Repo Man

Debbi: Let’s go do some crimes.

Duke: Yeah. Let’s go get sushi and not pay.
     –Dialogue from the 1984 cult-classic movie Repo Man

I called it a cult-classic. For the past thirty-seven years I’ve called it a cult-classic, but I just watched it. Nothing classic about it at all. Truthfully, it kind of sucked. Repo Man is a heavily quoted movie. Obviously, there’s the sushi line. There’s also the character Miller’s absolutely loony plate of shrimp soliloquy1, and Duke’s deathbed diatribe2, but beyond a few good lines, nothing really happens. Except, of course, when they roll the credits. The movie begins and ends with Iggy Pop’s punk rock banger, Repo Man.

It took forever for Iggy Pop to catch my attention. Sure, I was only five when his band the Stooges hit the scene in 1967, but by the end of my college career, I’d been listening almost exclusively to punk rock for four years. Iggy who?

My freshman year, a close friend with a longish shock of hair so orange that everyone at my college called him O, wore a Stooges t-shirt three days a week. It never occurred to me to ask him about the band. O came from New York City. I guess I figured the Stooges were too hip for a fledgling suburban punk like me. O transferred at the end of the school year, and Iggy remained in the shadows until I watched Repo Man in 1985. Five seconds into the running time of the film, his theme song drops like a shovel-load of cinder blocks dumped from a second-story balcony.

A game many devotees of punk rock like to play is to pinpoint the first punk bands. Possible selection choices date back into the fifties, but after extensive and careful research (which consisted of reading the Timeline of Punk Rock page on Wikipedia), I’d say things really heated up in the punk world around the mid-sixties. The Stooges aren’t the first punk band, but launching in 1967, they still qualify squarely as among the first.

Nowadays, everyone knows Iggy Pop. He’s the guy who sings the cruise ship song. In 2005, Royal Caribbean made the unlikely selection of his song Lust for Life to advertise their cruise line. Remarkably, the campaign worked. It’s a fun song with pulsing energy and Iggy’s powerful delivery.

Here comes Johnny Yen again
With the liquor and drugs
And a flesh machine
He’s gonna do another striptease.

No, those lyrics aren’t in the commercial, but in a published complaint I once read, one critic states “Nothing says maritime comfort like a song about shooting up junk.”

The Repo Man theme was lost to me until recently. Ten years ago, despite the back-to-back f-bombs near the end of the song, I used it frequently in a punk fueled spin class I instructed. But once I gave up the class, I stopped listening to the song. A recent podcast on the Stooge’s second album Raw Power, reminded me to add Repo Man to my Radio Jeff Spotify playlist. Now the song is back in my life.

Give Repo Man a listen. Prepare to bang your head and toss your hair. And when you’re done, please read the original post I wrote when I first heard about Jim Adams’ Christmas day Song Lyric Sunday punk theme two months ago: People Who Died.

Lyrics below the footnotes.

1 Miller: A lot o’ people don’t realize what’s really going on. They view life as a bunch o’ unconnected incidents ‘n things. They don’t realize that there’s this, like, lattice o’ coincidence that lays on top o’ everything. Give you an example; show you what I mean: suppose you’re thinkin’ about a plate o’ shrimp. Suddenly someone’ll say, like, plate, or shrimp, or plate o’ shrimp out of the blue, no explanation. No point in lookin’ for one, either. It’s all part of a cosmic unconciousness.

Otto: You eat a lot of acid, Miller, back in the hippie days?

2 Duke: The lights are growing dim Otto. I know a life of crime has led me to this sorry fate, and yet, I blame society. Society made me what I am.

Otto: That’s bullshit. You’re a white suburban punk just like me.

Duke: Yeah, but it still hurts.

REPO MAN LYRICS

I was riding on a concrete slab
Down the river of useless flab
It was such a beautiful day
I heard a witch doctor say
I’ll turn you into a toadstool
I’m looking for the joke with a microscope

A muscle twitch, an auto, it swerves
You want to speak, you lose your nerve
Infinity throws you a curve
Dumps you in shit you don’t deserve
As life roars by you in a blur
Leaves you murmuring a dirty word

A page out of a comic book
A chicken hanging on a hook
A reverie, a babbling brook
A sermonette, a TV cook
Shaking my hand at your fake head
A suicide, a certain look

A microphone, a blues guitar
Piques a feeling near and far
Stupidity, a mental scar
Cruel cruelty, oh cruelty
Harboring no inspiration
An alcoholic at the bar
Every insult goes too far

I was pissing on the desert sands
When the desert whispered to me
It said, isn’t this a shame?
Things will never be the same
I’ve learned this gets me so edgy
Now I’m looking for the joke with a microscope

I was a teenage dinosaur
Stoned and obsolete
I didn’t get fucked and I didn’t get kissed
I got so fucking pissed
Using my head for an ashtray
Now I’ll tell you who I am
I’m a repo man

And I’m looking for the joke
Yeah I’m looking for the joke
I’m looking for the joke
Looking for the joke
Looking for the joke
Looking for the joke with a microscope
I’m a repo repo repo man
Repo repo repo man…

Happy Christmas to those of you who celebrate.

16 thoughts on “Repo Man

  1. Part of the reason I don’t go to many concerts is that my ears rattle, and they rattle mainly due to an Aussie guitarist called Lobby Lloyd. Now Lobby, before he was Lobby, was in a mid-sixties band called The Purple Hearts (as Barry Lyde). The Purple Hearts might be legit early punk rock contenders. Anyway, that’s where your mention of early punk took me, but I know sfa about such things, including Iggy. So now I just have to wait for Z to disappear for a while so I can explore your link at sufficient volume to enjoy it…but not too loud, damn you Lobby!

    Thanks Jeff.
    DD

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have a similar regret with a 2002 Sonic Youth concert. It’s impossible for me to consider my hearing loss without mixing that concert into the calculation. It’s left a different lasting legacy with me though. Since I can play music through my hearing aids like some ridiculously expensive set of headphones, I do that all the time… and way too loud. You would think I learned my lesson.

      Liked by 1 person

      • What can I say that Brian’s mother didn’t already say in that film about his life?
        ~~~
        Sound quality?
        Sound stage?
        Battery life?
        Brand kudos?
        Main competitors?
        Bang for buck from those prescription hearing aids?

        I’m sort of joking with those questions.

        DD

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What an unlikely character to grace my Christmas feed, Iggy! I bet that film does not hold up a bit. Though I do like to watch Harry Dean Stanton, will say that. I also watched the Stooges documentary earlier this year and really enjoyed it. What a funny band. And funny in a sense how insanely popular they were (and weren’t) at the same time. How broke! I kind of adore him now though and his whole way of being. Just so true to himself I guess, as he’s always been. Have a great day Jeff! Thanks for all the good stuff, the other stuff this year. Hope your health hangs together in the coming year as I know that’s been a concern for you. Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I should look up that stooges documentary. I’m still way more familiar with Iggy’s solo stuff than his albums with the Stooges. But after listening to that Stooges podcast, I’m a big fan of raw power. Slow start in my house today. 9:30 and everyone’s still asleep.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Growing up I’d heard of Iggy, but I never really listened to him. I liked this song enough to listen to more. I don’t know about the founders of punk, but I think Iggy had to be the trendsetter when it came to not wearing a shirt onstage.

    Like

  4. My contribution

    There were bands in the 80s I’d heard of like Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, but I didn’t really listen to them. The Ramones were/are considered punk, but IMO there’s not enough raw anger to be punk. Beat On The Brats is a fun song though😂 I’m glad I saw them way way back in ’83.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great song. I haven’t spent much time with Rancid, but I really enjoyed this. I’ll have to dig in a bit. Can you recommend any more songs? In the 80s and early 90s, I saw the Ramones countless times. They seemed to come by DC at least once a year, and I probably went every time. I think it’s really strange and maybe curious that they all died so young. Conspiracy!

      Like

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