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Music

Iggy Pop's drug-addled cover of Jimi Hendrix's 'Purple Haze'

@SamWKemp

Fans of The Stooges will perhaps be familiar with the band’s cover of ‘Purple Haze’. It’s a pretty straight rendition from start to finish. Apart from the fact that it sounds like it’s recorded inside a trouser leg, the track features the same riffs, guitar tone, and vocal intonation as Jimi Hendrix’s original.

Jump ahead to the 1980s, however, and you’ll find another, far more inventive, Iggy-led cover of the Jimi Hendrix classic. This time, Pop and Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones offer us a maniacal, drug-addled reworking that takes the seeds of Hendrix’s original to create something frenetic, nihilistic, and astoundingly fresh.

The cover arrived alongside several original compositions by Pop and Jones, as well as a reworking of Sly and The Family Stones’ ‘Family Affair’, all of which were recorded by the pair in 1985 in-home studio in Hancock Park, LA. It’s rumoured that, on hearing the demos, David Bowie was so impressed he decided to produce Pop’s 1986 album Blah Blah Blah, having already helped craft his album The Idiot back in 1977.

Pop and Jones’ ‘Purple Haze’ couldn’t be further from the fuzzy acid-tinged euphoria of Hendrix’s original if it tried. Combining sludgy post-punk riffs with a distinctly un-swing 4/4 beat, the track moves at the swaggering pace of a 24hr supermarket attendant out of their mind on ketamine. Although, according to Paul Trynka, Iggy’s biographer, neither Jones nor pop were using drugs at the time of the recording. It’s possible that it was their clear-headedness that allowed them to take Hendrix’s song down to its bare bones and build it anew, resulting in a track that seems to foreshadow the coming grunge era.

Considering who crafted it, it’s no wonder that this particular cover echoes the aesthetics of grunge. While the genre encompassed a diversity of alternative rock groups, each working within slightly different parameters, one of the most successful groups on the scene, Nirvana, succeeded because they were able to blend aspects of classic rock and metal with the DIY ideology and raw textures of punk. Pop’s work with The Stooges was connecting passage between these two phases of rock, ushering in punk at a time when stadium rockers reigned supreme.

This cover occupies a zone between punk nihilism and acid-tinged psych freakery, hinting towards the sound Pop would hone in his 1988 biker metal album Instinct. Make sure you check out Iggy Pop and Steve Jones’ drug-addled rendition of ‘Purple Haze’ below.