Iggy Pop’s classic album, The Idiot, is now 37 years old. It still sounds as good today as when it was released in spring of 1977, although the times have caught up to it. Somewhat at least.
Produced by David Bowie, who co-wrote all of the songs with Iggy, save for one (Bowie’s longtime guitarist Carlos Alomar co-wrote “Sister Midnight), The Idiot has very little in common with the rest of the Igster’s output, even his next record, Lust for Life, also produced in collaboration with Bowie. No, The Idiot‘s Teutonic-sounding industrial drone had almost no connection whatsoever to the sound of The Stooges, or really even most things of that era, come to think of it.
Bowie’s own Low album had just come out in January and was considered mind-blowing, even controversial at the time. The Idiot, released just a few weeks later (but mostly recorded first), was an equally chilly-sounding affair, but way darker and with a much bigger whomp. It’s sort of the perfect marriage of their talents.
As Bowie told Kurt Loder in 1989:
Poor Jim, in a way, became a guinea pig for what I wanted to do with sound. I didn’t have the material at the time, and I didn’t feel like writing at all. I felt much more like laying back and getting behind someone else’s work, so that album was opportune, creatively.
The Idiot was the first Iggy album that you could easily buy in a small town. I was eleven when it came out and I already owned both Raw Power and a blue vinyl Metallic ‘KO—both purchased unheard via mail order from a Moby Disc Records ad in CREEM magazine, a monthlong round trip—so when I brought The Idiot home from the mall and slapped it on the turntable, I was perplexed at first, but ultimately thrilled. “Dum Dum Boys” and “Mass Production” were my favorite tracks. The druggy, nightmarish vamp “Nightclubbing” was another. I played the shit out of that album.
When Iggy and Bowie toured that spring in support of The Idiot, they made a stop on daytime television’s Dinah! show, hosted by singer Dinah Shore. Bowie had been on Dinah! to promote Station to Station (with fellow guests Nancy Walker and Henry Winkler) and seemed to have a good rapport with Shore, so it was arranged that he would guest with Iggy, who sang a live “Sister Midnight” after Shore introduced him—her show was on at 10am in the TV market I lived in—with a photograph of him covered in blood! Dinah! may have been a middle-of-the-road daytime TV show, but to her credit, Dinah Shore didn’t shy away from asking him about it either (as Bowie laughs and shakes his head “No!”). Shore’s square studio audience, too, seem to actually be charmed by Jimmy Osterberg’s tales of his misspent youth, drug addiction and self-harming, because, hey let’s face it, the man was charisma personified during this delightful chat