Iggy Pop on the gig that made him want to be a rock star: "I thought, Look how awful they are, and they've got the number one single in the country!"

Iggy Pop, onstage in 1977
(Image credit: Ed Perlstein/Redferns/Getty Images)

Before he co-founded The Stooges with brothers Ron and Scott Asheton (on guitar and drums, respectively) and Dave Alexander (bass), the teenage Iggy Pop had already played drums in a number of bands, among them The Iguanas and the Prime Movers. But it was seeing The Doors play a disastrous gig at the University of Michigan on October 20, 1967 which truly lit a fire under the young James Osterberg Jr.

Iggy spoke about his punk rock awakening in Please Kill Me, Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain's essential oral history of punk.

"The concert was the homecoming dance for all these big, butch American clods and their girls," Pop recalled. "They were going to see the band that did Light My Fire [which had topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for three weeks in the summer of 1967]."

"The band got onstage first, without Morrison, and they just sounded like pure shit... It sounded awful... decrepit and disgusting and unbalanced - they were playing the riff to Soul Kitchen over and over, until the singer was gonna make his entrance."

Pop recalls Jim Morrison looking "incredible" in a black leather jacket, leather trousers and a ruffled shirt.... "And the regular American guys were thinking, Who is this pussy?"

As Pop remembers, Morrison spent the entire gig singing in a falsetto 'Betty Boop' voice, to the growing anger of the jocks in attendance.

"I was very excited," he recalls. "I loved the antagonism; I loved that he was pissing them off. Yes, yes, yes... The gig lasted only fifteen or twenty minutes because they had to pull Morrison off-stage and get him out of there fast, because the people were gonna attack him. It made a big impression on me.

"I thought, Look how awful they are, and they've got the number one single in the country! If this guy can do it, I can do it. And I gotta do it now. I can't wait any longer."

The University of Michigan's Michigan Today newspaper carried a feature on the gig in 2010. It reported Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek recalling that the day started going wrong for the band when Jim Morrison got annoyed about his bandmates wanting to get ice cream en route from Detroit to the university campus in Ann Arbor.

"We all wanted some ice cream," explained Manzarek. "But Jim says, ‘Ice cream is for babies. I want whiskey.’So we had to stop at a liquor store and buy a bottle of booze."

By the time the group's limo reached Ann Arbor, Morrison was "drunk as a skunk" according to the keyboardist.

"He was missing all the cues, and at some point started berating the audience. I’m thinking, ‘Jim, do not anger these guys! These are football players. Look at the thickness of their necks!’ But he just kept going on and on.... I was totally shocked. It was the first time he’d been that messed up on stage."

Somewhat ironically, following Morrison's death, the band reached out to Iggy to see if he'd be interested in fronting the band. Pop declined. 

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.