The 1977 Iggy Pop TV performance that never happened

Iggy Pop was booked to perform with his band on Peter Gzowski's late-night talk show, but an interview would have to do instead.

Plans to play on a CBC talk show alongside David Bowie thwarted by musicians' union

Shirtless man with long hair sings into a microphone under green lighting
Iggy Pop of Iggy and the Stooges performs during the NXNE festival in Dundas Square in Toronto, on June 19, 2010. (Adrien Veczan/The Canadian Press)

Iggy Pop was booked to perform with his band on the CBC's late-night talk show 90 Minutes Live, but an interview would have to do instead. 

"No show tonight," said Pop after walking onto the set and shaking host Peter Gzowski's hand. The host had introduced him, to raucous off-screen cheers, as "the incredible punk rock star." 

"Because of a very complicated agreement between the CBC and the American Federation of Musicians ... we learned just before the show that Iggy and his band cannot perform on the CBC," explained Gzowski. "But we thought you'd like to meet him anyway."

Part of the band for Pop's tour at the time, in March 1977, was David Bowie on keyboards. Bowie had produced Pop's first solo album The Idiot, and would do the same for its follow-up, Lust for Life, six months later. 

Born James Osterberg in Michigan in 1947, Pop founded the proto-punk quartet The Stooges in 1968 before going on to a solo career.

'I'll tell you about punk rock'

Iggy Pop explains punk

46 years ago
Duration 2:02
In 1977, the punk pioneer is prevented from performing on a CBC-TV late-night talk show.

"I'm very sorry that we couldn't work it out so that you could sing and perform," said Gzowski, as Pop regarded him coldly while putting a cigarette in his mouth. "But that's life. That's showbiz."

"Is it?" asked Pop, who was shirtless under his suit jacket and wearing a small crucifix.

Pop, who is still performing into his 70s, is often shirtless onstage. 

Shirtless man poses for photographers with Toronto International Film Festival backdrop
Singer Iggy Pop attends the "Gimme Danger" premiere on day 7 of the Toronto International Film Festival at the Ryerson Theatre on Sept. 14, 2016, in Toronto. (by Evan Agostini/Invision/Associated Press)

"For all his demented carryings-on, Iggy in conversation seems remarkably, deceptively sane," wrote an anonymous profiler in a New York Times item published the day after Pop's CBC interview on Mar.11, 1977.

Trying to direct Pop's attention, Gzowski asked him about punk rock.

"Well, I'll tell you about punk rock," said Pop. "Punk rock is a word used by dilettantes and heartless manipulators."

He was just getting started. Pirated audio of what he said next would turn up decades later in a song called Punk Rock by the Scottish band Mogwai on their 1999 album Come on Die Young.

'I vomited ... I'm not sorry'

Iggy Pop's performance philosophy

46 years ago
Duration 2:25
The punk musician explains to the CBC's Peter Gzowski why vomiting onstage became part of his act.

Later in the interview, Pop tried to explain elements of his performance style to Gzowski.

"I've read reviews about vomiting on the stage, about sticking pencils in your flesh," said Gzowski. "I want to know the purpose behind that."

"I vomited, I was ill. I'm not sorry ... everyone gets ill sometimes," explained Pop. "As I felt that I was going to vomit anyway, I decided I may as well do it with some style."

It might sound like "a big load of trashy old noise," but he said the music was so powerful, it was "quite beyond my control."   

"When I'm in the grips of it, I don't feel pleasure and I don't feel pain," he said.

When Pop and his band played Toronto three days later, his performance was "relatively bloodless," according to a review of the show in the Globe and Mail. 

"Iggy shouted, growled, screamed and threw his body at solid objects within staggering distance," said reviewer Paul McGrath.

The concert took place at a venue known as the Field House at Seneca College in North York, Ont.

"Penny for penny, [supporting act] Blondie added more value to the ticket than Iggy Pop, even though Iggy's fans had David Bowie thrown in for free," reported McGrath. 

Two men sit side-by-side on a bench in a black-and-white photo
March 1977: Rock singers David Bowie, right, and Iggy Pop in Germany. (Evening Standard/Getty Images)

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