Line Out Music & the City at Night

Monday, November 26, 2012

Iggy Pop on Two of His Favorite Albums

Posted by on Mon, Nov 26, 2012 at 2:47 PM

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Jeff Gold's 101 Essential Rock Records/The Golden Age of Vinyl From the Beatles to the Sex Pistols is another one of those Baby Boomer-oriented round-ups of the best rock albums, but this one comes with a twist: It has essays from musicians on their favorite LPs from the time period outlined in the title. The book's publisher has made a chapter by Iggy Pop available for media, and it's interesting enough to share with you here. Iggy reminisces about the impact Them's The Angry Young Them and the Mothers of Invention’s Freak Out! made on his own music and includes some fascinating anecdotes about the Mothers' Frank Zappa. Also, I did not know that Mr. Pop was into Robert Ashley and Harry Partch. (It should be noted that "America Drinks and Goes Home” is not on Freak Out!, as Iggy writes, but rather on Absolutely Free.)

Read Iggy's excerpt after the cut. Check out the 101 albums included in the book here. Notice how the 13th Floor Elevators' best album, Easter Everywhere, and the Byrds' best album, Notorious Byrd Brothers, and Tim Buckley's best album, Starsailor, aren't included, or anything by Neu!? Plus dozens of other nits you can pick (that Fleetwood Mac album is titled Rumours, not Rumors), because you have nothing better to do.

Iggy Pop on “The Angry Young Them” and The Mothers Of Invention’s “Freak Out !”

I bought my first record in 1960; I was 13. I had $1 of my own money and I bought “Red River Rock,” an album by Johnny and The Hurricanes, at the Woolworth's in the first mall opened in southern Michigan

I found out about music and groups from my friend in junior high school, Jim McLaughlin. He had a guitar and amp, because his dad was a ham radio nut. He played me his Ray Charles records, and Elvis too. We formed a duo for the school talent show; I called it the Megaton 2. We played “What I’d Say,” and “Let There Be Drums,” which was a record I owned by Sandy Nelson. Later Jim and I started The Iguanas.

The radio in Detroit wasn't that great, but nowhere near as bad as it is now. You could hear the Beatles, Stones, Ronnettes, Wailers, Booker T, early Motown, Jackie Wilson, the Kinks, and other good stuff on CKLW, the Detroit AM station, but you had to be patient and listen to lots of shit like Peter and Gordon, Freddie and the Dreamers, Leslie Gore, Frankie Avalon, etc. to hear what you liked. When I later got a job at a record store, it really opened up my knowledge of music. The other people who worked there were experts in classical music, avant-garde, R&B and blues as well as rock, and I took it all in. The store was loosely organized, so when I wanted to hear a record, I just opened it up and played it right there.

I probably first heard “Gloria” by Them. When I bought the album it was the American version of “The Angry Young Them,” the same album, but with a hideous ugly orange cover, and it just said “Them.” Now I have a vinyl copy of the original. It still blows my mind. I would listen over and over and over to “Mystic Eyes,” and “One Two Brown Eyes.” Those two cuts really influenced my ideas of what The Stooges could be.

At about that time I was listening to all the good English groups plus Bob Dylan plus anything that came from San Francisco plus Love, plus tons of garage rock. Them was by far the most experimental, but also had a kind of doomed quality that I liked, because I could see that these guys weren't cute, didn't know how to dress and did not have a commercial touch except for the one hit, “Gloria.” “Gloria” at the time was completely inescapable all over the U of M (University of Michigan) campus and at any club, anywhere with live music. Every band covered it including my own. I think the liner notes were really pathetic. What a great example of a repressed, apologetic, neurotic show-biz bullshitter. I never saw Them, but I saw Van play once at the Troubadour in LA. It was around the time of “Moondance.” He was very stern, and the group members all looked ill. He was so cool, the best thing he did was pick up a chair with one hand and wave it over his head while he screamed. I saw him do the same thing on TV on “American Bandstand.” I guess it was his one stage move. I've always wondered where he got it. The way Van's voice ripped through the mic. and the simple arrangements and spirit of experiment was a huge deal for me. I still listen to the record in the early mornings and when I want to get worked up.

The first time I heard “Freak Out” by the Mothers of Invention was on headphones, smoking an early joint in my drug career, at the house of SRC, a Michigan band of the 60's. That night I kind of knew they were asking (Stooges guitarist) Ron (Asheton) to leave our group and join up with them, so I was hanging around to see what was going to happen. Rather than waste my time, I saw a copy of “Freak Out” and listened to it on the phones. I thought it was very, very funny. I particularly loved “Help, I'm a Rock,” “America Drinks and Goes Home,” “Who Are The Brain Police” and the cameo of Suzie Creamcheese. I had already seen the Fugs live on stage, with Tuli Kupferberg changing costumes out of a large bag in a humorous way, so I was somewhat prepared. I liked the Mothers’ conceptualism and humor, although the music didn't really do much for me. My own experiments were more influenced by Bob Ashley, Harry Partch, and Berlioz.

The first time I saw The Mothers I was opening for them; it was the second or third gig the Stooges had ever done, so I remembered us more than them. I think playing with them so early in our career pushed me to be weirder faster, and also to be stranger to look at, earlier than I would have been otherwise. That night I did my first stage dive. I knew the Mothers were on after us and I didn't want people to forget about us.

Years later I got to know Frank a little bit, and he was very decent to me. We went out for a burger once in Berlin, to a bright lit cheap and greasy joint with David Bowie. That was pretty funny and unusual. Frank was kind of a wry person, and as he made clear in his film “200 Motels,” he had a certain ambivalence about English rock stars. I went along with Frank later that night and kept him company for a while at the Hilton hotel, until his Berlin girlfriend showed up. For no exact reason, I remember feeling that Frank was a very lonely cat. He was all alone, and the suite was so dark and cold. The girl who came over later was kind of a troubled type, but I think he enjoyed the company and that was about it. Earlier that night at his show, Frank played one of his incredibly long guitar solos while his hired lead guitarist, Adrian Belew, had to wait his turn. That was the moment when David basically hired Adrian away for his own next projects, in a conversation behind the PA stack. I thought that was pretty funny.

Earlier in my life, when the Stooges went to LA in 1970 to record “Fun House,” we were staying at the Tropicana Motel. I walked up the hill to (legendary Hollywood coffee shop) Ben Franks to get something to eat, and there, sitting at the counter expressionless, with his hair and mustache and weird beard, was Frank Zappa. What a vision. I might as well have seen Aristotle. I was very impressed.

 

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