Iggy Pop's 15 greatest songs ever, ranked

15 May 2024, 15:29

Iggy is arguably the only artist that looks disconcertingly stranger when wearing clothes than when he isn't.
Iggy is arguably the only artist that looks disconcertingly stranger when wearing clothes than when he isn't. Picture: Getty

By Thomas Curtis-Horsfall

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He's the 'Godfather of Punk' for a reason.

Before Iggy Pop writhed around behind the microphone, artists seldom crowd-surfed with the same kind of sweaty abandon.

In fact, the entire concept of stage-diving was popularised by Iggy and his unrivalled recklessness.

The unbridled, primitive energy of The Stooges' sound coupled with the (on and off stage) antics of former frontman Iggy paved the way for punk music to grow from the cracks of a generation dogged by teenage malaise and societal disenchantment.

Iggy is arguably the only artist who looks disconcertingly stranger when wearing clothes than when he isn't, given his torso has become one of rock 'n' roll's greatest signifiers.

His solo career might not have kicked off however, if it were for his collaborations with David Bowie during the late seventies, who became lifelong friends after their hedonistic stint in Berlin.

Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with The Stooges, and receiving a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020 for his solo work, Iggy has dabbled in a smorgasbord of genres and influenced an equally wide-ranging array of artists himself.

He's the last of his kind, an enduring and imitable music icon. That said, we've delved into Iggy Pop's greatest solo songs and ranked the top fifteen:

  1. 'Well, Did You Evah!' (with Debbie Harry)

    Deborah Harry & Iggy Pop - Well, Did You Evah! (1990)

    When two icons of American music's underground collide: Iggy joined forces with Blondie's Debbie Harry in 1990 for their throwback duet, 'Well, Did You Evah!'.

    It took a while to get off the ground, though, as they first met when Iggy was on tour with Bowie in 1977, both of which took a liking to Debbie. No wonder.

    Thirteen years of friendship later, they paired up for their cover of the Cole Porter song from 1939 musical DuBarry Was a Lady, as part of the HIV/AIDS benefit project Red Hot + Blue which also featured The Pogues, Sinead O'Connor, and U2.

    Though it only reached No.42 in the UK charts, it's a fun romp between two of punk music's most original players.

  2. 'Repo Man'

    Iggy Pop - Repo Man with lyrics

    There were plenty of periods throughout Iggy Pop's career in music when he was down on his luck, and the early eighties was one of them.

    Luckily, the budding film director offered Iggy a lifeline by tapping him up to write the title track for his forthcoming cult classic, Repo Man, in 1983.

    Recruiting The Sex Pistols' former guitarist Steve Jones alongside some of Blondie's band members to flesh out the snotty, snarling punk rock ripper.

    With a soundtrack which included California young bucks in Black Flag, Circle Jerks, and Suicidal Tendencies, Iggy's easily overshadowed his successors efforts.

  3. 'Sunday'

    Iggy Pop - Sunday

    Age catches up to us all, and on 'Sunday' from Iggy's awesome 2016 album, Post Pop Depression, sees him pining for a lazy day of Sabbath whilst in the midst of life's many hectic demands.

    The slithering hip-shaker of a song is anything but lazy, with Iggy recruiting Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme to co-produce and co-write the album.

    Talking to Mojo about writing 'Sunday' together, he said: "'Sunday' was the last song we recorded, and I thought because it's so new it might take a couple hours."

    "He sang the whole thing in 30 minutes, and I felt awful because I was like, 'That's it. What do I do now?'"

  4. 'Wild America'

    Iggy Pop - Wild America

    With a music video which adopts the Gap advert aesthetic of the early nineties, Iggy lampooned the American Dream with his 1993's 'Wild America'.

    Released as one of the singles from American Caesar, the album has been regarded as an overlooked masterpiece since, being widely regarded as Iggy's best effort of that decade.

    Detailing an indulgent night out on the town, Iggy croons: "Now I’m in a black car with my Mexicana / She's got methedrine, but I want marijuana."

    He reserves his judgement for how consumerism has gripped the nation for the song's climax however, lamenting: "They got all kinds of f**kin' stuff / They got everything you could imagine / They're so god dammed spoiled / They're poisoned inside."

  5. 'Real Wild Child (Wild One)'

    Iggy Pop - Real Wild Child (Wild One)

    Iggy Pop revisited the rock 'n' roll that pre-dated his career and started his own teenage obsession with music, with 1986's 'Real Wild Child (Wild One)'.

    Featuring on his 1986 album, Blah Blah Blah, Iggy covered the 1958 song (originally just called 'Wild One') written by Australian rocker Johnny O'Keefe with The Deejays.

    In the years since then, the song about reckless youth and rebellion has been covered by the likes of Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis.

    Iggy's smouldering take secured the punk icon his only ever UK top ten hit.

  6. 'American Valhalla'

    Iggy Pop - American Valhalla | #PostPopDepression

    Iggy turned his focus on his own crumbling foundations with 2016 song 'American Valhalla' which also featured on his seventeenth studio album, Post Pop Depression.

    A song about growing old and growing increasingly disillusioned with age, Iggy said the lyrics were informed about his own unstable financial situation in the twilight of his life.

    "What happens after your years of service? And where is the honour?," he told the New York Times.

    It's heart-breaking to see the icon this pensive and this vulnerable, as he groans: "Lonely, lonely deeds that no one sees / I've nothing but my name…"

  7. 'Tonight'


    Co-written by David Bowie for Iggy Pop's lauded 1977 album, Lust For Life, the late chameleonic music legend revisited 'Tonight' several years later.

    Offering Iggy's version new visibility, Bowie used 'Tonight' as the focal point of his 1984 album of the same name, bringing in Tina Turner to duet on his version of the aching ballad.

    Iggy returned the favour, performing 'Tonight' in tribute to his fallen friend at Carnegie Hall's House Benefit in 2016.

    "It's a wonderful, elegant song with a deceptively simple lyric," Iggy said on the night, "and I think it’s the right lyric for right now and for tonight."

  8. 'Shades'


    Iggy's 1986 album Blah Blah Blah saw him collaborate with David Bowie once more, though it divided opinion amongst his fans and critics.

    Believing that he was too bang-on-trend for incorporating slick synths and glossy production, Iggy later claimed that Blah Blah Blah was "a Bowie album in all but name."

    Nevertheless, there are still numerous high points, including 'Shades', a twinkling ode to his sunglasses.

    True to form, a rock star's credentials rely on their shades, as Iggy gently sings throughout the chorus: "I'm not the kind of guy who dresses like a king / And a really fine pair of shades means everything."

  9. 'Kill City'

    Kill City

    Though The Stooges split in 1974 (until their full reunion in 2003), Iggy and guitarist James Williamson hooked up not long after, writing and recording tracks together that would result in their collaborative album, Kill City.

    Williamson later recalled: "The riff for 'Kill City' just came to me one day, and was just barely written when we went into the studio. Turned out to be the pivotal track and title track."

    Reigniting the raw chemistry of The Stooges, Iggy was still dogged by addiction and money problems in 1975, with the album being delayed until 1977.

    "I did the vocals on weekend leave from the psych unit," Iggy told NME in 1986. "I was in screaming mental pain when I did it."

  10. 'I'm Bored'

    Iggy Pop - I'm Bored (Official Video)

    After his two albums with Bowie in tow, once David returned to his own work on Heroes and Lodger, Iggy released his follow-up New Values. Though it wasn't as warmly received as his previous two.

    In retrospect, it's been reconsidered as a new wave staple, influencing bands ranging from Pixies to INXS.

    Its lead single 'I'm Bored' is brimming with Pop's street-smart attitude and preoccupation with nihilism, bolstered by James Williamson's sleuthing guitar riff.

    Iggy's opening salvo on the song is nothing short of iconic: "I'm bored / I'm the chairman of the board / I'm livin' like a dog / I'm a lengthy monologue / I'm bored."

  11. 'Candy'

    Iggy Pop - Candy

    Iggy Pop certainly channelled pop for his 1990 hit single 'Candy', his only solo song to reach the top 30 of the US charts.

    An anthem written for his teenage romance and first love interest Betty, Iggy recruited The B-52s' Kate Pierson to provide the female vocal, an inspired choice it turned out.

    "I wanted a girl who would sing with a small-town voice," Pop told Pittsburgh Post-Gazette of their duet, "and Kate has a little twang in her voice that sounds slightly rural and naïve."

    'Candy' certainly evokes the naiveté of young love, in one of Iggy's most sugary-sweet moments on record.

  12. 'China Girl'

    Iggy Pop - China Girl (Live At The Royal Albert Hall)

    Due to the popularity of David Bowie's 1983 version of 'China Girl', the original is often overlooked.

    Featuring Iggy's 1977 album The Idiot, Bowie partly covered the song to provide Pop with royalties from its success, offering him some financial stability during a rough period of his life.

    Iggy revealed that the 'China Girl' in question was a real woman he "got to know", though as he details in the song, he didn't want to be corrupted with Western values of superficiality and materialism.

    "I'll give you television, I'll give you eyes of blue, I'll give you a man who wants to rule the world," he quavers regretfully.

  13. 'Nightclubbing'

    Iggy pop-The Idiot-Nightclubbing

    Iggy Pop's debut solo album, The Idiot, was a distinct sonic departure from the feral proto-punk that had typified his career till then.

    Arguably the finest example of that notion is 'Nightclubbing', the electronic-indebted strutter that's dripping in the kind of sleaze and debauchery you'd witness in the early hours of Berlin's nightlife.

    Several artists have embraced the song's late-night saunter, with Grace Jones and The Human League later covering it.

    Despite being recorded in France's legendary Château d’Hérouville, 'Nightclubbing' is no doubt the greatest manifestation of Iggy and Bowie's Berlin hedonistic jaunt, one that reinvigorated them both creatively.

  14. 'Lust For Life'

    Iggy Pop - Lust For Life

    A song about Iggy's joie de vivre as a heroin-loving junkie, when he co-wrote 'Lust For Life' with David Bowie, the pair were in fact sober.

    Being clean gave Iggy license to act even more hedonistically than he was when he was high - despite cutting his hair to resemble what "straight people" did - amping up his stage antics and revelry in his lyricism.

    Referencing the 1956 film Lust For Life with the song's title, weirdly enough it was written on a ukulele, which likely explains the simplistic bouncy rhythm throughout.

    Iggy later explained how the song came together, revealing to Entertainment Weekly: "We were sitting around his digs on the floor, because it was a no-chairs kind of place. We had a production contract and a schedule and he had to get it out of the way, so he said, 'Let's get a song here.'"

    "He picked up a little ukulele he had - I think it might have been his son's - and just came up with that progression, which I thought was great."

    Though 'Lust For Life' wasn't a major hit upon its initial release, its inclusion in 1994 drama Trainspotting gave it a new lease of life, and his now widely regarded as one of Iggy's finest creations.

  15. 'The Passenger'

    Iggy Pop - The Passenger (Official Video)

    "I am a passenger / And I ride, and I ride," and Iggy has been riding throughout his life and career, with 'The Passenger' embodying the punk icon's nomadic existence an outcast loner.

    However, he later admitted the inspiration came to him when travelling on Berlin's S-Bahn, reflecting on the fact he had no driver's license and relied on David Bowie to give him a lift.

    In a collaborative effort between Iggy and guitarist Ricky Gardiner, David Bowie provided backup vocals for the infectious "La-La"s in the chorus, in what is undoubtedly the Godfather Of Punk's most enduring song.

    The jangling, ricochetting guitar riff has inspired countless artists since, including the likes of Siouxsie & The Banshees and R.E.M. who have both covered 'The Passenger', though Gardiner had no idea his chord sequence would prove to resonate so deeply.

    "When I was invited to join David and Iggy in Berlin, I did not realise that they needed material, so I was unprepared when they asked me if I had anything," Gardiner told The Independent, adding he played the riff as Iggy completed the lyrics which were inspired by a poem from The Doors' Jim Morrison.

    A simple celebration of his years in "exile" exploring the fruits that Berlin had to offer, 'The Passenger' is the cherry on the cake in what was arguably Iggy Pop's most fruitful era of his solo career in music.