The Idiot is the debut solo album by Iggy Pop. It was the first of two LPs released in 1977 which Pop wrote and recorded in collaboration with David Bowie. Although issued after Low, the opening installment of Bowie’s so-called Berlin Trilogy, the pair began writing and recording songs for The Idiot in mid-1976, before Bowie started work on his own album. As such, The Idiot has been claimed as heralding the unofficial beginning of Bowie’s ‘Berlin’ period, being compared particularly to Low and “Heroes” in its electronic effects, treated instrument sounds, and introspective atmosphere. A departure from the hard rock of his former band the Stooges, the album is regarded by critics as one of Pop’s best works. Its title was inspired by Dostoyevsky’s novel The Idiot, three of the participants in the recording—Bowie, Pop and Tony Visconti—being familiar with the book. I will argue that there’s really a “Berlin-quintet” consisting of: The Idiot, Low, “Heroes”, Lust for life and Lodger.
Iggy Pop’s The Idiot, is equally a David Bowie album as a guest singer/composer; Davis Bowie co-wrote all the songs (except Sister Midnight that was co-written with Carlos Alomar and David Bowie) , played many of the instruments and produced it (kind of…). Tony Visconti tried to salvage the over-modulated tapes at the mixing stage.
|Released||March 18, 1977|
|Recorded||July 1976 – February 1977,Château d’Hérouville, Hérouville, France, Musicland Studios, Munich, Hansa by the Wall, Berlin|
|Genre||Post-punk, art rock|
|Producer||David Bowie (and Tony Visconti)|
Iggy Pop (w/ David Bowie) – Funtime and Sister Midnight (live 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
So, Iggy Pop acted as a guinea pig. David Bowie seemed tired of his ever-changing narrative or masks, so he used the opportunity making an Iggy solo record as a way to start re-inventing himself as well as Iggy. Iggy Pop and David Bowie worked extremely well as a team.
Iggy Pop – vocals
David Bowie – keyboards, synthesizer, guitar, piano, saxophone, xylophone, backing vocals
Carlos Alomar – guitar
Dennis Davis – drums
George Murray – bass
Phil Palmer – guitar
Michel Santangeli – drums
Laurent Thibault – bass
It seems so transparent, Iggy Pop, the wild man and Bowie the intellectual pop genius. Things weren’t that clear-cut, Bowie could be just as wild as Iggy, while Iggy’s wild man act could be as much of a put-on as Ziggy Stardust or any other of Bowie’s personas were.
There are anecdotes about Bowie’s touring musicians at the ’76 tours, they would find Iggy at breakfast, wearing his glasses, drinking coffee and reading political columns in European newspapers.
“Musically, The Idiot is of a piece with the impressionistic music of Bowie’s “Berlin Period” (such as Heroes and Low), with it’s fragmented guitar figures, ominous basslines, and discordant, high-relief keyboard parts. Iggy’s new music was cerebral and inward-looking, where his early work had been a glorious call to the id, and Iggy was in more subdued form than withthe Stooges, with his voice sinking into a world-weary baritone that was a decided contrast to the harsh, defiant cry heard on “Search and Destroy.” Iggy was exploring new territory as a lyricist, and his songs on The Idiot are self-referential and poetic in a way that his work had rarely been in the past; for the most part the results are impressive, especially “Dum Dum Boys,” a paean to the glory days of his former band, and “Nightclubbing,” a call to the joys of decadence.”
– Mark Deming (Allmusic) – 5 out of 5 stars
Iggy Pop – Dum Dum Boys (live, 1981):
The Idiot is one of those few perfect albums, and it is every bit as fantastic as you’d expect from two of rock’s most iconic and important artists.
The Idiot has been massively influential. We hear traces of David Bowie and Iggy Pop’s bleak, “european” rock in many bands; Joy Division especially. Ian Curtis sadly chose The Idiot to be the last album he listened to on the night of his suicide.
Iggy Pop – Nightclubbing (live 1987):
The Idiot is a consistently stunning and ground-breaking listen which breathed life into Iggy Pop’s career after The Stooges, The Idiot is one of the most defining and essential albums of its era.
David Bowie would later use some of The Idiot’s co-written material for his own releases. He reworked the opening track Sister Midnight, changed the lyrics quite a bit and released it on his album Lodger as Red Money, and his version of China Girl on the record Let’s Dance’ became a massive hit.
Iggy Pop – The Idiot (album @ Spotify):