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Music

How Lou Reed’s daring ways inspired Iggy Pop

@TomTaylorFO

It’s quite an unusual phenomenon but somehow Iggy Pop’s highly personable ways and chortling laugh make him seem like less of an iconoclast than the pictures of him dripping in more blood than Dracula at a neck modelling afterparty attest to. With the Stooges, Iggy Pop transformed music in a maelstrom of mania. 

And Lou Reed himself was grateful for this shirtless, long-haired, high-powered leaping lemur, showered in a shimmer beer-bottle glass and fuzzed-out guitar adrenaline. As Reed once said of perhaps the Stooges’ most raucous album: “I have always loved Raw Power. I like the sound – the honest sound of young guys trying to break the barrier of stilted moulded sterile rock. And they did. Great guitar and wonderful vocals from Iggy. And inspiration for young men to this day.”

However, the rather more prickly and more self-evident iconoclast, Mr Reed, came before Pop and his playful ways, and the shirtless stooge was more than happy to recognise his hero. “I admired him and looked up to him as an artist. And that’s still what it is. And there were times when he could be quite decent and gracious,” Pop said in a GQ interview. 

While millions have been inspired by Reed, he remains one of a kind, a style too unique for pure imitation. Pop reflected on this, and how Reed is everywhere and nowhere in modern music, commenting: “What I really miss is that there’s nobody that can do anything like he did. And it seems to be a lost art. Tremendous artistry.”

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However, the paradigm of what that artistry meant for Pop didn’t come to the fore until 2011, only two years before his passing. The pair were playing together at the sunny and leisurely Hop Farm Music Festival in Kent. “Morrissey curated us all!” Pop explains. “And Lou played. He started with ‘Who Loves the Sun’,” offering up a Velvet Underground classic. 

Continuing: “And the place he could put his voice, talk to you without singing at you, it just sounded so good. And I had to follow him on stage. Well, how do I follow that?” A concerned Pop mused, as Reed rattled off his musical short stories like an adult CBBC presenter dragged up from the demimonde. 

But Reed’s muse was always wandering, and he was daring enough to always follow it. “Luckily for me, on that particular day, Lou also had… What’s the word I’m looking for? He had a contrary streak. He got about four songs into his set and decided he wanted to sing ‘Mother’ by John Lennon – for ten minutes!” This emotional paeon is Reed’s favourite Lennon song by a mile, but it isn’t always fit for a festival. 

And it was this attitude that Pop joyously relished in. “At this festival on a bright sunny day in Kent!” Pop comically recalled. “So I thought, ‘Well, I guess there’s still room for a dirty little rock band after this set.” In other words, Reed was 100% rock ‘n’ roll in every sense. He went his own way, and you either went yours, or you followed him into darkness and light. 

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