In our new David Bowie memorial issue, out January 29th, various artists pay tribute to the late singer, songwriter and multimedia innovator. In this Rolling Stone exclusive, Iggy Pop recalls meeting Bowie in New York in the early Seventies and how Bowie influenced the Stooges’ Raw Power.
More than all of the other rock musicians, David Bowie was interested in people — really interested, especially other people in the arts. He was always like, “OK, who are you and what are you thinking about? How do you do what you do?” And he appreciated oddballs — people who looked different and spoke in a certain way. He had a very strong curiosity and had very absolute aesthetic values.
I met David in New York in 1971. I was staying at [publicist] Danny Fields’ little funky-ass loft. It was late one night, and Danny went to Max’s Kansas City. I didn’t want to go. I was watching TV — Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Danny rang me: “There’s a guy down here. You remember him.” And I did. David had said something in Melody Maker about his favorite songs, and he said he liked the Stooges, which is something not a lot of people would admit at the time. Danny said, “You really gotta get down here.”
David was there with his manager, Tony DeFries, and all these other people around him. My impression was that he was very poised and very friendly, but not as friendly in that setting as when I got to know him in smaller groups. I could see that he had some ideas for me.
I learned a lot from him. I first heard the Ramones, Kraftwerk and Tom Waits from him. He also had a certain rigor. If he saw something in another artist he admired, if they didn’t pick up that ball and run with it, he didn’t have any problem saying, “Well, if you’re not going to do it, I will. I’ll do this thing you should have done.” And that was very valid.
David had an important effect on the third Stooges album, Raw Power. We did some sessions at Olympic Studios in London — songs like “Tight Pants,” “I’m Sick of You,” “I Got a Right” — and sent the tapes to David. He came back to me: “You can do better than that.” So we did. We wrote more and came up with more sophisticated work. If we were going to be in his stable, he wanted us to do work of the very best quality.
You can see what I learned from David as a performer if you look at footage from the solo tour I did last year. I’m standing my ground — David knew how to do that. Keep your arms away from your torso. Put one foot forward. Sometimes a little bit of movement is better than a lot — a little bit left, a little bit right.
David was not a person to waste a piece of music: Never waste an idea. I first heard his 1980 song “Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)” when we were in a house on Sunset Boulevard in 1974. It was called “Running Scared” at the time. He was playing it on the guitar and wanted to know if I could do something with it. I couldn’t. He kept it and worked it up.
That was another big thing I learned: Don’t throw stuff away.
As told to David Fricke