The Passenger (song)

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"The Passenger"
The Passenger (song).jpg
B-side label
Single by Iggy Pop
from the album Lust for Life
ReleasedOctober 1977 (1977-10)
RecordedMay–June 1977
StudioHansa (West Berlin)
Producer(s)Bewlay Bros.
Music video
"The Passenger" on YouTube

"The Passenger" is a song written by Iggy Pop and Ricky Gardiner, recorded and released by Iggy Pop on the Lust for Life album in 1977. It was also released as the B-side of the album's only single, "Success". It was released as a single in its own right in March 1998, reaching number 22 in the UK charts.

Background and composition[edit]

"The Passenger" was co-written by Iggy Pop and guitarist Ricky Gardiner; the former wrote the lyrics while the latter composed the music.[1] Gardiner thought of the riff in early 1977 as he was wandering throughout the countryside, "in the field beside an orchard, on one of those glorious spring days with the trees in full blossom."[2] The song was recorded at Hansa Studio by the Wall in West Berlin between May and June 1977. The lineup consisted of Pop, Gardiner, David Bowie on piano, Carlos Alomar on guitar, and brothers Tony and Hunt Sales on bass and drums, respectively.[3] Bowie, Pop, and producer-engineer Colin Thurston produced Lust for Life under the pseudonym "Bewlay Bros.", named after the final track on Bowie's 1971 album Hunky Dory.[4]

Similar to other tracks on Lust for Life, the lyrics for "The Passenger" were mostly composed on the spot in the studio.[2] They were inspired by a Jim Morrison poem, titled "The Lords",[3] that saw "modern life as a journey by car", as well as rides on the Berlin S-Bahn, according to Pop's former girlfriend Esther Friedmann.[1][5] The lyrics have been interpreted as "Iggy's knowing commentary on Bowie's cultural vampirism".[6] In an interview with The Guardian in 2016, Pop said "The Passenger" was partly inspired by touring with David Bowie: "I'd been riding around North America and Europe in David's car ad infinitum. I didn't have a driver's licence or a vehicle".[7] Biographer Paul Trynka states that the song was "a simple celebration of life", of the "long walks" Pop would take growing up and his own reputation at the time.[2] Tom Maginnis of AllMusic described the music as a "laid-back ... springy groove".[8] Reviewers characterize the track as garage rock and proto-punk.[9][10]

Release and reception[edit]

RCA Records issued Lust for Life on September 9, 1977,[11] with "The Passenger" as the fourth track on side one of the original LP, between "Some Weird Sin" and "Tonight".[12][13] The song was released as the B-side of "Success" in October 1977, but failed to chart.[1][14] Pop's press officer Robin Eggar attempted to pursue RCA to issue "The Passenger" as an A-side, feeling it would be a hit, but he was ignored.[15] Following its use in a car commercial two decades later,[1] the song was released as an A-side by Virgin Records in March 1998 with "Lust for Life" and The Idiot track "Nightclubbing", with the catalog number 7243 8 94921 2 5.[16] The single peaked at number 22 on the UK Singles Chart and remained on the chart for three weeks.[17]

"The Passenger" has remained a mainstay of Pop's live performances.[3] The song received an official music video in 2020, 43 years after its initial release.[18]

"The Passenger" has appeared on several best-of lists. In a 2001 list compiling "the 100 Greatest Singles of the Post-Punk Era", the writers of Uncut magazine placed "The Passenger" at number 95.[19] The staff of Billboard placed the song at number 78 in a list compiling "the 100 Greatest Car Songs of All Time" in 2016.[9] The same year, Pitchfork ranked it the 95th best song of the 1970s. Benjamin Scheim wrote: "It's easy to listen to the intro and envision a million bands at home trying to figure out how to copy it."[20] The song was also included in the 2008 book The Pitchfork 500.[21] The aggregate website Acclaimed Music lists "The Passenger" as the 13th most acclaimed song of 1977, the 125th most acclaimed song of the 1970s, and the 590th most acclaimed song in history.[21]

In media[edit]

The song has been featured in numerous movies, video games, documentaries and TV shows including He Died with a Felafel in His Hand, This Must Be the Place, Radiofreccia, 30 Days, Jarhead and the 2002 video game Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX 2. More recently, Up in the Air, The Weather Man, Kurt Cobain: About a Son, Scarface: The World Is Yours, 24 Hour Party People, If I Stay, Sons of Anarchy, War Dogs, Ash vs Evil Dead, 12 Monkeys, Berlin Station, The Boys, Dexter:New Blood, The Lincoln Lawyer and The Umbrella Academy in addition to advertisements for Dublin Bus, Captain Morgan, Kohl's "Simply Vera" collection, Guinness, the fifth season of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, and the film Waking Life.


According to Chris O'Leary and Thomas Jerome Seabrook:[3][25]


  • Iggy Pop – producer
  • David Bowie – producer
  • Colin Thurston – producer, engineer


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Italy (FIMI)[26] Platinum 50,000double-dagger
United Kingdom (BPI)[27] Gold 400,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Siouxsie and the Banshees version[edit]

"The Passenger"
Siouxsie Passenger.jpg
Single by Siouxsie and the Banshees
from the album Through the Looking Glass
  • "She's Cuckoo"
  • "Something Blue"
ReleasedMarch 16, 1987
GenreAlternative rock
Siouxsie and the Banshees singles chronology
"This Wheel's on Fire"
"The Passenger"
"Song from the Edge of the World"
Music video
"The Passenger" on YouTube

English rock band Siouxsie and the Banshees covered "The Passenger" in 1987 for their all-cover-versions album Through the Looking Glass.[6][28] The group revamped the song by adding brass arrangements. Released as the second single from the album, it peaked at number 41 in the UK.[29]

Iggy Pop praised their version and stated: "That's good. She sings it well and she threw a little note in when she sings it, that I wish I had thought of, it's kind of improved it [...]. The horn thing is good."[30] Maginnis believed their version failed to capture the "spirit" of Pop's original.[8]

The song was featured at the end of Tonya Harding's biographical film I, Tonya (2017).[31]


  1. ^ a b c d Pegg 2016, p. 208.
  2. ^ a b c Trynka 2007, pp. 227–228.
  3. ^ a b c d O'Leary 2019, chap. 2.
  4. ^ Seabrook 2008, pp. 145–147.
  5. ^ "S-Bahn brachte Iggy Pop auf "The Passenger"". Die Welt (in German). February 21, 2013. Archived from the original on June 16, 2016. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
  6. ^ a b Ambrose 2004, pp. 185–186.
  7. ^ Perry, Kevin EG (March 5, 2016). "Josh Homme on Iggy Pop: 'Lemmy is gone. Bowie is gone. He's the last of the one-and-onlys'". The Guardian. Archived from the original on September 12, 2021. Retrieved December 23, 2021.
  8. ^ a b Maginnis, Tom. "'The Passenger' – Iggy Pop". AllMusic. Archived from the original on August 8, 2020. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
  9. ^ a b "The 100 Greatest Car Songs of All Time: Staff List". Billboard. June 24, 2021. Archived from the original on October 10, 2021. Retrieved November 12, 2021.
  10. ^ Falconer, Tim (2008). Drive: A Road Trip Through Our Complicated Affair With The Automobile. Penguin Canada. p. 355. ISBN 978-0-14-317937-5.
  11. ^ Seabrook 2008, p. 149.
  12. ^ O'Leary 2019, Partial Discography.
  13. ^ Ambrose 2004, p. 305.
  14. ^ Ambrose 2004, p. 309.
  15. ^ Trynka 2007, p. 234.
  16. ^ Ambrose 2004, p. 312.
  17. ^ "the passenger – full Official Chart History". Official Charts Company. Archived from the original on November 6, 2021. Retrieved December 23, 2021.
  18. ^ Krol, Charlotte (July 9, 2020). "Iggy Pop's 'The Passenger' finally gets a music video 43 years later – watch". NME. Archived from the original on July 13, 2020. Retrieved December 23, 2021.
  19. ^ Staff (February 2001). "Archived copy". Uncut (45). Archived from the original on July 17, 2021. Retrieved December 23, 2021 – via{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^ Scheim, Benjamin (August 22, 2016). "The 200 Best Songs of the 1970s". Pitchfork. p. 6. Archived from the original on October 8, 2021. Retrieved December 23, 2021.
  21. ^ a b ""The Passenger"". Acclaimed Music. Archived from the original on October 10, 2021. Retrieved December 23, 2021.
  22. ^ "Iggy re-records 'The Passenger' with a little help from NZ fans". 3 News. Archived from the original on April 6, 2012. Retrieved November 17, 2009.
  23. ^ "George Ikediashi from Brighton lands starring role in T-Mobile national TV ad". Brighton Archived from the original on August 27, 2011. Retrieved October 12, 2011.
  24. ^ Dawson, Abigail (July 4, 2017). "Tourism New Zealand launches new mobile-led campaign". Mumbrella. Mumbrella. Archived from the original on September 3, 2018. Retrieved July 9, 2017.
  25. ^ Seabrook 2008, pp. 154–155.
  26. ^ "Italian single certifications – Iggy Pop – The Passenger" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved February 8, 2021. Select "2018" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "The Passenger" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli" under "Sezione".
  27. ^ "British single certifications – Iggy Pop – The Passenger". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved February 8, 2021.
  28. ^ Raggett, Ned. "Through the Looking Glass – Siouxsie and the Banshees". AllMusic. Archived from the original on October 21, 2021. Retrieved December 23, 2021.
  29. ^ "Siouxsie & the Banshees [uk charts]". Official Charts Company. Archived from the original on March 12, 2015. Retrieved April 29, 2013.
  30. ^ ""120 Minutes" Iggy Pop interview". MTV. June 1990. Retrieved December 23, 2021 – via YouTube. Excerpt about Siouxsie and the Banshees' version of 'The Passenger' from 08:38
  31. ^ Rosen, Christopher (December 11, 2017). "Best of 2017 (Behind the Scenes): The stories behind the best songs on the I, Tonya soundtrack". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on December 11, 2017. Retrieved January 22, 2017.