Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Iggy Pop
The Idiot


Released 1977 on RCA
Reviewed by Graveyard Poet, 22/04/2017ce


"I am a fool with a heart but no brains, and you are a fool with brains but no heart; and we’re both unhappy, and we both suffer."
(Fyodor Dostoevsky - The Idiot)

In the middle of the 1970s David Bowie and Iggy Pop were both struggling with the demons of their drug addictions. Iggy Pop had destroyed his mind through heroin and David Bowie had numbed his emotions through cocaine.

Iggy Pop had struggled with substance abuse throughout his tenure as the frontman of The Stooges. The band fired bassist Dave Alexander in August 1970 because he was an alcoholic and the band broke up for the first time in July 1971 (the same month Jim Morrison died). The band then briefly reunited in 1972 to record Raw Power. Their roadie and touring bassist Zeke Zettner died of a heroin overdose at the age of 25 in 1973. The Stooges broke up for a second and final time in 1974. Dave Alexander died at the age of 27 due to his alcoholism in 1975.

Iggy Pop checked himself into a drug rehabilitation clinic in a mental hospital in Los Angeles in 1975. During that same year David Bowie's cocaine psychosis was rapidly spiraling out of control as he recorded the sessions for Station to Station in Cherokee Studios.

In 1976 David Bowie left L.A. behind to return to Europe. He invited Iggy Pop to embark with him on this voyage. David Bowie had already begun to immerse himself in the experimentation of Krautrock pioneers such as Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger of Neu! (whose incorporation of industrial noise on the track "Negativland" from their December 1971 sessions for their self-titled debut would later inspire Bowie's Berlin period especially the opening track "Speed of Life" from Low.)

Fun House was recorded in a frenetic and furious two weeks in Los Angeles with an acid-fueled Iggy who was only 23 years young. L.A. was the city of hell for Iggy. The album cover of Fun House showed Iggy swarming and writhing in a fiery maelstrom. In complete contrast Iggy's solo debut was recorded during multiple months in a series of sessions at the Chateau d'Herouville in France as well as Musicland Studios in Munich. It sounds different than any other album he ever created.

The album cover of The Idiot showed Iggy standing and staring into the void surrounded by falling snow. Iggy was contemplative and introspective on the cover and in the songs. He was reflecting on the ruins and wreckage of his past.

The Idiot saved Iggy from certain self-destruction.

It was also musically innovative.

The original Rolling Stone review aptly summarized The Idiot as "the most savage indictment of rock posturing ever recorded" and "a necrophiliac's delight."

The album's songs can be split into three categories: 1.) tormented love/lust ballads ("Baby" / "China Girl" / "Tiny Girls") which were already part of Iggy's lyrical consciousness (examples from The Stooges are "Ann" & "Dirt"); 2.) celebrations of Berlin's nocturnal culture ("Nightclubbing" / "Funtime"); 3.) autobiographical exorcisms ("Sister Midnight" / "Dum Dum Boys").

"Sister Midnight' is the bastardized '70s child of The Doors' "The End"--Iggy's Oedipal dream of sex with his mother and being hunted by his father. It is an amalgam of funk and Krautrock led by Carlos Alomar's menacing and super cool guitar.

"Nightclubbing" is a decadent 1930s German cabaret piano combined with a drum machine. It's dance music for zombies.

"Funtime" is The Stooges' visceral hard rock turned inside out and transformed into a horror movie train stop party.

"Dum Dum Boys" is Iggy's detached and weary farewell to his 20s as he entered his 30s. It is a poignant and soul-searching lament for his former bandmates who disappeared and vanished. It lays the foundation for post-punk.

The closing track "Mass Production" was Iggy's dissection of industrial life. As he said in the book Gimme Danger: "I would always talk to Bowie about how much I admired the beauty of the American industrial culture that was rotting away where I grew up. Like the beautiful smokestacks and factories—whole cities devoted to factories." "Mass Production" is a dystopian nightmare with mechanical sounds sampled on tape loops grinding away harshly while Iggy groans and moans disturbing lyrics concerning dehumanization.

"I like to drive along the freeways
See the smokestacks belching
Breasts turn brown
So warm and so brown

Though I try to die
You put me back on the line
Oh damn it to hell
Back on the line, hell
Back on the line
Again and again
I'm back on the line
Again and again
And I see my face here
And it's there in the mirror
And it's up in the air
And I'm down in the ground"

The Idiot heavily influenced countless bands and musicians including Ian Curtis (of Joy Division) who committed suicide while listening to its bleak hallucinations.

The Idiot's title was taken from Fyodor Dostoevsky's philosophical novel. It is the darkest and greatest album of Iggy Pop's career.

Soundtrack for late night loners.


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