Not the Pazz and Jop 1973 – #3

Iggy & the Stooges – Raw Power

For a guy who hasn’t had much commercial success, Iggy Pop has an outsized pop culture presence. A treacherously skinny standup comic I saw live in the early 1990s said he was doing the “Iggy Pop workout tape”, and we all got the reference. (For younger readers, workout tapes were things we could buy in order to help us exercise in front of our televisions in our underwear or pyjamas, before regular people started going to gyms and it became acceptable to wear such items in public.) I’ve always been a little scared of him. He looks like a fit version of the addict he once was, all sinew and raw energy. He’s the guy who, meeting him on a street late at night, you either, depending on how you’re wired, cross the street to avoid or follow to see where he ends up, because you know that’s where the party is. It will shock no one who knows me to hear I am the “cross the street” type.

Though I’ve liked the songs from Iggy that made it into the broader culture, I knew instinctively that this wasn’t something I’d be playing on any kind of regular basis. With only a  few exceptions, I’ve never listened to much hard or punk rock, and Iggy was definitely the former and possibly the original of the latter. The only one of his records I ever bought was the 45 of “Real Wild Child (Wild One)”, which I believe I first heard in the trailer for “Adventures in Babysitting”, which was not a very good movie, though rewatching the trailer reminds me why I went to see it in the first place.

It’s a fired up collection, and if nothing here gets your heart racing, you are either a world class athlete or you really, really need to see a doctor. However you want to describe this – garage or proto-punk – there is something primal about this music. The vocals are often screams, and though prominent in the mix (along with lead guitar, to the virtual negation of the rhythm section at times), he really doesn’t seem to care if you understand what he’s singing. The force of their sound is relentless, the pace rarely lets up, the tenor often menacing. It’s a messy record, distorted and disjointed, but never confused about what it wants to be. The standout songs for me are the more bluesy “I Need Somebody”, along with “Gimme Danger”, a very insistent tune that crawls into your head and won’t leave. 

Despite being a good listen overall, I’m fairly certain I will never play this album again. I don’t know why I don’t love this – maybe I only have room for one purely punk record in my life, and that slot is forever owned by the Sex Pistols. Or maybe that’s just how taste works. If you love everything, then you don’t really love anything.