Music: Ol' red eyes is back

Iggy Pop always did it his way. Now 50, he has produced an intensely personal album. Deep in Sinatra territory.

When in 1972 Iggy Pop was encouraged to discharge himself from a psychiatric hospital by David Bowie, his first port of call was Columbia Records. Despite his continuing drug addiction and associated mental illness, he still had a vision of the ultimate rock 'n' roll band. That band was called The Stooges. They had already released two stunning albums - their eponymous debut and the hugely influential Fun House - but then found themselves on the wrong end of the record company axe. The Stooges subsequently imploded through an almost superhuman taste for the extreme side of life.

Post-hospital, post-trauma and newly revitalised, Iggy Pop entered the offices of MD Clive Davis with a plan for another Stooges album. This time with Bowie on production duties. Raw Power, the album that emerged, was a collection of bile-spitting, furious, trailer-trash rock songs that eventually sent reverberations throughout the world.

It was the start of a period that was to define people's attitudes towards the Detroit-born Iggy Pop, nee James Newell Osterberg. A series of shows followed that featured the silver-haired vocalist slashing himself with broken bottles, urinating on fans and walking on the upturned palms of audiences. It was a period marked by a self-destructive urge which culminated in the infamous final Stooges show where Iggy declared war on the local Hell's Angels chapter. As a result he left the stage badly beaten, cut to ribbons, unable to walk but still hurling abuse, an evening captured on the semi-official bootleg Metallic KO.

This, of course, is the populist image of the wild man of rock 'n' roll. But there is another story, equally important to the man's musical passion and world view. Back in the Columbia offices it wasn't a self-mutilating rock 'n' roll performance that secured Iggy his deal. The winning factor that put Clive Davis's signature to the cheque book was Iggy's rendition of a Sinatra standard. He used the executive's desk as his stage and now thinks the whole event may have scared Davis into signing the Stooges.

Frank Sinatra's croon has always underpinned Pop's vocal performance. Whether on the Bowie-produced The Idiot and Lust for Life albums or the much stranger Chris (Blondie) Stein-endorsed Zombie Birdhouse, Iggy's desire to explore smooth baritones has long been present. Indeed, throughout the punk era, when hungry crowds were baying for those Stooges numbers, Iggy would take almost perverse pleasure in delivering a lounge-core version of Sinatra's paean to lonely drinkers "One For The Road".

After a career spanning almost 35 years, Iggy has finally recorded the collection of songs he has always threatened. Avenue B - after his one- time New York home - is an intensely personal album which finds the man deep in Sinatra territory. More to the point, it is entirely inspired by the mood of Sinatra's Bel Canto albums Only the Lonely, Where Are You? and Close to You. The singer has come back full circle to that day 27 years ago on Clive Davis's desk.

"Ha! He just gave me the money and said get out of here," laughs Iggy Pop. "But that whole Sinatra thing was always there. For the new album, which I spent three years doing, I spent a lot of time listening to those Bel Canto recordings. There was an essence of something that I particularly liked in those records. The tough guy, the woman who's somehow in control, but from a distance.

"I was building towards this record for a long time. That Shaken and Stirred James Bond thing [a collaboration with David Arnold in which Iggy crooned through "Wonderful World"] was kind of a precursor to this. In fact I've taken on a couple of little projects over the past couple of years just to see how I would do. Basically, I just thought that, at this stage in the game, if I'm going to put my face and name on the cover of an album, there needed to be something representative of where I am now. And this really ruled out working in any other standard contemporary genres."

The point where Iggy Pop is just now, it would seem, is post mid-life crisis. Just as with his old friend and collaborator Bowie, the past few years of Iggy's career have been marked out by endless attempts to recapture the essence of his youth. In Bowie's case this has taken the shape of explorations into jungle, out rock, avant garde - anything to help him rediscover his early career. Likewise, Iggy Pop has frequently searched out that old thrash attack of his youth, culminating in the largely workmanlike rock-outs of the album Naughty Little Doggie.

"Well, yes, you could say there has been an element of mid-life crisis, sure. And I've enjoyed it," he says. "But there was another element here. I needed to understand aspects of myself as I turned 50. My relationships with other people, and with myself. I'm not what you would call a gregarious person. I like people, but I've enjoyed my time away from people."

This "time away" is another underlying theme to Avenue B. Throughout the three years that he took to record the album he lived in self-imposed exile. He moved from New York to Miami (as a direct result of an ongoing amicable divorce from his wife) and, as he explains in the opening track, "No Shit", "became strangely bookish". There is a sense that with this album Iggy Pop has come through an experience that might once have forced him to check into his nearest psychiatric unit.

"It's true I once needed the institution to do it for me, but now I am capable of reflection on my own terms," he admits. However, the fact that many of the album's lyrics suggest that his state of mind is down to women - mostly half his age - brings us back to that good old mid-life crisis.

"It's really all about how I perceive myself through these women, which is what we all do, actually. We're living in times of total self-analysis where we are being told that everything is OK. You have a self-help guru, or a religious guy or a shrink, and they'll tell you that anything you want is all right: love yourself, modern relationships and their ins and outs..." he says, digressing into one of his rambling invectives, "... let's have barriers, kids without parents, but you're not actually learning anything about yourself or others, you're just learning pop psychology. I think of women as mirrors on my own psychosis. It's simple really.

"But there is an element of myself as the distant figure, observing others as a way of observing myself. I'm not your classic playboy. It's a thrill to meet somebody that I turn out to like but my usual MO is that of `loner'. I like meeting people when it's not empty."

So has the Iggy of old mellowed in his old age? Should we be preparing ourselves for the Unplugged album?

"Not at all," he laughs. "There was a guy called Lester Bangs who once wrote `Iggy Pop is trying to manage the Apocalypse; you cannot manage the Apocalypse'. I say `Why not?' Hey, let's give it a shot and see how it rolls. I'm not doing anything else on Tuesday, so let's see how it feels to manage the Apocalypse. I'm still working this one out."

`Avenue B' is out on 20 September (Virgin)

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?