Three years later, Iggy-now signed to a production and management contract with MainMan, who handled David Bowie-regrouped The Stooges sans Alexander, who had spiraled into a serious alcoholic and exited the band. Newly teamed up with guitarist James Williamson-and with Ron Asheton grudgingly pushed over to bass-the punk rock landmark Raw Power (Columbia Records) was realized.
“Bowie’s manager had a production company and signed me,” Iggy recalls. “We got the contract with CBS for ‘Iggy and The Stooges’ really because Clive Davis had passed on Bowie and within a month had realized his blunder. At the time Bowie was hanging around New York, becoming the next big thing. People were buzzing and he was flirting with the underground. There was Lou Reed, Andy Warhol and then further down on the list there was me. [Bowie] had ideas about hard rock backing bands they wanted to pair me up with, but I wasn’t ready for that. I had a mission with the Stooges that wasn’t quite accomplished. James Williamson had joined the Stooges as we got wilder, more evil and more self-destructive before Raw Power, which David ultimately mixed.
“And Bowie would have done anything we wanted,” Iggy continues. “He would have written with us, produced or whatever, had I wanted…but I didn’t want to do that yet. So he moved along to Mott The Hoople, but by the time I had finished Raw Power I had become unsound anyway. So he got the dirty job of remixing it.”
Unsound in the sense that his debilitating drug habit eventually pushed him to clean up in a mental institution by 1975, Iggy joined Bowie the following year, accompanying him on his Station to Station tour. As the two began to collaborate throughout 1976, they holed up in West Berlin to work and record somewhat compulsively. “We started writing together by 1975,” he says, “and by late ’76 The Idiot was done. And ,Lust For Life was ready six months later. We worked very quickly. Things in the music business were a lot looser back then, and of course Bowie had a little juice; he was enthusiastic and so was I, and he had me on a production contract…so he wanted to get it finished so he could get on and do Low and Heroes.“
Reaping solo success for the first time with those back-to-back 1977 RCA-issued discs, The Idiot–described by Iggy as a cross between James Brown and Kraftwerk-reached the U.K. Top 30, and meanwhile, Lust for Life reached No.28 in the same survey with a bona fide hit single, “The Passenger.” If the former was found spinning on Joy Division singer Ian Curtis’s turntable after he hung himself, and the latter became synonymous with the 1995 hit film Trainspotting and a subsequent Cruise Line commercial, it’s due in part to the fact that these landmark records were followed by publicly-ignored but reasonably good (largely Bowie-free) sets for Arista like New Values (1979), Soldier (1980), and Party (1981).
After 1982’s Zombie Birdhouse flopped, a five year recording hiatus financed by Bowie’s worldwide 1983 smash “China Girl”-which Pop originally co-wrote for The Idiot-followed, and Iggy regrouped with the Thin White Duke as producer and guitarist Steve Jones for his rebound album, Blah Blah Blah. Boasting the hits “Cry For Love” and “Real Wild Child” (a cover of the 1959 Johnny O’Keefe nugget), the new wave flavor of the set gave way to Instinct, an ill-fated return to his primal, Stooges style. Despite reaping him a 1989 Grammy nod for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance with the disc’s lead track “Cold Metal,” its poor album sales left him in label limbo.