Last night saw the annual John Peel Lectures which always feature a “notable figure from the music industry” speaking freely about a chosen subject. This year’s lecture, named of course in honour of the late, great Radio 1 DJ John Peel, had a focus on “Free Music in a Capitalist Society” and it was delivered by the mercurial madman Iggy Pop and all this dried whiskey, dulcet tones on the favourable BBC 6 Music.
There couldn’t have been a more perfect subject on the show thanks to the (forceful) release of U2’s latest album into every Apple device across the globe. Something Iggy himself wasn’t quite prepared for when detailing his speech “the shit has really hit the fan on the subject thanks to U2 and Apple”.
Iggy Pop said: “The people who don’t want the free U2 download are trying to say, don’t try to force me. And they’ve got a point. Part of the process when you buy something from an artist, it’s a kind of anointing, you are giving people love. It’s your choice to give or withhold. You are giving a lot of yourself, besides the money. But in this particular case, without the convention, maybe some people felt like they were robbed of that chance and they have a point.”
But he intimated that while the file-sharing of songs can be destructive the industry should not quite be sharpening the pitchforks yet: “I think that prosecuting some college kid because she shared a file is a lot like sending somebody to Australia 200 years ago for poaching his lordship’s rabbit. That’s how it must seem to poor people who just want to watch a crappy movie for free after they’ve been working themselves to death all day at Tesco or whatever, you know.”
Iggy even delved into that advert with an ambivalence of a man in the know, citing it as a great opportunity to make the money that record sales once brought. “If I wanna make money, well how about selling car insurance? At least I’m honest. It’s an ad and that’s all it is. Every free media platform I’ve ever known has been a front for advertising or propaganda or both. And it always colours the content. In other words, you hear crap on the commercial radio. The licensing of music by films, corps, and TV has become a flood because these people know they’re not a hell of a lot of fun so they throw in some music that is. I’m all for that because that’s the way the door opened for me. I got heard on TV before the radio would take a chance.”
Iggy spoke about the legendary John Peel: “I get the feeling that John was the kind of guy who would have done his job for nothing, as long as he felt great about it. So we have that in common. Examining his life, I was interested to learn that he found his voice in large part through his wanderings in America. Sometimes it takes strange circumstances to provide a mirror in which to find yourself. Anyway, he’s done a lot to give others a voice, and that’s the most important gift you can give. Here was a person with strong opinions and enthusiasms who wasn’t defined by any system, because of that his show became an exciting location, kind of like a shop that’s a good hang. So it was a social as well as a musical phenomenon.”
Iggy went on to share memories of the early years with the Stooges’ run-ins with The Ramones and everyone’s favourite curly-haired character to hate: Malcolm McLaren. Whilst also pledging allegiance to the creativity and quality of the music still being released on indie labels today. He left us with a simple message: “Dream. Be generous, don’t be stingy. Please… Life’s a hurly-burly, so I would say try hard to diversify your skills and interests. Stay away from drugs and talent judges. Get organized. Big or little, that helps a lot.
“I’d like you to do better than I did. Keep your dreams out of the stinky business, or you’ll go crazy, and the money won’t help you. Be careful to maintain a spiritual EXIT. Don’t live by this game because it’s not worth dying for. Hang onto your hopes. You know what they are. They’re private. Because that’s who you really are and if you can hang around long enough you should get paid. I hope it makes you happy. It’s the ending that counts, and the best things in life really are free.”
There will be a video broadcast of the lecture on October 19th on BBC Four. Otherwise, catch Iggy as the perfect Sunday DJ on BBC6 Music.