance space to be occupied by the surrealist era robot.
Pop’s follow-up to Blah Blah Blah, Instinct (1988), was a turnaround in musical direction. Its stripped-back, guitar-based sound leaned further towards the sound of the Stooges than any of his solo albums to date. His record label, which had most likely been expecting another Blah Blah Blah, dropped him. Nevertheless, the King Biscuit radio show recording of the Instinct tour (featuring guitarist Andy McCoy and Alvin Gibbs on bass) reaching Boston on July 19, 1988, remains one of punk-rock’s most enduring live albums.
In 1990, Pop recorded Brick by Brick, produced by Don Was, with members of Guns N’ Roses and The B-52’s as guests, as well as backup vocals by many local Hollywood groups, two of whom (Whitey Kirst and Craig Pike) would create his band to tour and perform on his Kiss My Blood video (1991), directed by world-famous director Tim Pope and filmed at the Olympia in Paris. The video attracted much controversy, as it featured much footage of Pop performing with his penis exposed to the audience. The album was his first Gold-certified album in the U.S. (denoting sales of over 500,000 copies) and featured his first Top 40 U.S. hit, Candy, a duet with B-52s singer Kate Pierson.
Also in 1990, Pop starred in the controversial opera The Manson Family by composer John Moran, released on Point Music/Phillip Classics, where he sang the role of prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi. That year he was also involved in the Red Hot + Blue project, singing a version of Well Did You Evah! in a duet with Deborah Harry.
In 1991, Pop and Kirst contributed the song Why Was I Born (Freddy’s Dead) to the soundtrack of the film Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. The song also plays over the end credits of the film, with a compilation of clips from the A Nightmare on Elm Street series running alongside the end credits.
In 1992, he collaborated with Goran Bregovic’ on the soundtrack for the movie Arizona Dream by Emir Kusturica. Pop sang four of the songs: In the Deathcar, TV Screen, Get the Money, and This is a Film. Also in 1992, he collaborated with the New York City band White Zombie. He recorded spoken word vocals on the intro and outro of the song Black Sunshine as well as playing the character of a writer in the video shot for the song. He is singled out for special thanks in the liner notes of the band’s album La Sexorcisto: Devil Music, Vol. 1.
In 1993, Pop released American Caesar, including two successful singles, Wild America and Beside You. The following year Pop contributed to Buckethead’s album Giant Robot, including the songs Buckethead’s Toy Store and Post Office Buddy. He appears also on the Les Rita Mitsouko album Système D where he sings the duet My Love is Bad with Catherine Ringer.
In 1995, Pop again found mainstream fame when his 1977 song Lust for Life was featured in the film Trainspotting. A new video was recorded for the song, with clips from the film and studio footage of Iggy dancing with one of its stars, Ewan McGregor. An Iggy Pop concert also served as a plot point in the film. The song has also been used in TV commercials for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (with many music critics denouncing the usage of the song to promote peppy cruises) and as the theme music to The Jim Rome Show, a nationally-syndicated American sports talk show.
Also in 1995, Pop released Naughty Little Doggie, with Whitey Kirst returning on guitar, and the single I Wanna Live. In 1997, he remixed Raw Power to give it a rougher, more hard-edged sound; fans had complained for years that Bowie’s official rescue effort mix was muddy and lacking in bass. Pop testified in the reissue’s liner notes that on the new mix, “everything’s still in the red”. He co-produced his 1999 album Avenue B with Don Was, releasing the single Corruption. Pop produced 2001’s Beat ‘Em Up, which gave birth to The Trolls, releasing the single Football featuring Trolls alumni Whitey Kirst and brother Alex.
In the early to middle 1990s, Pop would make several guest appearances on the Nickelodeon show The Adventures of Pete and Pete. He played James Mecklenberg, Nona Mecklenberg’s father.
Iggy Pop at Beale Street Music Festival, Memphis in May 2007.
Pop supplied vocals for the 1999 Death in Vegas UK Top-10 single Aisha. The same year he appeared on Hashisheen, The End Of Law, a collaborative effort by Bill Laswell, reading on the tracks The Western Lands and A Quick Trip to Alamut. He also sang on the tracks Rolodex Propaganda and Enfilade by At the Drive-In in 2000.
For New Year’s Eve 1997, Iggy was the headliner for the annual Australian three-day concert the Falls Festival. He gave one of the most memorable performances in the history of the festival. A member of the audience got to do the countdown for the new year with Pop as part of a competition to guess Pop’s new year’s resolution. (It was “To do nothing and make a lot of money!”)
Pop’s 2003 album Skull Ring featured collaborators Sum 41, Green Day, Peaches, and The Trolls, as well as Ron and Scott Asheton, reuniting the three surviving founding members of The Stooges for the first time since 1974. Pop made a guest appearance on Peaches’s song Kick It as well as the video. Also in 2003, his first full-length biography was published. Gimme Danger – The Story of Iggy Pop was written by Joe Ambrose; Pop did not collaborate on the biography or publicly endorse it. Having enjoyed working with the Ashetons on Skull Ring, Pop reformed The Stooges with bassist Mike Watt (formerly of the Minutemen) filling in for Dave Alexander, and Fun House saxophonist Steve MacKay rejoining the lineup. They have toured regularly since 2004. That year, Pop opened Madonna’s Reinvention World Tour in Dublin.
Iggy Pop at the Sziget Festival in Budapest, 2006
In 2005 Pop appeared, along with Madonna, Little Richard, Bootsy Collins, and The Roots’ Questlove, in an American TV commercial for the Motorola ROKR phone. In early 2006, Iggy and the Stooges played in Australia and New Zealand for the Big Day Out. They also began work on a new album, The Weirdness, which was recorded by Steve Albini and released in March 2007. In August 2006 Iggy and the Stooges performed at the Lowlands pop festival in the Netherlands, Hodokvas in Slovakia and in the Sziget festival in Budapest.
Author Paul Trynka completed a biography of Iggy Pop (with his blessing) called Open Up and Bleed, published in early 2007. More recently, Iggy and the Stooges played at Bam Margera’s wedding and Pop appeared on the single “Punkrocker” with the Teddybears in a Cadillac television commercial. Pop was also the voice of Lil’ Rummy on the Comedy Central cartoon Lil’ Bush and confirmed that he has done voices for American Dad and Grand Theft Auto IV,
Pop guested on Profanation (Preparation for a Coming Darkness), the new album by the Bill Laswell-helmed group Praxis, which was released on January 1, 2008. Pop also sang on the No Fun cover by Asian Dub Foundation on their 2008 album Punkara.
He fronts (from January 2009) a £25 million TV ad campaign for Swiftcover, using the strapline “Get a Life”.
On January 6, 2009, original Stooges guitarist, and Iggy’s self-described best friend Ron Asheton, was found dead from an apparent heart attack. He was 60 years old.
Iggy’s new solo album “Préliminaires” will be released on May 18th, 2009. Inspired by a novel by french author Michel Houellebecq (born Michel Thomas) called “La Possibilité d’une île” (2005; Trans. as The Possibility of an Island by Gavin Bowd, 2006), Iggy was approached to provide the soundtrack for a documentary film on Michel and his attempts to make a film from his novel. Iggy’s favourite character from Michel’s novel is a little white dog named Fox. Iggy describes this new release as a “quieter album with some jazz overtones” with its sound influenced by New Orleans jazz musicians such as Louie Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton. Iggy also admits that it’s his response to being “sick of listening to idiot thugs with guitars banging out crappy music”. The album will be available on legal download sites, CD, and a Deluxe Boxset is available at only 6000 units worldwide. This boxset contains the Préliminaires album, a collector “Les Feuilles Mortes” b/w “King Of The Dogs” 7 inch, the cover of which is Iggy’s portrait by Marjane Satrapi, and a 38 pages drawings booklet also by Marjane Satrapi.
Pop has had a limited career as an actor. He has appeared in sixteen movies, including Sid and Nancy (a nonspeaking cameo role), The Color of Money, Hardware (voice only), The Crow: City of Angels, The Rugrats Movie, Snow Day, Coffee and Cigarettes (opposite Tom Waits, in the third segment of the film, “Somewhere in California”), Cry-Baby, Dead Man, Tank Girl and Atolladero, a Spanish science fiction Western. Pop also sings the main theme for Atolladero, he is the voice of The Beast From Another Dimension in the cult animated film Rock & Rule and also sings its song, “Pain and Suffering”.
He has been featured in five television series, including Tales from the Crypt, The Adventures of Pete & Pete, where he played Nona’s dad in the second season, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, in which he played Yelgrun in “The Magnificent Ferengi” episode. With The Stooges, he was also featured in an episode of MTV’s Bam’s Unholy Union as the main band performing at Bam’s wedding. Additionally, a portion of the music video for Iggy’s Butt Town was featured on an episode of Beavis and Butthead.
Pop has been profiled in four rockumentaries and has had songs on eighteen soundtracks, including Crocodile Dundee 2, Trainspotting, Pretty Woman, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Haggard, Arizona Dream and the main theme of Repo Man.
In the movie Velvet Goldmine, Ewan McGregor portrays Curt Wilde, a character loosely based on Iggy Pop. McGregor performs Pop’s songs “TV Eye” and “Gimme Danger” in the film.
In the movie Control, Pop’s song The Idiot is used when Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis hangs himself in his Maccelsfield home.
Pop voices Lil’ Rummy on the Comedy Central show Lil’ Bush.
Iggy Pop provides the voice of the DJ of Liberty Rock Radio 97.8 in the game Grand Theft Auto IV
Pop provided the voice for a character in the English language version of the 2007 animated film Persepolis.
Iggy makes an appearance in the 2008 feature documentary by Nik Sheehan about Brion Gysin and the Dreamachine entitled ‘FLicKeR’.
In 2008, Iggy’s music will be featured in a movie adaption of Irvine Welsh’s best-selling novel Ecstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance.
In January 2009, Iggy was signed up as the face of swiftcover, the UK-based online insurance company.
Iggy Pop also featured as a voice talent in the 2004 ATARI video game DRIV3R, which was produced by Reflections Interactive.