Iggy Pop Reads Edgar Allan Poe’s Classic Horror Story, “The Tell-Tale Heart”

My intro­duc­tion to the work of James Newell Oster­berg, Jr, bet­ter known as Iggy Pop, came in the form of “Risky,” a song from Ryuichi Sakamo­to’s Neo Geo album that fea­tured not just singing but spo­ken word from the Stooges’ lead vocal­ist and punk icon. On that track, Pop speaks grim­ly and evoca­tive­ly in the per­sona of a pro­tag­o­nist “born in a cor­po­rate dun­geon where peo­ple are cheat­ed of life,” repeat­ed­ly invok­ing the human com­pul­sion to “climb to this point, move on, climb to this point, move on.” Ulti­mate­ly, he pos­es the ques­tion: “Career, career, acquire, acquire — but what is life with­out a heart?”

Today, we give you Iggy Pop the sto­ry­teller ask­ing what life is with a heart — or rather, one heart too many, unceas­ing­ly remind­ing you of your guilt. He tells the sto­ry, of course, of “The Tell-Tale Heart,” orig­i­nal­ly writ­ten by the Amer­i­can mas­ter of psy­cho­log­i­cal hor­ror Edgar Allan Poe in 1843.

This telling appears on the album Closed on Account of Rabies, which fea­tures Poe’s sto­ries as inter­pret­ed by the likes of Pop, Christo­pher Walken, Deb­bie Har­ry, Mar­i­anne Faith­full and Jeff Buck­ley. We fea­tured it here on Open Cul­ture a few years back, and more recent­ly includ­ed it in our ret­ro­spec­tive of album cov­ers by Ralph Stead­man.

Here, Pop takes on the role of anoth­er nar­ra­tor con­signed to a grim fate, though this one of his own mak­ing. As almost all of us know, if only through cul­tur­al osmo­sis, the tit­u­lar “Tell-Tale Heart,” its beat seem­ing­ly ema­nat­ing from under the floor­boards, unceas­ing­ly reminds this anx­ious char­ac­ter of the fact that he has mur­dered an old man — not out of hatred, not out of greed, but out of sim­ple need stoked, he insists, by the defense­less senior’s “vul­ture-eye.” For over 150 years, read­ers have judged the san­i­ty of the nar­ra­tor of “The Tell-Tale Heart” in any num­ber of ways, but don’t ren­der your own ver­dict until you’ve heard Iggy Pop deliv­er the tes­ti­mo­ny; nobody walks the line between san­i­ty and insan­i­ty quite like he does.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Lou Reed Rewrites Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.” See Read­ings by Reed and Willem Dafoe

Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” Read by Christo­pher Walken, Vin­cent Price, and Christo­pher Lee

Watch the 1953 Ani­ma­tion of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Nar­rat­ed by James Mason

Hear a Great Radio Doc­u­men­tary on William S. Bur­roughs Nar­rat­ed by Iggy Pop

Edgar Allan Poe Ani­mat­ed: Watch Four Ani­ma­tions of Clas­sic Poe Sto­ries

Down­load The Com­plete Works of Edgar Allan Poe on His Birth­day

1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free

Col­in Mar­shall writes on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • Eric says:

    I’ll be hon­est, I’ve been a slight­ly-more-than-casu­al Iggy fan for prob­a­bly 30 years and have nev­er heard this. But… your intro­duc­tion to Iggy was REALLY that Neo Geo album (which I don’t think I’ve heard either). I hope that at some point you’ve gone back and acquaint­ed your­self with the Stooges and Iggy’s oth­er work.

  • Ishtaran says:

    Very tempt­ing voice..

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