The Passenger

‘Iggy Pop: The Passenger’  by Stephen Barber (expected 2017-18) will take an original approach to the fifty-year anti-career in music and noise of Iggy Pop – with its dominant preoccupations of ecstasy and nihilism, self-laceration and audience-confrontation, hedonism and death – and the ways in which it has inspired innumerable musicians, artists, writers, filmmakers and other prominent cultural figures, internationally, throughout those five decades.



Iggy Pop’s work as the singer with The Stooges (1967-74 and 2003-14) delineated and propelled the principal themes of punk-rock in the USA; equally, from the many North American sources of European punk-rock, it was the sonic response of The Stooges to boredom, social stultification and subjugation which especially resonated in mid-1970s Britain and animated UK punk-rock, as in The Sex Pistols’ seminal rendition (1977) of The Stooges’ ‘No Fun.’

Above all, Iggy Pop’s early performance style – with its intensely corporeal focus, punctuated by razorcuts to the skin and collisions with the audience, and contemptuous of musical technique – broke with the more relaxed, pleasure-oriented performance idiom which had been largely prevalent for rock music’s first decade. Iggy Pop’s work also has a distinctive capacity to evoke beguiling cityscapes, often in the form of songs (such as ‘The Passenger’, 1977) narrating cities seen through the windscreens of moving cars on freeways or in transits between nightclubs. The experience and perception of cities form pivotal presences throughout Iggy Pop’s work, from the industrial cities of Michigan in The Stooges’ work, via West Berlin during his mid-1970s art-driven collaborations with David Bowie, to Paris in his death-preoccupied recent recordings.

Iggy Pop’s contemporary work – alongside art-collaborations, film-soundtracks and film-acting, his radio and public lecture work for the BBC – forms an extraordinary summation in its capacity to analyse both its own disintegrative course over the decades and also to reflect on current dilemmas in digital, social and political cultures. That public lecture work notably reveals the ways in which Iggy Pop’s music can be gloriously funny in its desperate, last-ditch black humour and coruscating self-mockery. The book will explore the status of the internationally acclaimed new recording, Post Pop Depression (2016), Iggy Pop’s collaboration with members of Queens of the Stone Age that directly evokes his 1970s work with David Bowie, and which he has intimated will be his last recording.

This book will assess the special, always-awry status of Iggy Pop which leads his devoted audience to view him as an exceptional figure in music history, and will explore his work in its many obsessions: with sonic and corporeal assaults, with the invocation of cities, and with memory and death in the contemporary digitised world.



STEPHEN BARBER is Professor in Art & Design History in the School of Critical Studies and Cultural Industries at Kingston University, London. He is the author of over twenty books, most recently: Performance Projections: Film and the Body in Action (Reaktion Books, 2014) and Pierre Guyotat: Revolutions and Aberrations (Vauxhall and Company, 2016). A new book, Berlin Bodies, will be published by Reaktion Books at the beginning of 2017.


By John Scanlan

John Scanlan is the Series Editor of Reverb with Reaktion Books.