Over the years, Michigan-born rocker James Osterberg Junior – better known by his stage name Iggy Pop – has earned a reputation as the Godfather of Punk. This is in large part because he was the frontman for the protopunk band The Stooges, but also because his reckless, Sui géneris stage presence embodied a lighthearted, yet slightly terrifying, a casualness that became synonymous with the genre.
In his own words, Iggy Pop proclaimed himself as the Godfather of Punk during a joint interview with David Bowie, Peter Gzowski plainly asked “Tell me about punk rock” before Iggy replied, swiveling his eyes figuratively if not physically.
“Punk rock is a word used by dilettantes,” he hesitates as the audience, certainly not used to the term, snigger, “…and heartless manipulators, about music that takes up the energies, and the bodies, and the hearts and the souls and the time and the minds, of young men, who give what they have to it, and give everything they have to it.”
“And it’s a — it’s a term that’s based on contempt; it’s a term that’s based on fashion, style, elitism, satanism, and, everything that’s rotten about rock ‘n’ roll. I don’t know Johnny Rotten, but I’m sure, I’m sure he puts as much blood and sweat into what he does as Sigmund Freud did.”
Peter Gzowski sits an imperceptibly another question asking, “They call you the Godfather of punk, can you explain why?”. Again Pop hits his cigarette and prepares himself.
“Probably because the word ‘punk’ it was born in newspapers and third rate magazines,” smirks the Stooges singer. “At the time, I was the first guy they called a punk.” Things then get a little more difficult to comprehend, “They used that term for me to represent the idea of someone who wants to do something very strong and very uncompromising, that believes in or has a vision of very badly, but at the same time he’s the kind of person who doesn’t have the skills or ability to do it. So, many funny things happen, and that’s a punk.”
It’s not the common interpretation of punk and not you’ll ever see written down recently, however caught in the circumstances of 1977 with Iggy Pop apparently powerless to sway this ageless question, the musician shows obviously confused by the label.
“It comes from films in the thirties actually, like in Maltese Falcon with Humphrey Bogart, there’s a very little guy who works for the bad guy and he carries three or four guns all the time but he’s too stupid to ever shoot anyone with them. So that’s what it means, I guess?”
As the interview goes on to represent Iggy Pop at the peak of his career not only presenting high-quality studio records like Lust for Life and The Idiot but giving showstopping appearances.
Keep going for the full interview below: