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Lust For The Lush Life: Iggy Pop Sings Standards

The Godfather of Punk has released a new album called Preliminaires, featuring standards like "Autumn Leaves" and "How Insensitive," as well as an original song inspired by Louis Armstrong.




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Other segments from the episode on June 1, 2009

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, June 1, 2009: Interview with Iggy Pop; Commentary on language.


Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
Lust For The Lush Life: Iggy Pop Sings Standards


This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross. My guest is Iggy Pop, the godfather of
punk, famous for his intense music and wild performances. When you think of
Iggy, you think of loud, fast and maybe angry music, songs like “Search and
Destroy” and “I Want to Be Your Dog.”

So what’s he doing singing the Antonio Carlos Jobim bossa nova “How
Insensitive” and the standard “Autumn Leaves” and an original reminiscent of
early Louis Armstrong? They’re on his new CD “Preliminaires.” The CD is
inspired by the 2005 novel “The Possibility of an Island” by the French
novelist Michel Houellebecq.

The project began when Iggy was asked to write songs for a documentary about
Houellebecq. Before we talk about this new direction for the 62-year-old icon,
let’s hear the opening track of “Preliminaires,” “Autumn Leaves.” The original
French title is “Les Feuilles Mortes.”

(Soundbite of song, “Les Feuilles Mortes”)

Mr. IGGY POP (Singer): (Singing) Tout doucement, sans faire de bruit Et la mer
efface sur le sable Les pas des amants désunis.

C'est une chanson qui nous ressemble. Toi, tu m'aimais et je t'aimais Et nous
vivions tous deux ensemble, Toi qui m'aimais, moi qui t'aimais.

GROSS: That’s “Les Feuilles Mortes,” “The Autumn Leaves,” sung by Iggy Pop from
his new album “Preliminaires.” Iggy Pop, welcome back to FRESH AIR. I have to
say I never expected to hear you sing “The Autumn Leaves.” Now I have two early
associations with this song. One was, you know, in the mid-1950s, like in 1955,
Roger Williams, the pianist, had a number-one hit of “Autumn Leaves,” and it
was so frilly. It was like arpeggios every second and crescendos…

Mr. POP: Yes. That’s why I did it the opposite way.

GROSS: Right. Then I also, when I took piano lessons as a kid, I had the sheet
music. So I knew all the words. So tell me more about your original
associations with “The Autumn Leaves.”

Mr. POP: Well, there is that problem; however, I could recommend to you there’s
a hell of a version by Little Walter.

GROSS: By Little Walter, the blues singer?

Mr. POP: Little Walter on chromatic harp. I heard it once somewhere. The
original lyric, the lyric I’m singing, is not about an autumn leaf drifting by
somebody’s window, which is a lovely metaphor but really not that heavy. No,
no, no, no. What the guy says is, just very simply look, this is a story. We
all know it. We’ve all lived it. I loved you, you loved me, but then life. Life
came in, and without even much of a real fuss, the tide came in, and when the
tide came out, we are separated, and people are pulled apart whether they want
to be or not. That’s a heavy thing.

GROSS: So I want to play what is my favorite track on the CD, and this is “King
of the Dogs,” and this is – the lyric really gets you, and you have got this
great, Louis-Armstrong-ish band behind you. And of all the things I wouldn’t
associate with you as a performer, this might especially be it. So I mean, Iggy
Pop and a clarinetist? I wouldn’t have thought of it.

Mr. POP: That’s Marc Phaneuf, and…

GROSS: Well he’s great. The band is great.

Mr. POP: He’s a very sought-after Broadway player.


Mr. POP: Yeah, he’s wonderful.

GROSS: And I noticed after listening to it and thinking Armstrong, I noticed
that Lillian Armstrong is co-credited as a songwriter. Is that Armstrong’s
wife, Lil Armstrong?

Mr. POP: Yeah, Lil Harden was her name, and then she was married to Louis for
four years. So she uses the other name, as well. Yeah, well I was listening to

GROSS: So she wrote the melody that you used? Is that it?

Mr. POP: Sort of. It went like this. No, the actual - the song melody and the
bridge is mine, but part of the chord progression is from “King of the Zulus,”
written by her and recorded by Louis, and I didn’t know that until a couple of
months after I had written the song, and I was listening to Louis Armstrong
again because I do every few months, and I thought, oh damn. Damn.

GROSS: Oh I see. You didn’t realize that you were borrowing (unintelligible),

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. POP: Yeah, yeah. I nicked…

GROSS: Well, it’s nice of you to credit it. A lot of people wouldn’t.

Mr. POP: Well, what we did, I contacted their people, and it’s about – the
music’s about half me, half from hers. So this one progression is right out of
“King of the Zulus.” So we split it up.

GROSS: Well, let’s hear “King of the Dogs,” and then we’ll talk about it a
little bit more. So this is Iggy Pop from his new CD, “Preliminaires.”

(Soundbite of song, “King of the Dogs”)

Mr. POP: (Singing) I got a smelly (Unintelligible), I got a dirty nose. I don’t
want no shoes. I don’t want no clothes. I’m living like the king of the dogs. I
got a piece of meat in between my teeth. I’ll bite your throat if you move on
me. I’m sovereign, ‘cuz I’m the king of the dogs.

Cold outside (Unintelligible) with a dancer. I don’t even own a pair of pants,
I’m a dancer, baby. I’m deadly, ‘cause I’m the king of the dogs.

GROSS: That’s “King of the Dogs,” Iggy Pop from his new CD, “Preliminaires,”
Iggy Pop like you’ve never heard him before.

Mr. POP: This is true.

GROSS: So tell us about the inspiration behind this song, both in terms of the
band, you know, the music arrangement and also the subject matter.

Mr. POP: I’ve got – one of my favorite records is something called “Louis
Armstrong and the Hot Fives,” and I’ve been listening to that record for, I
don’t know – I bought it in 1992 when I was making a record in New Orleans. And
when this came up, there’s a dog named Fox who is a big part of this book, and
there was footage of Houellebecq auditioning little dogs, and I thought it was
funny. And I have a small dog, Lucky, who’s a 12-pound Maltese. He’s all dog.
He’s got a butch attitude, but he’s…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. POP: He really does. You know, he’s fearless and very strong for his size,
but he’s still 12 pounds, you know. And I’m sensitive to – you know, I’m
sensitive to animal anthropology, if that – I suppose that’s a contradiction in
terms, but I enjoy watching all the things animals do that are just like the
things I like to do, and such as I don’t like to wear shoes. I hate wearing
clothes. I don’t even like to – you know, I didn’t even take a shower before I
came over to do this interview, you know. Why should I?

GROSS: Thanks for telling us.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. POP: Yeah, well I was in the pool all day, you know. That’s close enough,
you know. So you know, I sort of wrote some of it from a viewpoint – there’s a
little bit of my own dog Lucky in there, there’s a little bit of just humor
from this film, and then there’s a lot of me. Just, you know, sometimes I see
animals, and I wish I was them.

GROSS: Because?

Mr. POP: Because they’re free and because they can be satisfied and happy, and
that’s not possible for a human being except maybe, you know – it’s fleeting.
It’s you know, harder to achieve.

GROSS: My guest is Iggy Pop, the godfather of punk. His new CD,
“Preliminaires,” heads in a new direction. We’ll talk more about it after a
break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: If you’re just joining us, my guest is Iggy Pop, and we’re talking about
a new CD, which is called “Preliminaires,” the French word preliminaires for
what, preliminary?

Mr. POP: Oh, it’s preliminary to – it’s a step in certain direction, musically
for me, but because it was a slim (unintelligible), I called it that. I
wouldn’t be forthcoming if I also didn’t mention that in French, it means

GROSS: Oh, aha, okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. POP: There is that, yeah.

GROSS: So let’s hear another song from your new CD, and this is a very famous
Antonio Carlos Jobim song called “How Insensitive,” another song I never
expected you to sing, and it’s a kind of sensitive song about being

Mr. POP: Yeah, it’s about that moment, you know, that moment. Everybody gets it
from somebody once in their life where you’re really, really, really hung up on
a person, and they’ve got to say, you know, no. No, I don’t want to see you,
don’t want to touch you, don’t want to be with you, not interested in you. You
don’t even make me laugh. Please leave me alone. It’s not a nice moment, and it
is – it obliges the other to be insensitive in some sense, to hurt you without
even wanting to try, you know.

GROSS: So how did this song become one of the songs you chose to do?

Mr. POP: Well it – again what happened in doing music for this film, I quickly
sort of – it’s a documentary. The footage is kind of dull. It’s people talking.

So my mind cast back to his novel, and in the novel, the guy is rejected by his
very pretty and not much else young girlfriend. And so I thought - I’d always
loved this song, and something I love about it is the economy with which the
lyricist sums up the entire situation in very few words, only two verses.
Doesn’t even bother – generally in pop writing, there’s a third verse. He
didn’t even bother with that. It’s a little over two minutes long, the song. So
I’d always loved it, and the melody is beautiful, and it fit the occasion. So
that was it.

GROSS: Okay, so here’s Iggy Pop, singing the Jobim song “How Insensitive” from
Iggy Pop’s new album, “Preliminaires.”

(Soundbite of song, “How Insensitive”)

Mr. POP: (Singing) How insensitive I must have seemed when you told me that you
loved me. How aloof and cold I must have seemed when you told me so sincerely.

Why, you might have asked, did I just turn and stare away in icy silence? What
was I to do? What can you do when a love affair is over?

GROSS: That’s Iggy Pop, from his new CD, “Preliminaires,” which is a series of
songs, original and standards, inspired by the Michel Houellebecq novel, “The
Possibility of an Island,” which Iggy Pop is a big fan of.

So you know, I don’t know that your listeners have heard you sing ballads
before. What does singing ballads bring out in you that you didn’t show to your
fans before?

Mr. POP: Well, it’s feeling, isn’t it really? And I never – I never stopped as
a listener ever in my life with one form of music. And I’ve been – I think what
happened is I’ve been trying to express some of these things all my life but
with much less success than I did in expressing some of the ultra-rock or
ultra-punky emotions, which are basically look out, I’m going to rip your
convertible top sort of thing.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. POP: But so people paid more attention to that, but if you look back to the
first album I ever made, which was with the Stooges, there’s a love ballad on
it called “Ann,” and I actually sing the words, you know:

Mr. POP: (Singing) Ann, my Ann. I love you.

Mr. POP: But at the time, it came out more like:

Mr. POP: (Singing) Ann, my…

Mr. POP: My voice hadn’t matured yet, and I couldn’t really hack it, but I
tried. I started then trying to fool with standards, but we didn’t put any on
the record for the same reason. I wasn’t quite mature enough to handle them.

GROSS: Now when you say mature enough, do you mean vocally or just mature
enough to kind of reveal a more emotional side through your music to your

Mr. POP: In my case, the two together, and it’s been probably the greatest
personal gift of my life has been that I have a stronger voice now than I did
when I was 50 or even 55. I’m 62, and it’s still getting bigger.

GROSS: Is that because of something you’ve done?

Mr. POP: It’s – yeah, part – it really helps that I quit smoking at the turn of
the century, and the other thing is I do something called Qi gong, which is –
it’s Chinese yoga, basically, and it’s a lot about breathing. So my voice is
growing. So the two things - there’s that, and then there’s maybe a little more
musical skill, and then there’s just what you’ve lived. You know, that really

GROSS: So what are the chances that we’ll see you, like, in a cabaret, playing
some of the songs from your new CD?

Mr. POP: I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m going to do radio, live radio with an
audience, doing the same thing in about a week in Paris. So I’m sneaking up on
it, and hey, every time we do it, the band, the band from the record comes with
me, and we expand our repertoire a little bit to include – we’re doing Cab
Calloway, “Minnie the Moocher.”

GROSS: Oh good.

Mr. POP: We’re doing “Put a Spell On You.” So I’m having a ball with it. I
think by the time we get back from this trip, we’ll know about 16 songs. So
it’s possible. You know, I tell people there’s this little voice in my head
going Café Carlyle.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. POP: Rainbow Room, Talk of the Town, you know?

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: That’s great.

Mr. POP: Yeah, I still won’t wear a shirt.

GROSS: Really?

Mr. POP: Na.

GROSS: Not even to the Café Carlyle when they call? Because why?

Mr. POP: Because I just don’t like to sing in a shirt. When I did them on
French TV, I wore a – I had a beautiful suit with sparkling lapels, but I
skipped the shirt, you know.

GROSS: Iggy Pop will be back in the second half of the show. His new CD is
called “Preliminaires.” Here’s another track from it called “Spanish Coast.”
I’m Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of song, “Spanish Coast”)

Mr. Pop: (Singing) Die, die, die on the Spanish coast. Die like a clown with no
friend around. This used to be a Spanish town. Die, die, die on the Spanish
coast. Die like a fly with no lover to sigh. On a high white box in a pile of
rocks, you’ll go crazy, by the hazy sea.

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross, back with Iggy Pop. The 62 year old
godfather of punk heads in a new direction on his new CD, "Preliminaires." The
CD is inspired by the novel "The Possibility of An Island," by the French
writer, Michel Houellebecq. It includes Iggy's version of the Antonio Carlos
Jobim bossa nova, "How Insensitive" and the standard "Autumn Leaves," as well
as originals. .TEXT: Well I want to play another track from your new CD. So
here’s another original I want to play. It's called "It's Nice to Be Dead."

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: And talk about the inspiration behind this song.

IGGY POP (Musician): Well, you know, I was able to include this because in the
novel the Neo-Humans - it's basically this guy's life is carried on after his
death. So that's fine. And then myself, I just feel that there are days when I
can just think you know, boy, if I was dead I wouldn't have to, and then I just
tick off...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MR. POP: ... tick off the different things I wouldn't have to do. You know oh,
I wouldn't have to pretend to be a nice guy to so-and-so. Or oh, I wouldn't
have to you know worry about whether something I'm doing fits - is okay. Am I
good you know?

(Soundbite of laughter)

MR. POP: Not bad you know or this or that. You know and just, just the general
fatigue of things. And I also sort of question well if there's a God, why are
his followers so eh, you know?

(Soundbite of laughter)

MR. POP: So, so these are some of the things are some of the things that come
in the song.

GROSS: Okay. So this is "It's Nice to Be Dead," a song that...

MR. POP: "It's Nice to Be Dead."

GROSS: ... Iggy Pop co-wrote with Hal Cragin and this is from Iggy Pop's new
CD, "Preliminaires."

(Soundbite of song, “It’s Nice to Be Dead”)

MR. POP: (singing) It's nice to be dead. Nice to be understood. No need for
being good that's nice. They say it’s cynical to elevate the physical. So tell
me God of gods then why are its evil (unintelligible)? Are they been
(unintelligible) to cry.

GROSS: That's Iggy Pop from his new CD, "Preliminaires," which features songs
inspired by a novel by the French writer, Michel Houellebecq, and the novel is
called "The Possibility of An Island." So that song leads me to ask, have you
ever come close to dying?

(Soundbite of laughter)

MR. POP: I thought you were just going to ask me if I was dead yet.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Uh-uh.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MR. POP: Yeah. Sure I have. Actually, it’s funny, I thought of it during our
last exchange because I did come close a couple of times when I was a druggie.
And one time I did actually hear the trumpets...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MR. POP: ... the celestial choir and all that stuff. It was pretty insipid. But
yeah, a couple of times, and then I suppose there were other times that all of,
we all come close and don’t know it. You know, but yeah, I've had like a couple
big car crashes, a couple of drug episodes, a couple of old gun to the
episodes, you know, that sort of thing.

GROSS: And have they been transformative?

MR. POP: Only later. The transformation took place later when I just realized
you know I wasn't really feeling great on a day-to-day basis. And then when I
became older and had things to live for, then those potentially truly
destructive experiences become, they become very cautionary. So they help you
in that way you know?

GROSS: And you said during one of these near-death experiences you heard the
celestial choirs and the music was insipid.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Can you...

MR. POP: Yes it was.

GROSS: Can you tell us more about what you heard? I mean as a musician and as a
punk rocker...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MR. POP: Sure. Right.

GROSS: ... it's kind of interesting to hear.

MR. POP: Well there was some of that, it sort of sounded there's...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MR. POP: ... it sounded like "Tangerine Dream" album.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MR. POP: You know it was kind of like, ah, ah, ah, ah. You know and the pa-pa-

(Soundbite of laughter)

MR. POP: A little bit of that and the music you know it was more of a, I don't
remember the melody.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MR. POP: But in that case, I do remember the part that wasn't insipid was that
I heard my mother, who’s a beautiful person. In my interior experience I heard
her calling me and that was what brought me back into the, into carnal
territory. And as soon as I re-entered I was in a hell of a lot of pain and
discomfort. But...

GROSS: Was this after a car crash or an OD?

MR. POP: This was an OD.

GROSS: Was she really calling you or is that just like a...

MR. POP: It was just like...

GROSS: ... and was she in the room with you or?

MR. POP: No. No. No. No. It was...

GROSS: No. So it was just like an auditory thing.

MR. POP: Yes. Yes. Exactly. I think those - I think she had those wishes
constantly on tap for me and it may have been - I certainly think that there
are, there are very, there are physic connections that happen between people
who know each other well, which are very every day, and I don't question at
all. So it may have been that at that moment she had a feeling that something
bad was happening to me and it triggered a, it triggered her to think of me and
that might've translated in my mentality to a call back. I think so.

GROSS: But you know it’s interesting because when you had this overdose, it was
probably at a time when you and your mother weren't at you closest. I'm just
guessing here, making an assumption. So...

MR. POP: No we were never, it never mattered.

GROSS: It never mattered and...

MR. POP: But, go ahead.

GROSS: Well that, well it...

MR. POP: Yeah, just I had a, I was just...

GROSS: ... it's interesting that it's like her voice that brought you back,
that when you were like near expiring that you know it was her and not your
friends or even band members, it was her that brought you back to life.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MR. POP: Band, rock bands - rock bands are pretty vicious aggregates of
associates and it’s - there's a certain amount of friendship, but it’s not

(Soundbite of laughter)

MR. POP: ... don't try this at home kids.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MR. POP: It's not as good as it looks. Let me tell you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MR. POP: No it's, that was who cared for me.

GROSS: Oh afterwards?

MR. POP: My mother I mean in - no, just in general I'm saying...

GROSS: Oh in general. Oh I see what you’re saying.

MR. POP: ... in this world.

GROSS: Yes. Yes. I understand.

MR. POP: In this world you know.

GROSS: My guest is Iggy Pop. His new CD is called "Preliminaires." We'll talk
more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

My guest is Iggy Pop, the godfather of punk. His new CD, "Preliminaires" heads
in a new direction and includes the standard "Autumn Leaves," and the Antonio
Carlos Jobim bossa nova, "How Insensitive." The album is inspired by a novel by
the French writer, Michel Houellebecq.

The last time we spoke you said that you didn't start being who you are until
you were 21.

MR. POP: Yeah, 19, 20, right in - I was working on it but it hit about 21.

GROSS: But I'm thinking like with you playing songs in this new CD that you
knew before you were 21, and going back to music that's really old, if you’re
getting more in touch with your pre-21 year old self?

MR. POP: That's an interesting and I think very fair premise, observation.
You've got a good point there. Does that make this my second childhood, Terry?

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: No. No. But I think...

MR. POP: But no. But no, but...

GROSS: ... I think at some point you...

MR. POP: Yeah.

GROSS: ... you recreate yourself when you enter adulthood and at some point you
maybe like reconcile that with the childhood that preceded it and...

MR. POP: I think you've, I think you got a real good point there. Yeah.

GROSS: So in what way is that happening to you, and how do think it's changing

MR. POP: Well I had never thought about it, but if, since you brought it up,
and we're sitting here talking about it I can say one thing about kids that I
notice is they’re more open and vulnerable. And this music, this sort of place
you have to go to write and sing things like this is a more open and vulnerable
place than the sort of place I would go to do the rock albums I've done, which
are more, those are basically, those are about attack. I don't know. Those are
things that come to mind off the top of my head having heard what you had to
say. It's not bad.

GROSS: But I'm thinking too of just you know maybe at some point, you know,
when you've recreated yourself you don’t want to be in touch with the person
who preceded that. You have to work so hard to become the new person.

MR. POP: Well that's true and then at some point you just are.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Right. Right.

MR. POP: You just are and other people do it for you...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MR. POP: ... and then it pisses you off you know? You know that happens. Then
you're having dinner with somebody and they you know you’re having a good time,
and then they’ve got to blow it. You know like oh, I'm having dinner with Iggy

(Soundbite of laughter)

MR. POP: You know or whatever you know? So I think it was Bob Dylan who said
somewhere, he said, yeah, you know somebody, somebody reminds me who I am and
that just, that just kills it, you know...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MR. POP: ... and I know what he's saying you know? So there's some of that too.
And then, you know, you do create a bit of a monster. But I don't want to veer
into George Michael territory here where I'm going to whine about, oh, I can't
walk down the street without somebody loving me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MR. POP: You know, right? You know look buddy, you know? You know or whatever
it is you know? It's...


MR. POP: Oh boy. You know, so...

GROSS: Did your parents ever like your music?

MR. POP: Ah, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. That's a...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MR. POP: Well, now that you ask, I never heard a good comment about the musical
content from either of them unless it was some of the things that I did that
were preliminary to "Preliminaires." So when they got much older and I was, I
did a little bit of ballad work here and there - one offs, movie, usually for
films. They enjoyed that and would mention it, mention my voice.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

MR. POP: But, my father thought the, that a lot of the lyrics were of quality
and said, you know he would say that's poetry, you know. That was about it. And
my mom was just sort of, I think she, at one point she say is, she was, I'm
very proud of his physique.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MR. POP: She was, my dad would tell me that she's very, your mother's very
proud of your physique.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MR. POP: And, so they like what I did, but I never really heard them you know
telling me like boy, and give me some skin...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MR. POP: ... that 200 beat a minute, that...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MR. POP: ... pre, you know, that beats speed metal by 15 years.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MR. POP: No. I never heard that one at all.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MR. POP: No. Uh-uh.

GROSS: I'd like to end by just - in paying tribute to Ron Asheton, who was you
know, the guitarist...

MR. POP: Sure.

GROSS: ... in your band for many years. And he died at the very beginning of
this year. And I'm not even certain how he died. You know I read the obits
before the autopsy and I'm not sure what they finally found.

MR. POP: It was, it's natural causes. Heart failure.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

MR. POP: I suspect that his blood pressure wasn’t being treated properly. He
liked to put things off. And he’d had a nosebleed on our last tour and got a
very high BP diagnosis from a French doctor who gave him medication and my
guess is - I believe that he hadn’t gotten around to renewing the prescription
with an American doctor that might have saved him. I certainly feel that he
died sooner than he needed to. But he was at the top of his game and he went
out in good form.

GROSS: And it’s funny, I mean he was the member of the band who didn’t do drugs
and didn’t flirt with death by doing drugs.

Mr. POP: Well, there is that, there is that. He was more everyday, more of an
everyday, sort of a guy.

GROSS: Would it be too personal to ask what effect it had on you to - when he

Mr. POP: I still don’t know what effect - I’m still trying to figure it out.
Some days I feel bad, some days I’m mad at him, some days I’m mad at people
around him, some days – you know, I - we go through life and we don’t really
get to know that many people. And I knew him. And he knew me. So, that in and
of itself - I lost him, in the year before that my father. And those were two
of the last people that I felt knew me very, very well. So, there’s that too I
feel a couple of steps closer to space travel, right now.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. POP: You know.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. POP: So, different things, different things. I was happy for him that he
was, as I said, he was playing very, very, very well. And he was – he had
become a great live field general and he could move – he and his brother
together when they would lock a groove, they could move as many people as you
put in front of them. And there were moving some very large crowds and it
really was a remarkable groove.

GROSS: The Stooges had gotten back together again, even released an album
together in 2007 - had Ron Asheton not died, do you think that you would have
stayed together?

Mr. POP: Yes, absolutely. We would have continued indefinitely as a group and
although The Stooges - that’s over. There is still Iggy and Stooges. And James
Williamson and I are talking about possibly picking up where we left off after
“Raw Power” and “Kill City” and Scott, Ron’s brother, is very, very keen to
play. So, there is that.

GROSS: Well, Iggy Pop it’s really been great to talk with you. Thank you so
much for coming back to the show.

Mr. POP: Well, thanks for having me Terry and it’s been the same.

GROSS: Iggy Pop’s new CD is called, “Preliminaires.” Here’s one of his punk
classic “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” with the late Ron Asheton on guitar.

(Soundbite of song, “I Wanna Be Your Dog”)

Mr. POP: (Singing) So messed up I want you here. In my room I want you here.
Now were gonna be face-to-face. And Ill lay right down in my favorite place.
And now I wanna be your dog. Now I wanna be your dog. Now I wanna be your dog.

Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
Political Semantics And The Art Of The Slogan


From Teddy Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush, every president has
tried to fix a brand on his domestic agenda. Now, says our linguist Geoff
Nunberg, it’s President Obama’s turn.

GEOFF NUNBERG: Teddy Roosevelt had his Square Deal. Franklin Roosevelt had his
New Deal. LBJ has his Great Society. And now Barack Obama is aiming to create a
New Foundation. The president introduced the phrase in passing in his inaugural
address and lately he’s been working it in just about every speech, to link his
programs for energy, education, health care and financial reform. I can see why
the speech writers would have liked the phrase, with its suggestion of sound
investment, not to mention the illusions of the parable from the sermon on the
mount about building your house on rock rather than sand.

But of course, some people had their quibbles. New foundation has too many
syllables, its meaning isn’t obvious. It’s the same slogan Jimmy Carter briefly
floated in 1979. It makes you think of a girdle. That might all be relevant if
New Foundation were being offered as a slogan like Change, We Can Believe In.
The word slogan comes from the Gaelic for battle cry, if you’ll cast your mind
back, and slogans still live and die by language. They work for as long as they
are vivid and fresh, and as soon as they get stale, they have to be replaced.
Goodbye things go better with Coke: Hello, it’s the real thing. But phrases
like the New Deal and The Great Society aren’t slogans.

They’re more akin to brand names like Kellogg’s or General Electric which
gather a bunch of different items into a single product line. The actual
phrases aren’t that important. Even when a brand name starts out with an
independent meaning, it only becomes successful when its original connotations
are eclipsed by the aura of the thing it’s attached to. People don’t buy a
Maidenform, so they can achieve the form of a maiden or shop at Safeway because
it’s safe. And if you’re torn between buying a Cougar and a Jaguar, it’s not
because you can’t decide which cat you like the best. In politics though,
slogans can occasionally turn into brand names as their original meanings fade.
Take the New Deal which only accidentally became a slogan in the first place.

After the Democrats chose FDR as their nominee at the convention in Chicago in
1932, he decided at the last minute to break with tradition and accept the
nomination in person. When he arrived after a nine hour charter flight from
Albany, his speech writer Sam Rosenman handed him a speech that contained a
ringing line: I pledge you, I pledge myself to a new deal for the American
people. It wasn’t intended as a campaign slogan, but the next day a cartoonist
depicted a poor farmer looking up at an aeroplane labeled New Deal, and the
phrase caught on.

It wasn’t a novel. New Deal was an old term for a fresh start, originally
derived from poker. At the time that metaphor was still very vivid, FDR’s
opponent Herbert Hoover ridiculed the New Deal as no more than a new shuffle.
And just after the election, a columnist wrote we not only got a New Deal and a
new dealer, but a new deck of cards. An editorial cartoon entitled “Hope”
showed FDR about to deal of deck of cards, another more foreboding showed him
with a deck topped by bearded bomb throwing joker labeled Socialist

To a desperate country, the slogan New Deal promised dramatic changes. Even if
FDR’s actual campaign platform was vague and not especially radical. It was
only after the new administration enacted a torrent of legislation during its
first hundred days, that the phrase grew capital letters and was transformed
from a slogan to a proper name for FDR’s programs. From then on, its original
meaning began to fade. In modern times, almost nobody associates the deal of
the New Deal with cards, most people assume it refers to an agreement or
compact with the American people.

That transition from campaign slogan to proper name has never fully repeated
itself. After Kennedy’s election, his New Frontier slogan became a label for
his administration’s youthful style. But by the time his legislative proposals
were brought to fruition, they were wearing the brand of Johnson’s Great
Society. And since then, presidents have had very little luck at branding their
agendas. Neither Nixon nor Reagan got anywhere with the New Federalism.
Clinton’s New Covenant was blown out in the early innings by Newt Gingrich’s
Contract with America which faired better. And George W Bush’s Ownership
Society went down with his proposals to privatize social security.

Though you could argue that Bush’s real marketing triumph was in bundling an
assortment of far flung military operations and domestic security programs
under the brand name War on Terror. History’s judgment on these things doesn’t
depend on what they’re called. If we still remember the Great Society, it
certainly isn’t because of its name, which sounded terribly inflated when it
was first proclaimed. It’s because like the New Deal, it encompassed a sweeping
legislative program that transformed American life.

We would remember just as well if it would have been called the Sensational
Nation or a Better Deal which was the name that Johnson actually tried out
first. And the fate of Obama’s New Foundation will ultimately depend on
politics, not syllables or semantics. In fact, we’ll know for sure it’s a
success when people can’t remember why it was called that anymore. Obama was
right when he said in the campaign that words matter, but names matter a little

GROSS: Geoff Nunberg is a linguist and the author of the new book “The Years of
Talking Dangerously.” You can download podcasts of our show on our Web site: I’m Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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