Dancing with Iggy Pop
In April 2007, Iggy Pop spent his 60th birthday playing a show with his reunited rock band the Stooges in San Francisco. It was not only a milestone for the so-called “godfather of punk,” but also a significant event for me.
I had seen Iggy maybe a dozen times, but I never had the opportunity to join the traditional crowd-participation segment when fans get to dance on stage during a song. This time would be different, I vowed. I watched most of the show from a prime position on the floor of the stately Warfield, and slowly moved toward the front as the show progressed. The opening licks of “No Fun,” a tune from the band’s self-titled 1969 debut, were my signal, and Iggy invited fans to join him. The stage was hardly a Marine-style obstacle course, but I just couldn’t get a footing and my quest looked pathetically doomed. Just then a fan above me held out a hand, and hoisted me up. The hand belonged to a girl.
About two dozen people were already on stage. I got my bearings, looked out into the audience, and basked in my sudden rock stardom. I sauntered over to guitarist Ron Asheton, who was doing his best to stay away from the masses, and watched Iggy contort himself. As usual, he was shirtless. W-shaped waves of veins rippled across his chiseled torso. His blue jeans seemed sprayed on and his long straight hair well shampooed. If this is what a lifetime of drugs and decadence can do to a man, I need to find a needle and a spoon. Roadies eventually herded the Iggy-dubbed “Bay Area dancers” backstage after the song ended, and we ended up back on the dance floor.
During the encore, the crowd sang along as the band struck up “Happy Birthday,” and balloons bearing Iggy’s image dropped from the ceiling. A fan handed him a white T-shirt inscribed “Birthday Boy Iggy,” which Iggy proudly displayed to his unimpressed bandmates. He seemed thrilled by all the attention, but did not dwell too much on the special occasion. He muttered a few thanks along the way before returning to scheduled programming: stage diving, manic singing and dancing, spitting into the crowd, scampering onto the speakers, and throwing his microphone stand around the stage. The whole thing was over in 80 minutes. Iggy doubtless headed to bed with an obscure novel and a cup of tea, and I went back to my hotel room to write up my story. Missions accomplished.
I assumed his life was happier than it had been a decade earlier, when his marriage crumbled and he got dangerously introspective. The enjoyably grim spoken-word intro on his 1999 album Avenue B said it all, “It was in the winter of my 50th year when it hit me: I was really alone and there wasn’t a hell of a lot of time left.”
The only thing that prevented me from buying into the album completely was that Iggy distanced himself from the lyrics when pressed during interviews. I shared my disappointment with him during a 2001 conversation.
“It’s a shame, Dean, that one does interviews at all,” he said.
(Wait! What did Iggy Pop say next? Buy Strange Days here to find out.)
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