Monday, 7 March 2016
Calling Sister Midnight
Iggy Pop's The Idiot is a remarkable album. Released in March 1977 (and followed in the same year by Lust For Life) it is the first of the Bowie Berlin albums. All the songs on The Idiot are co-written by David Bowie and his fingerprints- words, tone, chords, structures- are all over it. The Idiot was Iggy's first solo album and doesn't really sound too like the rest of his work. No cartoon stagediving here, no songs chasing the sound of two chord Stooges. The Idiot sounds thought out, a piece of work. It is also sounds dislocated- Iggy and Bowie loose and lost in West Berlin. On most of the songs- just listen to Nightcubbing- the beat is always a bit behind where you expect it to be, a fraction deliberately late.
Opening track Sister Midnight is a blast. Played live by Bowie throughout his Station To Station tour, it's a powerful opener, a punch. Bowie's guitarist Carlos Alomar plays on it. Many of Bowie's songs from Chateau d'Herouville and Hansa Studio have a certain funkiness and a lightness. Sister Midnight has Alomar's wonderful guitar sound and playing but is murkier, with the synths and rhythm keeping it more earthbound. Three note bassline. Iggy in a hole looking out- 'what can I do about my dreams?' he sings at one point after a verse re-working Oedipus.
His voice is the human touch on an album inspired by the men-machines Kraftwerk, an album with a European heart moving away the blues base of the music of the 1960s and early 70s, written and played by men trying to kick different drugs. Sister Midnight re-appeared with new words as Red Money on Bowie's Lodger album in 1979, the album generally considered to be the final part of the Berlin series, completing the circle nicely.