Is there any musician as fundamentally mercurial and invariably maniacal as James Newell Osterberg, Jr., the man we all know as Iggy Pop? The vocalist is widely and rightly credited with being the forefather of punk rock, and looking back at his long and eminent career, it’s hard to disagree. He set a precedent for everything that was to follow in his wake.
With The Stooges, he was the bare-chested, blood-dripping, violent punk provocateur years before the likes of Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious were on the scene. Afterwards, he found his creative footing as a solo artist and enjoyed a highly successful career that saw him work with everyone from David Bowie to Glen Matlock and even Josh Homme.
Pop has excelled on stage and in the recording studio, and in addition to his utterly insane antics, this has made him one of the most storied musicians of all time. Through whatever means, he’s managed to command everyone’s attention and make people gasp at the sheer degree of his talent and iconoclasm.
Iggy has been tearing up stages since 1969, and he truly burst into the collective consciousness when he appeared ready for combat at the 1970 Cincinnati Pop Festival as the leader of The Stooges. Notably, a crowd member threw a jar of peanut butter at him, and, as Iggy caught the missile, he swiftly collected his thoughts before quickly began smearing the contents on his torso. Iggy Pop had arrived, and the world was never going to be the same.
Whilst we could concentrate on his many great musical moments, today we’re focusing on Iggy Pop’s wildest moments, of which the peanut butter incident was just the tip of the iceberg. Some of these are downright ludicrous and clearly show just how off the rails the former Stooges man once was. There are many lessons to be learnt here, and none of these are to be tried at home.
So without further ado, join us as we list Iggy Pop’s seven wildest moments. It’s about to get weird.
Iggy Pop’s 7 wildest moments:
David Bowie and Dennis Hopper smuggle Iggy cocaine into psych ward:
This is perhaps the most well-known anecdote on the list. Famously, Iggy’s constant use of hard drugs eventually took its toll on his physical and mental health. Thus, in the early 1970s, as The Stooges were winding down, Iggy checked himself into the neuropsychiatric clinic at UCLA, wanting to get clean of his cocaine addiction. Whilst in the throes of overcoming his dependence in 1974, a pair of familiar faces arrived with a present.
“We trooped into the hospital with a load of drugs for him,” David Bowie revealed to Blender in 2002. “He wasn’t well; that’s all we knew. We thought we should bring him some drugs, because he probably hadn’t had any for days!”
Understandably, the white powder was declined by the hospital, as Pop was overcoming his cocaine addiction. However, this would be a turning point and set up the next part of Iggy’s career.
‘The Murder of a Virgin’ show
This entry is beyond the pale. Iggy Pop moved to Los Angeles after The Stooges broke up in the early ’70s, and here he attempted to form a solo career. On August 11th, 1974, he staged his first show at the controversial hub of glam rock, Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco on the Sunset Strip, and it was to be a night to remember for all the wrong reasons.
He named the performance The Murder of a Virgin, and before too long, the crowd were asked by Pop, “Do you want to see blood?”, who resoundingly affirmed his question. The frontman then urged the guitarist, Ron Asheton, who was wearing a full Nazi uniform, to whip him repeatedly.
Things got even worse, though. Iggy allegedly started to yell racial slurs at a black spectator, hoping that he’d respond and stab him with the steak knife he’d brought on stage. Thankfully, Pop didn’t get what he wanted out of this vile behaviour and instead resorted to carving the letter ‘X’ into his own chest, which poured with blood.
Freaks out at Elton John in Gorilla suit
This is an example of Iggy Pop’s drug abuse getting the best of him. Pop was famed for not being afraid of anything or anyone. Regardless, one night in 1973, before a Stooges show in Atlanta, Georgia, the Muskegon, Michigan, native’s bluff was called, and in the most bizarre of ways.
Iggy was in a different world, so high on quaaludes, that he passed out in some bushes next to the Days Inn but managed to shoot some speed and get his energy back to make it onstage. However, mid-set, he was met by Elton John in a Gorilla suit, which made him freak out and lose it completely. He thought he was hallucinating, but no, this was real. “I was like, ‘Oh my god! What can I do?'” Pop remembered in Please Kill Me. “I couldn’t fight him. I could barely stand.”
Accidentally snorting PCP before a show
On August 19th, 1973, a friend of supermodel Bebe Buell gave Iggy a line of white powder before his set at The Kennedy Center. However, this was not cocaine. It was ‘angel dust’, more commonly known as PCP. Unsurprisingly, Iggy was totally blindsided by the drug but told everyone backstage that the show would go on.
The Stooges performed the music from their masterpiece Raw Power, which had come out earlier that year, for a full 15 minutes before their AWOL frontman was carried out onto the stage. It is said that he mumbled some gibberish and then walked out into the audience, who were most displeased. He then struggled to climb back onstage whist everyone, including the band, laughed at his expense.
Stooges keyboardist Scott Thurston finally gave him a hand but was shocked at what he saw with a closer inspection. “I saw his chest, it looked like he’d cut himself up really bad, there were bits of flesh hanging on him, it was ugly to see,” he told The Guardian.
Thankfully, it wasn’t flesh at all. What covered Pop’s skin was only peanut butter and jelly. How very American.
Spurting blood over the audience
This is another gruesome one, dating back to the days after the release of Raw Power. It was July 31st, 1973, and the band were on a four-night run at New York’s place to be, Max’s Kansas City. Whilst The Stooges frontman was getting up to his usual hijinx, as he climbed through the crowd, a chair slipped underneath him, and he sent a full table of glasses smashing against the ground.
He landed on them, but being the unrelenting force that he is, he quickly got up, cut from head to toe, and carried on his act. Even though people around him tried to halt the performance, Iggy did what is perhaps the most horrifying move of his career. He jerked his body at an angle that spurted blood towards the audience.
The initial attempt to seal the wound with gaffer tape failed miserably, but luckily, Iggy’s old friend, Alice Cooper, was there to take him to the hospital.
Pukes everywhere, then rests his member on an amp
This is another gross one, from August 1970. Spectators at this legendary Ungano show included Alan Vega of Suicide and jazz pioneer Miles Davis, but this didn’t phase the unflappable Iggy Pop; he still got up to his old tricks. Whilst going to the microphone to sing, Pop spewed everywhere, which presumably was a result of the drugs he was on.
Afterwards, he allegedly pulled out his penis, and rested it on the top of an amplifier, to the shock and awe of the audience. This triptych of weirdness was completed when Pop went over to Geri Miller, the Andy Warhol superstar, grabbed her by the face and dragged her and her metal chair across the spew covered floor. Absolutely horrific.
Plays the blender at the first Stooges show
I imagine you’re pretty sick of all the disgracefully wild Iggy Pop moments by now. So for the final entry, we’ll give you something that’s plainly zany, with no blood, vomit or violence. This occurred at the debut show by The Psychedelic Stooges at a house party in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Halloween, 1967.
Iggy, who was wearing a nightdress bought in a thrift store and a robotic wig that he created by pasting foil on a bathing cap, played the Hawaiian guitar whilst sitting on the floor, with each string tuned to the same note. Afterwards, he made some ‘experimental’ noises on a theremin, a vacuum cleaner, and ‘The Osterizer’, a blender half-full with water with a microphone in it.
Manager of The MC5, John Sinclar, recalled later, “It wasn’t like anything else I had ever been to.” He explained: “I don’t know if there were 20 people there. I was terrified. I just thought, ‘Jesus, they can hear this all the way downtown.'”
This insane moment was just the beginning, and by the turn of the decade, Iggy Pop would be the most notorious performer on earth.