From David Bowie to Sex Pistols: The 9 best covers of Iggy Pop
Iggy Pop is a serious performer, it cannot be denied by anyone who has witnessed him deliver one of his trademark shows. As the lead singer of The Stooges, he captivated an entire generation and showed them that the road to rock ‘n’ roll fame was littered with jagged rocks and slipping mudslides. Things had become dangerous and only Iggy really knew how to navigate it. It’s meant that through his performances and albums, the singer has carved out a career that is entirely unique.
Through his many records, the singer has managed to create a sound so singular that it has become synonymous with only Iggy. Of course, all the trappings of punk rock are there but nothing sounds quite like Iggy because nobody is quite like Iggy Pop. That hasn’t stopped scores of bands and musicians from trying to cover both his and The Stooges songs over the years. Below, we’ve gathered 10 of the best.
Iggy Pop, who has been tearing up stages since 1969, burst into the collective consciousness when he appeared ready for battle at the 1970 Cincinnati Pop Festival as the leader of the Stooges gang. A crowd member threw a jar of peanut butter at the singer and, as Iggy caught the missile, he collected his thoughts and quickly began smearing the contents on his torso. Iggy Pop had arrived.
Ever since that moment, the singer has been an icon, first of the underground sleaze that ran the inner cities across America and then taking on the world. Joining forces with artists like David Bowie, Josh Homme and Matt Helders has never dampened Iggy’s fire and neither has his age. He may now be called the ‘Grandfather of Punk Rock’ but, damn, he’s a pretty cool grandaddy.
The best covers of Iggy Pop:
‘Funtime’ – Blondie
Iggy Pop and Blondie have shared a long and happy friendship as well as a few of their own shared covers over the years. Two of New York’s adopted children, Iggy Pop’s thunderous live shows helped to reinvigorate a club scene that Debbie Harry and the rest of her band would capitalise on with aplomb later in the decade. By the time Iggy had released The Idiot in 1977, Blondie were on their way to stardom.
While they were getting there, the band would often provide a cover of The Stooges track ‘Funtime’ as part of their show. Though the group never released the cover, this version of the track is simmering with NYC cool and confirms once again that Debbie Harry was always going to be a star.
‘Search And Destroy’ – Red Hot Chili Peppers
Another classic from The Stooges, ‘Search and Destroy’ is a song that has been widely covered ever since its release. Burning with passion and malicious intent, for our money, nobody does it better than the Red Hot Chili Peppers. If anyone can put the wild antics of the original up to the spotlight of a new generation then it was the wildmen of their day, RHCP.
Released as the B-side to their huge hits ‘Under The Bridge’ and ‘Give It Away’ the song has always been close to the hearts of the band. It’s also a track which lets the entire group lose it on stage as they perform it live, turning the group, just for a moment, into the teenage boys who first heard the song on their radios back in 1970.
‘No Fun’ – Sex Pistols
If Iggy Pop is the Godfather of Punk, and he is, then it seems only fitting that seven years later his bratty godchildren, the Sex Pistols, would pay homage to the singer on their debut LP Never Mind The Boolocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols. Their cover of ‘No Fun’ would be so brilliant, in fact, that most people who bought the record thought it was their song.
Taken from The Stooges’ 1969 self-titled debut LP, Johnny Rotten and the band’s cover of the song is superb and laden with some serious menace. It was the final song the Sex Pistols ever performed on stage as they destroyed a year-long career in an instant. Still, it sounds fresher than ever before.
‘The Passenger’ – Siouxsie Sioux
Taken from Iggy Pop’s LP Lust For Life, ‘The Passenger’ is a song that will likely outlive us all. So deeply entrenched with the gloom of city living, it’s hard to imagine a world without the track. It may seem like an over-estimation, but the song is a tribute to the mercurial genius of Iggy Pop and, perhaps most importantly, his relationship with David Bowie. When the song was put in the hands of post-punk royalty Siouxsie and The Banshees, things kicked up a notch.
Released on the band’s 1987 album Through The Looking Glass, Siouxsie’s vocal, as imposing and impressive as ever, leads the song into a brand new direction. Now far more haunting and with a whiff of cobwebs in the air, the song’s long-standing imagery is rendered in a fine gloom before being punctuated with a swinging beat and the brassy breath of modernity that now feels inextricable from the original song.
‘China Girl’ – David Bowie
With The Stooges, Iggy Pop chose not to ally himself with British ‘representers’ of American R&B. However, in his association with David Bowie, he embraced an altogether more conceptual approach to music. Decamping to heroin capital Berlin (to allegedly kick drugs), Iggy and Bowie collaborated on two albums that are considered by many to be masterpieces: The Idiot and Lust for Life. Interleaving neatly with Bowie’s Berlin trilogy (Low, Heroes and Lodger), from a 21st Century perspective they are understood very much within the context of a creative arch that includes the hits ‘Sound and Vision’, ‘Heroes’ and ‘Boys Keep Swinging’. But finding a hit for Iggy proved elusive.
In an attempt to remedy this, Bowie curated a promo campaign that capitalised on Pop’s reputation as an architect of the punk movement. While Iggy Pop distanced himself from the term, the endorsement from Bowie (who was playing keyboards in Pop’s band) cemented his kudos. Second single ‘China Girl’ failed to chart anywhere; however, when re-recorded with Nile Rogers for David Bowie’s 1983 album Let’s Dance, it went Top 10 in America and reached number two in the UK. When it won the best video award at the 1984 MTV Awards, stylishly Bowie sent Iggy to collect the trophy.
‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ – Sonic Youth
The no wave group Sonic Youth would make their TV debut on saxophonist David Sanborn’s late-night music show called ‘Night Music’. The show had a very short run from 1988-1990 but still had some incredible acts take on performances in the show such as Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Miles Davis, The Pixies, Sun Ra, and so many more.
Sonic Youth would make their debut on the show with a special performance of their Daydream Nation song ‘Silver Rocket’ which came complete with a mid-song artistic freakout. However, as part of Sanborn’s initial vision for Night Music, the group would also need to perform a cover with the rest of the guests on the show.
Sanborn recalled in a 2013 interview, “The idea was to get musicians from different genres on the show, have them perform something individually — preferably something more obscure or unexpected rather than their latest hit — and then have a moment toward the end where everyone would kind of get together and do something collectively.” As the credits were primed and ready to go, Sonic Youth joined the stage accompanied by Sandborn, members of The Indigo Girls, the Night Music band, and Daniel Lanois for a special performance of The Stooges’ ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’.
‘Sister Midnight’ – Reverend & The Makers
Taken from Iggy’s solo album from 1977 The Idiot, the song ‘Sister Midnight’ may well be ranked as one of his fans’ favourite songs. The song is indelibly affected by the work of Carlos Alomar who really brought the funk down on this track to make an intoxicating cocktail when mixed with Iggy’s own oedipal lyricism. Considering the former angle, it’s no wonder that indie-funk giants Reverend & The Makers chose to take on the song.
The Sheffield born band, fronted by John McLure, were part of the ‘00s indie takeover but quickly set themselves apart with a groove that nobody could match. It means a song like ‘Sister Midnight’ is cannon fodder. Beefed up and polished with post-Millenium rags, the song is lifted into a brand new space.
‘Down on the Street’ – Rage Against The Machine
The Stooges album Fun House is arguably one of the finest rock albums of the 1970s and it only arrived halfway through the first year. An extension of the group’s growing and burning power (something which would be extinguished soon after) the song ‘Down on the Street’ was another pulverising assessment of the crumbling world around them. Perfect for a band like Rage Against the Machine then.
The band covered the song as part of their Renegades covers album. It’s difficult to make a covers album when the songs you are choosing are from the same field of music, but when you’re Rage Against The Machine and nobody is really in your field you have to improvise. It means this covers record is pulled from a wide range of different genres and artistic channels. But perhaps the finest moment is this cover of The Stooges classic which they deliver with a clusterbomb of funk as a free gift.
‘Lust For Life’ – David Bowie
During Bowie and Iggy’s time in mainland Europe, the pair were living and working together in incredibly close proximity and so it’s no surprise that Bowie is featured on much of Iggy’s work and, perhaps most notably, on his second studio album Lust For Life. It was this LP that the pair worked on together with Bowie also helming the mixing desk on Pop’s first solo work The Idiot earlier in that year. 1977 was a blur for the duo.
The tune for the album’s title track, the anthemic ‘Lust For Life’ reportedly came from a curious source. Reports say that Bowie and Iggy would often watch American television via the AFN (Armed Forces Network) such as ‘Starsky & Hutch’. Bowie picked up his son Duncan’s ukelele and started to replicate the station’s ident jingle with a curious flourish.
From this, Bowie and Pop began to construct the song piece by piece. The first stop, as was always the way for former percussionist Iggy, started with the drums and the original song featured a 1:10min drum-led intro which was later scrapped. From there they created a seminal moment in punk and alternative rock history. Nearly 20 years later and the power of the song seemingly had not diminished for one of its original performers as David Bowie sings the track to a rapturous crowd at Germany’s Rockpalast Festival.