Kill City by Iggy Pop and James Williamson Review
Kill City was recorded in 1975 after the breakup of The Stooges. Jimmy Webb allowed Pop and Williamson to record the album, which was to be a demo to distribute to record companies in the hope of securing Iggy Pop a recording contract. Iggy was staying in a mental institution at the time of recording, receiving treatment for his heroin addiction. His vocals were recorded on weekends, when he received permission to leave.
The recordings remained unheard until 1977 when James Williamson received an advance from Bomp! Records on the back of the success of Iggy’s solo albums, The Idiot and Lust for Life. Williamson used the advance to add overdubs and remix the album titled Kill City and credited to Iggy Pop and James Williamson.
The subsequent CD release was mixed from the vinyl pressing as the master tapes had been lost, resulting in a poor quality sound. However, in 2010, Williamson and engineer Ed Cherney remixed the album from the master tapes, with the blessing of Iggy Pop. This newly remastered and restored edition brought Kill City to life, clearing up the sound and revealing instrumental sections previously lost. Songs that had previously faded out now have proper endings and one of Iggy’s most underrated albums has been uncovered.
The title track sets off like some kind of Elton John track with its riff reminiscent of Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting. Iggy welcomes us to Kill City “where the debris meets the sea”. Despite its belated official release, this song frequently found its way into Iggy’s live set list.
Second track Sell Your Love settles into a Rolling Stones groove that runs throughout the rest of Kill City. The song slips by on James Williamson’s excellent riff and we get the first sound of saxophone, credited to John “The Rookie” Harden. Whereas the inclusion of Steve Mackay’s saxophone proved inspired on The Stooges Fun House, the results are mixed on Kill City. Sell Your Love is one track where it works quite well and adds to the atmosphere of the song.
Beyond the Law features another killer riff by James Williamson and a line that would be recycled for The Idiot track Dum Dum Boys. I could probably do without the sax on this one as it detracts a little from some good understated guitar work.
Kill City dishes up a couple of tracks left over from the Stooges; I Got Nothin’ and Johanna. The Stooges version of I Got Nothin’ can be heard on the live bootleg Metallic KO and various other Stooges bootlegs from the period. This version doesn’t vary much which perhaps isn’t all that surprising as most of the musicians are the same but for the Ashetons’ rhythm section. Maybe the Stooges version benefited slightly from Ron Asheton’s bass.
Johanna, on the other hand sounds markedly different from the version on various Stooges compilations. The earlier version was from a Stooges rehearsal demo and features a Doors-like keyboard from Bob Scheff. Here the excellent James Williamson riff is accompanied, and sometimes swamped in saxophone. This is has a much cleaner sound but I can’t help but prefer the Stooges demo.
We then hear a couple of instrumental breaks in the form of Night Theme, featuring a vocal contribution from Gayna of the Count Dracula Society!The instrumental is bridged to the next track, by some state of the art 1970s sound effects and Consolation Prizes is one of the strongest songs on Kill City. A great rocker and a shame it seems to have been underused by Iggy.
No Sense of Crime is another superb track and again seems to have slipped by in Iggy’s career. It sounds a little incomplete in places but has benefited hugely by the remix and restoration work on this album. An acoustic guitar builds into a majestic ballad that is a fitting successor to Gimme Danger from Raw Power. Iggy’s somewhat disturbing lyrics fit the tune perfectly and he delivers a strong if flawed performance, his voice on the last note trailing off after the music has stopped.
Lucky Monkeys is the last song on the album before the instrumental closer. It’s another blues infused Rolling Stones influenced track. The harmonica and guitar work from James Williamson is excellent, once again. Iggy name checks his peers, Bowie and Mick (Jagger, presumably). This is appropriate as the next chapter in Iggy’s career would involve another fruitful collaboration with David Bowie.
The instrumental Master Charge finishes Kill City with some style, even if it sounds a little dated to modern ears. Written by James Williamson and Scott Thurston, who had been keyboard player for the Stooges lives shows as they headed toward oblivion. Thurston would go onto provide keyboards for the early part of Iggy’s solo career before moving to guitar, captured on a memorable performance of I’m Bored on the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test show.
James Williamson commented that Iggy wasn’t in great shape at the time and the quality of the recordings isn’t great. He believes that the album would’ve been much better had they managed to get a record deal in place. This much is true. The vocals on some tracks are still very muffled, even after the excellent restoration work that has taken place. Iggy’s voice sometimes betrays a man battling addiction and mental strain and while this adds a certain desperate quality, this would’ve been improved upon under the right conditions.
As good as Kill City is, we will never know how good it would’ve been had it been recorded on a better budget in better conditions. This edition is as close as we’ll ever get but the nagging question remains: if Pop and Williamson sounded this good when Iggy was only firing on one cylinder, recording on his release from a mental institution, how good would they have sounded under proper studio conditions?
Rated Sound gives Kill City by Iggy Pop and James Williamson a rating of 8/10.
Kill City (1977) by Iggy Pop and James Williamson Track Listing
1. Kill City
2. Sell Your Love
3. Beyond The Law
4. I Got Nothin’
6. Night Theme
7. Night Theme (Reprise)
8. Consolation Prizes
9. No Sense Of Crime
10. Lucky Monkeys
11. Master Charge