A Lifesaving Bond: David Bowie’s Impact on Iggy Pop’s Survival Revealed
After the breakup of the Stooges in 1974, Iggy Pop experienced a sense of confusion and uncertainty. In 1975, he faced difficulties due to his escalating drug addiction, ultimately resulting in his admission to a mental-health institution for rehabilitation. During his stay, he received limited visits, but David Bowie was a notable exception and made an effort to see him.
As Pop’s addiction was intensifying, he took on a co-production role for the Stooges’ sophomore album, Raw Power, released in 1973. “Very few people recognized the quality of the Stooges’ songwriting,” Pop later remembered in the liner notes of the Raw Power compact disc. “It was really meticulous – and to his credit, the only person I’d ever known of in print to notice it among my peers of professional musicians was Bowie. He noticed it right off.”
Bowie made a timely comeback, appearing when the timing was perfect. Pop accompanied him during the 1976 shows to promote Bowie’s album Station to Station, which served as Pop’s introduction to the world of major international tours.
Bowie wasn’t an ideal example to follow as he had a strong preference for cocaine during the mid-1970s. This led Bowie and Pop to relocate to Berlin, where they made efforts to overcome their addictions to their respective substances. “Well, both Iggy and I felt like it might be time to clean up, so — we were very smart about it — we went straight out of L.A., to the heroin capital of Europe: Berlin,” Bowie made a lighthearted remark about the situation in a 1997 interview, “but you know something? We were totally unaware of that.”
Whether they realized it or not, Berlin provided Bowie and Pop with a feeling of being unknown and liberated, which enabled them to concentrate in a manner they had not experienced previously. In 1996, Bowie referred to the city as a “haven of creativity.”
Every day, Bowie would begin by introducing a musical backdrop of sorts, leading to conversations about specific words, their meanings, and their impact. Pop would then take it from there and expand upon those discussions. “I mean, it would take him maybe 10 minutes for Jim to put a really first-class lyric together,” Bowie commented regarding Pop’s real name, James Newell Osterberg Jr.
Three Bowie albums, namely Low, Heroes, and Lodger, eventually came to light. These albums shared a somewhat dark yet strangely uplifting atmosphere. Furthermore, efforts were put into Pop’s initial two solo records, namely The Idiot and Lust for Life, which were both unveiled in 1977.
Bowie was the more prominent figure compared to Pop, as Pop’s two albums, The Idiot and Lust for Life, only achieved modest chart positions, reaching No. 30 and No. 28 in the UK, respectively. However, these albums were well-received by critics and demonstrated that Pop was determined to continue his career beyond his time with the Stooges.
In a later conversation with The New York Times, Pop acknowledged Bowie’s hard work and dedication. Pop said:
“The friendship was basically that this guy salvaged me from certain professional and maybe personal annihilation — simple as that.
“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.”
During that period, Bowie and Pop had a mutually beneficial association. Bowie contributed his keyboard skills to numerous live shows of Pop, while in return, Pop provided backing vocals for Bowie’s album, Low. Bowie stated in 1996:
“Tempered by the fact that I worked with Jim so much subsequently.
“I appreciate that what, in fact, he is writing, is the great American late 20th-century novel, but he’s writing it in musical form. I got to appreciate him as being one of the great lyricists in America. I think that he’s ironic, moving, poignant, dangerous, hostile. He contains a wealth of expression in the way that he puts words together.”
At the time Pop accompanied Bowie to Berlin, he was approaching the age of 30 and had little anticipation that he would continue creating music for many more years to come. He told The Times:
“I learned things that I still use today.
“I met the Beatles and the [Rolling] 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.”