How Iggy Pop Got His Solo Career Back on Track With ‘Brick by Brick’
If we've learned anything about Iggy Pop over the course of his legendary but often star-crossed career, it's that you should never count him out. Whatever trials and tribulations he's come up against, the man born James Newell Osterberg Jr. always finds a way to overcome them in the end. That was certainly the case with the career-reviving Brick by Brick, released on July 10, 1990.
After surviving the painful and protracted disintegration of the Stooges, Iggy had shocked everyone who dared bet against him by igniting a critically acclaimed solo career in the late ‘70s, with an assist from celebrity collaborators David Bowie and Brian Eno. But he spent most of the ‘80s testing his fan base with endless shifts in musical direction – from post-punk to New Wave to pop and back to punk again.
This restless and anything-but-orchestrated evolution also saw him swapping record labels with a frequency that didn't help his commercial prospects, moving from RCA to Arista to A&M and finally Virgin for Brick by Brick, whose success or failure would set the tone for Pop’s entry into the '90s.
Luckily, if there was one thing he never lacked for it was the eager support (and reverence) of fellow musicians, and the impressive list of celebrity cameos spread over Brick by Brick came to include the likes of Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash (who played several solos and wrote the music for “My Baby Wants to Rock and Roll”) and bassist Duff McKagan, folk rock icon John Hiatt (on Hiatt's “Something Wild”), and crack session aces like Kenny Aronoff (drums) and David Lindley (violin).
The biggest contribution, by far, was probably made by B-52’s star Kate Pierson, whose duet with Pop on the global smash “Candy” gave Iggy his first (and last) U.S. Top 40 hit, bringing the former Stooge deeper into the mainstream music conscience than anyone had ever imagined possible.
Beyond that all-important, unit-shifting single, Pop and his cohorts join efforts produced an eclectic mix of muscular rockers (“Home,” the provocative and hilarious tandem of “Butt Town” and “P---- Power”) and acoustic strummers (“Main Street Eyes,” “I Won’t Crap Out,” “The Undefeated” and the title track) as well as songs like the hypnotic “Neon Forest” and the reggae-based “Starry Night.” These songs helped Brick by Brick achieve an unprecedented gold certification for Iggy Pop, and allowed him to tour extensively over the next few years.
Pop didn't return to the studio until 1993, when he recorded the less positively received American Caesar. But career downturns, as we know, are part and parcel of the Iggy Pop tradition, as are the inevitable career rebirths. Brick by Brick, Pop's 10th solo studio album, is among the best examples of his endurance and resilience.
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