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Friday, June 15, 2007

Guitar Chops Good Enough for Iggy? You're GREAT!

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Playing in a band with Iggy Pop requires more than just chops. You’ve got to be able to go with the flow, improvise and vamp as he launches into any one of his famous antics, from crowd surfing (he may have been the first one to do that) to stripping to inviting the whole audience up on stage.

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Oh, and he scales the amps as if they were the Alps and hurls stuff around too (Darby Crash copped the peanut butter thing from Iggy).

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Darby Crash got a lot of his stage schtick from Iggy

Over the years, Iggy has had some capable, some seminal and some stellar guitar players in his bands. Ron Asheton who was with him in the Stooges is back now that the Stooges are playing and recording again.

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When Ron Asheton moved over to play bass, James Williamson joined on guitar, contributing a certain musical signature all his own, too. Then the band was dropped from their label.

Iggy disappeared from the music scene for a while, then Bowie showed up and helped Iggy get it together again, making two records with him in Berlin, and playing in a touring band with Iggy that included Hunt and Tony Sales. The brothers (sons of the comedian Soupy Sales) were his rhythm section. (The Sales brothers would later join Bowie in Tin Machine.)

Iggy Bowie 1977

Iggy made this comeback just as punk rock was beginning – a genre he inadvertently invented around the same time as the MC5 were also stirring shit up in Detroit. Iggy started cherry picking from the late 70s punk rock bands to populate his own touring units.

From the Damned Iggy chose one of their founding members, Brian James, the one, who in my opinion wrote the best songs and played the best guitar parts. From the Patti Smith Group, Iggy borrowed Ivan Kral. There’s a somewhat legendary Patti Smith bootleg called “Teenage Perversity” recorded in 1976 at the Roxy in Los Angeles, and on that recording, you can hear Iggy grabbing the microphone as he helped himself up on stage to say something like, “Ain’t this baby great? And ain’t she wonderful?” One of the compliments was for Patti; the other for Ivan. All the times I saw Patti Smith and her band play live (and it was many), Ivan stood out as the Rolling Stones fan. He even had his own moment to do a song, and he chose the old blues chestnut “You Got To Move,” performing it just like the Stones did on their Sticky Fingers album.

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Rob duPrey

In the early 80s, Iggy drafted former Mumps guitarist Rob duPrey to join his band, and Rob served for a few years, and more than simply playing on the albums Iggy made during his tenure, Rob co-wrote one.

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That record is Zombie Birdhouse, which was originally released on Chris Stein’s Animal Records label. Blondie members Stein and Clem Burke played on the album as well.

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It is an often overlooked and underappreciated work, but I find it to be a harbinger of the late 80s/early 90s punk rock rebirth in its primitive, minimalist styling and execution.

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More than anyone in the punk rock orbit, Iggy Pop showed just what a small world it was. At any given time, there was a punk rock family tree on the Iggy Pop stage. For the Stooges reunion, to fill in on bass for the late Dave Alexander, Iggy wisely selected California’s own Mike Watt, from early hardcore legends The Minutemen, and later fIREHOSE and his own two-bass ensemble with his long time friend Kira Roessler, called appropriately Dos.

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Mike Watt on far left, backstage after the Stooges played a NY Festival in 2004. Also pictured Evan Foster of Boss Martians and Michael Kastelic of The Cynics

If doing your musical duty in Iggy’s army is a trial by fire, or even hot molten lava, those tours have forged each of these guitarists into men of steel – you know… like Superman.

Iggy Pop 1977 1

A word for the weekend from the Punk Rock Gift Shop… if you want to have one of these Iggy images, they’re all for sale, as is just about everything on Punk Turns 30.

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