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Music

Remembering when Bruce Willis covered Iggy Pop song 'Lust for Life'

@SamWKemp

2003 was a bloody good year for cinema. It saw the release of the final film in Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy, Tim Burton’s Big Fish, Cold Mountain, Love Actually, Holes, Mystic River, Dogville, The Last Samurai, Lost In Translation, Freaky Friday (don’t mess with the Lohan), and most memorably of all, The Rugrats Go Wild. While the film version of the beloved kid’s cartoon may not have won any awards for breaking new cinematic ground or touching on taboo subjects, it did feature Bruce Willis performing a cover of Iggy Pop’s 1977 track ‘Lust For Life’, which in my opinion is Oscar-worthy in itself.

‘Lust for Life’ was an interesting choice for a light-hearted family romp starring Nigel Thornberry. The track, the title of which is taken from Irving Stone’s 1934 biographical novel about the Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh, focuses on Iggy Pop’s gritty life as a heroin addict. With references to everything from stripteases and drugs to hypnotising chickens, it’s little wonder the makers of The Rugrats Go Wild decided to change the lyrics ever so slightly

Instead of referring to Pop’s dark and seedy deeds, Bruce Willis – yes, the same man who kills terrorists in Die Hard – sings: “Yeah, I’m worth a million in chew toys / Yeah I’m through sleeping in the / Dog pound- no more licking my woo!”. What in God’s name a woo is, I don’t know, but it sounds gross. The rendition is astonishingly good. Willis’ vocals have just the right amount of grit and twang, and the backing track is pretty much spot-on too.

By far Iggy Pop’s most famous hit, ‘Lust For Life’ was co-written by David Bowie on, of all things, a ukulele. According to lore, it was inspired by the opening theme to the American Forces Network News, which the pair often listened to during their stay in Berlin – a city that was supposed to serve as a form of rehab but, as Bowie later confessed, actually turned out to be “the heroin capital of the world.”

Speaking to Q Magazine in 2013, Pop recalled how Berlinese television inspired the ‘Lust For Life’ drum groove: “Once a week the Armed Forces Network would play Starsky & Hutch and that was our little ritual. AFN would broadcast an ID when they came on the air, a representation of a radio tower, and it made a signal sound, ‘beep-beep-beep, beep-beep-ba-beep.’ And we went, ‘Aha we’ll take that!’. David grabbed his ukulele, worked out the chords, and away we went.”