Is there any singer or performer as fundamentally mercurial and maniacal to the epitome of rock and roll as James Newell Osterberg, Jr., AKA the inimitable Iggy Pop? The singer is widely and rightly credited with being the forefather of punk rock and, looking back at 10 of his best records, it’s hard to disagree. With The Stooges, he was the bare-chested, blood-dripping, crowd-fighting punk provocateur Prince before finding his own ground and establishing his own glittering Kingdom.
That said, it wasn’t just on the stage where Iggy excelled. The singer may have commanded everyone’s attention under the spotlight but in the studio he was just as potent. No matter the producer or the style of the album, Iggy always delivers something entirely unique. Below, we’re bringing you the best albums the singer ever created.
Iggy, who has been tearing up stages since 1969, burst into the collective consciousness when he appeared ready for battle at the 1970 Cincinnati Pop Festival as the leader of the Stooges gang. A crowd member threw a jar of peanut butter at the singer and, as Iggy caught the missile, he collected his thoughts and quickly began smearing the contents on his torso. Iggy had arrived.
Ever since that moment, the singer has been an icon, first of the underground sleaze that ran the inner cities across America and then taking on the world. Joining forces with artists like David Bowie, Josh Homme and Matt Helders has never dampened Iggy’s fire and neither has his age. He may now be called the Grandfather of punk rock but, damn, he’s a pretty cool Grandaddy.
Iggy Pop’s 10 best albums of all time
10. Post Pop Depression (2016)
Iggy Pop has always had a canny ability in picking the right artists to work with at the right time and, on 2016’s Post Pop Depression, Iggy, alongside Josh Homme created one of his finest albums.
He and Homme had sparked the idea of a possible collaboration after exchanging lyrical ideas and, with the key introduction of Arctic Monkeys’ Matt Helders, the album was solid gold.
See ‘American Valhalla’ for a reason this album is one of Iggy’s most commercially successful records to date and although it’s hard to ignore the ageing around the icon, he still has star power all over this album.
9. Brick by Brick (1990)
Seemingly never brought down by the idea of mortality or musical stagnation, Iggy Pop was still at the top of his game when the nineties reared its ugly head over the horizon. With Brick By Brick, Iggy proved he could still throw a few fists or two when faced with a fearsome foe.
It’s not all bravado and punch-ups though as the ever-topless punk also produces a carefully constructed pop number on the LP in ‘Candy’ that was worthy of far more recognition. There’s even feature spots for B-52’s Kate Pierson on vocals as well as Guns ‘N’ Roses Slash and Duff McKagan.
8. New Values (1979)
For 1979 effort New Values, Iggy Pop teamed up with former Stooges partner-in-crime, the esteemed James Williamson, who produced and played on the LP. Released in the aftermath of the punk explosion, Iggy showed the youngsters how it’s done. ‘Girls’, ‘I’m Bored’ and ‘Five Foot One’ are as much ‘of the era’ as they are timeless, while the title track, with its circular guitar riff, ranks among Pop’s finest.
As the dust began to settle on the feverish punk movement, Iggy Pop left the scene relatively unscathed and looking back to his roots. Those roots came in the form of former Stooges-cohort James Williamson.
With Williamson behind the mixing desk Iggy is in a comfortable zone and rattles out some gems like ‘Girls,’ ‘Five Foot One’ and ‘I’m Bored’. But the real jewel in the crown is the title track, ‘New Values’, which may well be one of Iggy’s best.
7. Soldier (1980)
Soldier from 1980 saw Iggy lose his songwriting partner when Williamson declined the invitation to rejoin the singer and work on New Values Part II. Instead, Iggy leaned on some friends of old. Another remarkable band saw Patti Smith Group’s Ivan Krahl on guitar and former Sex Pistol Glen Matlock on bass—some serious chops.
As you might imagine it is a glorious racket and while the punk kids were looking left and right for a place to go, Iggy just followed wherever his gut took him. Songs like ‘Ambition’ and ‘Dog Food’ should be the first port of call.
6. The Stooges (1969)
Easily regarded as one of the most potent and punchy debut albums of all time, The Stooges were stuck together with spit and superglue when they arrived to record their first LP. They had barely five songs between them and, while Elektra was excited by their new signees, they still needed a full album. Enter John Cale.
The Velvet Underground man guided the band into a brand new sound, a bright and dangerous sonic that captured their energy and refined it. With an album that has such incendiary songs as ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ and ‘No Fun,’ it’s hard to argue that Iggy and his band went the very first murmurs of punk beginning to shout out.
5. Kill City (1977)
The mix may be a touch weak but the decision by the great Greg Shaw to pick up this previously shelved Iggy album from 1975 was a masterstroke. It may not be one of the big names on the list but as a singular piece it is fantastic.
It captures all of the raw nature Iggy possessed and the fuel of the city around him that continually stoked his fires. ‘Johanna’, in particular, is one of Iggy Pop’s finer songs and luckily James Williamson would remix the album in 2010. So all is well that ends well.
4. Raw Power (1973)
The Stooges may have only begun as a band in 1969 but just a few years later, by 1971, the group were ultimately finished. Dave Alexander had been fired for being a drunk and the rest of the band’s heroin use had grown wildly. One man would rescue the band deliver one last album before becoming a lifelong friend. Of course, we mean David Bowie.
1972 was Bowie’s year. Not only had he become the biggest rock star in the universe but he had also sat behind the desk for Lou Reed’s Transformer for his breakthrough solo album. It had been a marvellous success. Next up was his other favourite band and he brought Iggy Pop and James Williamson into the studio to record Raw Power. It is, without doubt, one of rock’s formative albums and deserves recognition is a deep-laid stone in the pantheon of music.
3. The Idiot (1977)
Iggy’s official debut as a solo outfit would come in 1977 and see the mercurial frontman in fine form. Working alongside his confidant Bowie, Iggy created one of his greatest albums. As well as being imbued with the kind of sparkled pop hit Bowie ate for breakfast on a regular occasion, the album still sounds authentically Iggy in every single note of every single song.
As well as the glimmering pop surface the album had a seedy underbelly where songs like ‘Nightclubbing’ and ‘Funtime’ come out to play. Not forgetting one of it’s more crystalline moments, ‘China Girl’ which Bowie would take on to stardom a little while after.
2. Lust for Life (1977)
David Bowie was once again behind the mixing desk when Iggy got ready to deliver his seminal solo album, Lust For Life. Buoyed by possibly the greatest title track of all time (seriously, is there a better one?), the album is full to the brim with energetic effervescence and supreme potent punk tendencies.
Iggy is brimming with possibilities and ready to redefine rock and roll once more. Sure, the world was just catching on to his ultra-violet punk act but now Iggy was ready for a new direction. Though his stage performance was imperious he was still as fiery with the pen.
Refining his sound and creating a masterpiece in the meantime, Lust For Life isn’t the only hit on the incredible record. Also visit ‘Sixteen’, ‘Some Weird Sin’ and, of course, the brilliant song ‘The Passenger’ for all the proof of Iggy’s greatness you’ll ever need.
1. Fun House (1970)
Iggy Pop is far too often overlooked when considering the musical icons of the rock and roll world. Sure, he may be famed for always having a bare chest and usually spending some portion of the gig bent over backwards but his musicality is often disregarded for its baseness. That said, is that not the essence of the music in the purest form?
Iggy isn’t a pure musician, he is an undeniable musician’s musician. The singer has sacrificed himself to music every time he’s stepped out on to the stage and he’s gleefully awaiting the next time as soon as he dies for us all. If there was one album to encapsulate that, then look no further than The Stooges’ Fun House.
The Stooges had made a splash with their self-titled debut the year before but on Fun House they upped the ante. The sound was darker and more intense, it swirled above you and can still to this day render an entire party speechless. It was the sing of the decade to come—things had got real. Inevitably, the person to tell us was Iggy Pop.
Iggy Pop’s 10 greatest albums
- Post Pop Depression
- Brick by Brick
- New Values
- The Stooges
- Kill City
- Raw Power
- The Idiot
- Lust for Life
- Fun House