Henry Rollins: Happy 70th Birthday, Iggy Pop
Iggy Pop, the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of Rock & Roll
Tomorrow is Friday, the best day of the week. It’s also Iggy Pop’s birthday. The Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of Rock & Roll will have prevailed for 70 years.
In these throw-up-in-your-mouth times, I’m always on the lookout for something to celebrate. It’s a way to push back against that which is pushing against you. Defiance with a backbeat is a great way to land hard on the bad guys and feel good doing it.
And there is a lot to land on these days. It’s truly obscene how casually comrade Trump makes checkers moves on the global chessboard. How do you deploy 59 Tomahawk missiles to the Shayrat Airbase in Syria and not totally destroy it? Ask your dumbfuck-in-chief.
I think it was a distraction op with a whole-lotta-millions-dollar price tag. Poor ol’ Raytheon will have to shoulder the burdensome task of cranking out 59 more so we’re restocked and ready for another meaningless exercise ordered up by the executive hollow man. What do you suppose will be the profit margin Rayray slaps on this time?
There is no one better at spending breathtaking amounts of money, leveling countries they can’t find on the map, stacking up bodies in heaps in the morning, then telling you about fiscal responsibility and the sanctity of life in the afternoon, than the GOP.
And in the days after his zero-potency wargasmic ejaculation, what did comrade Trump have to say about it? Nothing, really. He doesn’t understand the georamifications of his actions and there’s no one around him with the knowledge or patience to explain how big of a stick he just took to the next trillion-dollar hornet’s nest.
History is going to put this administration in an eternal stress position.
In a far brighter chapter, for several days in May of 1970, Scott and Ron Asheton, Dave Alexander, Iggy Pop and, on some occasions, Steve Mackay, exited the Tropicana Hotel on Santa Monica Boulevard and headed east and then south to 962 La Cienega Blvd., where they committed to tape the seven tracks that comprise one of the greatest rock albums of all time, Fun House.
Over the decades and thousands of albums cranked out by bands all over the world, Fun House is still the apex predator of the plains. The only album that matches its feral ferocity is what the same band, in a slightly different configuration (Alexander out, Ron taking over on bass and James Williamson on guitar) detonated next: Raw Power. Just this fan’s opinion, but if there is ever the occasion where every country had to represent itself in the rock genre with a single album, throwing down for the USA, it would have to be this one.
In April 2011, I was in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to check out The Stooges, whose remaining members included Scott Asheton, James Williamson, Steve Mackay and Iggy. It was a special show to pay tribute to the departed Ron Asheton. I knew this was going to be one not to miss.
I got to band practice a day before the show and immediately noticed Jim Jarmusch and a small crew documenting the proceedings. I think the man is interesting as hell, so I asked him what he was up to and he told me that he had been doing a lot of on-camera interviews with Iggy. I asked what was going to come of it and he said he wasn’t exactly sure yet, but something would make its presence known at some point. I marveled at the combination of these two forces and reckoned it was a perfect fit.
The show was incredible. The Stooges turned it inside out. As a very special treat, the band did a short set of early material with Deniz Tek on guitar. The Radio Birdman crushed it with a white Stratocaster. It was the last time I saw Scott.
Last year, Mr. Jarmusch’s patient and meticulous work, which tells the story of the band’s start and subsequent journey into obliteration, made its way to the screen in a you-really-gotta-see-it documentary called Gimme Danger.
Combining interviews with band members, the man who brought them to Elektra, Danny Fields, The MC5’s Wayne Kramer, Ron and Scott’s sister Kathy and others, along with live footage and photographs, the film tells a story that is not only gripping but emotionally wrenching over and over. It’s a tough story anyway, but the way Jarmusch rolls it out is as exquisite and fitting as the ride was rough.
At this time, only two of the core members, James Williamson and Iggy, remain. In Gimme Danger, you feel the passing of the others.
Ultimately, the music won the day. The Stooges’ return to the stage in 2003 wasn’t so much a reunion as the songs pulling the members back together to brutalize them one more time in several laps around the world. The band were greeted with a hero’s welcome wherever they turned up. Nothing like the first time around.
If any of these men did nothing else in their lives, they were in The Stooges. When you listen to the records, you have to conclude that was plenty.
It was always a perfect lesson in humility to hear these songs as a young person and know, without a doubt, that no matter what my fellow bandmates and I did, no amount of monastic dedication, deprivation, tempering or experience would allow us to get close to that level of sheer violent truth. The Stooges made me understand that music was a force to be served, and by serving it well, it will break you. If it did not, it is only because you flinched and tried to survive instead of giving up all hope and going all in. We gave it everything we had.
Happy birthday to the street-walkin’ cheetah with a heart full of napalm!
More from the mind of Henry Rollins:
White America Couldn't Handle What Black America Deals With Every Day
Bowie's Blackstar Is on the Level of Low and Heroes
No Matter Who Wins, America Is Only Going to Get Angrier
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