The Passenger: what’s the meaning of Iggy Pop’s song

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The Passenger is a single from Iggy Pop’s album Lust for Life, 1977. The song refers to the long journeys of the Rock iguana on the Berlin S-Bahn line. The riff is very catchy, simple but in a brilliant way it accompanies you to the chorus, almost like a game, up to that lalalalalalala.

It is precisely in the chorus that Bowie’s figure appears. David Bowie, described by Iggy Pop as a friend and a benefactor. The voice of Bowie, who’s producer of the entire album, is easily recognizable in the choirs of the song. Bowie will always cover a fraternal figure (as a playmate) and a paternal role (besides producing two albums of Iggy Pop, in his difficult moments he also went to meet his parents, to reassure them about the son – they were living in a caravan and Bowie frightened the neighbours with his car and the bodyguards).

In the song, Pop describes his usual journey by train, sees the stars come out, so dynamic. It’s a surprising journey, yet ordinary. Then, the song moves in Bowie’s car.

On an American tour the two, in addition to being arrested for possession of marijuana, sat on the back seats, listening to cassettes and talking about music. A relationship, Bowie-Pop, of union and mutual understanding. Like a real team.

As the same Iggy says, The Passenger was also written thinking about the journeys of the two in David’s car, towards infinity.

And that chorus, that lalalalalalala, says everything about this life, everything about Pop. It is sung lightly but in a decisive way, as this is the real Iggy: a riff of repeated syllables that can mean everything, but that are repeated because this is what he wants. Like the friendship with Bowie, like his long journeys, like that night view from behind the glass of a train. Like his straying, explosive excesses, his nomadic and immense freedom, full and deep, engraved with the feelings he screams in his music.

As well as his train journey, which can be always the same and always surprising (the stars come out), Pop is always more excessive, but always himself.

Iggy Pop’s lalalalalalala is the intentional mystery that makes the artist a disordered but coherent chaos. A star of the hard rock.

I am the passenger and I ride and I ride
I ride through the city’s backsides

I see the stars come out tonight
I see the bright and hollow sky
Over the city’s ripped backsides
And everything looks good tonight
Singing la la la la la.. lala la
la la la la la.. lala la

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