On the evening of Saturday, April 9, 1977, Michigan's veteran proto-punk icon Iggy Pop (b. 1947) finally makes his Seattle concert debut before a crowd of devotees -- some of whom have been fans of his incredibly influential recordings since the late 1960s. Among the quartet of musicians backing Iggy at the Paramount Theatre show is a very notable admirer: the famed British rocker David Bowie (1947-2016), who first conquered rockdom back in 1972 with his Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars album. The concert is phenomenal, but the best part of the visit may have come the prior night: Iggy -- along with a few members of the concert's opening act, the New Wave band Blondie -- jammed on some sixties garage-rock classics with several young local punk rockers at a post-midnight beer bash at their Ballard flophouse.
Ziggy & Iggy
David Bowie -- born David Jones on January 8, 1947 -- was an innovative British singer, songwriter, and musician whose first notable band, the King Bees, made their recording debut in June 1964 by releasing a single that included a cover version of "Louie -- Go Home," by Portland, Oregon's, Paul Revere and the Raiders. Other discs followed, but it was his science-fiction-themed "Space Oddity" tune that won Bowie his first radio hit in 1969. A leader of the emergent glam-rock movement, the ever-experimental Bowie adopted a new stage persona, "Ziggy Stardust," and in 1972 released his "Starman" single and the classic futuristic concept album, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. He hit the big-time again in 1975 with the single "Fame," a collaboration with John Lennon (1940-1980, and the album Young Americans, and in 1977 with "Heroes."
Iggy Pop -- born James Osterberg on April 21, 1947, in Muskegon, Michigan -- began his career in the mid-1960s as a high-schooler playing drums in the Ann Arbor-based rock band the Iguanas. He was reportedly inspired by Chicago blues music and then by bands like Tacoma's Sonics and Los Angeles's Doors. By 1967 he'd formed a new band, the Psychedelic Stooges, and adopted a new stage-name, Iggy Stooge (the first name nicked from his first band's name). The new band's eponymous debut album was issued in 1969, and the follow-up, Funhouse, was skillfully produced by Don Gallucci -- the original keyboardist with Portland's Kingsmen, and then the namesake leader of another great Portland 1960s garage-rock group, Don and the Goodtimes.
Iggy's feral stage manner and performance mode of provoking his audiences with unpredictably wild careening and aggressive banter earned him a loyal following -- and a legacy as perhaps the key proto-punk icon -- but also limited his commercial potential. By 1976 Iggy's drug use had taken a toll but David Bowie, his onetime roommate in Berlin, Germany, never lost faith in his pal's innate talents and offered needed support by bringing him along on his Station to Station tour in 1976. The following year saw Iggy -- by now renamed Iggy Pop -- signed with the major label RCA, which released his first two post-Stooges solo albums, The Idiot and Lust For Life, both of which Bowie helped produce.
Iggy & Ziggy
By 1977 Iggy Pop was preparing The Idiot World Tour. He recruited a band of exceptional musicians that included the Scottish guitar ace Ricky Gardiner (b. 1948) and the two Detroit-based sons of beloved American television comedian Soupy Sales (1926-2009): bassist Tony Sales (b. 1951) and drummer Hunt Sales (b. 1954), who had been working with Pennsylvania musician/producer Todd Rundgren (b. 1948). But his biggest personnel coup was having Bowie jump in as keyboardist for the upcoming American tour.
Seattle -- where Bowie had headlined in 1972 and 1976 -- had never before hosted a show by the Stooges or Iggy. So the local rock 'n' roll community, especially the nascent punk-rock scenesters, was anxious to finally see the man in action. Booked at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Seattle, the half-sold April 9 show also featured, as the opening act, Blondie, a promising New Wave band from New York that with lead singer Debbie Harry (b. 1945) would go on to its own major successes. In preparation for this big night, Neil Hubbard -- co-founder of one of Seattle's first rock 'zines, Chatterbox -- interviewed Harry by telephone and included the interview in the publication's "Special Free Commemorative Iggy-Blondie Issue." In fact, Hubbard and his 'zine partner, Lee Lumsden, were such fans that they made the drive down to Portland to see the Iggy/Blondie concert there on Thursday, April 7.
Iggy Does Ballard
On April 8, 1977, the tour rolled into Seattle where the bands had rooms booked at the Edgewater Inn at Pier 67 on the central waterfront. That's where a bunch of local fans gathered in an effort to meet their idols, and thus the musicians were invited to a beer bash that night. As Iggy would recall in his 1982 memoir I Need More:
"In the hall there are a bunch of kids and one of them ... suggests that we might go up to this party in town where there is a band playing, so I say OK. We get into this station wagon and drive to this old part of Seattle -- a residential warehouse district ..." (Pop and Wehrer).
This party was taking place in the old Ballard neighborhood at a joint nicknamed the "Telepathic Apartments" -- a decrepit sailor's hotel located at 5002 20th Ave NW -- where a bunch of young punk rockers rented units on the second floor. Attending the party were various members of early Seattle punk bands including the Telepaths, the Feelings, and the Idiots. Iggy continued:
"Seattle has this brisk air. There are people just hanging out on the porch in the night air, beer bottles in their hands. ... We go upstairs and there's this little 12' x 14' room with a band playing on this makeshift plywood stage supported by a concrete block ... and the plywood stage is bending, going up and down, you know, and the sound is just real cool. The guitars sound very flat in your face -- the bass -- like dinosaurs must sound, and in another room, people are listening to records and wandering around. So the guy said, 'Wouldn't you come and play?' So I decided that I would like to play. And I go into the other room and play with these guys, and it was at least as much fun as the gig I had done earlier that night. We were playing 'Wild Thing,' 'Gloria,' anything simple that we all knew. And the plywood was bouncing up and down -- the room was bouncing up and down. You know, the light bulb was on and I had a lot of fun" (Pop and Wehrer).
Well, so did the young Seattle musicians who got to jam those garage-rock classics in Greg Ragan's bedroom with Iggy and also a few members of Blondie -- Jimmy Destri (keys), Clem Burke (drums), and Gary Valentine (bass) -- who came along. The one guy who really missed out was Bowie, who was late and "reportedly rode up and down the cobblestoned Ballard Avenue in a limo looking for the place but never showed up" (Humphrey).
At the Paramount on April 9, after Blondie performed, Iggy Pop's band hit the stage with his devastating opening number "Raw Power." Other classics followed, including a medley of "1969," "No Fun," and "96 Tears," plus "Gimme Danger," "TV Eye," "1970," "Sister Midnight," "Funtime," "Dirt," "Search and Destroy," "I Want to Be Your Dog," and "China Girl." All along the way, the band nailed it. The Seattle Times said:
"The audience was on its feet the whole time, screaming, crowding the stage and reaching out to touch The Star -- who responded by jumping into the orchestra pit and reaching to touch THEM. It resembled a religious rally with The Idol present and the faithful in ecstasy. ... [Iggy] was a mass of energy so intense you almost expected sparks to fly off him. He moved constantly, sometimes throwing himself around like a rag doll, legs flopping out from under him like Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow collapsing from fear in 'The Wizard of Oz.' ... His eyes, which seemed slightly out of balance, were very expressive -- dark, deep and menacing. ... " (MacDonald).
Meanwhile, the nearly anonymous band-member, Bowie -- who himself had "filled the Coliseum with more than 13,000 people only a year ago" -- now just "played organ, piano and synthesizer, sang backup, chain-smoked and sipped from a beer bottle during the show, occasionally looking out at the audience or at Iggy with fatherly pride" (MacDonald). After the concert the Chatterbox guys -- Neil Hubbard and Lee Lumsden -- met up with Iggy at the Edgewater Inn and interviewed him in his room.
The 90-minute show was a classic -- one that was surreptitiously recorded and promptly issued as a bootleg album, Iggy & Ziggy -- Iggy Pop & David Bowie Live in Seattle 4/9/77. For his part, Iggy Pop would return to perform riotous gigs in Seattle on numerous occasions over subsequent years, and his sense of wild abandon in the name of fun deeply impacted up-and-coming generations of Northwest rockers.
David Bowie came back to the Northwest to perform before 27,000 fans at the Tacoma Dome's very first rock concert on August 11, 1983, and his unwavering commitment to creative collaboration throughout the decades also inspired many artists, among them the members of Nirvana, who recorded his "The Man Who Sold the World" during their MTV Unplugged concert in November 1993. His timing was also to be admired: David Bowie released his final album, Blackstar, on his 69th birthday, and died of cancer two days later on January 10, 2016.