Elvis Costello was less than 24 hours into his first American tour when he met Iggy Pop. It was November 1977, and the former Stooges frontman was playing at the Old Waldorf in San Francisco when a bleary-eyed Costello, fresh off a flight from London, wandered into the venue just in time to see Pop sing “The Passenger.” The two chatted about the meeting and more during Rolling Stone‘s Musicians on Musicians interview.
The musicians met up virtually over the course of 90 minutes — Pop at home in Miami and Costello in Vancouver — discussing everything from their music, high and low times in the Seventies, the weirdest bills they ever played on, the time that Slade’s tour manager chased Pop down a hotel ballroom with an ax, how they survived on major labels during lean periods of their careers, and their lives during Covid-19.
“My memory of it was I was slightly scared,” Costello said, recalling his first meeting with Pop. “At one point, you got this tiny chair and inserted yourself into it. It was kind of like if you took Marlene Dietrich and put her in a rock & roll band.” When the show was done, Costello was ushered backstage for a quick chat. “You put your arm around me and said, ‘Just take care,'” Costello continued. “You were very kind, and I’ve never, ever forgotten it.”
Iggy also shared his first memories of hearing Costello’s music. “When I heard your music, I felt like you were the only thing coming out of the U.K. that wasn’t going along with the I’m-a-monster-with a-guitar-riff thing,” he said. “The whole guitar riffage was going up and up and up. You were either that or, no offense to her, you were Lulu.”
“I actually like Lulu better!” Costello said
“I love Lulu,” Pop said. “But you were either doing schlock or you were doing this thing that every six months was getting more stupid and dull. Being English, you know about this — when you don’t have much money, you save the tea bag for a second squeeze. That’s how rock was getting at that time. You came up with something different.”
The long-distance friendship culminated last year when Pop recorded a French-language cover of “No Flag,” from Costello’s new LP, Hey Clockface.