With Iggy Pop’s “Lust For Life,” Hunt Sales laid down the most famous drum intro in rock history, the rollicking jungle beat heard on TV commercials, in the movie “Trainspotting” and daily on Jim Rome’s sports radio show. But that perch in posterity will have to be reward enough, as Sales has never received a dime in royalties for the distinctive beat. “Lust For Life” was written by Iggy Pop and David Bowie for the 1977 album of the same name; drummer Sales was paid a work-for-hire fee for the sessions.
“At least ‘Trainspotting’ used the whole song,” said Sales, who has lived in Austin since 1993. “In most cases, they just use my drum beat or copy it.” Sales said the money he was paid should’ve covered only the album, not the music’s re-use in commercials and movies. But litigation is expensive and there has long been a gray area in copyright law about backup musicians receiving royalties. “At this point, I’ve moved on,” he said.
“Iggy thinks that everything happens because he’s Iggy,” said Sales, who met fellow Michigan native Pop when he and bassist brother Tony were recruited by Stooges guitarist James Williamson to play on the “Kill City” LP in 1975. The Sales brothers and guitarist Ricky Gardiner backed Iggy on a world tour in 1977. Later that year they all went into the Tansa Studios in Berlin, right next to the Wall, to begin work on the “Lust For Life” album. Bowie and Pop were co-producers.
“The band was so tight after ‘The Idiot’ tour,” Sales said. “I think we made the whole record in five days.” Among the better-known tunes on the LP is “The Passenger,” which has also been used in movies, Vera Wang commercials and as the lead-in instrumental music for “Anderson Cooper 360.” Again, no royalty cheese for Major Tom-Tom.
“Iggy is a great songwriter and has a lot of good ideas,” Sales said, “and David was one of the only guys to catch on to that at the time.” Iggy directed drummer Sales to come up with a “George of the Jungle”-type rhythm for “Lust.” Sales also incorporated a favorite beat from 11 years earlier — “You Can’t Hurry Love” by the Supremes — as well an intro he heard on Armed Forces Radio.
Sales threw all those elements together to create an intoxicating rhythm that underscores Iggy’s lyrics about drugs and debauchery. The inclusion of “Lust For Life” at the beginning of “Trainspotting” is routinely included in lists of best-ever uses of music in film.
On the other hand, the employment of the ironically titled ode to drug culture in a Royal Caribbean Cruise Line commercial was chosen in 2006 by NPR listeners as the most inappropriate use of music in an advertising spot.
Sales, whose new project Hunt Sales Memorial plays Thursday at the Continental Club, could talk about his past for a couple hours and still leave out some cool stories. The son of TV pioneer (and jazz fanatic) Soupy Sales, Hunt can recall eating his cornflakes on Sunday morning while his dad’s good friend Frank Sinatra was crashed out on the sofa. Before his pie-in-the-face routine became a national sensation, Soupy Sales had a nightly TV show in Detroit called “Soup’s On,” which hosted the biggest jazz performers in the country as they passed through Detroit.
Through his father, Hunt met his drum mentor Shelly Manne, an icon of the West Coast Jazz movement and the go-to studio drummer of the ’50s and ’60s. Manne gave Sales his first set of cymbals at age 7 and, along with another mentor Buddy Rich, gave the youngster words to drum by: “Don’t play the beat, BE the beat.”
When Hunt was 11, the Sales brothers’ band Tony and the Tigers was signed to Roulette Records by reputed mobster mogul Morris Levy (the model for Hesh in “The Sopranos”). By 15, Hunt was on his own, living in New York City and hanging out with the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Keith Moon. He played on his first hit single the next year, “We Gotta Get You a Woman” by Todd Rundgren.
Hunt Sales first became captivated by Austin in 1976 when he toured Texas with the short-lived Capitol Records power trio Paris, featuring Bob Welch (ex-Fleetwood Mac). “There was definitely a cool Texas music vibe,” he said. He found the scene much more supportive than the cutthroat world he grew up in. But it wasn’t until after Sales finished a three-year stint (’89-’92) as the drummer in David Bowie’s Tin Machine that Sales finally moved to Austin.
Aside from a year in Nashville in 2006, Sales has lived in South Austin for almost 20 years. His oldest daughter Cali, a talented visual artist, is finishing up at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. He also has a 4-year-old daughter, Sugar, with Heather, his wife of six years.
The 58-year-old said he doesn’t dwell on what he might be owed for past work. “The music I care about is the music I’m making now.” Hunt Sales Memorial includes former Ronnie Dawson guitarist Tjarko Jeen and bassist Bobby Perkins. “We’re going for a modern version of the Jazz Messengers,” said Sales, who also handles vocals. “Art Blakey’s always been one of my favorites.”
The band’s name is inspired by another drum hero: Buddy Miles. “I met him when he was a 15-year-old kid playing with Wilson Pickett, and, of course, I loved him with Hendrix in Band of Gypsies,” Sales said. “So I was excited when I heard he was living in Austin.”
When Sales went over to see Miles, the icon was in deteriorating health and had few visitors. He died of congestive heart failure in Austin in February 2008 at age 60. “They had a big Buddy Miles Memorial at Threadgill’s and it was packed,” said Sales. “There were these guys in leather pants and white tennis shoes onstage playing in homage to Buddy and I was thinking, ‘Where were these guys four months ago when Buddy was sick and lonely?’ I decided to call my band Hunt Sales Memorial so we’d always get a big crowd.”