Friday, May 20, 2011

Bad Dog by Iggy Pop

Well, it's short, less than a minute, but I find it inspiring. Iggy is in fine voice, strong and passionate with his delivery.

He starts with a growl then a couple of short barks. Bill's prepared piano stabs during the opening barks and words adds a sense of urgency, one might even say dire urgency to the proceedings:

Bad dog
Just keep going

Going going going

Never never never stop

If you stop, you will suffer

They all wish you would stop

They all wish that you would stop

And curl up by a puddle somewhere

And just lie around and absorb KICKS

They wish that you would cringe and fold back your ears

And squint your eyes, and cover your nose with your paws

Because YOU are a DIFFERENT dog

Iggy then barks and howls as the prepared piano crescendos the "I Wanna Be Your Dog" chord progression.

It's brevity has me considering it a fossil poem. It certainly says a lot with few words and barks.

The opening few lines recalls how Israel Regardie begins his opus, The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic:


Over the years I have been asked over and over again what are the most important qualities that a student should possess in approaching the Great Work. Other than normal intelligence and emotional stability, I find two other qualities which are essential for success. They are best summed up in the following quotation (by Calvin Coolidge):

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.

Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.

Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.

Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Regardie left out the last line of the quote but I find it appropriate:

The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

four-square Crown of Nothing

To continue a little further with the poetry and lyrics theme ...

Earlier I brought up the Tales of the Tribe online course by Robert Anton Wilson that had such a strong effect on me. One of the things Wilson introduced was the idea of "fossil poems." As I understood it at the time, "fossil poems" meant viewing short phrases with a poetic eye, sometimes common phrases you wouldn't think twice about. For instance, you might be watching CNN and hear the anchor say something in the course of reporting that rings a poetic nerve.

Researching "fossil poems" right now, I find that the idea originates with Emerson in the Second Series of his essays circa 1844:

By virtue of this science the poet is the Namer, or Language-maker, naming things sometimes after their appearance, sometimes after their essence, and giving to every one its own name and not another's, thereby rejoicing the intellect, which delights in detachment or boundary.

The poets made all the words, and therefore language is the archives of history, and, if we must say it, a sort of tomb of the muses for, though the origin of most of our words is forgotten, each word was at a stroke of genius, and obtained currency, because for the moment it symbolizes the world to the first speaker and to the hearer.

The etymologist finds the deadest word to have been once a brilliant picture. Language is fossil poetry. As the limestone of the continent consists of infinite masses of the shells of animalcules, so language is made up of images, or tropes, which now, in their secondary use, have long ceased to remind us of their poetic origin. But the poet names the thing because he sees it, or comes one step nearer to it than any other. This expression, or naming, is not art, but a second nature, grown out of the first, as a leaf out of a tree.

This Emerson quote which I just found comes courtesy of an old friend, Toby, who often goes by the name Bogus Magus on the Maybe Logic Academy boards. Bogus was one of the dozen or so people who made it all the way through of the Tales of the Tribe course.

All this preamble about fossil poems sets up a fossil poem I noticed that abstractly fits with Iggy Pop's Squarehead lyrics. Squarehead is the 10th and final song on Instinct.

You can kick me out of a real good jive
You can use my friendship like a doorknob

You can make me super styrofoam

You can make me feel all alone

You can stuff hamburger in my head

But I ain't gonna be no squarehead

You can tempt me with a pretty girl

You can call on me in fancy fur

You can say, "Just do it, everyone is"

You can tell me that it's just showbiz

You can turn my life from green to red

But I ain't gonna be no squarehead

You can burn my bridges down for laughin', ha ha ha ha
You can call me a fool for crashin', woh

You can make me stare down at the floor

You can make me listen while you snore

You can do all these things that I have said

But I ain't gonna be no squarehead
Let's go!

You can make my position low as a dog

You can trick me with your social fog

You can criticize my very bag

You can call my treasures a heap of slag

But you might as well eat lunch instead

Cause I ain't gonna be no squarehead

I ain't gonna be no squarehead
I ain't gonna be no squarehead

I ain't gonna be no squarehead
No, I ain't gonna be no squarehead

No, I ain't gonna be no squarehead

No, I ain't gonna be no squarehead

No, I ain't gonna be no squarehead

I ain't gonna be no
I ain't gonna be no

The fossil poem comes from a book of potent poetry called The Path Workings of Aleister Crowley: The Treasure House of Images. The author is not Crowley but one of his students, J.F.C. Fuller.

O Thou four-square Crown of Nothing, that circlest the destruction of worlds! I adore Thee, Evoe! I adore Thee, IAO!

IAO is a gnostic name for God.

Ok, so it seems a bit of a stretch, I'm just in one of those moods ... it helps to listen to Squarehead with this fossil poem close by.

PS The Treasure House of Images has been known to work as a sort of bhakti grapple hook for jumping brain circuits, or accessing parallel worlds etc. The book was published by Christopher Hyatt's press, New Falcon in the 1990's.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


LJ said..." I love "Instinct". Its always been my favorite Iggy solo album, I think was the first album I bought with Bill Laswell's name on it. It has lot of power and understatement. Steve Jones' guitar fits beautifully. The sound is crystal clear and haunting.

The lyrics are deep in places, or just funny as "Squarehead"."

This comment recalls another story from the Instinct mixing sessions.

Iggy arrived at the beginning of one session to recut a vocal. My understanding is that he had written completely new lyrics to one song, the song that became Squarehead. I didn't ever hear the song before it became Squarehead.

We set up a Neumann U47 Tube 47 and gave it some mild compression with a Summit TLA across the insert. Iggy knocked out the lead vocal in one take. There might have been a punch-in or two along the way, I don't remember, but I do remember it going very quickly.

After he got the lead vocal, Iggy went in and did a 3 part doo wop style background vocal part for the bridge. Each of these vocals were also done in one take. They were not perfectly in tune but the dissonance and rawness of the part perfectly fit the mood of the lyrics. It took less than an hour to do all the vocals for Squarehead.

Two days later a new Rolling Stone magazine came out with this picture on the cover of Talking Head frontman David Byrne:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Iggy Pop's Poetry

We were tracking overdubs for The Swans album that eventually became The Burning World at Platinum Island's Studio East. I was assisting Bob Musso, Bill Laswell was producing, when Iggy Pop walked in to check out the music.

After listening to a track, Iggy asked Bill for some help with a performance piece he was making for a festival honoring genius and pioneering avant garde music composer, John Cage. Iggy had written a poem for the occasion and wanted a backing track of some kind to go with it. Bill had the idea to make a "prepared piano" and play the melody to I Wanna Be Your Dog which I think could safely be called Pop's theme song.

A prepared piano is a technique of altering the timbre of a piano by putting objects on, and in-between the strings. John Cage was known for these experiments and composed pieces for the prepared piano. So we "prepared" the grand piano with paper clips, rubber bands, nails and other things that rattle in the night. I don't remember exactly how we miced it, maybe with a couple of U87's one closer to the hammers aimed toward the high strings, and the other at the back capturing the low strings.

Bob quickly got a blend between Iggy's voice and Bill on the piano and recorded the piece live to a Studer A80 1/2" tape machine. They only did it once, one take, and that was that. I only vaguely remember the poem but recall as it feeling both "beat" ( as in Kerouac and Ginsberg etc.) and punk with a strong emphasis on the right of the individual to be who they are. I should have a copy of it somewhere which I'll have to dig up. At the time it sounded incredibly right on, hitting the nail squarely on the head in terms of where I was coming from.

We dubbed a 1/4" copy for Iggy, the format for submission to the Cage Festival, and Iggy went on his way, mission accomplished.

In the latest Rolling Stone magazine Paul Simon raises the question of whether song lyrics can be considered poetry or not? I think they can. If the words move you just as strongly what difference does it make what you call them. Both poetry and song lyrics effectively use words to conjure images, feelings and moods that can alter consciousness to greater or lesser degrees. Ritual magick is often not much more than the imaginitive reading of inspired poetry. Poetry that exalts the consciousness outside of the mundane. Great songs do the same for me.

After we finished mixing Instinct, the album Laswell produced for Iggy Pop not too long before the Cage project, we had a playback of all the mixes in sequence for Iggy. The album sounded great! The production was as raw and noncommercial as the old days with the Stooges but pushing the envelope with modern technology and know how. Iggy's lyrics and delivery were brilliant and passionate, classic rock-n-roll.

Maybe it's because I heard them a lot in the mixing sessions - and at home to check the mixes out, and just to enjoy listening to the latest offering from a genius songwriter, but the lyrics seemed to reach to the core of my being and back out again to some of the further regions. I heard Jungian style archetypes in them that had immediate and practical applications for my life's journey as it then unfolded. I thought the name Instinct was perfect for it.

Iggy didn't react much and gave little expression during the playback except for rocking a bit in his chair. At the end, he said everything was good except for one thing. He was concerned that his singing on Cold Metal, the opening track, got boring as it went along. Bill Laswell and Bob Musso both told him it was great.
Iggy responded, shaking his head, "I don't know..."
Bob mentioned a teenager who had heard and really liked it. Iggy wasn't convinced and stood there struggling with the decision.
Bill said, "We're scheduled to master tomorrow, but it's your call, we can cancel, whatever you want to do..."
Finally, I couldn't help myself ( I was the assistant engineer and wasn't supposed to offer an opinion unless asked) and blurted out, " Those lyrics are so intense it doesn't matter how you sang them!"
Iggy immediately lit up and said, "Ok! Let's go with it.

I believe he was reacting more to my enthusiasm rather than to what I actually said.

To start with, Cold Metal seemed to describe my living situation with pinpoint accuracy. At the time I was residing on South Street in Manhatten's Lower East Side. It was a 26th floor apartment with a balcony overlooking the East River, Brooklyn, and you could easily see both the Brooklyn and Williamsberg bridges. FDR Drive was directly below. Also right below, and a little to the North was a floating prison barge docked on the river.

The lyrics start, after a heavy Steve Jones played guitar riff:

I play tag in the auto graveyard
I looked up at the radio tower
Rag tent by the railroad tracks
Concrete poured over steel bridge
Pondered my fate
While they built the interstate

I'm a product of America

From the morgue to the prisons

Cold metal, when I start my band

Cold metal, in my garbage can

Cold metal, gets in my blood

And my attitude

Threw my hide in an automobile
Heard a song called "Drive the wheel"

Truckers, trailers, tractors caught me workin'

This is the song of my heritage

From the bad to the Buddha

Cold metal, that's what it be
Cold metal, from sea to sea

Cold metal, it's how we win

And also how we sin

How we sin, how we sin, how we sin, how we sin

Cold metal, in the afternoon

Sounds lovely like a Hendrix tune

Cold metal, it's the father of beat

The mother of the street

Cold metal, it rolls on by

Cold metal, gonna raise it high

Cold metal, it'll even fly

Rust buckets in the sky

Cold metal, got to be

Skeleton of the free

Cold metal, it's gotta be

Better save a tree

Save a tree, save a tree, save a tree, save a tree


Cold metal was the song from Instinct that made it onto Iggy Pop's Greatest Hits cd. It was also featured in an episode of Miami Vice.

Looking at these lyrics years later, they ring more profound than ever for me. Viewing them through the occult language known as Qabalah, as developed by Aleister Crowley and others, one can clearly tap into a different kind of information useful for personal transformation and evolution.

One of the linguistic techniques Aleister Crowley applied in his Qabalistic lexicon was to associate very simple everyday words with particular magical formulas, that is, specific techniques for transformation. Words such as OUT, PLACE, THAT, and IT were given specific metaphysical meanings in Crowley's Book of Lies. For instance the word IT corresponds with Absolute Reality.

Looking at in this way can give a whole new angle to song lyrics. For example, just knowing about a different meaning for the word it puts the lyrics from John Coltrane's A Love Supreme in a new light:

A Love Supreme

I will do all I can to be worthy of Thee, O Lord.
It all has to do with it.
Thank You God.


There is none other
God is.
It is so beautiful.

Similarly, the first line from Cold Metal:

I play tag in the auto graveyard

can have a much more expansive meaning especially when interpreting "auto" as something other than a car.