Let’s Talk About Nick Lowe
*(This EP cover is an excellent example of how Nick infuses humo(u)r into his music)
Eleven years ago I knew three things about Nick Lowe. That he wrote ’What’s So Funny ’Bout Peace Love and Understanding?’ made famous by Elvis Costello. Two, that he had a massive hit with the impossibly catchy “Cruel To Be Kind’ in 1979. Three, that his contribution to the film soundtrack Rock and Roll High School (So It Goes) was my favorite of all the tunes (including the Ramones stuff).
That’s It. That’s all I knew.
Then a decade ago a friend of mine burned me a copy of Jesus Of Cool, Nick’s debut album, originally released in 1978. Somehow sensing that I was a newbie to the guy, my friend kindly composed a nifty Biography of Mr Lowe to assist in my assessment. It helped pique my interest greatly and I feel compelled to share some snippets of it with you.
“Nick Lowe’s solo LP was spawned at the height of the late 70’s ‘New Wave’ mania. Lowe was a veteran of the British music scene known as the bassist and chief vocalist/ songwriter for the well known (by some) ’Pub Rock’ group Brinsley Schwarz (later to become the Rumour and back-up for Graham Parker).
In 1978 Lowe was primarily known as a producer having worked on Elvis Costello’s first album as well as seminal releases from the Damned, Dave Edmunds, Graham Parker and the Pretenders (Stop Your Sobbing).
Lowe made no bones about producing radio-friendly rock and roll and was unashamed to churn out quirky, funny singles in an era when the trappings of anything ‘pop’ was deemed very uncool. This sense of humor and the in-your-face irony is evident on ‘Jesus Of Cool’. Lowe never took himself too seriously, which was refreshing in 1978. For example, when David Bowie released his album ‘Low’, Nick countered by releasing an EP called ‘Bowi’…I mean, that’s just funny!
Lowe’s solo work was heavy on bass and heavy on wit. ‘36 Inches High’ is just flat out brilliant while Marie Provost was lifted straight from the pages of Hollywood Babylon (really!), the story of a forgotten silent film actress who died in her apartment and whose corpse was eventually eaten by her pet dachshunds (‘She was a winner/ who became the doggies’ dinner/ she never meant that much to me/ poor Marie.)
And ‘Nutted By Reality’ may just be the best purely twisted pop song in history. Last, but not least, is the closing track ‘Rollers Show’. A Sarcastic tweak of the then chart-topping Bay City Rollers, or is it a tip of an admirers hat to some fellow popsters? Does it matter?
I Think you’ll like this record!”
My friend couldn’t have been more on the money, and I have been obsessed with the man’s music ever since. I mean, Nick Lowe is, quite frankly, a pop music genius. Virtually every stage of his career contains at least a metric ton of good stuff packed in the grooves. Like Paul McCartney he knows his way around a melody, and also like McCartney is quite adept at stitching together multiple song fragments in order to make many satisfying little snippets into a brilliant ‘mini-suite’.
He’s still doing it, too. ‘At My Age‘, Nick’s 2007 release, is a sublime grower, I assure you. He sounds extremely confident, and his pop chops are as sharp as ever. He’s more relaxed, more of a new wave crooner, if you will. Since I’m getting older too it’s remains a good fit for both of us.
More people should know about this guy as there’s something very comforting and very satisfying in listening to a Nick Lowe record. Once he gets under your skin he spreads through the rest of your body like a virus, the kind you can’t get rid of.
My top 5 Nick Lowe albums are as follows: