Nothing's Shocking: Thank You, Iggy Pop

A young Iggy Pop has his way with a microphone stand c. 1968
A young Iggy Pop has his way with a microphone stand c. 1968

Cyberspace was all abuzz on Monday, thanks to Lady Gaga's "shocking" VMA performance of "You and I" dressed as a young Ralph Macchio, or at least that's what it looked like from here. It was creative and bold, and definitely entertaining - but shocking? Eh. Then again, a second look is out of the question as the generous folks at MTV promptly scrubbed the Web of any footage in an attempt to sell the awards show in its entirety to every preteen with a PayPal account. But that's beside the point.

Cross-dressing is hardly a novel concept, for an entertainer at least. The music industry is filled with gender-benders like David Bowie and Prince, Madonna, Annie Lennox, Boy George and Robert Smith. Even Kurt Cobain sang a song in a floral frock now and then. The irony is that amid all the tweet and talk of Man-Gaga on Monday, the anniversary of a truly jaw-dropping onstage act quietly passed: It's now been more than 42 years since the first time Iggy Pop cut himself onstage on August 29, 1969.

Shock is right at home in the sweat-stained, grimy foundations of punk rock, with crude rhythms and equally primal live performances ripe with sex, violence, and, in the case of G.G. Allin, airborne shit (read the arrest report here, you won't regret it).

It was an era of "absurdity and desperation," all marching to the throbbing, primordial drumbeat of James Newell Osterberg, Jr, better known as Stooges front man Iggy Pop. Hailed "The Godfather of Punk," Pop was one of the most physical, and physically destructive, stage performers of all time. He would cut himself with glass, claw at himself until he bled, smear himself with peanut butter or meat products, and dive into the crowd.

In case you had't noticed, Rocks Off has been a little gory this week, so instead of a rundown of Iggy's most gruesome self-inflicted injuries (honestly, too numerous to count), we've decided instead to rattle off a few of our favorite Iggy Pop-inspired contributions to the world of music, aside from, you know, spearheading the whole punk-rock thing, and desensitizing us to pretty much anything that happens onstage. (Almost anything.)



Iggy Pop is credited with being the first performer to leap offstage into the crowd, often to his own personal detriment. He famously declared an end to stage diving following a particularly nasty fall at New York's Carnegie Hall in 2010, but Pop, then 62 years old, was spotted leaping offstage at a number of European shows several months later.


The Stooges' third release (the first under the name Iggy and The Stooges), written by Pop and James Williamson and edited by David Bowie. Despite abysmal sales and even worse reviews at the time of its release in 1973, today the album is widely viewed as a punk template.


Longtime friends Pop and Bowie collaborated on what would be a massive hit for the latter artist. "China Girl" also happens to be one of our personal favorite Bowie tunes, if only for the line, "Shhhhhhh...Oh baby just you shut your mouth".


"Lust for Life", Pop's ode to heroin addiction, featured prominently in the similarly themed 1996 movie Trainspotting, ranked No. 3 on Spinner's list ofTop 25 opening songs of all time.


The 18-page document outlines the specifications for lighting, sound and equipment and dressing-room stock with wildly irreverent, rambling narrative ("I'd just like to say the next time the Stooges get booked for their festival, I'm going to show up with some pickled eggs, a small blue vibrator with a jelly dolphin on the shaft, a set of dog-eared encyclopedias with the volume E-G missing, and a screwdriver that's been dropped in the toilet"), and even includes blueprints for a reality TV show, the aptly named Dead Dog Island.

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