Lust For Music (“Well That’s Like Hypnotizing Chickens”)
By Sascha Freudenheim

24 December 2005

Forget, for a moment, about pop and rock music, its ever-sordid history, and the omnipresent infighting between fans of different bands and genres. Forget whether someone “sold out” (most do, inevitably, to the point that “selling out” even seemed cool for a while), whether one band has borrowed another’s historic sound to create its own, or whether the latest P. Diddy (is that his name these days?) creation is, in fact, what is politely called a “sample” from a famous song of the 1970s rather than a new composition in its own right.

Forget it all, tune it out and instead put on Lust for Life, Iggy Pop’s second solo-album (1977). If you have spent any time at all watching non-PBS TV in the last few years, it will sound instantly familiar – though you may not place the one-minute-and-12-second, lyric-less percussion, guitar, and piano intro that builds and builds until Iggy’s voice intrudes to introduce his twisted protagonist: “Here comes Johnny...”

Keep listening, and you will hear a few things. The lead and title track’s lyrics are hardly heart-warming (“...With the liquor and drugs / And the flesh machine / He’s gonna do another strip tease...”; and my favorite line, “Well that’s like hypnotizing chickens,” which is an absurd and yet entirely comprehensible statement), and the rest of the album surely won’t impress your grandmother either. Yet almost twenty years later, it is musically energetic, engaging, and entirely original – it is an album that has its own lust for life, evident in the care with which the chords come out and Iggy’s sound explodes through the stereo. (It didn’t hurt that Iggy had David Bowie’s assistance – but while Bowie’s influence is clear, it is an influence not an overriding force.)

The strength of the album and its passionately-engaging musical hooks account for its revival in recent years: you know that introductory drum line for “Lust for Life” because Carnival Cruise Lines uses it, constantly, and the whole idea of the title is the focal point for their ads. (They do not, needless to say, play any more lyrics than necessary.) Meanwhile, the song “The Passenger” – which also features a good 20 seconds of instantly-recognizable, guitar-strumming intro – was used to try to hook audiences into the recent Nicholas Cage movie “The Weatherman.” It made for an effective preview because the music is so strong at conveying a particular emotional sensibility (the minimal success of the movie itself notwithstanding).

Still, when Iggy and the Stooges parted company, and he started performing as Iggy Pop, one can’t help but feel that something changed; “pop” is a loaded word, like it or not. If Lust for Life is no pop album, it doesn’t measure up to the awe-inspiring, frenetic energy of Iggy & The Stooges’ early album Raw Power. Raw Power deserves a new hearing these days, particularly with its Vietnam war-influenced lyrical imagery (“I’m a street-walking cheetah / With a heart full of napalm / I’m the runaway son / Of the nuclear A-bomb,” from the lead track “Search And Destroy”). Where the background vocal on “The Passenger” is a sardonic “la la, la la, la la la la,” Iggy punctuates “Search And Destroy” with explosive little pops of “Hah!” This the essence of an American punk aesthetic that made sense of its music and its sound, without sacrificing any of its energy and affront. That it sounds so good all these years later is testimony to that emphasis on the music itself.

There is no mistaking the connection between these two discs: both are Iggy, as the guitar-driven songwriting and the voice make clear with every bar of every song. Raw Power’s “Gimme Danger” has some terrific guitar work in it, playing punk counter-point to Iggy’s plaintive singing, while the guitar intro and hooks in “Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell,” and the background bells (what is that sound, actually? bad synthesizer keyboard?) in “Penetration” clearly presage the harmonic intrigue of “Lust for Life.” And “Shake Appeal” is a perfectly-aimed knife-to-the-heart of the wanna-be-a-teeny-bopper rock-n-roll of the “Twist & Shout” era. You, out there, listening to something – what is it? Are you even paying attention? Take a small step back in time, and check out these two albums. They’re worth it.


One song to download: Iggy’s origins in the Detroit music scene coincided with that of another group, whose star has since fallen so far as to be largely off the radar. The MC5, despite their explosive and original sound, and take-no-prisoners attitude (they were famous for screaming “Up against the wall, motherfuckers” in their concerts, and the beginning of the track “Ramblin’ Rose” is a preacher-style call-to-arms for revolutionaries) can be hard to find in contemporary play. The title track from the live album Kick Out The Jams is vigorous and raring to go, but the one song worthy of inclusion in any rock music rotation is “Motor City Is Burning.” It’s worth a download from whatever music service you use and wherever you can find it: combining rock, punk, and blues influences, it is political – it’s all about, well, you know; that marvelous moment in Detroit’s topsy-turvy history – and it is emotional, layering the band carefully in over the lead vocals. Every time a verse ends, the music pumps back in to remind the listener that whatever blues song they might have thought they were listening to is just so much more.

Copyright 2005, by Sascha Freudenheim. No re-publication without permission, but you may link to this page as desired. You are visiting