Did Iggy Pop invent
punk rock? Probably. The editors of “Punk” magazine say so;
say Lou Reed gets so much credit only because they stuck him on the first issue of their
magazine. They point out: how many punk bands cover VU songs? Uh huh. And how many
cover Stooges songs? Now you get it.
I was pretty blindingly
drunk last night at the Iggy show, and somewhere along the line I
lost my expensive new glasses, and a lot of my attention was spent venting my aggression at a
former best friend who I was hanging out with for the first time in five years. But somewhere in
there was a fucking unbelievable show from surely the most fit 50+ year old since Jack Lalaine.
Iggy Pop was transcendent; he broke through every barrier; it was among the most live rock shows
I've seen in my life. Man!
Iggy’s band wasn’t
really that tight, but they played hard. Real hard. There was
bullshit; no idiotic choreography – just Iggy’s writhing, stage-diving (twice!), winner-take-all
abandon. When he shouted “Raw Power Now!” in the encore, it wasn’t just kicking off a
blistering version of the title track from that golden 70s album of his – it was an incantation, and
a summation as well. Iggy was raw power – and it was here and now and right on the small
Irving Plaza stage.
I’ve been in harder-core
mosh pits before, but never one as wild and yet perfect as this
one. Mosh pits are the perfect venue for shared angst. There’s anger, and frustration, and
violence, but all of it is – this sounds contradictory if you’ve never been there – positive. People
support each other, while pushing each other. At good shows, the drunk assholes who really
want to punch other people just aren’t around. Those guys don’t understand punk at all – they
think it’s about being an asshole, just like the rest of their lives. No, punk is about being an
asshole to a worldview that wants to repress, organize, worry, prettify – anything in the way of
raw power. And when you’re in the pit, we’re all on the same team. Maybe it was that Iggy Pop
has so much stature in the community that people were on better behavior than usual. But no one
seemed to be watching themselves. It seemed like there were just better people around.
“I Wanna Be Your Dog” with the entire floor shouting – I lost my voice
singing along. (Bad news for my bandmates in my garage band, The Swains, plug plug.) The
newish song “Corruption” took on life that it only hinted at on the record. “Search and Destroy,”
another chestnut from Raw Power, sung in the same pitch, with the same agony at the world, as if
James Osterberg is still sitting in shock treatment with thousands of volts going through his head.
There’s a nice
scene in Todd Haynes’ Velvet Goldmine where the film tries to trace
punk comes from, and theorizes that it might’ve just been born in one of those shock treatment
sessions, with the shrinks blowing some fuse in Iggy’s brain and giving birth to all that came
after. Certainly, it seems like he had something in his head in 1968 that no one else did, not the
garage rockers, not Lou, no one – a kind of mis-fit between himself and his world, and the talent
to translate that alienation and confusion into unbelievably powerful and raw music. Jim
Morrison sang about breaking through to the other side – Iggy was already there, screaming.
For a moment, I
wondered if this was all an act. I read somewhere that Iggy’s now
in Boca Raton, Florida, playing golf and driving a big car around. Were the tortured looks the
result of years of practice? Was the constant movement just a matter of athleticism? It’s hard to
evaluate when a rock star is in it for real and when he’s faking it. With some (Mick comes to
mind), you get the feeling they don’t know the difference anymore. But with Iggy, I don’t know,
maybe it was just the 7&7s, but I felt it, I felt as though this had to be coming from someplace so
real most of us don’t talk about it. Something in the yelps, the way he moved his fingers over his
bare chest as if in self-loathing, the energy that the crowd fed back to him and that he spit back at
Maybe it doesn’t
matter. Rock and roll is half a con game anyway. So what if
faking. But I don’t believe it, and I don’t want to believe it. I want to believe that we don’t
imagine the connections our most honest artists build with us, that they really do care and that
under it all, the pain is still there and still real and still the source of all this beautiful and terrible
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