The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #174: Lust For Life by Iggy Pop (KEXP)

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 and going until I reach Song . When you see the song title listed as something like: Song (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 (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.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #174: Lust For Life by Iggy Pop.

In the history of modern music, there have been several great duos: Simon and Garfunkal come to mind, as do, John and Paul, Mick and Keith and, why not, let’s toss in Sonny and Cher, while we are at it. But, I have to admit that, until doing this countdown series, I was not initially aware of how close a pair Iggy Pop and David Bowie were. In fact, as it turns out, they had been friends and musical collaborators throughout the entirety of their careers and had helped each other to achieve some of their most noteworthy work. “Lust For Life” is a tune that has become one of Iggy Pop’s signature songs, along with being used in one of the most successful advertising campaigns in recent memory and being the anchor song used to promote one of my favourite movies, “Trainspotting”. Yet, the story of how “Lust For Life” came to be is really the story of the friendship between David Bowie and Iggy Pop. Bowie’s fingerprints are all over the creation of “Lust For Life” which is fitting because, as you shall see in an upcoming post, one of David Bowie’s biggest hits from the 80s was actually a cover of an Iggy Pop song that Bowie, himself, helped to write and even played on during the recording session. Finding out that David Bowie and Iggy Pop were best friends has been one of the highlights for me of doing this countdown. Both are legendary performers and characters. Here is the story of how their friendship helped to create Iggy Pop’s signature song, “Lust For Life”.

As noted in a couple of posts already, in the late 1960s, David Bowie helped produce an album for Iggy and the Stooges called, “Raw Power”. *(You can find that post here). This album changed the way music was created and helped to inspire those who would launch the Punk Rock/Alternative Rock/Grunge Movements that followed. There was so much energy expended during the tour that followed the release of “Raw Power” that Iggy Pop turned to artificial means in order to sustain himself. As a result, he became addicted to heroin and began behaving, onstage, in harmful, dangerous ways, such as purposely cutting himself so as to watch himself bleed. HIs behaviour became so erratic that the remaining members of The Stooges left the tour. David Bowie became aware of Iggy Pop’s condition and intervened; taking him away to Germany to heal. Both Bowie and Iggy Pop lived together and began the process of becoming healthier in mind and in body. As that process unfolded, they began to feel their creative juices beginning to flow once again.

The culmination of this creative period, for Iggy Pop, was the release of three(!) complete albums within a one year period. The first album was called, “The Idiot” and was based on the book of the same name by Russian writer, Fyodor Dostoevsky. Most of the songs were written and produced by Bowie, including a song (which I shall not reveal yet) that was to become one of his biggest hits in the1980s! Critics and audiences noted that Iggy Pop’s songs from “The Idiot” seemed to be less loud and aggressive, as had been his most recent work with “Raw Power”. But, as happy as Iggy Pop was to be feeling better and making music once again, he was bothered by the fact that his friend had done so much of the heavy lifting for this album. So, he resolved to immediately make a new album, as a follow-up. This album was to be called, “Lust For Life”. The lead single was also called, “Lust For Life”. David Bowie played keyboards on the song but, other than that, he ceded the stage to his friend, Iggy Pop and stayed nearby but, out of the limelight. “Lust For Life” became a minor hit, along with another song called, “The Passenger”. A third album called, “Kill City” was released a few months after; thus completing a remarkably productive time for Iggy Pop….a time period that would never have been made possible if not for the love of his friend, David Bowie.

There were several unexpected consequences that emerged as a result of this period of collaboration between Pop and Bowie. First among them was the method by which Iggy Pop writes songs and the impact that it had on David Bowie. When Bowie started to produce records for his friend, Iggy Pop, he would often write the musical structure of the songs and leave Pop to write the lyrics. For most singers, writing lyrics involves notepads and pens and the creation of poetry on a page that transforms into the words of a song. But, in the case of Iggy Pop, he merely wrote down fragments of ideas that he had, based upon Bowie’s musical score. When it came time to record Iggy Pop’s vocal tracks, Bowie was surprised to learn that his friend actually ad-libbed the majority of his songs. Bowie became impressed by Pop’s creativity in the moment; so much so that when Bowie came to record his album, “Heroes”, he did so using Pop’s adlibbing technique.

A decade or so later, long after most people had assumed the shelf life for the song, “Lust For Life” had expired, Iggy Pop was approached by a company seeking to license his song for an ad campaign they wanted to run. That company was Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. Pop explained that the song, “Lust For Life” was about recovering from heroin addiction and was based upon a book by William H. Burroughs called “The Ticket That Exploded”, which accounted for some of the unusual references in the song such as “hypnotizing chickens”. But, Royal Caribbean insisted that they knew what they were doing. The song was licensed and became the theme song for a sales campaign that lasted well over a decade and which was highly successful in helping Royal Caribbean to lower the demographic age of its clients which was, their whole point in licensing the song in the first place. Many of Iggy Pop’s fans were upset and accused him of selling out to corporate interests. He replied that it was ok with him and that, by agreeing to let Royal Caribbean use his song, it meant that a whole new generation of listeners would hear his work for, probably, the very first time. On that, Iggy Pop was correct.

But, even more than Royal Caribbean licensing “Lust For Life”, it was the inclusion of the song on the soundtrack to the cult classic movie, “Trainspotting” that really introduced Iggy Pop’s career to a new generation. The song was used in the original trailer and, as such, became a defacto theme song for the movie. Because of the launch of the soundtrack album for “Trainspotting”, “Lust for Life”, as well as, Iggy Pop’s other hit song, “The Passenger” both got a second wind and climbed the music charts anew. So, just as the century was ending, Iggy Pop, Rock’s ultimate survivor, returned to the Top Twenty charts.

Iggy Pop had enjoyed a career that has seen many ups and downs but, through it all, he has always had a good friend named David Bowie by his side. The two friends have been an invaluable influence on each other’s career and, together, they have helped each other to create some of the biggest songs that form the soundtrack of our lives. But, if you were to ask Iggy Pop about it, he would reply that David Bowie didn’t just save his career, he saved his life. Those are debts that one can never completely repay. All you can do is keep living your best, most vital life…which is what the song, “Lust For Life” is kinda, sorta about. So, without further delay, here is “Lust For Life”… by David Bowie (The opening drum work is based upon the American Forces Radio broadcast theme that he and Pop used to listen to while in Germany recovering from Pop’s heroin addiction), lyrics ad-libbed by Iggy Pop. Enjoy.

PS: For those who know their music a bit, Iggy Pop has a smokin’ hot backup band in this video. His back-up band is comprised of members of Queens of the Stone Age, along with The Arctic Monkeys. This particular concert, along with another filmed for the tv show, “Austin City Limits” are tremendously good, in large part because of the talent of the back up band who rip it up on all of Iggy Pop’s tunes. Terrific rock n’ roll. Well worth checking out if you are so inclined.

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

The link to the video for the song, “Lust For Life”, as used by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Lust For Life”, as used in the movie, “Transporting”, can be found here.

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

The link to the official website for David Bowie, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for inspiring the writing of this post. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

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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