Iggy Pop: A Punk Rocker Devoted To Imperfection Over the course of 40 years, Iggy Pop has changed from a noisy brat with seemingly no chance at stardom to a widely respected founder of punk. A new box set, Roadkill Rising, collects many of his unreleased concert bootlegs.


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Iggy Pop: A Punk Rocker Devoted To Imperfection

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Over the course of more than 40 years, Iggy Pop has gone from a noisy brat who seemed to have no chance at stardom, to a widely respected founder of punk.

Music critic Milo Miles has a review of a new set of officially-released live bootlegs called "Roadkill Rising."

(Soundbite of cheering)

(Soundbite of song, "Real Wild Child")

IGGY POP (Musician): (Singing) Woo, woo, woo, woo. Well I'm just out of school, like I'm real, real cool. Gotta dance like a fool. Got the message that I gotta be a wild one. Ooh yeah, I'm a wild one. I'm gonna break it loose. Gonna keep'em movin' wild. Gonna keep a swingin' baby. I'm a real wild child.

MILO MILES: I'm not presenting much of a consumer guide here. If you even think you would enjoy four CDs of unreleased Iggy Pop concert bootlegs - with dropouts, feedback and lots of flubbed notes - you don't need me to tell you about it.

This is more of a reflection on surprising endurance. Back in the late '70s, Iggy, like Keith Richards, was supposed to already have a coffin with his name on it. Yet 10 years into the 21st century, he has enough of an established audience to support a boxed set of rough-edged performances that span more than four decades. So you have to ask: Has success spoiled Iggy Pop?

(Soundbite of song, "Funtime")

IGGY POP: (Singing) Fun, Hey baby, we like your lips. Fun, hey baby we like your pants. All aboard for funtime. Fun, hey...

MILES: Perhaps a better question is: How can you spoil someone so devoted to imperfection? Flaws and foul-ups have been part of Iggy's plan from the start, part of what makes him an arch-punk.

In the early days of rock 'n' roll songs, a constant character was the social outcast - a misfit who was, deep down, a knight in black leather. Of course, these were stand-ins for the performers themselves, good guys pushing what the squares considered pernicious garbage. And hippies were a milder, fuzzier version of the same misunderstood soul.

Iggy Pop would have none of it. From day one in the late '60s, he was bad and mad all the way down. He called himself the world's forgotten boy, and in one deathless turn, a submissive canine.

(Soundbite of song, "I Wanna Be Your Dog")

IGGY POP: (Singing) I'm so messed up, I want you here. In my room I want you here. Now we're gonna be face-to-face. And I'll lay right down in my favorite place.

Now I wanna be your dog. Now I wanna be your dog. Now I wanna be your dog.

MILES: The "Roadkill Rising" set confirms that Iggy's biggest flaw is that he has trouble with slow tunes. He cannot develop momentum or build to a big finish; when his tempo falls, the show usually slides to a halt.

In his weird way, however, Iggy can turn that to an advantage. During a heated show in 1980, he can't get the audience to calm down enough for him to cover "One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)." He curses and rages at the fans and they do the same at him. He starts the tune over and over again until you want to holler that trying to sing a boozy dirge to a crowded mass of zonked maniacs may not be a smart plan. But it is perverse. And that's what Iggy wants.

The slowish number that works best on "Roadkill Rising" is Iggy's hearty but tender reading of the McCoys' "Hang on Sloopy." For all his screams of personal nihilism and fury, it may be the most autobiographical statement on the set.

(Soundbite of song, "Hang on Sloopy")

IGGY POP: (Singing) Sloopy lives in area, bad part of town. And everybody here tries to put my Sloopy down. So hang on Sloopy. Come on, come on. Hang on Sloopy. Come on, come on. Just a little bit louder. Well, just a little bit harder.

Hang on Sloopy, Sloopy hang on. Hang on Sloopy, Sloopy hang on.

Sloopy let your hair down a little...

MILES: So is Iggy less captivating now that he's no longer beneath the underdog? Not necessarily. He founded a style as much as Little Richard or Buddy Holly and he has a core cluster of wild man anthems that will make people gasp and laugh for a long while. He's a shirtless, good-guy knight after all.

GROSS: Milo Miles reviewed the new Iggy Pop set called "Roadkill Rising: The Bootleg Collection 1977-2009." You can download podcasts of our show on our website, freshair.npr.org.

I'm Terry Gross.

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