Entertainment

How David Bowie gave Iggy Pop a lust for life: "He resurrected me."

Iggy Pop, whose solo recording career began with two albums produced by David Bowie, has said in an interview that he had still not fully processed Bowie's death, at 69, on January 10.

"The friendship was basically that this guy salvaged me from certain professional and maybe personal annihilation - simple as that," said Pop, who is 68. "A lot of people were curious about me, but only he was the one who had enough truly in common with me, and who actually really liked what I did and could get on board with it, and who also had decent enough intentions to help me out. He did a good thing."

David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth.
David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth. Photo: Supplied

He added, "He resurrected me."

Pop reflected: "He was more of a benefactor than a friend in a way most people think of friendship. He went a bit out of his way to bestow some good karma on me."

They had lost touch after 2002, when Bowie hoped to sign Pop to his new record label - he was under contract elsewhere - and schedule conflicts prevented Pop from performing at the Meltdown festival in London that Bowie was curating.

Iggy Pop.

Iggy Pop at the Sebel Townhouse in Sydney in 1979.

Pop met Bowie in 1971, a period of excess when "we were all pretty bad but he was at least viable," Pop said. In 1976, Bowie invited Pop to travel along with him as a "fly on the wall" on the tour following the release of Bowie's album "Station to Station." Onstage, Bowie portrayed his Thin White Duke character while flooded in white light.

"He was really disciplined," Pop said. "That was at a time when it might be 700 people in Albuquerque, it might be 15,000 at the Garden, it might be 300 people in Zurich, etc. He did a great show every night. I don't care where it was."

After the tour, Bowie produced Pop's 1977 solo debut album, The Idiot, while travelling in France and Germany and working together on songs - often with Bowie providing music and perhaps a title and Pop completing it with melodies and lyrics. "He subsumed my personality, lyrically, on that first album," Pop said. He compared Bowie with the character in George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion and the musical My Fair Lady.

David Bowie in Nicolas Roeg's 1976  film 'The Man Who Fell To Earth'

David Bowie in Nicolas Roeg's 1976 film 'The Man Who Fell To Earth'. Photo: Courtesy Rialto Pictures/Studio

At times, Pop said, it was like having "Professor Higgins say to you: 'Young man, please, you are from the Detroit area. I think you should write a song about mass production." (He did: Mass Production.)

Pop's Nightclubbing, a song on The Idiot that reflected post-concert club excursions across Europe with Bowie, was recorded with a cheap synthesizer and an early drum machine, the only equipment available after a recording session had been packed up. "He said, 'I can't put out a record with that,'" Pop recalled. "I said, 'But I can.' And he smiled, and he realised this was a playground for him. I always tried to encourage his worst impulses in those directions. I was a fan."

When Bowie moved to Berlin, Pop occupied a room in Bowie's apartment there "over the auto parts store," he said. The title song for Pop's next album, Lust for Life, germinated in that apartment.

Pop and Bowie, seated on the floor - they had decided chairs were not natural - were waiting for the Armed Forces Network telecast of Starsky & Hutch. The network started shows with a call signal that, Pop said, went "beep beep beep, beep beep beep beep, beep beep beep," the rhythm, which is also like a Motown beat, that was the foundation for Lust for Life. Pop recalled, "He wrote the (chord) progression on ukulele, and he said, 'Call it Lust for Life, write something up."

Bowie "saw me sometimes, when he wanted to voice it that way, as a modern Beat or a modern Dostoyevsky character or a modern van Gogh," Pop said. "But he also knew I'm a hick from the sticks at heart."

2011 Big Day Out in Melbourne
Rock legend Iggy Pop performs on stage at the Big Day Out

Iggy Pop performs at the Big Day Out in Melbourne, 2011.  Photo: Paul Rovere

By contrast, Bowie was "worldly," Pop said. "I learned things that I still use today. I met the Beatles and the Stones, and this one and that one, and this actress and this actor and all these powerful people through him. And I watched. And every once in a while, now at least, I'm a little less rustic when I have to deal with those people."

Bowie made a point of visiting Pop's parents in Detroit, where they were living in a trailer. "He came to my parents' trailer, and the neighbours were so frightened of the car and the bodyguard they called the police," Pop said. "My father's a very wonderful man, and he said, 'Thank you for what you're doing for my son.' I thought: Shut up, Dad. You're making me look uncool."

The New York Times