I am lucky to have been born with a natural desire to find mentors. Some of them you could call ‘heroes’; some of them you definitely could not but that doesn’t matter because ‘mentor’ is the perfect word.
These are friends, teachers, actors, filmmakers, musicians, writers who, whether I have known them personally or not, have provided support when it was lacking and reassurance when success, however that was defined, seemed very far in the distance.
When I was in my mid-teens my older sister had a boyfriend called Alan who had a truly great record collection. He would make compilation tapes for her and she would let me listen to them.
I was introduced in this way to The Ramones, Patti Smith, The Violent Femmes, Pere Ubu, The Velvet Underground, The Undertones, Stiff Little Fingers and pretty much every other sound worth listening to produced between the US and Europe from the sixties to the eighties.
He, knowing that my sister was fond of me and it was smart to be nice to me (in fairness he was a nice guy anyway) offered to make me tapes of music by whichever artists I found most impressive.
One of these tapes had a song called ‘1969’ on it by a band called The Stooges. The song was repetitious, and simple but had a strength and energy, an honesty of tone and a perfect marriage of music and lyric that was magic for me at that age.. and still is now by the way.
Now you don’t get to have a record collection like Alan had without being just a little bit of a music snob- and that’s ok. So when I asked for a tape of Stooges songs it was pointed out to me that I could be asking for The Dream Syndicate or Talking Heads or any number of far more sophisticated and ultimately better music- might I not reconsider?
No, I’d take The Stooges please (accompanied by an annoying girlfriend’s little brother smile I imagine). With that I got my collection and I learned about Iggy Pop, lead singer in the band and about his later solo career.
I bought everything I could find as I could afford it. I got the first three wonderful Stooges albums, the well-known bootlegs like ‘Metallic KO’ and I continued to buy all the solo albums religiously.
The solo albums were of patchy quality at times but that really didn’t matter, I had glimpsed something perfect and pure with Iggy at the right age and I was happy and proud to sponsor in a small way the person who had afforded me that experience.
In “American Psycho” there is a chapter on what you might term Iggy’s mid-period solo career which is (begrudge and begrumble) a master class in irony.
Last year I discovered that Iggy was doing a radio programme on Sundays for BBC 6 music. He revealed himself to have a better record collection than even Alan had and also to be a wise, funny, kind, interesting man with great stories to tell and a beautiful and inspiring attitude to share.
There is a biography of the man called “I Need More”. Of course I bought it the first I heard of it and it isn’t bad but it is picture heavy and doesn’t give any real feeling of the personality. It would be very enjoyable to have an actual autobiography by Iggy himself because it is not just the facts of his life but his attitude to them and his storytelling which makes Iggy’s tales so wonderful.
I can’t find my copy of “I Need More” now and it seems to be on sale for no less than a hundred pounds on Amazon.
As part of his deal with the BBC it seems that Iggy was asked to give the John Peel lecture for 2014. That lecture is now available here:
…to listen to whenever you want.
It is a funny and fascinating meditation on a life in music and also on patience, hard work, passion and how to balance art and commerce not just in your career but more importantly in your psyche.
Iggy Pop inspired me when I was young and like the best of friends he is back again at just the right time with more than a nudge in the right direction. Thank you Jim…