I have heard several versions of Raw Power, and even though the one Iggy remixed in 1997 is the one he likes best, the version released on CD in 1989 is the one I first heard. The very first chord of “Search and Destroy” is different, so I am partial to that mix. Sorry, Iggy.
I remember seeing Iggy on David Letterman’s NBC show in the 80s. I did not know who this scrawny, spastic dude was, and it wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I learned anything about him. Thanks to PBS’ brilliant rock ‘n’ roll history documentary series in 1995 I was schooled about punk and glam rock, and I was hungry to learn everything. I had been a student of rock ‘n’ roll since I was about 8 years old and could check out Dave Marsh’s Book of Rock Lists from the library as many times as legally possible. I started listening to the music at age 5 when I got my first record player. But punk and glam were not part of my repertoire, as my mother and uncle, whose records were responsible for the bulk of my rock ‘n’ roll education, did not own any records in those genres.
Seeing footage of Iggy smearing peanut butter on his tiny, half-naked body was quite a treat! And to paraphrase Iggy, I needed more. I bought Raw Power when I was about 23, and I played it to death. The title is accurate; it definitely is raw and powerful, and it was precisely what I needed.
Plenty has been written about how bored and frustrated and ready for action I was at that age. Most people are bored and frustrated and ready for action in their early 20s. Iggy was the perfect hero for me. He was one of those guys who did whatever the fuck he wanted to do. He experienced all that life had to offer, good and bad. He went to the edge and somehow made it back. He did all the drugs, fucked everyone, did all the crazy shit he wanted, and I wanted to be just as free as he was (except for the drugs—I liked drinking)! How could I do that in the outer ring Cleveland suburbs? I had nothing going on, really. I was in college, but I skipped class a lot yet still got good grades. I had ongoing drama with my gay BFF with whom I was in love. Once I got past that, there was another guy I worked with, a bisexual who at that time was more into guys, I was chasing after. He was a big old waste of time, and not very bright. But I digress.
Iggy made me feel like a badass. “Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell” seemed like a great theme song for me. I longed to be scandalous and have wild adventures and fame and fortune. I wanted to experience all that life had to offer, sexually and otherwise. But I was a virgin. I desperately wanted to change that.
Penetrate, penetrate me
I’m so fine, so fine, so fine
I get excited, I get excited
I’m alone, I’m so fine, pull a line
Meanwhile, back at the grocery store bakery…
I went out a lot. I drank. I was still chasing that dumb guy, and I finally caught him one drunken night in Toronto. I don’t remember much about it, but it created a hot mess for the rest of that weekend. But at least I knew what it felt like. And for the next 6 months I knew what it felt like here and there. Then shit got more dramatic than ever, and he stopped talking to me. It was rough, but I got all crazy and wanted him to pay me back for all the shit I ever bought him. It was totally like on Judge Judy when bitchez get dumped and suddenly all that money was a loan! I did that. And he paid me back.
I want to fall
Into a love so sweet
be able to blame it all
on the beat
Hot flesh and a touch of bone
Smell is in the air
But I am feelin’ so alone
I say yeah yeah
Hallucination, true romance
I needed love
But I only lost my pants
and that ain’t all
There is lots of primal screaming on this album. That was appealing to me when I first fell in love with it. Iggy showed that you don’t have to sing the words so much as destroy them. There is a lot to say about his influence on punk, and it’s clear that there would have been no such thing without Iggy Pop’s gigantic balls. He was unafraid and passionate and real. I feel a special connection to this album because it came out the year I was born, so we kind of grew up together even though I didn’t hear it until I was an adult. But it’s one of those albums without which I would not be who I am today. I love it so much that I have the cover of it tattooed above my right hip.
“I Need Somebody” is sort of spooky and languid. It’s fun to sing like Iggy in this one. It sounds like a song that could have been in some hippy horror movie or something. “Shake Appeal” is another fun one to sing and clap along with. And “Death Trip” is a great example of the perfect ending to an album. The lyrics, the screaming, the music itself—all brilliant.
Now tell me do you care for me
Once I care for you
A-honey, come and be my enemy so I can love you true
A sick boy sick boy fadin’ out, I love it to be cruel
Baby with me in the heat, turn me loose on you
Loose on you
Honey loose on you a-honey loose on you
Honey loose on you!
And this song provided the name Sick Boy for Jonny Lee Miller’s character in Trainspotting, a movie that heavily featured Iggy’s music. It came out as my Iggy obsession was beginning. I went to see it with the aforementioned dumbass I was in love with, and he could not understand a fucking word anyone said! He fell asleep before the middle of the movie, too. Whatever. Trainspotting is great on all levels, and the way they use Iggy’s music is superb. None of the songs in the movie are from Raw Power, but they made me love Iggy even more, especially “Lust for Life.” Iggy’s music lends itself to the drama of film, especially a movie like Trainspotting.
Iggy’s music also lends itself to the drama of life in a very real way. It empowered me at the same time it made me connect to the low points life can bring. Ultimately, it created a space in my worldview where I could feel that anything was possible. I was still writing like a fiend back then, working on novels and poetry and trying to live the drama in life and then capture it on the page. I suffered with depression, but I never felt hopeless about the future. I read Iggy’s I Need More (and I have that phrase tattooed on my left elbow) and learned more about all the crazy shit he did, and I was impressed that he’s still here. So I knew that whatever I was going through, I would make it. It was difficult to believe that sometimes, but I did. Music certainly makes life worth living.