On the anniversary of Iggy Pop playing Liverpool Eric’s, Getintothis’ Banjo looks back at one of the most memorable gigs of his life.
Iggy Pop is a survivor. Not many people who were aware of him when he first found fame would have bet money on him surviving the 60s, much less into his 60s, and beyond.
But, in the year zero declarations that accompanied the early days of punk, Iggy was one of the few members of the old guard to be given any form of credibility or kudos, alongside Patti Smith, MC5 and precious few others.
Iggy’s exertions and his attitude with The Stooges had some common ground with the new breed who were decrying what had gone before as boring and irrelevant.
Iggy and the Stooges were far from being boring and the noise they made was similarly far from irrelevant in a brave new world being created in 1976 and beyond.
Punk’s early dalliance with self-harm was echoed in the antics of Iggy; an act that carried with it much shock value. Shock was part of the currency of the punks and, in Iggy, they found inspiration of sorts.
As a result, he was adopted by the new punks.
This admiration was a two-way street, as he had often struggled to find an audience. Now a new appreciative crowd was opening up for him, it seemed that time had finally caught up with Iggy Pop.
On a personal note, my initial reaction to seeing Iggy on the cover of my brother’s Raw Power album was to think that he couldn’t be punk as he had long hair. This was enough at the time for us to decry him as being part of the older generation and the likes of Johnny Rotten had got this one wrong.
Myself and a couple of friends played the album lifting the needle off the opening Search and Destroy, thinking it Heavy Rock. Second track Gimme Danger had acoustic guitars on it for god’s sake, and so the experiment was quickly abandoned.
We hated Iggy Pop.
A few weeks later, John Peel played Sick of You and we fell in love with it, rushing to see each other in the playground the next day to tell each other about this incredible ‘new’ song.
We decided to give my brother’s record another go, and this time we’d listen to the whole thing, rather than the opening few seconds of the opening few tracks.
Raw Power blew us away.
Yes, the production was dreadful, but here was the attitude and power of punk writ large in an album recorded way back in 1973. We got it.
We loved Iggy Pop.
His legend preceded him, and we discovered that his life was already the stuff of legend. The drugs, women and self-mutilation, the stage diving, the silver hair, the peanut butter!
We started buying his other records, notably the first two Stooges albums. Live album Metallic KO made the hairs on the back of our neck stand up as we listened to Iggy bait the Hells Angels in the audience, who in turn responded by showering the stage with bottles.
In June of 1978, we started going to matinee shows at Eric’s and getting hands on with the whole punk thing. It was an incredibly exciting time and, looking back, we can appreciate just how spoiled we were.
My first Eric’s gig was Joy Division and Rich Kids, my second was The Clash and The Specials. Further shows included Gang of Four, Ultravox!, The Cure and a memorable afternoon that gave us Echo and the Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes for 50p.
Like I say, spoiled.
Then, a few months later, we got the news that Iggy was coming to Eric’s.
Incredibly, that gig was 41 years ago today, April 21 1979. It doesn’t seem like that long ago, but the calendar tells us otherwise. Now, when we went to Eric’s there were always flyers available on the door and, once a month we got the new schedule and we could check who were going to see over the next few weeks.
This time though there was something different.
A second flyer.
This one didn’t have a list of bands on it, it was for one particular show, it was for Iggy Pop.
Adding to the unusual nature of this show, we could buy tickets in advance rather than just paying on the door.
Our excitement was slightly tempered by the price of the tickets, which were a shocking two pounds! Most gigs at Eric’s were only a quid, so this was a 100% price increase. By foregoing records for a couple of weeks we managed to save enough for this extravagance and bought tickets.
In 1977, Iggy had played at the Manchester Apollo, a famous gig that was filmed for Granada TV, who broadcast a clip of him singing Lust for Life, wearing leather trousers and a horse’s tail.
And yet, just 18 months later he was playing Eric’s, with a capacity of around 300 people.
One reason for this, according to Doreen Allen, who worked at the club and was given the job of sorting out Iggy’s rider, is that he wanted to play in Liverpool and no other venue would book him.
The blow was surely softened by the fact that Eric’s were able to book him for two shows, a matinee in the afternoon and an evening show later on, thereby doubling the attendance and the fee.
Come showtime of course, the venue was rammed. I had seen the place packed out before, notably The Clash gig I mentioned earlier and when The Skids played after appearing on Top of the Pops a couple of days earlier with their breakthrough hit Into the Valley, but this was something else.
Although this was ostensibly a matinee show for under 18s, such was the demand to see Iggy there was a real mix of ages at the show. We could usually see the likes of Ian Broudie and Ian McCulloch milling around at the matinee shows, but this was different.
Demand far outstripped supply, so fans took whichever Iggy show they could get tickets for, with some lucky punters going to both shows.
Iggy walked on to the stage and launched straight into Kill City. My first thoughts, after months of seeing him only in the pages on the NME and Sounds, was amazement that he was actually in colour, not just black and white like in the photos.
And he was also 3D – wow!
As an added treat for us young punks, ex-Sex Pistol Glen Matlock was on bass duties.
Somehow, and this used to happen fairly regularly, I managed to squeeze my way to the front of the crowd and had a view of the gig from about three rows back. This also happened with The Clash although I am at a complete loss as to how I managed it.
The audience were aware that this particular day was Iggy’s birthday.
Whether he actually announced it from the stage or not I can’t remember but, seeing as the majority of the audience were young kids, we burst into a spontaneous singalong of Happy Birthday.
There was always a part of Eric’s crowd who were too cool to clap, but we were 15 and 16 years old and cool was a problem for another age. Such issues weren’t going to stop us wishing Iggy Pop a happy birthday in song.
Of course, they weren’t!
At first, he seemed unsure how to react to this and it is easy to imagine that this kind of thing had never happened at an Iggy Pop gig before.
But as it became clear that yes, we were going to sing the whole song to him, he relaxed into it. Towards the end, after the “happy birthday dear Iggeeeee” he ran around the front of the stage with the biggest smile I think I have ever witnessed, plastered across his face.
Once we had finished, I stuck my hand out when he was within striking distance. He grabbed it and shook my hand and my teenage life was complete. I swore there and then that I would never wash it again.
Glen Matlock has his own kind of strange memories of this: “We did it this matinee at Eric’s in Liverpool and it was all these Boy Scouts and Cubs. Just after the music Iggy would come on. All these kids started singing ‘Happy birthday to you…. happy birthday Iggy Pop, happy birthday to you!’ Iggy was really taken aback (it was his birthday obviously!). He looked at me, looked around, looked at the crowd, and went ‘Well fuck you’ and went straight in to ‘Kill City’! There was all these 13 year-old kids! That was quite funny.”
I’m not sure where he got the Boy Scouts thing from, but it’s good to know that it still sticks in his memory all these years later.
We were all treated to a full Iggy show, taking in 17 songs including the likes of Sister Midnight, Shake Appeal and finishing with a storming I Wanna Be Your Dog.
Iggy Pop at Eric’s is a gig that tends to stick in people’s minds.
Author Frank Cottrell Boyce mentioned it when he appeared on Desert Island Discs, the Liverpool Echo included the show in their top ten punk gigs in Liverpool and it gets mentions in Liverpool Museum, The Independent and… well, you get the picture.
I was asked what was the best gig I had seen at Eric’s. I replied that, as we saw so many incredible bands there it wasn’t possible to say which was the best, but the one that stuck in my mind the most was when Iggy played.
It was a genuine anyone-who-was-anyone-where-were-you-sucker type of gigs, one of those incredible moments that, even as you were watching it you knew it was never going to truly leave you.
And here we are, 41 years later, still talking about it, still recounting those shock waves that rocked our teenage years.
2 Kill City
3 Sister Midnight
4 I’m Bored
5 Happy Birthday To Iggy
6 Fortune Teller
8 Five Foot One
9 Little Doll
10 Endless Sea
11 Cock In My Pocket
12 Shake Appeal
13 New Values
16 Don’t Look Down
17 I Wanna Be Your Dog