Given his penchant for gruesome stunts and wild antics, it’s a wonder that Iggy Pop has survived this long. Based on these facts, we're amazed he even made it out of the 70s.
1. He Was Strait-Laced
There was no indication in James Newell Osterberg Jr.’s quiet Muskegon, Michigan childhood that he would grow up to become the “Godfather of Punk”. His father was an English teacher and baseball coach—and little James was about as strait-laced as they come.
His fellow band member, Ron Asheton, said that he “didn't smoke, didn't get high, didn't drink”. That was not going to last forever.
2. His First Drum Set Was A Joke
Iggy Pop’s introduction to music came in the fifth grade when he started playing the drums. But, seeing as though his family had no money, his first drum set consisted of some rubber pads glued to plywood. Eventually, his parents managed to save up enough money to buy him a real drum set.
That's how you can tell they REALLY loved him. But they had no idea what they were creating.
3. His Parents Fed His Addiction
For the young Pop, music and the drums became an addiction—his first of many. Of course, his parents had no way of knowing that his interest in music would eventually lead to the lewdest performances of all time. So, to support him, they gave up their master bedroom, as it was the only room in their trailer big enough for his drum set.
Or his burgeoning ego.
4. He Put Himself On A Pedestal
Pop started his first band, The Iguanas, in his Ann Arbor high school days. They played covers of British invasion rock and even though Pop was just the drummer, he managed to hog the spotlight. He built a raised platform for his drum set so that, during their performances, he would tower over his bandmates.
Iggy Pop clearly knew he was the star—but deep down, he also knew he needed a bigger stage.
5. He Fell In With The “Rowdy” Crowd
It didn’t take Pop long to grow tired of his high school band. Luckily, he matriculated to the University of Michigan, where he joined with a blues band, The Prime Movers. But it still wasn't what he was looking for. Eventually, however, he grew tired of even that, dropped out of university and went to Chicago.
Chicago introduced Iggy Pop to the seedier, edgier side of music. He never looked back—but he had to get out of something first.
6. He Was A Draft Dodger
Pop eventually returned to Michigan with a deep desire to start another band, but good old Uncle Sam had another idea: Vietnam. But Iggy Pop had a...unique plan to get out of the draft. It was simple: He gave his doctors a preview of his future stage performances.
During his physical examination, he acted “deranged”. He must have been good at it, because it worked—though maybe that's because he was actually unhinged.
7. He Was Out Of This World
Free from the draft, Pop started a band with brothers Ron and Scott Asheton and Dave Alexander. They called themselves The Psychedelic Stooges—and they took their name quite literally. They regularly experimented with acid and DMT and tried out new sounds.
But you probably had to be as high as they were to understand their music.
8. He Was Noisy
When Pop and his Psychedelic Stooges first took the stage, no audience was ready for them—with good reason. They banged on oil drums with a hammer against the whining whir of a blender and the dull drone of a vacuum cleaner, far more interested in "noise" than "music".
Shockingly, the concert resonated with audiences who described the sound as “powerful and hypnotic”. And most importantly? Iggy Pop himself was mesmerizing.
9. He Dry-Humped His Fans
Even Pop’s early concert performances left audiences stunned, if strangely titillated. At a 1968 concert in Romeo, Michigan, Pop started his performance by strolling out into the crowd and dry-humping his female fans. That alone would have been enough to shut the concert down on it's own—but it’s what Pop did next that got the authorities involved.
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10. He Wore Very Little
After “getting to know” his female fans in Romeo, Michigan, Pop hopped up on stage to begin his performance in earnest. It’s worth mentioning that the singer was wearing nothing but skin-tight, low-cut PVC-pants that left little to the imagination.
By the end of his raunchy performance, however, his fans wouldn’t need their imaginations at all.
11. He Exposed Everything
One of the biggest appeals of Pop’s early career was his sinewy, muscle-bound body. A fact that he knew all too well. As Pop began writhing around on stage, his tailor-made PVC-pants began to drift down his toned torso until…Pop popped out. He “dropped trou” in front of the whole audience, revealing his considerable below-the-belt talents.
But not everyone appreciated his “gift”.
12. He Was A Weirdo
Pop’s provocative performances were too much for the delicate sensibilities of the late 1960s. So, when local authorities showed up to the lewd concert, they planned on beating the snot out of him. But the crowd loved Pop’s punk rock attitude that attacking him would have caused an enormous scene. Instead, the authorities only hauled him off in handcuffs to spend some time behind bars.
A little exposure, however, was maybe the least provocative of his performance antics.
13. He Had Songs Longer Than His Marriage
Pop’s love life began taking off just as his stardom did. But in romance, unlike his musical career, Iggy Pop crashed and burned. At just 21 years old, Pop married a virtually unknown woman named Wendy Weissberg. We know basically nothing about their marriage except that he had songs that lasted longer.
After just two weeks, his marriage ended in an annulment. Honestly? She's probably lucky...
14. His Audiences Worshiped At His Feet
Shortly after their coming out concert, The Psychedelic Stooges dropped the “psychedelic” from their name (but not from their lives) and released their eponymous debut album. The cacophonous recording was a seismic shift in the music industry, sparking the birth of punk rock. But records couldn't do Iggy Pop justice.
It was his over the top concert performances that had audiences worshiping at his feet. Almost literally.
15. His Debut Fell Flat
If you've ever enjoyed seeing someone stage-dive, you've got Iggy Pop to thank. His early experimentations with the art of diving headlong into a crowd, however, did not go so well. At one of their early concerts, Pop tried the stage-dive, but forgot one essential component: the crowd.
Instead of landing into the soft arms of his adoring fans, Pop face-planted on the cold and hard cement, chipping his front teeth.
16. He Walked All Over His Fans
Thankfully, not all of Pop’s early efforts at interacting with his concert fans left him on the cold floor. At a concert in Cincinnati in 1970, for example, Pop walked all over his fans. Instead of stage-diving into them, he simply crawled down off the stage and clambered on top of his fans before walking, upright, across the crowd.
17. He Was Nuts. Peanuts.
At the same massive concert in 1970, Pop shocked television audiences with his next performance stunt. While still standing atop his adoring fans, he produced a jar of peanut butter and began smearing it all over his bare chest.
He must have thought the crowd was hungry, because he proceeded to fling the peanut butter from his chest onto his fans. Rock and roll?
18. He Was Tripping
There’s a perfectly logical explanation for Pop’s perfectly illogical behavior: He was totally and completely out of his mind. While he might not have been tripping over his fans, he was tripping—on copious amounts of smack. His habitual substance use would eventually take its toll on him. But not before he took a toll on himself.
19. He Carved Himself Up
Over the course of his long career, Pop developed a reputation for gruesome, bloody self-inflicted injuries. His long trail of blood started all the way back in 1969 at a university gig in Ohio that stunned onlookers would never forget.
Suffice to say that Pop literally put his blood, sweat and tears into his craft—then smeared them all over the stage.
20. He Applied The Pressure
Halfway through the Ohio Wesleyan University gig, Pop did the unthinkable. According to one attendee, Pop picked up a sharp, splintered-off piece of a drumstick and began drawing it across his bare chest. Slowly, bit by bit, he began to increase the amount of pressure that he was applying, leaving massive “red welt lines” all over his torso.
Then it really got gross.
21. He Poured His Blood Into His Music
Before long, the massive red welts all over his chest began to ooze blood. Thick streams of it streaked down his chest and dripped onto the stage. Despite his injuries, however, Pop finished the show and never sought medical attention. After the gig, he simply put on a white t-shirt that quickly became speckled and caked with his blood.
22. He Caused A Riot
Even the most punk rock of concert organizers had a hard time controlling Pop. In fact, despite their best efforts, they couldn’t. Case and point: the Goose Lake International Music Festival in 1970, which Pop practically turned into a full-scale riot.
Long before Ronald Reagan, Pop was the one encouraging people to tear down walls.
23. He Agreed To Be Good
The Goose Lake International Music Festival organizers wanted Pop and the Stooges to perform at their event. They just wanted Pop to tone down his usual theatrics. One of the conditions they gave him was a strict “no stage-diving” rule. Not wanting to back out and disappoint his fans, Pop agreed not to leap into the crowd.
But they didn’t say anything about the crowd leaping onto the stage.
24. He Couldn’t Get To His Fans
In an effort to enforce their “no stage-diving” rule, the Goose Lake International Music Festival organizers went to great lengths. They placed security personnel all along the edge of the stage and even built a wooden fence between the stage and crowd. Seeing that he couldn’t hope to leap across the security personnel and the fence, Pop appealed to his fans.
25. He Incited A Riot
Frustrated with the divisions between himself and his audience, Pop began chanting—but he wasn’t chanting the lyrics to his songs. The punk rocker was saying, “Tear it down!” The already restless crowd took Pop’s encouragement as the excuse they needed and began ripping away at the planks of wood that made up the fence.
Unfortunately, not all of his bandmates had his steely nerves.
26. He Booted His Bassist
In the ensuing fracas, with an utterly out-of-control crowd, the band’s bassist, Dave Alexander, lost his nerve. As Pop embraced the mayhem and resumed his performance, Alexander fumbled with his guitar and fell off beat. The mishap infuriated Pop and, even though he had started the riot, he fired Alexander after the show.
He was just too “sick” for some.
27. He Gave A Disgusting Performance
Pop followed up the Goose Lake fiasco with a truly stomach-churning concert. In what has since become a legendary (or legendarily disgusting) appearance at Ungano’s in New York, Pop pushed the limits of what audiences could stomach. You might even say that he “amplified” his usual antics.
28. He Vomited All Over The Stage
Usually, saying that someone’s performance was “sick” means that they performed well. In Iggy Pop’s case, however, it usually means that there was vomit involved. That’s precisely what happened at Ungano’s. At the start of the performance, Pop slinked up to the microphone and, just as he was about to start singing, projectile-vomited all over the stage.
And that was just the warm-up.
29. He “Amplified” His Talents
Not only did Pop continue his set at Ungano’s after decorating the stage with the contents of his belly—he upped the ante. Never shy about his body, midway through the performance, Pop made his way over to one of the amplifiers and unbuckled his pants. He then whipped out his “not-so-little Pop” and flopped it on top of the amplifier.
But despite everything, the crowd wanted an encore.
30. His Fans Demanded An Encore
Pop’s penchant for regurgitating on stage became a fan favorite. For example, Andy Warhol superstar Geri Miller—who had attended Pop’s Ungano's set—demanded an encore of his puke performance at the Electric Circus the following year. He would immediately make her regret asking.
31. He Showered His Fans With Bile
When Miller shouted out, “Let’s see you puke!” Pop was only too happy to oblige. He walked right over to her...and vomited all over her. Well, she did ask him to do it...
But while Iggy Pop seemed like he had completely lost his mind, make no mistake: He actually his performances very seriously.
32. He Brought Punk To The UK
When Pop took punk rock to the UK in 1972, audiences didn’t know what to expect. Or, more importantly, how to act. So Pop had to show them. When one poor unfortunate soul started laughing at Pop’s performance, he grabbed her “and stared blankly into her face” for a prolonged period of time, leaving the audience “terrified”.
They had every reason to be.
33. He Fed The Crowd
Attending a Stooges concert came with a certain level of personal risk of injury. Potentially, even, by Pop himself. That’s what happened in St. Clair Lake, Michigan in 1973. Pop and his fellow bandmates had been devouring a watermelon backstage before their performance. Then, Pop figured that maybe his fans might have been hungry—and that gave him a bad idea.
34. He Gave His Fans Concussions
Pop emerged on-stage with the remnants of the half-eaten watermelon. Instead of saying a friendly, “Hello,” to the crowd, he launched what was left of the watermelon at them. The rind struck one girl in the head, leaving her with a concussion. Some performers would take that as a sign they had gone to far. Not Iggy Pop.
Not only did he not call off the show, but he continued throwing things at the audience.
35. He Knew How To Stay Cool
With all his on-stage antics and weird body contortions, Pop often worked up a sweat during his performances—and he had the weirdest way of staying cool. After concussing one fan with a melon rind, Pop produced a cup of ice that he then proceeded to dump down his itsy-bitsy drawers. Based on what he did next, the audience must have looked quite hot.
36. He Seduced His Audience
Pop began taking individual ice cubes out of his sweaty drawers, one by one, and placed them in his mouth. He sucked on them in a seductive way, writhing around on stage, before flinging them out at the audience, coated in sweat and saliva.
The audience seemed to love it—but Pop should have kept those ice cubes for his future injuries.
37. He Lost His Footing
To promote their latest album, Raw Power, Pop and the Stooges booked a gig at a popular New York nightclub. But, for once, Pop might have actually taken his performance too far. As usual, he stomped his way through the crowd, stepping on tables, chairs, and unwitting fans.
It all went terribly wrong, however, when one chair fell out from beneath him.
38. He Always Kept The Show Going
With one wrong step, Pop fell off the chair and crashed into a table filled with glasses and bottles. He popped back up without missing a beat—and the crowd cried out in horror. He was bleeding profusely from massive open gashes. Some onlookers tried to stop him to no avail. Pop spent the rest of his set up on stage, flinging his body around and spraying the audience with his blood.
But this time, his injuries were worse than he thought.
39. He Had To Seek Help
No one knows for certain if Pop had intentionally thrown himself onto the broken glass. One thing we do know, however, is that his injuries were severe. After trying to close up his wounds with tape, Pop’s good friend and fellow singer, Alice Cooper, eventually managed to convince him to go to the hospital.
Doctors in the ER stitched him up—but if Iggy Pop was going to get better, he was going to need a lot more than just stitches.
40. He Loved Dogs
Pop briefly dated the model Bebe Buell who had some frightening stories about his off-stage antics. When she came home one day, she found Pop passed out in the bathtub with her two dogs. Seeing as though he had claimed to be a “dog lover”, she was slightly concerned.
Fortunately, when Pop woke up several hours later, he explained that he had taken Valium with their canine friends. Nothing more.
41. He Was High As An Angel
Believe it or not, Bebe Buell managed to be a bad influence on Iggy Pop. She took his already out-of-control substance use issues and sprinkled them with angel dust—not the heavenly kind, either. Before a show at the Kennedy Center, Buell's friend gave Pop some white powder. He assumed it was coke.
It was not—and it led to a terrifying performance.
42. He Couldn’t Even Stand
The PCP totally immobilized Pop, and the band had to play the first 15 minutes of the show without him. Eventually, his handlers had to physically lift him up and drop him on stage where he “mumbled” some lyrics in front of a clearly disappointed crowd, before taking a tumble off the stage.
When the band’s keyboard player, Scott Thurston, pulled him up, he recoiled. It looked like the singer had cut himself up again—but thankfully, it was just another Pop classic: peanut butter.
43. He Battled A Gorilla
With his substance use issues spiraling out of control, Pop became paranoid and detached from reality. So, when a gorilla surprised him on stage at a 1974 concert in Atlanta, Pop freaked out. The singer later recalled, “I was like, 'Oh my god! What can I do? I couldn't fight him. I could barely stand”. Thankfully, he wasn’t in any real danger.
It was just Elton John in a gorilla suit.
44. His Fans Gave Him A Hand
Pop’s eager fans weren’t always satisfied with just watching his lewd performances. They wanted to partake. So, at a concert in San Francisco in 1974, Pop strolled through the crowd of his concertgoers in nothing but his briefs. One particularly eager fan reached out, yanked his briefs down to his ankles and then appeared to, shall we say, take a nibble.
It wasn’t the only time Pop’s pants prompted massive controversy.
45. He Dated A Starr
As the original punk rocker, Pop had no shortage of groupies. Including the world’s most famous groupie, Sable Starr. Pop met the famous party girl early on in his career when he started performing in Los Angeles. As guitarist Ron Asheton put it, Starr “was a really nice girl”. The emphasis there should be on the word “girl”.
46. He Dated A “Baby”
When Pop dated Starr, she was the ringleader of what the media had dubbed the “baby groupies”. They were precocious and provocative underage girls that sought out the most famous rockstars, from David Bowie to Elton John—and Iggy Pop—to ensnare into their clutches. And, of course, their beds.
For better or worse, Pop managed to wait out the statute of limitations.
47. He Had To “Look Away”
Pop’s relationship with Starr clearly crossed a line. But in the rock n’ roll atmosphere of the 1970s, he managed to escape the consequences of his actions. It was only decades later, in the lyrics to his song “Look Away”, that he confessed, “I slept with Sable when she was 13”. Pop himself would have been 23 at the time of their alleged romance.
Thankfully, not all of his romances crossed legal and ethical lines.
48. He Loves “Suchi”
Given his history of both on-stage and off-stage antics, it would have taken a real woman to wrangle Pop. His first wife, Weissberg, had given up after just two weeks while Starr lacked the maturity. The Japanese actress, Suchi Asano, however managed to make an honest man out of Pop for 15 years before even she threw in the towel.
Thankfully, his love life did manage to take flight.
49. He Took Flight
In 1999, just as he was finalizing his divorce from Asano, Pop’s love life took flight. He met the stunning Nina Alu, who was then working as an air hostess, and swept her off of her feet. Shortly after that, they moved in together. Finally, it seemed, Pop found a woman who could handle his punk rock heat. Their love had certainly caught fire.
50. He Caught Fire
Despite being massively wealthy, Pop never purchased new cars. But his frugality almost proved fateful when he took Alu out on a date in his 1984 Ferrari 308 GTS. While driving home, the used sports car started giving off smoke. Stunned, Alu exclaimed, “I think the car’s on fire!” Pop had to pull over and beat the flames out with a rag.
51. He Married A Lot Younger
After almost ten years of living together, Pop and Alu finally made their relationship official and got married. Clearly, however, Pop had never really lost his affinity for younger women. Alu was born in 1970, making her 22 years Pop’s junior.
But that's not even the creepiest part: She's the same age as his only son, Eric, with former flame Paulette Benson.
52. He Hit Rock Bottom—Twice
As his addictions took over, Pop’s performances began to lose their luster and his fans turned on him. Twice in 1974, when Pop attempted his trademark stage dives, his fans simply stepped aside and let the singer fall flat on his face. It was beginning to look like Pop had hit rock bottom—and there was no telling what he would do next.
53. He Was Going To Give One Last Performance
Rumors began circulating in Los Angeles and New York that Pop was planning one final over-the-top performance. His biggest fans “gossiped that [he] was asking a New York promoter for a one-million-dollar fee to [off himself] live on stage”. Fortunately, the rumors were untrue and Pop never fatally harmed himself on stage.
But he clearly needed help.
54. He Boxed With Bikers
Things came to a head for Pop and the Stooges when he clashed with the Scorpions, a Detroit biker gang at their bar. The rugged bikers didn’t appreciate Pop’s provocative performance and began throwing eggs at him on stage. Pop then leapt off the stage to confront the angry bikers—but received a fist to the face as the band scrambled to safety.
And that was just the first round.
55. He Heckled The Hecklers
After his showdown with the Scorpions, Pop challenged the bikers to show up at the Stooges next concert, where they were making a live recording for their album, Metallic K.O. Most sources confirm that the bikers didn’t make an appearance, but Pop didn’t need them to turn the show into an all-out brawl. As the tapes were recording, Pop began heckling the crowd more viciously than he ever had.
The crowd decided to respond in kind.
56. He Was Finally K.O.’ed
Pop’s fans had finally had enough of his deteriorating performances. As he continued heckling the crowd, they began to throw their bottles at him. Music critic Lester Bangs described the events, “Nobody gets [done in], but Metallic K.O. is the only rock album I know where you can actually hear hurled bottles breaking against guitar strings”.
It was the end for the Stooges—but Pop was far from finished.
57. He Whipped Himself Into Shape
After Metallic K.O., Pop and the Stooges finally parted ways—and then Pop really went off the rails. At his first solo performance, Pop taunted the crowd, asking, “Do you want to see blood?” His fans obviously obliged and that’s when Pop’s guitarist, Ron Asheton, appeared in a German uniform and began whipping the singer as he hurled insults at the crowd.
Finally, he knew he had gone too far.
58. His Friend Kept Him Supplied
Shortly after his most controversial performance, Pop knew that he needed help. He checked himself into the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute in an effort to clean up his act. But it wasn’t easy when his good friend, David Bowie, showed up to the hospital with a bag of substances. Fortunately, the nurses refused to give the goods to Pop—but he was still a long way from recovery.
59. He Bowed To Bowie
Following his release from the psychiatric institute, Pop moved to Berlin with fellow rocker, David Bowie. Together, they attempted to stay off the substances that had nearly ended their lives, and Pop proceeded to create two of his best albums, The Idiot and Lust for Life, thanks to his time spent with Bowie. But there was no way to take punk rock out of Pop.
60. He Was A Fraud
Even as he slowly weaned himself off of substances like codeine, Pop continued delivering controversial performances. During a performance of his hit single, “I'm Bored”, Pop left audiences confused. When the singer shoved the microphone down his pants, the song continued playing, revealing to everyone that he had been lip-synching.
Believe it or not, that was not the most controversial thing he did with a microphone.
61. He Knocked Out His Teeth
Pop’s penchant for self-harm continued well into the 1980s, even as his stardom faded. Photographer Bryan Adams recalled a concert performance in Brooklyn in which Pop smashed himself in the face with his microphone. The stunt knocked out his front tooth and left Adams and Pop’s fans asking themselves, “Did I really see that?”
They saw that for sure—they were lucky that's all they saw.
62. He Showed It All Off
In 1979, Pop showed the entire world what only a few select audiences had seen before. His sinewy, muscle-bound body in all of its glory. The singer appeared on the cover of Little Caesar, totally unclothed for the whole world to see. The full-frontal shots shocked some and titillated others, but they cemented Pop’s place in the annals of punk rock history.
63. He’s Clean And Sober
Ever since kicking his substance use issues, Pop’s performances have toned down and so has he. Instead, Pop has turned to other, less toxic substances. Such as air. Now, prior to his concerts, he does at least 30 minutes of wu chi breathing, a deep-breathing technique that leaves him feeling slightly high and dizzy.
And definitely ready to rock and roll.