Some rock ‘n’ roll stories are harder to believe than others, but we believe everything that has apparently happened to Iggy Pop as a general rule. That’s because the ones we know are true are some of the most ludicrous things we’ve ever heard of.
For the latest, we’re dipping into the Far Out vault to look back at the moment Elton John attacked the legendary Iggy Pop in a gorilla suit while he was performing and a drugged-up Iggy freaked out. It’s quite possibly our favourite rock legend of all time.
The Stooges were in Atlanta when a curious crossover of talent was set to go down, and the shining pop star got himself all covered in muck. Iggy’s band were looking to catch a little attention from David Bowie’s glam rock rival and the current hottest prospect from Britain, so his management team (with a little help from the Detroit magazine Creem) asked Elton to take part in a publicity stunt. He would jump on stage in a full gorilla suit and party with the band. The trouble is, Iggy had already been partying before the show kicked off.
Iggy had spent the previous night enjoying himself and a particularly strong batch of quaaludes. It had not only left him slumped in the bushes next to his hotel—his bed for the evening—but also wholly incapable of performing live. There was only one thing for it, more drugs.
“The preparation for the gig was just [giving] me with enough things to get me up to where I could open my mouth and form a word, but I still couldn’t phrase on a beat,” Iggy said in an interview with the legendary Legs McNeil for the book Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk. “I was like, ‘Oh my god! What can I do? I couldn’t fight him. I could barely stand.”
In Gimme Danger: The Story of Iggy Pop, Iggy expanded further and told Joe Ambrose of the infamous story, “A doctor had to shoot me full of methedrine just so I could talk,” he said. “I was seeing triple and had to hold on to the microphone stand to support myself. Suddenly this gorilla walks out from backstage and holds me up in the air while I’m still singing. I was out of my mind with fear. I thought it was a real gorilla.”
Still, as lacerations to his chest and violent biker gangs in the audience can attest to, not much can keep Iggy Pop off the stage, and he continued his performance, gorilla and all, battling his way to the mic and fighting off the curious pop primate.
Elton John remembered the incident when speaking with Yahoo! Entertainment, “In Richard’s Club, in Atlanta. I saw him the first night. He was so great; I wanted to go back the second night. I thought, ‘I know what. I’ll dress as a gorilla!’ I jumped on stage — and he freaked out. Years later, he told me he was tripping on acid when I did it. … It was the stinkiest gorilla’s outfit you could have possibly have. … I thought it would be great, but it kind of backfired.
“At the end, they said, ‘Oh, by the way, that was Elton John in the gorilla suit.’ Everyone said, ‘Oh, yeah. Sure it was.’ It was one of my mad things. Those were the days, you know. Those were the days. “
They truly were.