Monday, November 5, 2018

Trick/Treat: Candy

Iggy Pop featuring Kate Pierson: Candy

And now here’s the Treat.

That Iggy Pop wrote a catchy pop love song is more than a little surprising. Best known for musical and personal excess, confrontation, and a wildly unpredictable stage persona, Pop reached out in early 1990 to Don Was, a fan and fellow Michigander, who was beginning to make a name as a producer, to try to make an album that would be more polished and commercial than his recent output. Was gathered a diverse group of musicians, including Slash and Duff McKagan from Guns N’ Roses, Kate Pierson, from the B-52’s, whose recent hit album, Cosmic Thing, he had produced, John Hiatt, studio veterans Waddy Wachtel, Kenny Drayton, Kenny Aronoff, and David Lindley, and members of his own band, Was (Not Was).

He succeeded. Brick By Brick is a great album, filled with great songs that split the difference between the harder rock of his prior work and a more commercial sensibility, but with, for the most part, angry, cynical lyrics.

And then there’s “Candy.” A love song sung as a duet with Pierson, it is an anomaly, and was a hit. As Pop has said, “I’ve written one good pop song, ‘Candy.’ It’s a very decent, proper pop song, but that’s as far as that went.” It is a more than decent pop song. On its surface, it appears to be a song about a lost love, who herself regrets the loss. Although it is a duet, the characters are singing past each other, but are heading to the same place. If you take that interpretation, which Pop has advanced (he says it is about a teenage girlfriend, Betsy), it really is sweet, and poignant.

But this is Iggy Pop, we are talking about, so there are other, darker, interpretations. One is that Pierson’s character is a prostitute, who gave Pop’s character “love for free.” And another is that Pierson’s character represents heroin, to which Pop was addicted to on and off over the years (and which he has written about before, maybe most famously in “Lust for Life,” a song that someone thought was an appropriate tune to use in commercials for a family cruise line. At least they edited out the part about liquor and drugs.)

You know, I’m going to take Iggy’s word for it—that he reached into his past to write a love song to a childhood sweetheart who still meant something to him—and not try to read too much into it.

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