Iggy Pop: 20 Wildest Moments From Infamous Stooge - Rolling Stone
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20 Wildest Iggy Pop Moments

The self-destructive legacy of the infamous Stooge

Iggy Pop; Wildest; Moments

Iggy Pop, in Cincinatti, the night he whipped peanut butter at the crowd.

Tom Copi/Michael Ochs Archive/Getty

There is extreme, there is legendary — and then there is Iggy Pop. Beginning in his earliest days with the Stooges taunting Ann Arbor frat boys and small town Michigan folk, Iggy made an art of excess: self-mutilation, self-exposure and self-destruction. His risky theatricality required an audience to respond, participate or get the heck out of there. And the sex and violence hardly stopped after the show was over. Here are 20 of Iggy’s wildest moments, both on and offstage.

Iggy Pop; Wildest; Moments

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 01: Photo of Iggy POP and STOOGES; Iggy Pop (Photo by Leee Black Childers/Redferns)

Leee Black Childers/Redferns/Getty

Iggy Pukes, Puts His Penis on an Amp (August 1970)

"He went to sing and he just pukes all over," Alan Vega recalls in Legs McNeill's Please Kill Me. "Miles Davis loved it." Later, during that same legend-establishing set at the New York club Ungano's, Iggy hauled out his sizable penis and let it rest on top of an amplifier. And, in perhaps his weirdest bit of stage theater, he grabbed the face of Geri Miller, one of Andy Warhol's superstars, and dragged her and her metal folding chair across the floor. At an Electric Circus show in New York the following year, recalling Iggy's prodigious vomiting skills, Miller goaded him: "Let's see you puke." Without hesitating, Iggy spewed all over her.

Iggy Pop

Iggy Pop performs on stage in 1969 in New York. (Photo by Leee Black Childers/Redferns)

Leee Black Childers/Redferns/Getty

Iggy Commands an Audience to Rip Apart a Fence (August 9, 1970)

By all accounts, the Goose Lake International Music Festival was a druggy free-for-all. But the festival organizers hoped to keep Iggy in check. He was forbidden from stage diving, with security placed onstage to keep him out of the crowd and a wooden fence erected between performers and patrons. Frustrated at these limitations, Iggy began chanting "Tear it down!" according to Paul Trynka's Iggy Pop: Open Up and Bleed. The audience, likely looking for an excuse to go wild anyway, obeyed his commands, ripping wooden planks away to destroy the barrier. During the mayhem, bassist Dave Alexander, stoned and terrified, panicked and was unable to keep the beat. The songs fell apart and Iggy, furious, fired Alexander immediately after the show.

Iggy Pop

CINCINNATI - JUNE 23: Iggy Pop of the Stooges rides the crowd during a concert at Crosley Field on June 23, 1970 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Tom Copi/Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)

Tom Copi/Michael Ochs Archive/Getty

Iggy Flings Peanut Butter on Cincinatti (June 13, 1970)

In the most iconic photos of Iggy's early career, we see him standing shirtless with an enraptured audience at the Cincinnati Pop Festival holding him aloft. He'd entered that crowd via stage-dive — another Iggy innovation — and would soon somehow produce a jar of peanut butter, which he slathered on his chest and flung in gooey hunks at his admirers.

Iggy Pop

LOS ANGELES - AUGUST 11: Punk rocker Iggy Pop performs an improvised play called 'Murder of the Virgin' at Rodney Bingenheimer's English Disco on August 11,1974 in Los Angeles, California (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

First Eyewitness Account of Iggy Slicing Up His Torso (May 23, 1969)

The abuse Iggy Pop inflicted upon his body is legendary, but according to Ben Edmonds, later an editor at Creem, Iggy's career of public self-mutilation began at an Ohio Wesleyan University gig that he had booked. "He picked up a drumstick shard and began absent-mindedly running it across his bare chest," Edmonds would later recall. "He apparently increased the pressure with each stroke, because red welt lines soon became visible, which then discharged trickles of blood running down his torso." Gruesome stuff, but even more disconcerting for Edmonds was when Iggy pulled on a white T-shirt after the set: The singer's blood seeped right through the fabric.

Iggy Pop

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970: Photo of Iggy Pop (Photo by Leni Sinclair/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Leni Sinclair/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Iggy Gets His Penis Out for the First Time Onstage (August 11, 1968)

Becky Tyner, the wife of MC5 frontman Rob, designed the pants — tight, low-cut, PVC hip-huggers, specially tailored for Iggy's muscular body. But they just couldn't stand up to the singer's demanding performance style. At a club called Mothers in the small town of Romeo, Michigan, Iggy got the show started by humping women in the audience like a dog, according to Paul Trynka's Iggy Pop: Open Up and Bleed. He returned to the stage and arched his back, contorting his body. Down dropped his drawers and out popped Pop's penis. Local law enforcement swarmed the club, but rather than clobbering the naked weirdo they'd discovered (their original intention), they merely arrested the performer. This, of course, would not be the last time a paying crowd got to peek at what Pop was packing.

Iggy Pop

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 01: USA Photo of Iggy POP (Photo by Richard E. Aaron/Redferns)

Richard E. Aaron/Redferns/Getty

Iggy Plays Vacuum Cleaner, Blender at First Stooges Show (October 31, 1967)

The Psychedelic Stooges debuted at an Ann Arbor house party on Halloween 1967. Iggy, in a thrift shop nightdress and a robotic wig created by pasting foil strips on a bathing cap, sat on the floor playing Hawaiian guitar, each string tuned to the same note, before he made experimental noises with a theremin, a vacuum cleaner and "the Osterizer," a whirring blender half-full of water into which he inserted a microphone. The band bashed out heavy drones behind him, making for a loud, druggy, crazed event that the many Michigan notables in attendance didn't soon forget. "It wasn't like anything else I had ever been to," MC5 manager and political firebrand John Sinclair would tell writer Joe Ambrose years later. "I don't know if there were 20 people there. I was terrified. I just thought, 'Jesus, they can hear this all the way downtown.'"

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