40 Years Ago: Iggy Pop Explodes With ‘Lust for Life’
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1977 was a pivotal year for rock and roll in so many ways. Whether you were roaming arenas and stadiums filled by the Eagles, Led Zeppelin or Fleetwood Mac, or digging into the sounds emanating from New York City or the London underground, there was a lot going on. As a new wave of rock and roll bands were pushing forward, many of the old guard stood their ground. Among those was Iggy Pop who issued two classic albums that year. The Idiot, released in the spring of ’77 and in late summer, the seminal Lust for Life.
The Ramones, Television, the Clash, Sex Pistols, the Jam, and countless others put some much need energy and fun back into rock and roll, and though Iggy was a major influence on many of these acts, he seemed skeptical about the “godfather of punk” that the press labeled him with. “Punk rock is a word used by dilettantes and heartless manipulators about music that takes up the energies, and the bodies, and the hearts and the souls and the time and the minds of young men who give everything they have to it,” he told an interviewer in 1977. “It’s a term that’s based on contempt. It’s a term that’s based in fashion, style, elitism, Satanism and everything that’s rotten about rock and roll.”
To call Lust for Life a triumph for Iggy is an understatement. Years of physical and mental chaos, along with drug abuse, landed Iggy in no man’s land around 1974. After crossing paths with his old pal David Bowie again, the duo began to claw their way back. Bowie set his course on the albums Heroes and Low, while he and Iggy joined forces for what many consider to be Iggy’s finest post-Stooges work – The Idiot and Lust for Life. While The Idiot had a darker, more European feel, Lust for Life brought it all back home with a vengeance.
From the thunderous Motown beat that kicks off the title track, the energy and attitude just explode. It was the sound of Iggy rejuvenated with all cylinders firing. This song has had a life all its own over the decades, being used in countless commercials and films. Its use in the 1996 film Trainspotting introduced Iggy to a whole new generation of fans. For such an anthem, the song’s origin is fairly mundane. Iggy had the beat in mind as Bowie came up with the tune. “He (Bowie) wrote the chord progression on ukulele, and he said, ‘Call it “Lust for Life,” write something up,’” he later told the New York Times.
One song after another, Iggy hits and hits hard. “Sixteen,” “Some Weird Sin,” “The Passenger,” and “Success” are all instant high-energy, rock and roll classics. Guitarists Carlos Alomar and Ricky Gardiner, and the powerhouse rhythm section of Hunt and Tony Sales, provided the perfect band to execute this material. The production, assisted by Bowie, is sharp and direct, and a perfect fit for the era. Unlike The Idiot, where Bowie cast a huge influence sonically, his presence here is less dominating. Although he played keyboards and co-wrote many of the tracks, it’s really all Iggy’s show here.
After Bowie’s death in 2016, Iggy looked back on this period. “The friendship was basically that this guy salvaged me from certain professional and maybe personal annihilation — simple as that,” Iggy told the Times. “A lot of people were curious about me, but only he was the one who had enough truly in common with me, and who actually really liked what I did and could get on board with it, and who also had decent enough intentions to help me out. He did a good thing.” The album received almost unanimous high praise in the press at the time,
Lust for Life has more than stood the test of time, and it still sounds fresh and exciting, and remains one of Iggy’s most loved, and best-selling, albums. An LP that is both very much of its time and yet able to transcend the years since it was released is a rarity, and this is one of those.
Iggy Pop Albums Ranked in Order of Awesomeness