One of the forefathers of punk rock as we know it today, Iggy Pop has shared more than a few memorable moments with his audiences. Whether it was the time he smeared peanut butter all over himself or when Elton John showed up in a gorilla suit to lift him up on stage, or even when he jumped off the stage to fight with a gang of bikers—it’s safe to say that Iggy Pop has done it all. Including vomiting on his audience.
At the beginning of the seventies, there was one band in The Big Apple who were making a real name for themselves—The Stooges. The group had grabbed music paper headlines with their visceral and searing performances. It was also enough to grab themselves some lucrative slots around the New York City club scene. One such club was the Ungano, a particularly famous haunt which provided Iggy and The Stooges with a four-night residency to work their magic.
Looking back now, it’s easy to see how a gig with Iggy could descend into madness or indeed the lunatics taking over the asylum but in 1970 the band were an unknown quantity. For those audiences members who happened to pick up tickets for the Ungano, something really strange was about to take place. That’s because The Stooges weren’t just purveyors of pure rock revelry, they also had a simply insane live show up their sleeves.
During the performances, The Stooges ran riot. Scott Kempner, guitarist for proto-punk band The Dictators remembers seeing Iggy performing at this time and claims: “Iggy put life and limb into every show. I saw him bloody every single show.” It wasn’t just blood that came out of Iggy either, Steve Harris the former VP of Elektra records, remembers Iggy also showing a little more of himself than has come to be expected: “Iggy took his [junk] out and put it on the speaker. It was just vibrating around. He was very well endowed.”
These are just two of hundreds of stories involving Iggy Pop and his penchant for the absurd on stage—but the real hit of reality came a little after the run of Ungano shows. The Stooges were performing at the Electric Circus in NYC when he spotted superstar model Geri Miller, who had been present at the Ungano shows with the pair sharing a bizarre to and fro. Miller, remembering the lunacy of those shows, prompted Iggy to once again vomit for his audience as she screamed: “Let’s see you puke!”
Iggy, not one to disappoint, walked over to Miller’s section of the stage and vomited all over her. It wasn’t the first time he had been sick over a crowd and it wouldn’t be the last.
When the ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ singer was invited on to the Tom Snyder Show in 1981, the host was desperate to demystify some of Iggy’s outlandish onstage behaviour. While his attempts to chalk up some of the legends about the singer as simply fairytales largely fell flat, he did get to the bottom of why Iggy felt compelled to regurgitate all over his fans. “The first time I ever did it, it was out of frustration. I just felt very bad at the time, and music is an expressive medium that sometimes—sometimes—can get out of hand.”
The singer continued to highlight the maniacal edge of his performances, “suddenly maybe you’ll be playing a tune and you really want to express the truth. And the truth of that moment was that I ought to be cut, so I cut myself.” As Snyder says, “that scares some people,” but simply put—if Iggy Pop bleeding for his art scares you, then punk rock just isn’t for you.
While vomiting and bleeding on stage are a visceral vision of commitment and self-harm rolled up into one, to think of it as a stunt would be to miss the point. If you were to ask Iggy Pop just before he went on stage if he was planning on any similar stunts, chances are he would have said no. These were not orchestrated events or performances for the cameras at the front of the stage, these were genuine acts of self-expression, despite how damaging and deranged they may have appeared.
Iggy Pop was, and still is, the real deal. It’s easy to write off his antics as simply that—antics. But his undying commitment to his art and pursuit of creative bliss means you can rest assured that everything Iggy Pop has done and will ever do on stage is as authentic as the blood and vomit dripping from his body.
So, in answer to the question why did Iggy Pop vomit on his audiences? Because he simply had to.