The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #297: The Passenger by Iggy Pop (RS)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #297: The Passenger by Iggy Pop.

Some songs on the all-time list have deep, reverential meanings. Some helped to introduce new singers/bands to the world. Some of these songs even launched new genres of music and changed the culture of our society. And yet, some songs are simply observational. Such is, “The Passenger” by Iggy Pop.

In the 1970s, Iggy Pop (“Iggy and the Stooges”) was changing the face of music; particularly, in Europe and the UK. “The Stooges” were one of the forerunners of Punk Rock and, as such, their brand of fast, loud, aggressive music was a revelation to those hearing it for the first time. Iggy Pop was every bit the frontman that Mick Jagger was in his most cocksure moments but, amplify that tenfold and there would be Iggy Pop. He remains the most electrifying performer I have ever seen live…..and that was twenty-five years after he and The Stooges released their seminal album, “Raw Power”. Back in his early days, Iggy Pop was an unpredictable stage presence which was, along with the music, one of the appeals to fans. But, as much as Iggy Pop may have been forward-thinking, in terms of his musicality and his histrionics on stage, he was not alone on his journey. One of the people he had backing him, emotionally and creatively, was David Bowie. Bowie lent his genius to producing “Raw Power”; giving it that extra bit of substance that helped raise the album above the ranks of those merely making noise.

“Iggy and the Stooges” accompanied Bowie on several of his tours and it was while doing so that “The Passenger” came to be written. At the time they toured together, Iggy Pop was a young man in his early twenties who had invested the whole of himself into his music. A consequence of that is that he did not have some of the life experiences that many young men in their twenties had; one of which was getting his driver’s license. As such, when he toured with David Bowie and Bowie’s entourage at the time, Iggy Pop was dependent upon them for transportation. For someone as hellbent on independence and being beholden to absolutely no one, it stuck in Iggy’s craw that he needed rides from Bowie to get from town to town. “The Passenger” is a song that encapsulates his feelings of driving across Europe and America with David Bowie.

“Oh, the passenger.

See how he rides.

Oh the passenger,

He rides and he rides.

He looks through his window

What does he see?

He sees the silent, hollow sky.

He sees the stars come out at night.

He sees the cities ripped backsides.

He sees the winding ocean drives.

And everything was made for you and me,

All of it was made for you and me.

So, let’s take a ride and see what’s mine.”

This is a song that I might try, if I was to ever do karaoke in a bar. Unlike many “Stooge” songs, “The Passenger” has more of a standard Pop/Rock structure and has a good, sing-a-long chorus, too. I could probably get away with singing it. You might even sing the chorus along with me. But, when Iggy Pop sings it, even this song becomes slightly dangerous because you just never quite know what he is going to do on stage. He alternates from menacing sneer, to spasmodically careening across the stage, to crowd-rousing cheerleader, to deep-voiced crooner…all in the course of one performance. As entertainers go, Iggy Pop resides on the razor’s edge and that what’s makes him so compelling.

“The Passenger” has appeared on two separate albums that helped breath new life into the song and, in my case, brought it to the attention of people who may not have heard it otherwise. First of all, Iggy Pop contributed a song called “Lust for Life” to the awesome and amazing soundtrack to the movie, “Trainspotting”. I bought that CD when it came out and have loved it unreservedly ever since. A short while after that soundtrack was released, a “bonus” CD of “additional” songs from the movie was released. I bought that, too. One of the “additional” songs was “The Passenger”. That was the first time I had heard the song. I instantly loved it and have felt that way since.

The second album that helped boost the presence of “The Passenger” was an album called, “Through the Looking Glass” by Siouxsie and the Banshees. This was an album of cover songs that Siouxsie Sioux liked and wished to pay homage to. In her cover version, she added a brass section that, even Iggy, himself, claimed is an improvement on his version of the song. *There is a funny thing about the Siouxsie and the Banshees version that requires a short, personal story. We bought a new car two months ago. It came with a three-month trial subscription to satellite radio. I don’t tend to listen much to today’s radio but, I kinda like the satellite radio because of the speciality channels available. One of those specialty channels is dedicated to Alternative music (which I like best). One day, while driving Leah to work, “The Passenger” by Siouxsie and the Banshees came on. I didn’t say anything about it but, Leah actually kinda, sorta liked it. Normally, she doesn’t like much of what I like so, for her and I to both agree on a song, says something.

I will post both versions of this song and maybe, just maybe, you may agree with Leah and like the newer, Siouxsie and the Banshees version of “The Passenger” best. I will always be an Iggy Pop fan but, the Siouxsie and the Banshees cover rates, too. In any case, enjoy a song inspired by being David Bowie’s passenger. I have never driven anywhere with Mr. Bowie but, had I been so fortunate, I imagine the drive would have been interesting. Here is “The Passenger” by Iggy Pop and then, again, by “Siouxsie and the Banshees”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “The Passenger” by Iggy Pop, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “The Passenger” by Siouxsie and the Banshees, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Iggy Pop can be found here.

The link to the official website for Siouxsie and the Banshees, can be found here.

The link to the official website for radio station, KEXP, can be found here. Thanks, as always, to them for supporting the very best of music from all over the world.

Author: Tom MacInnes

Among the many characters I play: husband, father, son, retired elementary school teacher, writer, Cape Bretoner, lover of hot tea and, above all else, a gentleman. I strive to make a positive difference in the lives of others. In Life, I have chosen to be kind.

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