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Week 11 | Blah Blah Blah (1986)

“Blah Blah Blah” is, in a word, blah. There is an irony to this, considering it is a collaboration of Iggy Pop, Bowie and Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols. All three are known for loud, aggressive and edgy music. None of that can be found here.

I remember hearing the album for the first time in the early 1990s and being pleasantly surprised. I liked it, and in subsequent listenings had a similar reaction. But I don’t listen to it often, and today it sounds like it did not age well. It is possibly Iggy Pop’s only attempt at creating an album aimed at a mass audience, and to that extent he was successful— the album sold well at the time. But today it sounds like almost stereotypical 1980s pop (though not stereotypical Pop). More than that, it sounds like a rough draft of one of Bowie’s weakest albums, “Never Let Me Down.”

Bowie and Iggy collaborated on various projects. Usually, when the project was an Iggy album, like “The Idiot” or “Lust fo Life,” Bowie acted as producer and sometimes backup musician and co-writer. When it was a Bowie album, Bowie would sing one or more song first recorded by Iggy (most famously, “China Girl” and “Tonight”). Bowie did not perform on “Blah Blah Blah” but he co-wrote five of the album’s ten songs and again acted as producer. Iggy has supposedly said that the album was a Bowie album in all but name (which I don’t entirely understand as Iggy was the one performing). It is telling that despite such a heavy Bowie influence, he did not subsequently record his own version of any of the songs he co-wrote. To my knowledge he never perform them. None appeared as part of any Bowie tribute that I know of. “Blah Blah Blah” is no “All the Young Dudes.”

The album’s big hit and strongest song is, “Cry for Love,” which Steve Jones, rather than Bowie co-wrote. It is the one song that stands up. The other memorable one is Iggy’s rendition of, “Real Wild Child,” which continues the album’s unintentional irony both because it is not only far milder than most Iggy songs but so too is it tamer than most versions of the song (Jerry Lee Lewis recorded a version with more menace in 1958).

If the album foreshadows “Never Let Me Down” in a big way, it more faintly hints at what would come after. A few phrases that would pop up on the first Tin Machine album make an appearance here. The term originally employed by Allen Ginsberg in his poem, “Howl,” “I saw the the best minds of my generation, is a line in “Little Miss Emperor” on this album, and later in Tin Machine’s “Prisoner of Love.” The song, “Blah Blah Blah” contains the line, “Johnny can’t read,” which is evocative of Tin Machine’s, “I can’t read” (and even more distantly, Bowie’s 1997 song, “I’m Afraid of Americans,” which brings back the maladjusted “Johnny”). But the path to that edgier Bowie goes from “Blah Blah Blah” through more attempts to build off of his early 80s mass appeal.

It could be that the two frequent collaborators ran out of steam by 1986. Other than Bowie’s version of, “Bang Bang,” on “Never Let Me Down,” and some subsequent live covers (notably, “Sister Midnight” and “Lust for Life”) this marks the end Bowie’s long cross-pollination with Iggy.

For all my negativity about this album, it isn’t terrible. As I mentioned, I liked it the first few times I heard it. It just doesn’t have staying power and is missing most of what I like about other Iggy, let alone Bowie albums.

For the record, the songs Bowie co-wrote on this album are, “Baby, It Can’t Fall;” “Shades,” “Isolation,” “Blah Blah Blah,” “Hideaway,” and “Little Miss Emperor.”

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