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Baker's Dozen

How Was It For You? Tim Booth Of James' Favourite Albums
John Freeman , March 31st, 2016 08:03

After the release of James' Girl At The End Of The World, lead singer Tim Booth tells John Freeman about clandestine childhood listening and the redemptive powers of Iggy Pop in choosing the LPs that "saved his life"


The Stooges – Fun House
A year after the punk gig debacle, when the school banned me from organising outings to gigs, I went to the housemaster about an Iggy Pop gig in Manchester. I explained that Iggy wasn't technically a punk and had been around ten years longer than punk music. I asked him if I could organise a trip to see the show and, very reluctantly, he agreed to me taking five people, as long as I could find a teacher to drive us there.

I tried every single teacher in school and everybody turned me down, except the school organist, Mr Parks. God bless him. He had been in a boarding school himself, went to Cambridge and then back to playing classical organ for a choir at another boarding school. He had no experience of life and when he talked to you, he would never look you in the eye. He was a very damaged, sweet human being. And I persuaded the poor fucker to take us to see Iggy Pop at Manchester Apollo. Iggy, fresh out of a psychiatric hospital, who was playing the Lust For Life tour.

We knew when we got there that we had to ditch Mr Parks quickly or he would yank us out of the gig. We got the venue and we ditched him. Iggy came on, covered in blood and with a devil's tail between his legs, fucked out of his mind, and throughout the show, his own security would pick him up off the floor and prop him against the mike. He would crawl into the audience and the bouncers were so terrified that they were attacking anyone. I was punched in the face for the first time, aged 16, at a gig by a bouncer who was trying to get away from a blood-covered Iggy Pop.

The gig was jaw dropping. It was real, it was primal and Iggy was a force of nature. He looked like the most beautiful man I had ever seen. He looked like Nureyev on bad acid. I am not gay – I wish I was, or at least bisexual – but I fell in love. It was profound and it was beautiful – and Iggy, of course, created punk music.

Afterwards, we made our way back to the car, thinking "we are grounded for fucking life" and that we might be expelled. We found Mr Parks and for the first time he looked me in the eye and said, "That was incredible – I have never seen anything like it. Musically, it was very simple, but it was the most exciting thing I have ever seen in my life." The man wouldn't stop talking all the way back in the car about this revelation. So, Iggy saved my life and probably saved Mr Park's life too.

I have met Iggy. I have met James Osterberg, too – which is very different to meeting Iggy Pop – a few times. He is the most articulate, intelligent man. He was reading Dostoyevsky's The Idiot when I first met him. He is witty, gawky and very worthy of my love. I could have chosen a number of his albums, including The Idiot and Lust For Life. I wouldn't choose the more obvious one, Raw Power, because I don't like the production. Fun House is raw, fucked-up and has some astonishing moments and it has primal Iggy all over it.

For years, Iggy garnered little respect. As a devotee, seeing him get respect in recent years has been great. I am very happy that the world has recognised him for the artist that he is.