Get Lit: Iggy Pop: Open Up and Bleed, by Paul Trynka

As Iggy Pop, he was (and is) one of rock’s wildest wildmen; a performer who might abuse the worst kind of drugs imaginable, bloodily mutilate himself on stage, or launch himself into a frenzied audience that might just as easily part like the red sea as catch him safely.

As James Osterberg, he was a clean-cut, preppy student politico and debate-clubber who hobnobbed with some of Michigan’s richest families and was voted “Most Likely to Succeed” in his junior high class. A teen who subsequently signed a friend’s yearbook as “from the 43rd President.”

That both men inhabit the same sinewy, impossibly muscled body is the yin and yang of Paul Trynka’s exhaustive bio, which posits the entirely plausible theory that Iggy’s worst enemy in sabotaging his career was himself.

With the wonderfully brutal and pounding music of the Stooges, Iggy helped not only set the stage for punk and DIY acts, but helped deflate what his fans saw as the increasing pomposity of late ‘60s/early ‘70s rock in records like The Stooges, Raw Power and their greatest achievement, Fun House.

But as is the by-now familiar scenario to anyone who’s watched an episode of Behind the Music, the combination of heavy drug use, infighting, musical direction differences and record-company indifference seemed to all but dictate that The Stooges (along with big brother band the MC5) would burn brightly, briefly—and then crash horribly.

In one particularly prescient passage, Trynka has Iggy pondering from the stage during one of the last Stooges shows, which had devolved into little more than crap sounds and crowd anarchy: Throughout, Iggy “stayed true to the music that he was convinced would transform the world,” the author writes. “And now, it was turning all to shit.”

Much of the part covering the decades since the Stooges’ breakup doesn’t pack the same narrative punch, save the symbiotic years of collaboration with David Bowie that inspired the movie Velvet Goldmine. However, it helps complete a portrait of the man who has recently reunited with the Asheton brothers and reformed the Stooges to assault the senses of a new generation of acolytes like Jack White.

Open Up and Bleed is definitely buoyed by the fact that Trynka not only interviewed Iggy, but also most of the Stooges and various friends, relatives and cohorts. Understandably, not all recollections are exactly complimentary to the man whom the author usually refers to as “Jim”—as if the I-Man is merely a crazy character.

And the fact that “Lust for Life,” his paean to scoring junk, is now best known to millions of housewives as the soundtrack to a cruise-line commercial? Just another obvious duality in the life of Osterberg/Pop. But at least one that pays well. – Bob Ruggiero

Iggy Pop: Open Up and Bleed, by Paul Trynka, Broadway Books, 371 pp., $23.95

Click here for a slideshow of photos of Iggy Pop at SXSW.

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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero