Iggy Pop’s gifts to the world are endless. He gave us The Stooges, made David Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy possible, and even owns a parrot called Biggy Pop — is there anything not to love?
If you thought the place you held in your heart for Iggy couldn’t swell any further, then I’ve got some diabolical news for you, he also played an instrumental part in the formation of Joy Division. Like many teenage friendships, music solidified their bond, and in Joy Division’s case, it was a shared love of everything Iggy Pop related.
Schoolmates Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook famously first caught eyes on Ian Curtis at The Sex Pistols’ notorious show at Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester back in 1976. They slowly became more friendly with him as they saw his face at a number of different punk shows, and he seemed like the perfect missing ingredient for the band the duo were forming.
While they were all obsessed with punk, Curtis had a broader musical palette, and his encyclopedic love of music soon rubbed off on the rest of the group once they started spending time with him. Kraftwerk is a band that Sumner has previously stated owing his love of to Curtis as he introduced him to the German pioneers, and Iggy Pop is another.
“I knew Ian Curtis from going to punk gigs,” Sumner explained to SPIN in 2005 about Iggy Pop’s The Idiot. “So when we were forming Joy Division, I just gave him the job on the phone. I didn’t even listen to him [sing]. When we went around to his house to pick up his PA system, he had ‘China Girl’ playing. I said, ‘Who’s this track by?’ He said, ‘Oh, it’s Iggy.’ I was like, ‘This is fantastic. Bring it to rehearsal tonight, we’ll try and rip it up.’ So that’s how I got to know Ian.”
Iggy’s music has been a constant throughout Sumner’s life and vice versa. The hell-raising former Stooges leader even named Joy Division as one of his five favourite bands of all time back in 2014. Praise doesn’t get much higher than that.
“These songs are so great. I heard this stuff when I was living in Berlin in the 70s and I was just mighty, mighty impressed,” Iggy commented, adding: “This is fine art and that’s about all I can say about it. On top of all of its other virtues, these are moral songs and those are very difficult to write.”
He’s grown close with Sumner and even joined New Order as an honorary member for one night at the Carnegie Hall. The love-in between the two doesn’t stop there either. On New Order’s 2015 record Music Complete, Iggy makes a gloriously evocative cameo on the track, ‘Stray Dog’.
The Idiot arrived in Sumner’s life at the perfect time, and it was love at first sight for him. That record has remained an influential part of his life, and the precious memories associated with that period make it even more important to him.
What Joy Division would create in their short time together would astonishingly cultivate the same inspired feelings on Iggy Pop as his album, The Idiot, had on Sumner. Iggy is living proof that the old mantra, ‘Never meet your heroes’, is nothing short of a fallacy.