Some rock stars fade away. Some self-destruct at a young age. Some kept on chugging away despite it all, and are still going today (see: David Bowie and Mick Jagger).
But a few seem to be truly indestructible -- they bounce back from anything, whether it's drugs, madness, or their own genius. And in Paul Trynka's "Iggy Pop: Open Up and Bleed" is a pretty brilliant look into the chaotic life, influence, and constant ups and downs of one such rocker.
Pop was born Jim Osterberg, to some slightly quirky parents in 1950s Michigan. And Ann Arbor turned out to be the perfect place for him to bloom into a musician -- he became part of the Stooges, a fledgling band that gained and lost contracts like underwear. And they soon developed a reputation for two things: raw, wild, powerful punk, and a tendency to have really wild'n'violent concerts.
And Iggy's own life was just as volatile -- a cocktail of drugs, sex, creative eruptions, and extremely volatile personal life. But as the Stooges fragmented over time, Iggy's own life began seesawing between order and chaos, the bottom of the barrel with the rock'n'roll heights. And even now, as the godfather of punk rock, he spills over with wild energy and creativity.
The core of "Open Up and Bleed" is that Jim Osterberg and Iggy Pop are almost like two different people, like a demon possessing someone's body and making him wreck his life. As Trynka -- and many people he interviewed -- put it, Osterberg is intellectual, polite, clever man, while Pop is a force of self-mutilating destructive chaos.
It actually makes a lot of sense. And Trynka's detailed, intricate recountings get a lot of information from many people who knew Pop -- some fondly, some angrily, and thankfully there's no whitewashing of his personal flaws. But the author really makes you feel and see why Pop/Osterberg is such a powerful presence in rock'n'roll, since he poured his body and soul into his work.
And Trynka strikes a nice balance between his work and personal life, outlining marriages, drug problems, possible mental issues (is he or is he not bipolar?), and his repeated rises from the ashes. Despite all the chaos, he also focuses on the quieter parts of Pop's life, such as domestic bliss with Wife No. 2. And occasionally we even get a funny story, such as the "peanut butter sandwich on Iggy's chest anecdote.
One of the best parts of the book is his ongoing friendship with David Bowie. The past bond between these two men is the sweetest part of the book, especially when Bowie and Pop joined forces musically. It's a bit sad when they drift apart.
Trynka also paints a dark, gritty portrait the burgeoning punk scene of the time, as well as the proto-punk ferocity of the Stooges -- they were SO groundbreaking and raw that the record companies didn't know what to do with them. It took decades for them to be appreciated for what they truly were, and for Iggy Pop to be appreciated as a musical pioneer.
"Iggy Pop: Open Up and Bleed" is not just a biography of a brilliant musician, but a portrait of the rapidly-changing music scene that he first bloomed in. Definitely a must-read for rock'n'roll fans.
on May 8, 2007
Rob Trynka has done a great job gathering the details of Iggy's life, including a few "lost" eras when Iggy dropped out of the public eye. The author presents a very readable account that rings true in a way that many rock biographies don't. Even though he interviewed Iggy extensively, he also interviewed seemingly every living musician who's worked with Iggy (with the notable exception of David Bowie, who would not participate). He also interviewed many of Iggy's childhood friends and acquaintances and other musicians from the late-60s Michigan scene. And in recounting a lot of Iggy's self-mythologizing, and a lot of the classic Stooges tales, Trynka will often conclude that the recollections of another witness are more plausible than Iggy's version. That's something you usually won't get in a rock biography whose writer has the access that Trynka had. There are behind-the-scenes recollections from the participants of just about all of Iggy's albums, Stooges and solo. And the author even makes a strong case for the origin of the term "punk" in describing music--citing Lenny Kaye's original review of the first Stooges album, which he called the music of punks cruising for burgers. I'd always wondered where the first reference to "punk rock" appeared.
Beyond the 320-page biography, there's an appendix that lists Iggy's albums in chronological order, with original release and label information and info on the musicians. And as hard as it is to get excited about footnotes, they really stand out in this book. Each chapter's notes are like an add-on chapter, where the author provides supporting quotes, and often gives a longer version of a short quote from the narrative.
Maybe best of all are the two sections of photos. You can flip through the photos and captions and get a good preview of the full narrative, with great photos from the Stooge and solo eras. But if you read in public (as I did, on the subway) you might want to watch out for the full-nude shot.
on June 22, 2013
I agree with the positive reviews of this biography. It is extremely well researched. Trynka's interviews are to the point and he weaves a kaleidoscope of views of a mercurial, talented and often plain sleazy singer.
What most shocked me in this book was not the drugs, hot and cold running groupies, or the way too often mention of the size of the Ig's equipment (c'mon Paul, why the fixation on the Ig's schlong? By the 20th time you mention it, "It makes me wonder" as Led Zep would no doubt opine having read the book).
Rather, it was the Ig's predilection for underage girls. Traveling with 14 year old while in your 30s? Dumb, predatory and just plain illegal. Taking them across state lines? Even dumber and much sleazier. Ever hear of the Mann Act? Chuck Berry learned about to his cost. I was amazed that there were no repercussions from this behavior. I guess it helps to be free, white and over 21. Way over 21. If the Ig were a priest, the mob would be pursuing him with a rope and pick up truck. In Trynka's pages, there seems to be a shake of the head and boys will be boys, or supposedly grown men will be boys in this case, ethos to the whole thing. It is an issue where Trynka ducked, and in doing so missed an opportunity to delve deep into Jim's psyche by asking him, and insisting on an honest answer, what were the roots of this obsession.
I was a huge fan of the Stooges through their early albums. "1969" encapsulated the moment better than any whiny singer-songwriter or 'political' bands like the Airplane. While the MC5 was the most committed revolutionary band around, trying in one set I recall to convince the audience that burning down the venue was somehow a 'revolutionary act', the Stooges just turned up the amps and proclaimed that it was "No fun." That was all you could really do in those days anyway.
Trynka never overtly sits in editorial judgment of the Jim, the flesh and blood man, or on Iggy, the character which evolved to subsume the gentle, polite, caring and deeply intellectual man.
I came away from this book with a much diminished respect for Iggy, the trailer park reflection of Bowie's Ziggy.In fact, Trynka devotes many pages to the relationship between Bowie and Iggy, but somehow never mentions the mirror image alter-egos whose names even sound alike. Again, an opportunity to get to know Jim/Iggy on a deeper level was lost.
Surprisingly, I found even less sympathy for Jim than I did for Iggy. Jim could project his cold, selfish junkie cunning on Iggy just as Iggy could be blamed for for the way people in and around the Stooges were treated in Jim's doomed quest for wealth and fame. It was Iggy, not Jim, that pissed away more opportunities to achieve his dreams than any one man should ever have.
What is left is the music. Trynka takes on the roles of critic and of fan wonderfully here. The crazed brilliance of the Fun House era Stooges as juxtaposed to Iggy's spotty (in more senses than one solo career).
The book ends with a final interview of Iggy/Jim. Not much is made of this interview. In his 50s, the drinking and drugs had stopped.But the Ig remained fundamentally unchanged. No real reflection beyond the self-serving, a continued sensitivity to what those who he had stabbed in the back on the way up may have said about him, and and arsenal of self-serving excuses ready to call on as the need arises.
on February 16, 2013
Lots of good info and photos on Iggy. The data seems too fragmentary and unsynthesized and the books style was reminiscent to me of a textbook or "WWII" history book -- a bit subdued for Mr. Pop and his cast of colorful charachters.
I have found more informative and profound the IG section of "The Dark Stuff" and "Please Kill Me" but for a full book on our favorite Stooge this is the best thing out there so you might as well purchase it.
on April 20, 2007
Hands down the best Iggy Pop biography written thus far. I may even have to say it's better than his personally penned tome "I Need More".
Paul Trynka did the research and delivered the goods!
I'm impressed and can't put the darn thing down. It is one of those books you keep rereading.
Yep, I need more, lol.
on August 23, 2009
The onstage persona of Jim Osterberg, Iggy Pop, is -- like many other such fictional stage personas (Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson, Gene Simmons, Ozzy Osbourne, Criss Angel) -- a marked departure from the actor behind the mask. It is also an unsustainable fiction; in that the excesses and the legends surrounding these characters can lead to public expectations which take on lives of their own. The men behind these WWF-like characters must learn to separate their real lives from the fictional characters they portray, or risk falling down the very rabbit hole they use to scare their audiences.
Iggy or Jim came closer than most. He more-or-less lost himself for a good long while, living the rock & roll lifestyle and indulging in the depravity expected of Iggy rather than leaving him onstage. That Jim has survived to re-emerge in the mid-1990s as a cleaned-up (but scarily ugly) aging rock star is a remarkable and in its own way inspiring story.
Paul Trynka's "Open Up and Bleed" tells the story with balance (neither a fanboy nor a scold), with just the right level of detail (the hundreds of interviews are implied but rarely quoted) and with compulsively readable pacing. It is one of the best musician biographies ever written whether or not you consider the fictional character at the center to be a pioneering genius or a self-destructive idiot. Many greater talents have not survived the cauldron of fame.
on October 9, 2007
In many respects, this isn't simply a history of a rock and roll star, but far more... the tale of perhaps one of the most interesting characters to have ever walked onto a stage. Certainly, the majority of purchasers will be familiar with the career of Iggy Pop and/or The Stooges and they will be left almost fully satisfied. There is more information on their careers here than in any other book. That said, I would recommend this book to anyone, even those not familiar with Mr. Osterberg's work.
This is one of the rare books that is hard to put down. You just keep going to see what happens next. As would be expected with such a "stranger than fiction" personality, his life and times are the stuff of excellent reading. Additionally, the book is expertly researched and virtually no stone is left unturned.
I have one minor quibble however, and that is the brief documentation of last 10 years (up to the point in time the book was written). While large portions of the book are devoted to The Stooges and collaborations with David Bowie, the late 1990s and early 2000s are only briefly covered. Indeed, the reunion of The Stooges is only given a few pages. If ever there were a "full-circle" moment to a career, this is it and was deserving of more depth than was given here.
Overall, the book remains the best ever written on the subject of The Stooges and Iggy Pop's solo career and can be heartily recommended to both fans and non-fans alike.
on November 21, 2007
Bowie was obsessed with him. Martin Scorsese tries to insert his unique ambience in to his films. The entire punk and grunge subcultures universally credit him with their progenesis, an honor the man himself openly mocks and disdains. The first time I saw him he appeared on stage like a tornado of flailing arms, legs and other appendages (like the cartoon Tasmanian Devil). The fourth time I saw him, during the second song (a hard, fast, heavy 'Loose') I was absolutely mesmerized by the amount of energy emanating from the stage, and fully understood what he meant by 'Raw Power'...he was practically levitating, hydroplaning on that loud, tight riff as he sneered out the lyric. Later during that same show he went in to the shadows by the side of the stage while his band jammed 'Street Crazies' up to a frenzied enough level that he could step in with the vocal. I will NEVER forget the look in his eyes as he watched them from the wings... unseen by most of the audience. He looked possessed...frightening...very much like the 1982 picture, the same year I saw this concert, of him in the Haiti jungle that appears in Trynka's book, only more like a stalking lion (a closer likeness is the cover of the 'Run Like a Villain' single, which also appears in the booklet with the deluxe re-release of 'Zombie Birdhouse').
Iggy Pop is both the Van Gogh and the Mary Shelly's Frankenstein of rock as an art form. Beyond the obvious allusion to Van Gogh's one-off self mutilation, Iggy has been tormented by (probably more than one) mental and emotional disorders and ailments intermittently throughout his life. This has not only been given regular expression in his work, but is a byproduct of his often dark, hyper-Freudian / apocalyptic view of both himself and the world. Anyone even remotely interested in Iggy cannot help but be intrigued (as Trynka clearly is) by the dichotomy of his feral intelligence, articulation, and vast learnedness/'literateness' when contrasted with his bizarre, inexplicable drug or mental illness (or both) induced behaviour, which is so self defeating and destructive. In that way he is not unlike Jim Morrison, whose theatrics and performance innovations (as Rolling Stone put it) Iggy long ago "eclipsed". And Iggy survived himself.
I make the illusion to Frankenstein because, unlike a split personality where neither one is cognizant of the other, Jim Osterberg's created alter ego Iggy Pop was a very deliberate device or tool he fashioned as a vehicle through which he could give expression to a side of his nature and creative vision that is present in every true artist, but repressed by society and the fear of insanity. I considered 'Jekyll and Hyde', particularly given how the transformative 'drug' of choice (music) caused Jim to lose control over Iggy's emergence in other arenas of his life, but Frankenstein is better because the story includes that dynamic as well as the more distinct autonomy between the two beings that is evidenced by Osterberg's intellect and refinement...even gentleness...versus Iggy's malevolent, insolent, out of control monster let loose on an unsuspecting audience in the form of music and antics (I saw him several times in his hay day). Iggy Pop is, in fact, James Osterberg's ultimate artistic expression and...like another literary character I can't quite put a finger on (perhaps Chekov's protagonist in "The Duel")...the two have learned to live with each other's diametrically opposite 'weaknesses'. In fact one's weakness is the other's strength, and vice versa. Like a creative 'thorn in the side' for each half of the complete being.
On a superficial level, there is no-one with better instincts for a great riff, and in terms of artistic integrity in rock no rival except perhaps Neil Young or John Lydon. For undiscernible but unmistakably resonant mystical sound bytes in a lyric he has no rival except Dylan. As a symbol of rock music's essence he has only one superior...Keith Richards and possibly the 50's era Little Richard.
I go in to this detail because Paul Trynka 'gets' Iggy. His clear design of presenting 'two' protagonists who are concurrently each other's antagonists is brilliantly appropriate. Some critics have called it a hook, device, gimmick, and in so doing betray their ignorance of the subject matter because Trynka instinctively knew (or came to realize in his research) that there is no other way to tell the story.
The only criticisms/disappointments I have (more musical detail of recording sessions and tours, and spotty chronological arrangement) can be completely withheld in light of a.) the concurrent release of Richard Adams' more technical review of Iggy's career via 'The Complete Iggy Pop', and b.) the fact that this would've diluted Trynka's fascinating portrait of the man and his monster. Together these two books give as complete an overview of both the artist and his output that anyone could possibly need.
Very well done Mr.Trynka. I wish you'd been the chosen co-writer of Keith Richards upcoming (2010) autobiography.
on March 7, 2013
The first half of the book dealing with Iggy's early days and the formation of the Stooges up until their eventual demise was very captivating. The second half ,dealing more with Iggy's association with David Bowie and his solo recordings, is not quite as interesting (to me at least) but overall its a great book for fans of Iggy and The Stooges. Includes some great photos.
on April 25, 2013
For fans of a certain raw attitude, aesthetic, and delivery, Iggy Pop has few equals. Maybe no equals. Paul Trynka's biography Open Up and Bleed unpacks Iggy's life from childhood through 2007's The Weirdness, with a marked emphasis on Iggy's 1969 to 1979 output - arguably his finest period. The result is a comprehensive picture that both demystifies the icon and shows why he's worthy of his legend.
The book held more than a few revelations for me, like the influence of the Byrds on Ron Asheton's songwriting. Sounds insane, right? But go on YouTube and check out the two-chord bridge on "Tribal Gathering." You'll probably be surprised. I sure was. There's also a great account of the three months Iggy spent in Haiti around the time of Zombie Birdhouse, complete with opium binges, car crashes, voodoo curses, and possibly even actual murderous zombies.
The writing style here leans a bit toward the scholarly, which might be a barrier for those who are looking for a Please Kill Me kind of fun, crazy-story focus. But the subject matter is outrageous and entertaining enough on its own - this is Iggy Pop we're talking about - and the drier style creates a manageable distance for the reader to absorb the thoroughness of Trynka's research. Dude used to be an editor at MOJO magazine if you're looking for credentials. The guy can write.
Iggy, James Williamson, and the Asheton brothers all participated in first-hand interviews for the book. Trynka even got Iggy's consent to interview his court-appointed psychiatrist from the f*ck*d-up Kill City days in Los Angeles. There are two black-and-white photo sections, an index, endnotes, and a cool little discography at the back. Musicologist-types will appreciate the attention paid to studio-session details and the inventory of musical hit men in the Stooges and solo lineups. More-chill Iggy fans will just have a good time learning what records he listened to as a teenager and what drugs he was or wasn't on for most of the albums and tours.
Over the course of 350+ pages you'll get to know both Iggy Pop and Jim Osterberg pretty well. Both guys figure heavily in the story. Which one is ultimately in control of the other is debatable, and it's also a big part of what makes Open Up and Bleed such a compelling read.