"I don't know why he hasn't made it really big, he is so good." - Andy Warhol on Iggy Pop, 1980
Iggy Pop is one of the most seminal figures in music. Without Iggy Pop there would be no punk, and rock/pop music would not have evolved such deviant shades. The revolutionary influence of his eclectic career is antithetic to his lack of commercial success in the first half of his career, from the 60's to 1986. This is not the only Iggy paradox, his biographer Paul Trynka describes Pop's life as being "One of extraordinary highs and terrifying lows," his journey as an artist has been one of similar extremes.
"Iggy Pop is the only singer I have worked with in 37 years as a professional guitarist who would regularly turn around onstage to me in the middle of a gig and scream 'Turn it up motherfucker!'" - Kevin Armstrong, guitarist with Iggy Pop 1986/87
Iggy is synonymous with louche, rhythmic, rock n roll - his music and performances are primarily a visceral experience. Yet his songwriting is also cerebral and poetic, Iggy's lyrics resonate with meaning more than many of his peers and successors. One of Iggy Pop's best known songs, the Passenger, inter alia, is the work of a sophisticated poet. It's a thinking-person's rock n roll; the absolute basis for his cult status.
"My band rarely covered songs but if we did it was to make a statement. Iggy fitted the bill and Funtime, with an electronic makeover was a regular in the Spandau Ballet live set back in 1979. It probably helped us secure a recording contract." - Steve Norman, Spandau Ballet
In presenting Iggyfest at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (ICA), we want to assess the cultural impact of Iggy Pop's entire career as a musician and as an actor. The story of the Stooges, and of the albums that Iggy Pop made with David Bowie in Berlin, have been comprehensively told already, so we have emphasised some of the less celebrated areas of his work in the programme.
1986's Blah Blah Blah album is an extraordinary fusion of rock and electronica. Lyrically, it showed a softer side to Iggy. The album also highlighted, once again, his ability to collaborate, with David Bowie both co-writing and co-producing the album. Iggyfest will include a live performance of the entire album by the original studio band - Kevin Armstrong and Erdal Kizilcay - and special guests including Spandau Ballet's Steve Norman. Other highlights of Iggyfest include a performance by renowned multi-instrumentalist Terry Edwards, talks by biographer Paul Trynka, drummer Andy Anderson, and film director Tim Pope. We will also screen Iggy's best performances in film.
"If I had to come back as anything else it would definitely be Iggy Pop's penis." - Tim Pope, Film Director
Why do a festival about Iggy Pop? As an artist the importance of his role in transforming music cannot be overstated. And more than that the enigma and and contradictions of Iggy Pop continue to fascinate. As Paul Trynka explains: "The legend and the music of Iggy Pop is today celebrated. Yet behind it there are endless confused stories and mysteries. How could one musician be so revered, yet so reviled? And how could one man be so clever, and do stupid?"
Iggyfest, Blah Blah Blah, Friday 22 November to Saturday 23 November 2013, ICA
Tom Wilcox is Associate Curator at the ICA