Iggy Pop’s 1980 album Soldier started off with good intentions, it was set up to be produced by Ex-Stooges guitarist James Williamson who produced Iggy’s 1979 album New Values, another Iggy Pop album that did well in the UK at the time but is still criminally overlooked. When David Bowie came in to assist on some of the production Williamson and Bowie both left the sessions following an argument leaving engineer Pat Moran to pick up where they left off, as a result Soldier is an album that fights hard and stands up to other Iggy Pop releases making a unique and different album from its predecessors. The backing band on this album was a collection of Punk/New Wave musicians they were as Glen Matlock stated in the 2000 re-issue linear notes "Kind of a weird wacky band", but the deck was stacked on this album. Ex-Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock signed up to play bass and also assisted in writing four of the tracks on this album, it also featured Ivan Kral of The Patti Smith Group on guitar/keys, Barry Andrews of XTC on Keyboards, Klaus Kruger on drums (who played on New Values) and Steve New who played with Rich Kids, Generation X and countless New Wave/Punk groups on guitar, and David Bowie and The Simple Minds on one track. The album was recorded in 1979 at Rockfield Studies in Wales.
The album is known for its raw production, but also for its lack of lead guitar featuring primarily acoustic guitars, bass, drums and keyboards on most tracks. Rumour has it that Iggy got along poorly with guitarist Steve New on this album because he apparently punched David Bowie in the face for hitting on his girlfriend, which resulted in most of his guitar parts being taken out in the final mix of the album, adding further to Matlocks statement in the 2000 re-issue linear notes of the band being "weird and wacky". Soldier starts of with the quirky circus sounding keyboard driven rhythm of “Loco Mosquito”. The song starts of with the line “My mommy told me that if I was goody that she would buy me a rubber dolly” an odd line to start off any album with, yet it is a line that reflects what we can come to expect on this album lyrically, lyrics that question. Obviously representing some sort of hope that could have been instilled in a person in their youth if you’re good you’ll get what you want, that one line is a hint of the introspective lyrics that we will find on Soldier. At the time everyone was claiming Iggy Pop was such a huge inspiration with this previous band The Stooges and even with his early solo releases (The Idiot, Lust For Life), but at that point in time Iggy was questioning his make up as an artist what made him, him and reflecting on his past. “Ambition” follows contrasting against what were introduced with from "Loco Mosquito" lyrically and musically. It is a song penned by Glenn Matlock this salty acoustic, bass, drum and keyboard track shows Iggy making a statement with lyrics such as “Ah but my associates/Why they're no more than opiates/Always dragging me down/Dash my hopes to the ground” and ending with the lyrics “So 'till then just press on/Don't lose your grip/Don't lose ambition” letting us know that despite all that has been happening with his music career he will soldier on. “Knocking ‘Em Down (In The City)” follows next with its upbeat electric guitars and lyrics that call for a move forward, another hidden gem on this album.
“Play It Safe” follows next, it is a song that is perhaps a bit darker lyrically and one that questions America’s youth with lyrics “I wanna be a criminal/play it safe”, the song sounds like it could have been on a Berlin-era David Bowie album, it also features David Bowie and The Simple Minds on backing vocals. "Play It Safe" is often stated as a standout track on Soldier. “Dog Food” is an unused Stooges outtake, it features aggressive guitar, hand claps and lyrics that were inspired by according the re-issue linear notes “big housing projects set up in the state where the shops sell lots of dog food - but nobody there was allowed to own a pet!”. “I Need More” follows with more electric guitar, but this is a song which questions the suburban lifestyle, a shopping list of items are listed off in the song, but the one line “I need more mustard/pickle and relish” seems to stand out representing the variety that one craves in the monotonous modern everyday world, but can’t seem to claim. “Take Care Of Me” amongst its soulful basslines and fuzzy electric riffs provides us with lyrics such as “An international garbage man/I've decided that's what I am” and "It's an old story I suppose/A heavy price for a heavy pose" which are further example of the introspective, yet reflective lyrics that are found on this album. The political satire of “I’m A Conservative” with lyrics such as “I like the small black marks on my hand” takes us to the second last song on this album. On this track Iggy questions Conservatism is a dark yet humorous way, not coming off as overtly political. The album ends on a high energy offensive snotty note with the song “I Snub You”. The album was reissued in 2000 with two additional bonus tracks the acoustic “Low Life” and the instrumental New Wave Rock track “Drop A Hook”.
While Soldier is often overlooked, the album (the second of three albums released on Arista Records) has many things going for it that make it different from other Iggy releases. Its lack of electric guitars for the most part, although it does still have plenty of them on the ending tracks are one thing, but it is also a poignant statement which features intelligent and raw imperfections. Taking a look at the albums cover we see a seemingly worn out Iggy Pop in white t-shirt and red covered eye lids, he looks like a tired, worn out zombie more than anything, but as anyone who listens to this album and has followed Iggy Pops career will know the title Soldier represents what Iggy Pop wanted to do amongst all of his difficulties, to soldier on and win his own way.
This week's play list:
1. Fun Things – Lipstick2. Quinteto Acadademico – Train
3. New Kind of Mambo – Monkey Swing
4. Sonic Reverends – Have Some Mercy!
5. Paradise – Creatures of the Night
6. Cartoons – Vinyl Riot
7. Falklands – It’s Good To See You
8. Blank Generation – Reaction
9. Albert Hammond Jr. – Everyone Gets A Star
10. Divine Fits – What Gets You Alone
11. TV Smith’s Explorers – See Europe
12. The Gerry Alvarez Odyssey – In The Garden
13. Light Bulb Alley – Long Time Coming
14. Os Morgans – Opus
15. Bell Peppers – Rubber Bullets
16. Bell Peppers – Golf Shack
17. The Ghastly Ones - Mysterion
18. Actual Water –Brighton
19. Young Rival - Nothing You Know Too Well
20. Pow Wows – Killing Me
21. Iggy Pop – I Need More
22. Iggy Pop – Ambition
To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for October 16. Or subscribe to Revolution Rock as a Podcast.