Monday, September 07, 2020

The walls close in and I need some noise


French poster for The Idiot, released 18th March 1977.

“Poor Jim, in a way, became a guinea pig for what I wanted to do with sound. I didn't have the material at the time, and I didn't feel like writing at all. I felt much more like laying back and getting behind someone else's work, so that album was opportune, creatively.” - David Bowie

A lot of Stooges fans hated Iggy’s first solo album. I guess it wasn’t rock ’n’ roll enough for them. Far too dark and introspective - which is exactly what I like about it, and why it prefigured post punk so presciently, and became a template for Ian Curtis. It’s well documented as the last record that he listened to before he died.

It really is a Bowie album in all but name as, though he is credited as producer, he wrote most of the music and Iggy wrote the lyrics. It was made before Low, though released after it. It is a fascinating bridge between Station To Station and Low. Engineer and Magma bass player Laurent Thibault said that "David didn't want people to think he'd been inspired by Iggy's album, when in fact it was all the same thing." 

What In The World (working title Isolation) from Low was originally intended for The Idiot - Iggy’s backing vocals can be heard on it. “You’re just a little girl with grey eyes” is consistent with themes in China Girl, Tiny Girls and Baby. Sister Midnight was written by Bowie, Iggy and Carlos Alomar, and performed live on the Station to Station tour in early 1976.

The overall tone of the album is so lugubrious and sepulchral, vampiric and menacing, it feels like it could only have been made at night (which it was), by a zombie crew cattle-prodded into life. I’m reminded of Colin McCabe’s reaction to Derek Jarman’s 1987 film The Last Of England, where “.. he found it extraordinary how a vision so bleak was at the same time so exhilarating”

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