Saturday, December 09, 2006


Nick Lowe

I must say it has not been a wonderful week for me, very much a case of 24 hours a day not being enough, I don't know if you ever get that feeling? I often find myself singing little bits of songs in my head as I go about my daily chores, the last few days this honour has gone to Nick Lowe. I do of course realise that the younger ones amongst you may have no idea who he is though for lovers of pure pop from my generation he really was the Jesus of cool. Not only is the man an artist in his own right, but also a highly talented songwriter, producer of some classic albums and singles who also happened to be Johnny Cash's son in law for a period!
A little bit of history: during the early seventies Lowe was member of Brinsley Schwartz one of the leaders of the UK based pub rock movement that pre dated punk. his best known song from that period is with out a doubt 'What's So Funny 'Bout Peace Love And Understanding' that has been covered by many artists including Elvis Costello. Stiff Records was formed by Jake Riviera and Dave Robinson both of whom had been involved with pub rock bands and their first signing was none other than Nick Lowe who by 1976 was pursuing a solo career after the break up of the Brinsleys. It was Nick Lowe that provided Stiff with its first single (cat no. BUY1) 'So It Goes' / 'Heart Of The City', the single did not set the charts on fire despite being wonderful pop music, just goes to show that merit is not the only thing counts. The two songs were actually recorded as demos for a music publisher with Lowe playing all instruments except for the drums. Of particular interest, two UK music publications made the B side their single of the week! Part of the deal that he had with stiff included production duties and so he became the labels house producer during those exciting first two years. His production style, very rough, quick and natural earned him the nick name Basher. Despite this work load Nick found the time to record for himself and in 1977 he gave us the 'Bowi' EP so called as a tribute to David Bowie whose latest album had been called 'Low'. The stand out track was 'Mary Provost' (this is the song that has been lodged in my head all week). The song was notorious for it's subject matter that was taken from an LA newspaper about a fading television personality who was eaten by her dogs after having died alone in her apartment and her body not being discovered for weeks, thus the chorus "she was the winner/ that became a doggies dinner". Great song that illustrates well his admiration for the Everly Brothers.
1978 was probably the best year for Nick as a solo artist, he had jumped ship with Elvis Costello when Jake Riviera left Stiff to form Radar, this move probably gave him more free time as their were less demands on him as a producer. The fruit of this was his debut solo album 'The Jesus Of Cool' or as it was renamed in the US so as not to offend the bible belt 'Pure Pop For Now People'. Nick Lowe was backed on this album by Rockpile with whom he would later work with as a member of the band. The UK title was maybe a good eye catcher but it was the alternative title that does such a good job of describing the contents, this was the closest that he came to a collection of perfect 3 minute pop songs, his later career would follow a more country / traditional singer song writer path. This album also gave him his first taste of chart success under his own name with the reggae tinged 'I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass'. Nick is still around today and making music that gets the critics raving but unfortunately his mature song writing does not find the home that it deserves. All of today's tracks can be found on one of the many compilations dedicated to Nick.

The complete Mary Provost Story
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