Wednesday, April 21, 2010

April 21: Iggy Pop, "Lust For Life"

Artist: Iggy Pop
Song: "Lust For Life"
Album: Lust For Life
Year: 1977

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Throughout the course of music history, there are a handful of performers that are so dynamic, so massively influential, that it is nearly impossible to properly express just how essential their presence is to the development of their specific genre.  Whether they innovated a new style or approach with an instrument, or they developed a completely new style of musical arrangement, this list contains only the most elite musicians in music history.  Then of course, there is the man known as Iggy Pop.  In many ways defining everything it meant to be a rock and roll frontman, nearly every performer that followed owes at least some of their stage presence to the style and approach of Iggy Pop.  A true pioneer in his approach to singing and performing, even at more than sixty years of age, he continues to perform with such energy that few modern acts can even come close to his power.  From his early days as the frontman of punk pioneers, The Stooges, to his long string of amazing solo records, Iggy Pop has unquestionably earned the title of "Godfather of Punk," and one simply does not have the rise of hard rock or punk without his contributions.  Using his early years fronting The Stooges as a road map, when Iggy Pop found himself performing as a solo artist at the tail-end of the 1970's, he was able to unleash some of the most powerful records in an era dominated by artists following in his footsteps.  Perfectly capturing everything it meant to "be" punk, and breathing new life into his musical career, to this day there are few songs that can bring the raw power that one can find in Iggy Pop's 1977 single, "Lust For Life."

Clearly something he perfected in his days with The Stooges, "Lust For Life" opens the album of the same name, and the moment the song begins, it is already in top gear, and yanks the listener along for the ride.  Much of the overall superiority of the music undoubtedly comes from the songs' composer, none other than David Bowie.  Having worked with Iggy Pop during his time with The Stooges, the pair clearly had an amazing connection, and with "Lust For Life," Bowie was able to compose what can only be described as a perfect vehicle for Iggy Pop's vocals.  The songs' opening drum progression, played by Hunt Sales, is without question one of the finest and most recognizable in history.  Somewhat simple in nature, it instantly creates a fantastic, tension filled mood, and mesmerizes listeners as easily on the thousandth listen as on the first.  The drums are clearly the key to the song, as they bounce and wildly fly around the song, keeping "Lust For Life" right on the edge of chaos.  The other half of the rhythm section, Hunt's brother, bassist Tony Sales, drops into the song and is able to give it the trademark "menace" that makes the songs of Iggy Pop so distinctive.  The almost unassuming guitar that drops in, and one can make the case that there is really no "lead" guitar on the song, as Carlos Alomar seems to use the drums as his second guitarist.  Moving as a single unit, the band is able to inject an amazing amount of attitude into the simple, swinging composition, and this unique sound is what makes the song so unforgettable.

Yet as good as the musicians all are on "Lust For Life," as he has proven over his entire career, there is simply no other artist that can compare to the sound and energy of Iggy Pop.  In retrospect, "Lust For Life" is easily the most upbeat song of Iggy Pop's career, and his vocal approach makes the listener want to shake their hips as much as the music, and this alone is a feat which very few performers have ever achieved.  Furthermore, the voice of Iggy Pop has rarely sounded better than it does here, as he belts out the lyrics full force, and his unmistakable attitude rings through clearly on each line.  Within the words of "Lust For Life," one can make the case that this song represents as autobiographical as anything Iggy Pop ever wrote, and the close truth behind the words may be much of the reason that he is able to deliver them with such amazing power and style.  Filled with references to literature, drugs, as well as himself, Iggy Pop spins a magnificent play on words throughout the entire song.  Making clear allusions to the writing of William S. Burroughs, the character of "Johnny Yen," as well as the unforgettable description of "hypnotizing chickens" are both lifted from Burroughs' novel, The Ticket That Exploded.  However, as Iggy Pop has done throughout his entire career, he also sings lines which one must question the truth behind, like when he sings, " more beating my brains, with the liquor and drugs..."  As one of rock musics' more notorious "indulgers," it is a bit of a questionable sentiment, yet Iggy Pop's performance throughout the song makes this fact forgettable, as he is nothing short of extraordinary on every word.

When one looks over the entire history of recorded music, there are a handful of songs that have been borrowed from and reworked so many times over the decades, that one simply cannot deny the massive significance of the original song in question.  Among these unparalleled compositions, one must include Iggy Pop's "Lust For Life," as from songs by more modern artists to commercials to movies, the influence of the song can clearly be heard more than thirty years after it was first released.  Led by the unique musical approach of David Bowie, he clearly understood how to best form a song that would bring out the best in the vocal style of Iggy Pop.  "Lust For Life" bounces off the record in a manner unlike any other song in history, and the fantastic tension that is present throughout the song is also wonderfully unique.  From the winding guitar to the bass which is almost antagonizing in nature, the musicians on "Lust For Life" create an amazing mood and strong base from which James Osterberg can jump and truly unleash the creature known as Iggy Pop.  Kicking off with a level of intensity that is almost exclusive to his own performances, it is on "Lust For Life" that Iggy Pop proved that while he may have already been one of the "elder statesmen" of punk rock, he could still blow any other performer off the stage with his style and energy.  Still standing high above nearly every current musical act, there has never been another performer quite like Iggy Pop, and he can be experienced in all his glory and mastery of musical mayhem on his 1977 classic, "Lust For Life."

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