Why Iggy Pop Landed A Bad Reputation In The Music World

Many an aged punk sneered in the earnest faces of people declaring their fanhood for Iggy Pop when his pop-culture star rose around 2004 via the release of a series of commercials for a cruise line blaring his manic and infectious "Lust for Life." The commercials featured very wholesome families riding bikes, jet skis, and splashing around various water features together in the bright light of day, while others showed us young, healthy couples climbing "rock walls" and laughing under waterfalls. All the while, godfather of punk Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life" blared; the seedy lyrics and sunny fun times weren't exactly a match made in ad exec heaven, but those were the early aughts for you.

Pop had been in the rock star business for over 40 years by that point and had earned quite the reputation with audiences and other musicians alike. His live shows were the stuff of punk rock legend, and Rolling Stone reported on the archetypal tale of Pop's 1973 Max's Kansas City gig in New York City. Performing in "his customary loincloth," he made the artistic choice to crawl all over the copious amounts of broken glass on the stage, resulting in a whole lot of his blood gushing everywhere. He was in such a state that at the end of the night that Alice Cooper himself brought Pop to the emergency room, where he got stitches. And boom, a punk trope was born!

"But for now, no thanks"

Rolling Stone discussed several other shows during the '70s that were certainly wild stories from the rock 'n' roll frontlines, but one has to wonder about the hesitancy of people booking shows and performing with Iggy Pop; would they be getting the straight-ahead frenetic energy Iggy or the bloody, glassy Iggy. Maybe they would get the Iggy who was set to play the Whisky in Los Angeles and demanded money from his wealthy audience to pay off his heroin dealer before he would play, then proceeded to overdose on stage before playing a single note. Valid concerns!

In another Rolling Stone interview, Pop recalls a gig in which The Stooges (his band before he went solo) opened for Joe Cocker. After another wild, violent set, Pop says, "I walked out to the middle of the floor, in my shorts with these welts on my body, to talk to the talent agent Frank Barselona about possibly booking the group. He said, 'Iggy, I think in twenty years or so, you're going to be a very important guy. But for now, no thanks.'"

Of course, Pop cleaned up his act in the ensuing decades — he kicked heroin, cocaine, and cigarettes — and he now lives a healthy life in sunny Miami. But let's go ahead and just assume the cruise line never had Pop as its performer-in-residence.