tue 07/07/2020

Opinion: Iggy's adverts are so very, very wrong | reviews, news & interviews

Opinion: Iggy's adverts are so very, very wrong

Opinion: Iggy's adverts are so very, very wrong

Has Iggy Pop's persistent touting of car insurance finally tainted his whole career?

To quote them more extensively, "When we're young a large part of our original motivation in discovering music comes from trying to find out about our identity - perhaps to fit in, or, in contrast, to differentiate ourselves from the rest. The musical morality we adopt at an early age often becomes enshrined, making it hard to change our views later on."

This perspective seems sensible. We can now nod sagely pondering the incomprehension of the folkies who called Bob Dylan a traitor for going electric almost half a century ago, we can revel in the edgy art-outsider stance of Lady Gaga despite knowing she's merely one cog in a corporate cash-juggernaut, and we can bear long, dry speeches from the man who once sang "Teenage Kicks" and is now a business rep for the British Music Industry. Iggy Pop, however, has crossed the line, he's done the dirty on us, he's sold out good and proper. There. I said it. It's been a long time coming and I've resisted but as his third set of car insurance ads hits our TV screens and plasters the walls of our cities, the game's up for Iggy the artist, the great progenitor of punk, the rock'n'roll hero. So ubiquitous is his presence as a car insurance salesman that it's now difficult to listen to his fantastic back catalogue without the drawled mantra "Get a life" popping into your head.

Much of the offensiveness of Iggy's transformation to insurance salesman is aesthetic. The manner in which pop and rock has often been marketed as rebellious and roguish leaves a chunky philosophical grey area. Grown-up thinking tells us we shouldn't take all that rebellion too seriously - they're just entertainers, after all. Iggy Pop certainly is but he was also a key figure in the catalytic whirl of late-Sixties Detroit, a direct spiritual descendant of beatnik troublemaker John Sinclair, manager of fellow Motor City mavericks The MC5. Sinclair, founder of the White Panther Party, famously had a manifesto that included "rock and roll, dope and fucking in the streets" and was briefly thought so dangerous that police harassment eventually resulted in a substantial prison sentence for two joints of marijuana. The MC5 collapsed just as they should have blown up but Iggy's band, The Stooges, recorded three incendiary albums that did everything Sinclair could have hoped for and provided a core touchstone for punk.

Iggy's stage performances were and are demented. He has something of the shaman about his onstage presence, a fact he acknowledged when interviewed on the South Bank Show a few years ago. At the Glastonbury Festival in 2007, The Stooges' performance, replete with anarchic stage invasion, still stands out as one of my peak gig experiences ever, magnificent chaos and tempestuous distorted noise with Iggy as unstoppable ringleader. It is a shame my children now know him as "the man from those rubbish adverts", and also so unnecessary.

full-iggy-popcompIggy is, of course, a construct of James Osterberg, the offstage man, an intelligent, witty, cultured individual. There has long been a split personality between Osterberg and Iggy. One plays golf and enjoys fine wine, the other is a flailing psychotic loon. No one minded that disparity when it was between Pop-Osterberg and his psychiatrist. Now, however, in the insurance ads, we have an irritating, shrill little Iggy puppet alongside the man himself. You don't have to be Carl Jung to analyse what's going on. Osterberg seems to be explicitly stating, for car insurance cash, that Iggy is slightly embarrassing, a cartoon id, while he is a wry, mature smarm-case.

Osterberg/Pop has taken dubious corporate pay before - he once went on a US tour sponsored by a tobacco company - but, again, with the insurance ads it's the aesthetics that are so insulting. Iggy was, in his own wild way, a work of art, a creation ongoing over 40 years, mostly untainted (or at least sidestepping major noticeable pitfalls). Public figures have long recorded lucrative adverts to be shown in foreign markets where it won't damage their credibility. Osterberg, who cannot possibly need the cash, seems to regard our market as no longer relevant to perceptions of Iggy. He has sold "the Iggy concept" to the businessmen that our teenage selves were always sure he wouldn't.

Osterberg seems to be publicly dismantling the greatness of his life's work in a most banal fashion

"Lighten up and grow up," I hear you say. "It's only a bit of fun and a 63-year-old man feathering the nest for his retirement." Sure, but it's the cumulative effect of all aspects of the ads that make them beyond the pale. Many rockers with heavy reputations have done ads and come out of it intact. Keith Richards, for instance, advertised posh luggage but was beautifully shot by Annie Liebovitz, while Lemmy recently slowed down "The Ace of Spades" for a beer ad. Both came out unscathed. Osterberg seems, on the other hand, to be publicly dismantling the greatness of his life's work in a most banal fashion. The nearest parallel is with Lydon's butter adverts but Lydon has been a pantomime dame for years, acerbic fun but lost in the wilderness, unsure what to do with himself creatively. Iggy, on the other hand, remains a vital, intriguing artist - his last album, Preliminaires was a jazz outing based on a Michel Houellebecq novel. He's doing himself a huge disservice.

Our heroes let us down. It's all a bit ridiculous, juvenile even, getting so involved with pop musicians and investing in them emotionally. But that's also the whole point of being involved in any of it at all. Who wants to sit on the sidelines cerebrally appreciating? The raw thrills are to be found in the high times where music reaches such greatness it pushes almost into another dimension. Or at least it feels that way at the time. Osterberg/Pop was a king in this respect and may yet be again. In the end, it's all about lines drawn in the sand. Where is too far for an artist to involve their art in pure dull commerce? For me, the car insurance ads have crossed that line. They've spoilt my enjoyment. I know that eventually they will be forgotten and all that will be remembered about Iggy Pop will be songs such as "I Wanna Be Your Dog", "The Passenger" and so on. The best we can do is wait for it all to blow over. And remember that he's wrong. Car insurance is not - even faintly - rock'n'roll.

Watch Iggy in his prime, below 

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What? Has it really taken you three years to come to this conclusion? What took you so long? Iggy burned up his legacy the minute he put pen to paper on the original contract with the advertisers. And I hate to burst your bubble about the Glastonbury gig but that stage invasion was completely stage-managed. Exactly the same thing happened at the Funhouse gig at Hammersmith in 2005 at exactly the same point in the show. Being there (at Hammersmith) at the time, I agree that the perceived chaos felt exciting but sitting and watching the Glastonbury footage on TV a couple of years later I was hit with the sinking realisation that "Oh dear, they do this every night, don't they?". The myth of the moment I experienced in 2005 was well-and-truly busted. If you look at the footage on You Tube, you can see he has even got a plain-clothes security guy shadowing him to make sure he doesn't get bashed about too much. Jeeez.... There was a time though when the Stooges were genuinely avant-garde, totally over the edge and didn't perform with any safety nets. They were a danger to themselves and their audience - both artistically and physically. Iggy was the ultimate anti-hero. But those days ended when the band disintergrated in a drugged up mess in 1974. Since then, Iggy has been nothing but a parody of himself. Back to the point though. As usual, Bill Hicks says it best: "You do a commercial, you're off the artistic roll call for ever, end of story. You're another corporate f**king shill, another whore at the capitalist gang-bang. If you do a commercial everything you say is suspect and every word that comes out of your mouth is now like a turd falling into my drink." PS. One bit of advice. If the commercials are now interfering with your enjoyment of the Stooges' records, do what you should have done three years ago and turn over when they come on.

which bit of Iggy Pop's original manifesto said he wasn't going to take what he could get? If you don't sell in, you don't sell out! people seem to confuse Iggy with a 'punk aesthetic' but that's not his rule book. The 'Sell out clause' was added by middle class journalists in the punk era. Also what's your views on John Peel's endless voice overs on ads and Henry Rollins ads for Apple? You can't have it both was mate, you can't download all the music for free, not play the songs on the radio and expect the artist to sit back and say 'well done'.

Totally agree with Babooshka. Should I give a phuq what some hack who works for the Daily Torygraph thinks about anyone selling out. good on Iggy;hope he enjoys the dosh ..i've certainly enjoyed his contribution to the human race. I've only come across this 'scribe' today- and I promise not to come across him again. All the bastards in the world and Thomas H Green sees Iggy as a target for his disillusionment. Poseur.

Charles Ives is now commonly recognised as the first great American Composer of 20th Century, indeed it is fair to say that Ives was probably the first great American Composer period... Charles Ives was also an Insurance Salesman!!! What the hell does it matter how Iggy gets a bit of spare cash, it is you that really needs to get a life, at the end of the day it's about the music and while the Stooges album "The Weirdness" wasn't that great, personally I enjoyed "Preliminaires" and the music is what matters....

iggy pop's music is still great, you just watch too much TV and look at adverts too much!!!!! .Retreat to the hills and get rid of your computer/TV/DVD. get some chickens and a goat and meditate on reality you'll realise it's not that important or suprising that an ex-junkie decided to cash in on his fame.

Wow, are you kidding me?!!!!!!! First of all, I would dare you to say any of this to Iggy's face. Second of all, your premise is completely wrong and misguided. You're projecting all of your proposed punk ideals onto him, when they have never had anything to do with the real man himself. The fact is, that his collected body of work was, is, and will always be f-ing fantastic. Period. To say otherwise, because of an advert that you don't happen to like, is complete and utter snobbery on your part. To compare the aesthetic to that of other ads shot by Annie Lebowitz, etc. is ridiculous. Btw, he has been shot by Annie as well before. You obviously don't know Iggy, who would have undoubtedly not liked you at all. Let the man live a life of success. After years of being spit on in the press by people like you, and not having any commercial success, it is so wrong for you to sit in judgement. They never played his songs on the radio, the masses never went out and bought Stooges records, so piss off if you think he''s selling out now. Iggy couldn't care less what your snobby ass thinks, anyway.

Didn't this terrible decline begin back in 2003 when we were presented with a song by "Iggy Pop feat. Green Day"? Wasn't the writing was on the wall then?

I agree with a statement above, if you never bought in you can't sell out i consider myself among the biggest iggy pop fans, i feel privileged to have seen the stooges three times 06/08/10 (and yes they do the stage invasion every night; doesnt seem any less exciting - if you're looking for vicarious thrill don't look for it at a gig like some mid-lifing parent with their 15 year old) personally, i had no problem with the first set of ads, and if they'd left it there i guess it would have been tasteful, the only problem i have with the recent couple are they just aren't funny and venture into that 'annoying ad' territory - still enjoy seeing him on TV, it was so strange to see him on TV when the ads started also agree with statements above that iggy and punk aren't symbiotic, punk was one of the myriad after effects of the last musical revolution spearheaded by bands such as the stooges, who i'd classify as the last important band, the DIY ideal has since been seen in anyone who played a song / instrument etc differently or even just those who picked up an instrument and gave it a go, its the natural progression of music really but the punk thing was entirely different i just think its kind of pathetic to attach your own disappointment (or feeling of abandonment) to an artist making a living (one who has done MANY advertisements before) as if you yourself had bought into something - and if you seriously cannot enjoy a stooges album or even anything iggy has produced because of a set of ads then i think its you who has sold out

Iggy's own words circa 1986- You can tempt me with a pretty girl You can call on me in fancy fur You can say, "just do it, everyone is" You can tell me that it's just showbiz You can turn my life from green to red But I ain't gonna be no squarehead Lydon claims he did the butter ad to fund a Public Image Ltd tour (incidentally a very underrated band) It's funny how defensive some of these comments are.

It's good to finally see someone draw a distinction between legitimately capitalizing on a career and real, live, actual sell-outs. Personally, I don't worry for a moment about artists who sell out because they're usually way past their primes. It's foolish to spend any time thinking about what artists do outside of their artistic careers, because you're bound to be disappointed. Artists brush their teeth, wake up with bed head, snort cocaine and scream at their girlfriends/boyfriends just like a lot of other people. And they like to make money, just like a lot of other people, so they do ads like this. In my mind, the only tragedy is that the ones who make real money from these ads are the ones like Iggy Pop, who don't really need any more money, instead of the upstarts, who have to work a lot harder now for a big-money record deal. They've got to be their own business managers and be on 10 different websites (Myspace, Fargotube, Reverbnation, etc. etc.) to keep going from one gig to the next.

There's plenty of other cultural icons who have made lots of money out of doing ads...can we have a blog about John peel's endless voiceovers for ads please?

The older you get the more conservative you become and Mr Pop is no different to anyone else. Everyone has a price at which point they are willing to perform.

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