Judge Victor Valdivia is the world's forgotten boy. Now would somebody please remember him so we can all go home?
"How would you guys like to be stars?"—Elektra records executive to Iggy Pop and the Stooges, 1968
The Stooges, of course, never became stars. The combined sales for their first three albums—The Stooges (1969), Funhouse (1970), and Raw Power (1973)—probably wouldn't fill up a U-Haul, let alone a warehouse. Nonetheless, the Stooges' influence can't be measured in monetary terms. Their crude sound and scabrous sensibility were hopelessly out of step with both the socially conscious '60s and the slick, laidback '70s, but their music was a clear influence on virtually every punk and hard rock band that followed in their wake, from the Sex Pistols and the Ramones to Guns N' Roses and Nirvana. After the Stooges fell apart in the mid-'70s due to drugs and poverty, lead singer Iggy Pop launched a solo career that was almost as noteworthy as his time with the Stooges. His first two solo albums, The Idiot (1977) and Lust for Life (1978), were also commercially ignored but were equally seminal albums that post-punk artists as diverse as Siouxsie & the Banshees and Nine Inch Nails would cite as crucial influences. Iggy's career, in short, is important enough to be worthy of an extended DVD examination, no matter how commercially marginal his work sometimes has been.
That's why it's hard to see why any music fan would spend money on this DVD. Iggy Pop: Lust for Life clocks in at a pitiful 40 minutes and even then ends up meandering into pointlessness. There are a few revelations and some snippets from Iggy in concert in the mid-'80s, but they're not nearly enough to recommend it. There are plenty of concert DVDs of Iggy Pop's most recent tours but there has never really been an overall look at his entire career, apart from an episode of Behind the Music. This DVD could have filled a much-needed hole, but it's so sloppy and skimpy that even the most devout Iggy fans won't be tempted to sit through it more than once.
Lust for Life was put together for Dutch TV in 1986, consisting of interviews with Iggy and the late Ron Asheton, the original guitarist for the Stooges. There's also some concert footage of Iggy onstage in Holland as he performs songs from the album he was promoting at the time, Blah-Blah-Blah (1986). Sadly, this was hardly a golden time for Iggy, creatively speaking. Blah-Blah-Blah was a misguided play for mainstream sales and radio play and the weakness of the material hampers Iggy's performances. He's still a fierce artist but the glossy and dated '80s music doesn't really give him much of a chance to cut loose the way his much rawer work with the Stooges would have.
At least personally, Iggy was in much better shape. Having recovered from a debilitating heroin addiction in the late '70s, Iggy is lucid and articulate during the interviews. His memories of his childhood and early career up until the founding of the Stooges in 1968 are remarkable. Similarly, Asheton's tales of the early days of the Stooges, including how they wrote some of their hugely influential material such as "No Fun" and "I Wanna Be Your Dog," will be invaluable to Stooges fans. It's an especially fitting tribute to Asheton, an underappreciated talent who died in January 2009, a couple of months before this DVD's release.
Unfortunately, all of the best bits occur in the first 15 minutes. After that, the documentary, as short as is, falls apart. When Asheton mentions that both he and Iggy were huge Hendrix fans, the documentary wastes five precious minutes replaying old Hendrix performance clips. A brief snippet or two of "Purple Haze" would have made the point just fine, but considering how short this program is, the waste of so much time is critical. The show also ignores any of Iggy's work after the breakup of the Stooges. Apart from a brief description of Blah-Blah-Blah, there is no mention of any of Iggy's solo work, nor even much about the circumstances of his addiction and sobriety. Instead, there are just several interminable montages of photos set to Stooges songs with no explanation or context provided. Moreover, viewers should be aware that since this show was originally aired on Dutch TV, what little narration and subtitles occur are all in Dutch, with no English translations. There aren't even any extras at all, not even text-based ones. Maybe in the '80s it was possible to issue such cheap, shoddy product but in 2009 wasting an entire DVD on 40 minutes of badly assembled content is inexcusable. The transfer is decent enough—full-screen film with stereo soundtrack—but isn't anything sparkling or notable.
All of which is to say, Iggy Pop: Lust for Life is more of an insult than a treat for Iggy Pop fans. It's hard to see how anyone could possibly be interested in a middling program that has just been slapped onto disc with no care or attention. Newcomers to Iggy Pop's music won't understand what the point of this DVD is and his biggest fans will be disgusted at how much is missing.
At an outrageous list price of $18.95, Iggy Pop: Lust for Life is decisively guilty of providing little value for money. Pick up one of Iggy's greatest-hits collections instead.
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