Every day, every death, coronavirus reminds me more of the AIDS crisis than of SARS, or H1N1, or the 1918 flu. As HIV did before it, Covid-19 is stealing a generation of artists — though these are our elder statesmen, rather than our future. Hal Willner was some kind of a genius, a genius at recognizing genius at least (takes one to know one). He had brilliant, eccentric taste and chutzpah, celebrating the work of past visionaries such as Kurt Weill and Carl Stalling by bringing together such living artists as Iggy Pop, Marianne Faithfull, Sun Ra, and Lou Reed. He was an omnivorous omnipresence in New York when I lived there, someone who loved poetry as well as jazz, cartoons and opera. That relentless relishing of the artistic spirit is a rare, precious quality, now parted.
And then, John Prine — an American folk hero if there ever was one. Willner recognized and elevated genius — Prine was one, in a completely humble, plainspoken way, a crafter of unforgettable tunes. Thankfully he left us with his own funeral song, “When I Get to Heaven.” The band up there just gets better and better. Our loss.
Joan Jett at the Tropicana by Brad Elterman
Joan Jett intimidates Iggy Pop. Back in the mid-’70s, when he first encountered the then-Runaway at the Tropicana — the Hollywood motel where they both sometimes lived — “I remember thinking, ‘That’s a real competitor,” he told me in an interview for Queens of Noise today. “That’s a real strong force.'”
Admittedly, Mr. Osterberg doesn’t recall a lot about that time period. “It’s not too far off the mark to say that’s what I’m told,” he answered, when I said he was living in LA back then. Hollywood was not then or now a place for a person with raging drug inclinations to get sober. But he managed to pull some funny and insightful memories of Kim Fowley, the Agora in Cleveland, and the Runaways at the Rat in Boston out of the foggy haze.
He did not wax nostalgic about Rodney’s English Disco, where he performed one of the venue’s rare live gigs, his infamous Death of a Virgin. “It was like a hobby for a sick person. It wasn’t like a business or anything. There was no good reason for that place to exist. There were lots of bad reasons for it to exist.”
He admits that Jett, whom he runs into occasionally, still makes him nervous. “She’s hot. She’s good. Her stuff cuts right across. Anyone can understand it.”
When I’m 64 (to borrow a phrase), I hope I can throw my lithe, half-naked body into a sea of outstretched hands and land back on stage, on my feet, “a street-walkin’ cheetah with a heart full of napalm.” Somewhere Iggy Pop has a portrait of himself aging, because at the Stooges’ show Thursday at the Hollywood Palladium, I swear Mr. Osterberg looked younger than any of the dozen other times I’ve seen him in the last few decades. Pop is the punk-rock Peter Pan. His body is now permanently curved into the impudent-child pose he’s adopted since the late 1960s. See him offstage, and he’s crippled with scoliosis, the incredibly hard-drug years he’s lived now permanently etched into his limp. But with his old bandmates, and a couple newer ones, behind him (including fellow San Pedran Mike Watt), he inhabits that body with all the fuck-you insouciance of his eternal adolescence. Continue reading
, via Wikimedia Commons”]Iggy Pop emailed me earlier with the sad news he has fractured some bones in his foot and had to cancel his gig with the Stooges at the Hollywood Palladium September 7, to be rescheduled. I’d assigned my Reviewing the Arts students to review the concert, after reading Lester Bangs’s seminal 1970 Creem piece on Mr. Pop. No fun, to coin a phrase.
Two great tastes that taste great together: Peaches performed the entire Jesus Christ Superstar opera Friday night at the Orpheum. As a kid, I used to sing JCS all the time — I still know most the words. And I’ve loved Peaches since her 2002 debut — I’m the person who introduced her and Iggy Pop, in fact. Here’s my Times review of the show.
Iggy Pop is not an idiot (contrary to his own album titles). I’ve interviewed the uber-icon several times now, and talked to him conversationally several more — we’re both Miami residents, after all — and he still surprises me each time with his wit and honest insight. We most recently talked for the LA Times. I had infections in both ears, making my head a painful echo chamber of my own voice. He was sympathetic and understanding. “Swimming in the ocean?” he asked, then prescribed his own remedy (he swims daily when possible): alcohol and vinegar. The ear doctor gave me the same prescription the next day, when he vacuumed my canals free. I now follow it religiously.
I don’t know how Iggy has lived through what he’s lived through and come out so well — though I know some good dentists and qi gong have helped a lot. But he’s one of the refreshing idols you should definitely not kill before meeting — he inspires more each time. As Hal Cragin, producer of Pop’s new album Preliminaires told me, “To be Iggy Pop is to be original to yourself, not to walk around and say I’m going to be nutty and scratch my skin. To be Iggy to is to be true to yourself as an artist.”
Read the interview here. Photo for the LA Times by Mike Stocker.