When people think of Iggy Pop most of them probably think of “Lust for Life,” Iggy’s biggest hit song, and what a fantastic song it is. Not only is “Lust for Life” most likely Iggy’s catchiest song, and therefore the best suited for radio play, but in some regards it captures a vital aspect of Iggy’s personality and life, for he indeed had a lust for life. Iggy was a hugely influential rock star who heavily indulged in drugs and partying, truly a man who lusted for life.
After “Lust for Life” the song most people think of is “The Passenger” and both of these songs are from Iggy Pop’s second solo album titled “Lust for Life.” It is a hell of an album “Lust for Life,” and part of that might have something to do with David Bowie. In 1977 Bowie was in Berlin working on his trilogy of albums, “Low,” “Heroes” and “Lodger.” While there he spent a meaningful amount of time working, and producing albums, with his friend Iggy Pop. The result of this collaboration was Iggy Pop’s first two solo albums “The Idiot” and the afore mentioned “Lust for Life.” Notably the song “China Girl” off of “The Idiot” was later performed by Bowie on his 1983 album “Let’s Dance.”
When punk rockers think of Iggy Pop they are probably more inclined to think of Iggy Pop’s earliest work with The Stooges, and probably most notably the highly important and insanely impressive album “Raw Power” which can rightly be contributed as one of the earliest pioneer works of the punk rock genre.
Despite having been around for so long and having made so many albums and written so many songs, it is interesting that the bulk of Iggy Pop’s work is known primarily just as the “Lust for Life” album and those hit songs that came from it. His work is a deeper well that is worth drinking from, but today I will focus on one of those two hit songs, because it is a song of deeper meaning than initial inspection revealed to me and indeed most.
When I think of Iggy Pop, I often think of drugs. Now could I not? Iggy Pop spent a very unhealthy amount of time on a drug induced rampage, getting himself arrested and disrupting his own concerts. It is fun, and even funny, looking back on some of his more deranged antics, but when observed all at once it is really rather frightening what Iggy put himself through. Iggy Pop is something of akin to The Door’s Jim Morrison, in just how far out of control he was, but a key difference is that somehow Iggy Pop survived and is still alive to this day. Iggy even released a new album recently “Post Pop Depression” which I have been listening to on youtube and it is pretty good.
“The Passenger” is the song I have always held as Iggy’s most enjoyable, or at least, the song that rang in my ear the longest. I felt a unique connection to “The Passenger” because I had a unique take on it. In a very literally sense I was a passenger in life. Due to a combination of factors, it took me a frustrating long time to acquire my driver’s licence, and living in a country like Canada, and a city like Calgary, where the population density is extremely sparse and mass transit being largely non-existent, getting around was extremely difficult, and thus I had to rely on the kindness of friends to drive me, thus I was in a constant position of passenger. There was one upside to this, I was never the designated driver, and thus spent many evenings gooned in the passenger seat being driven around.
Which brings me back to Iggy Pop’s drug habit.
I had always casually assumed that Iggy Pop, like myself, was too gooned to drive and thus found himself in the passenger seat seeing the world through the passenger side window, dazed and confused, but safe and more or less happy. This explanation made sense, Iggy Pop was a drug fiend and presumably could not, or at least should not, have been driving for most of his rock and roll career. How simple of an explanation, how simple an interpretation, naturally it is not the true message.
As time passed and lyrics were listened to more and more, and I learned more about the icon Iggy Pop, I knew “The Passenger” had more to it than a simple observation of being escorted about while intoxicated. I later learned that the song was written while Iggy Pop was riding the S Bahn in Berlin, and this connected with me because I have been to Berlin and I got around exclusively using the S Bahn. Still there was something more going on in these words in this song, it was much less to do with the literal act of travelling, and so much more to do with being led.
“The Passenger” is truly about not being in control. We can link this to alcohol and drugs and having handicapped facilities and thus no longer being in control, but as I said before, this is deeper than that. “The Passenger” is about not being in control of your own life.
There are so many variables in the world, so many factors and consideration raining upon us at all times, and they are in a constant state of flux, often times the sheer volume and unpredictability of life is so overwhelming that everything feels like chaos. There is no solution to this stress, or feeling of being powerless, we simple must soldier on, make the best of what we have, and manage as best we can with what we can control. We can let go, and let the current of the river take us. We can be a passenger and watch the world from under glass and believe that everything was made for us. Try our best to stay strong and calm.
This too connects with me, and I suspect virtually everyone who has ever lived.
In a fever dream, not long ago I came to realize that everything I had control over in my life was extremely well managed, it was only the elements where others possessed influence over me that were seriously harming and hurting me. As frustrating as all this is, it made me in no way unique, we are all passengers unable to take perfect control of our lives. Sometimes we can only go where the S Bahn takes us. Sometimes all we can is ride, and ride and ride.
“Lust for Life” expresses a strong element of Iggy Pop’s personality and life, and equally so does “The Passenger,” for this life is no less, and in fact probably more so at the time of writing this song, chaotic, and he was surely both literally and symbolically a passenger. So, we all are too.
- King of Dreams