Music review / Article – by Morgan Thistlethwaite
In this two-part series, I look at the albums that rock-icons David Bowie and Iggy Pop, for better or worse, share credits.
Iggy Pop’s album Post-Pop Depression (2016) was unfortunately timely. Recorded in secrecy with Josh Homme and friends the year before, it was released in the months following the death of David Bowie. Not only is it the poignant statement of a punk-rock god feeling that perhaps he’s not long for this world, but also a great addition to an already-impressive body of work. It was this album that got me thinking about the relationship of Bowie and Iggy.
Individually, the pair are no strangers to collaboration. Each have a string of recordings that draw on the talents of others, but among those, the entwined relationship of this pair is unique. It’s also fair to say that one may simply not exist as we know them today without the influence of the other.
This relationship tracks back to the early ‘70s. Before Bowie brought Ziggy Stardust to the world, Bowie saw something in Iggy that many overlooked, and that was the great song-writing at the core of the ensuing chaos that Iggy’s band The Stooges had become synonymous with. So convinced was Bowie of this talent, that he travelled to America to find Iggy, and while there persuaded him to sign with his own UK management. Bowie’s intention was to bring attention to Iggy’s music to an audience that he felt was deserved.
By the time Ziggy Stardust hit the stage in 1972, Bowie was neck-deep in behind-the-scenes side-projects such as producing Mott the Hoople’s All the Young Dudes, as well as Lou Reed’s now-classic Transformer. The Stooges had, by this point, broken up and their future was unlikely, so when Bowie approached Iggy about joining him in England to do another Stooges record but with a different line-up, Iggy agreed.
Bowie learned the hard way that Iggy wasn’t quite ready allow him to step in on the process in the same way that prior projects had. Finally, he had no option but to step back and let Iggy record the album his own way. The completed recordings were then handed to Bowie for mixing.
Bowie did what he could with what he had and Raw Power was released in 1973. Multiple attempts to mix this album exist, and Bowie’s version is certainly not the best. It would be another three years before he and Iggy would attempt to work together again.
During this time, Bowie’s career continued to blossom. Ziggy Stardust rose then fell, and Bowie found success in the US and it’s the hangover from this superstardom that started Bowie down the path toward his “Berlin trilogy” phase. In 1976, Bowie and Iggy began work on the tracks that would become The Idiot, Iggy’s debut album as a solo artist.
Iggy Pop – The Idiot (1977)
A wonderful piece of work. The angular sounds and electronic swagger that feature on this album is nothing like what Iggy has done before or since. Essentially, it works as a template for the musical direction that Bowie would explore further while in Berlin.
The opening track Sister Midnight would find its way onto Bowie’s 1979 album Lodger as the re-worked Red Money. More recognised, however, is the Side A closer, China Girl, which became the second single from Bowie’s 1983 album Let’s Dance.
To me, Bowie’s polished version always sounded like a karaoke cover, only emphasised by the accompanying video that features a suited Bowie crooning along with a microphone in front of what could be a wallpapered stage in the corner of a cheap bar.
Iggy Pop – Lust for Life (1977)
This follow-up to The Idiot came quickly. Written, recorded and mixed in eight days, the sound of this record is far more in line with the sound with which Iggy is known. A true classic, the title track bounces onto the stage with an infectious energy that is still imitated today, but never equaled. Lust for Life sets the upbeat tone for this album, barely taking a breath between tracks.
Turn Blue is the exception to this rule. This Blues-based track is a confessional of how Iggy’s drug addiction thwarted previous efforts to collaborate with Bowie.
Bowie’s influence on this album is strong but far less imposing than it was on The Idiot and sits closer to what his presence was on Lou Reed’s Transformer (1972).
Once again, the last track of Side A would find its way onto a following Bowie album, as well as becoming said album’s title.
Find out all about Tonight (1984) and beyond, when we explore the continued collaboration of Iggy and Bowie throughout the 80’s in part 2 of this article.