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(Credit: Alamy/Sheri Lyn Behr)


Iggy Pop once gave a fan a concussion with a watermelon

It doesn’t get much more rock ‘n’ roll than Iggy Pop’s years fronting The Stooges. The group were characterised by a raw and primitive rock sound that came as a striking precursor to the punk movement. Also precursory to punk was the group’s front of adolescent anarchy. The Stooges’ live performances became notorious for wild occurrences, including indecent exposure, self-mutilation, destruction of property, assault, and on a couple of occasions, the wearing of Nazi uniforms.

Iggy and The Stooges were a little odd from day one. The first outing of Iggy’s eccentricity was experienced in October 1967, not long after the band’s formation. The troubled singer entered the stage wearing a nightdress and a tin foil wig. During the performance, he experimented with music, and with his audience, by playing a vacuum cleaner and his own innovative instrument which he called the “Osterizer” – a blender half full of water into which he inserted his microphone.

It seems the group reclined into a pit of neurological disorder over the late 1960s and early 1970s. This was likely fuelled by their excessive drug abuse and a burning desire to make profound statements in public. By 1968, Iggy had given his genitalia a debut outing on stage in a marked intensification of the sexual aspect of his performance. But by 1969, indecent exposure didn’t seem to cut the mustard anymore, so the performances began to see Iggy self-mutilating on stage. This would usually involve Iggy whipping or cutting his torso with broken drumsticks and other sharp objects. 

By 1970, Iggy’s antics would seemingly involve the audience to a greater degree. If you’re thinking of audience interaction in the style of a pantomime or Freddie Mercury, you would be much mistaken. On one occassion, Iggy encouraged an audience to rip apart a wooden fence between the crowd and the stage that prohibited stage diving. But one of the strangest stories came in 1973, not long before The Stooges disbanded.

On a hot day in the summer of 1973, The Stooges were at a gig at St. Clair Lake, Michigan. Before the performance, Iggy and the band had been eating watermelons backstage. When the group stormed onto the stage to open with ‘Raw Power’, Iggy emerged wearing nothing but a pair of tight black budgie smugglers and wielding a giant piece of watermelon. According to Paul Trynka’s Iggy Pop: Open Up and Bleed, he launched the melon into the madding audience and clipped a woman in the head with it, giving her a concussion. Any person in their right mind might apologise at this moment, but Iggy wasn’t in his right mind. He proceeded to pour ice cubes into his undies, then one by one, he took them out, sucked on them erotically, and then flung them into the crowd.

Needless to say, during this period, Iggy was somewhat unhinged. Following the breakup of The Stooges, Iggy fell into an ever-worsening spiral of addiction, and with his attempted solo career doing him no favours, he checked himself into the UCLA neuropsychiatric institute in hopes to get clean. During this period, he was visited by his friend David Bowie. “We trooped into the hospital with a load of drugs for him,” Bowie told 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!” Iggy’s carers politely declined Bowie’s offerings. “This was very much a leave-your-drugs-at-the-door hospital,” as Bowie put it. 

While Bowie’s offers of drugs for the recovering addict likely weren’t in his best interest, the re-established connection between the two friends would lead to a change for the better in both of their lives. A couple of years thereafter, the pair would famously relocate to Europe to continue their solo careers while distancing themselves from the self-destructive habits that had been holding them back in the States.

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