“Lust For Life”

“Lust For Life”

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Story Behind the Song

Iggy Pop
“Lust For Life”

Written by Iggy Pop and David Bowie
Recorded by Iggy Pop

I was living in Berlin in the ’70s. David Bowie came over to see me and stayed. The wall was still up; Berlin was an occupied zone. Every Thursday night, the Armed Forces played Starsky and Hutch and we could pick it up on rabbit ears. Armed Forces TV had an audio signal like the Morse Code.

David picked up his son’s ukelele one day and knocked out the chord progression for this song and suggested the title. Lust For Life was my mom’s favorite book. It is a biographical novel about Vincent Van Gogh, written by Irving Stone, that was turned into a movie. It was a metaphor for my career at that point. I wasn’t enjoying success yet, much like Van Gogh who never saw any of the money or fame that his work did after he died.

Certain lyrics in the song, like “Johnny Yen” and “hypnotizing chickens,” refer to Williams S. Burroughs’ novel The Ticket That Exploded.

What the song talks about is how indispensible it is to be alive and excited but, ironically, our joys also make us vulnerable. Perhaps the people who aren’t too excited about things do better.

The funny thing was that the music was very bouncy and up. The band’s track had a great feel. We recorded it in a studio over there and we all hit it out of the park in one night. It was released in Holland in 1977 and became a #1 single. Then it sat on the shelf for awhile. It bubbled under the radar for about 20 years until the youth movie Trainspotting played the song loud in its entirety to open the movie. I was back in America then. The record became a multi-platinum soundtrack and it was a hit video here for me. It changed my life. “Lust For Life” was in other films as well, including Desperately Seeking Susan, but they weren’t as good for the song.

The most interesting thing about it is that as time goes on, the public will make of something what they want to. It’s a happy song. People don’t care about the irony in the verses. Whole families come up and thank me.

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