Steve Jones and Iggy Pop circa 1988
There exists a recording of the Stooges playing a straight-ahead cover of “Purple Haze” sometime in the 70s (see the dodgy-looking Anthology Box), but I’m in love with this weird, opiated bum-out version of the song Iggy recorded with Sex Pistol Steve Jones a decade later.
Along with several Pop/Jones compositions and Sly and the Family Stone’s “Family Affair,” “Purple Haze” was one of a number of songs the pair demoed in a home studio in L.A.‘s Hancock Park neighborhood in 1985. According to at least one crummy fan bio, Bowie was so impressed by the Hancock Park demos that upon hearing them he decided to reunite with Iggy for Blah-Blah-Blah.
Instead of the Day-Glo flash of acid, Iggy’s “Purple Haze” evokes the feeling of stumbling through a Ralphs supermarket at midnight on a handful of downers. (Despite the track’s druggy feel, Iggy biographer Paul Trynka says both men were clean and sober during these sessions.) It’s a radical rewrite of the song, with a new bridge, lyrics that mention The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and like none of the distinguishing features of the original. The vibe is more like the Stooges’ “Sick of You” than anything Hendrix ever played; Jones’ arpeggios remind me a bit of that gorgeous guitar break in the middle of Black Sabbath’s “Cornucopia,” and Iggy croons in his low register.
As on the previous Pop/Jones collaboration, the immortal “Repo Man,” Jones gets in a “Secret Agent Man”-style figure, though here it replaces one of the most famous rock guitar lines of all time. Unless I am merely going deaf, there is also a high-pitched drone throughout the song, reminiscent of the piano on “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” Maybe this is what happens when you take the “brown acid”?