Study Guide

Down on the Street Lyrics

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Floatin' around, I'm a real low mind

Quick Thought

Welp, Iggy's "floating" because he's high on drugs.

Deep Thought

With both feet planted on the ground, a person's "grounded" in reality. And this narrator's far from it. 

He's floating around on the street with a "real low mind," a state of bliss that seems to be achieved by drugging oneself into oblivion. Iggy Pop has suggested that this kind of narcotic bliss renders him more numb than jubilant, satisfying him with freedom from both pain and pleasure. 

As he claimed in a 1977 interview, he tries to achieve this state of mind for his live performances, allowing him to abuse or expose himself onstage, temporarily immune to normal human feelings.

The question is, does this make him superhuman, or subhuman? The song as a whole seems to suggest the latter.

See a pretty thing
Ain't no wall

Quick Thought

This pretty thing could be a pretty girl, boy, or any object of desire. Whether human or not, it's merely a "thing" the narrator wants, and there's no wall keeping that desire inside.

Deep Thought

The repetition of the phrase "no wall" is part of what gives this song a darkness that the other lyrics don't necessarily convey on paper. 

Iggy's animalistic noises also reveal some inner monster that can only be contained by the restrictions, or the "wall," of normal consciousness. 

In this song, though, Iggy is sporting a "real low mind," so he's freed from normal consciousness. When the song explodes into whirling distortion and fury, it's as if the noise of the guitars were making that wall crumble before our, ears.

Yeah, deep in the night, I'm lost in love

Quick Thought

Is this some kind of demented love song after all?

Deep Thought

When Iggy Pop wrote this song, he was freshly married to a nice girl named Wendy Robin Weisberg. But although the song talks about being lost in love, it's unlikely that he was professing his love to his wife. In fact, Iggy's own recollection places the writing of this song as the first sign of their inevitable divorce. 

The marriage lasted only a month, and nobody took it seriously, not even the groom. On his very wedding day, Iggy made a move on another woman, Kathy Asheton, the sister of his bandmates. 

There were other ways in which marriage didn't suit Iggy. "She liked to sleep at night, of all things, and I liked to sleep whenever I wanted to," said Iggy. "I like to play my guitar any old time. So one night I got an idea for a song—just right in the middle of the night—but here's this woman in my bed. It suddenly hit me. [...] It had to be one or the other: her or a career." (Source)

Iggy recalls hiding in the closet in order to play the muted, tribal stomp of the verse. When he got to the next musical idea, though, he knew he couldn't keep it quiet anymore, even though his wife was asleep. So, he stepped out of the closet and issued a "thundering" chord, and later told his shattered wife that she had to leave. 

So, in the song, he's lost in love, but he's also prowling the street where there are many faces shining, not just one. The fact that he's "lost" also tells us that this love is not directed to anyone in particular. 

Though their music followed on the heels of the 1960s counterculture, the Stooges' concept of love was far from the peaceful, utopian notions of the hippies. It was something altogether more primal and instinctual, physical rather than emotional.

A thousand lights
Look at you

Quick Thought

In a big city—the Stooges lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan—some people tend to feel paranoid. On the street, the faces shine, just like lights, and they're all looking at you.

Deep Thought

At the time this song was written, Iggy was at the beginning of a downward spiral that would eventually lead him to some pretty deep depths of human degradation. 

His self-destruction and drug abuse would become expected of him, sometimes even demanded, and he became a pathetic spectacle off-stage as much as he was considered an artist on-stage. 

Iggy's problems and embarrassing antics were well-known. Maybe the thousand lights looking at him referred to his being in the spotlight, visible to hundreds of people, while consistently zonked out on whatever his drug of choice happened to be.

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