Friday, May 18, 2007

Highs and Lowes

No, I ain't talking about the hardware store chain, but rather singer/songwriter Nick Lowe, who I am currently up to in my A-to-Z CD odyssey.  Not only a fine bass player, Master Lowe is a witty songwriter and was very influential in the punk/new wave scene during the late '70s.  He was a prolific producer as well, having worked with the likes of Elvis Costello, et al, as the in-house producer at the fairly legendary Stiff Records.

Nick originally played in a band called Brinsley Schwartz before going solo in the late '70s, producing his own records and also working with guitarist Dave Edmunds on his solo albums, thus leading to the short-lived band Rockpile.  Lowe later landed in another short-lived supergroup, Little Village with John Hiatt and Ry Cooder in the early '90s, all the while recording his own albums and producing records for other folks.  Perhaps his most famous solo track is 1979's "Cruel To Be Kind" (co-written by Ian Gomm), the video for which featured a recreation of sorts of his own wedding to country singer Carlene Carter, also featuring fellow Rockpilers Billy Bremner as the caterer, drummer Terry Williams as the photographer, and Edmunds as the limo driver.  Lowe also wrote the wedding reception standard "I Knew The Bride (When She Used To Rock And Roll)", which was closely modeled after Chuck Berry's "You Never Can Tell" (made rather famous in Pulp Fiction).

His Royal Lowe-ness has authored some of the funniest lines I've ever heard in Rock 'N' Roll. A few samples:
  • "When I'm with you girl, I get an extensionand I don't mean Alexander Graham Bell's invention..." (from "Switchboard Susan"quite possibly the greatest double-entendre line in Rock 'N' Roll history!)
  • "Everything about you, refrigerator whiteyou're cold, pretty mama, like a Utah freeze better than a Ukraine wind." (from "Refrigerator White")
  • "The singer is a bookie, the drummer is a whore, the bass player's sellin' clothes he never woulda wore..." (from "They Called It Rock")
  • "Best be fleet on your feetor the S.B.G.'s gonna be clearin' the streets/They never made no provision in the 'riginal plan for half a boy and half a man..." (from "Half A Boy And Half A Man")
  • "There's a saint beneath the painta tart without a heart is what she ain't..." (From "Saint Beneath The Paint")
  • "Well, I woke up this morning lyin' in a strange bed/I was so hungover I was wishin' I was dead/Turned my head and it cut me like a knife 'cus the woman lyin' there surely wasn't my wife..." (from "What Did I Do Last Night?", recorded by Dave Edmunds)
  • "Ian jacked it in, but we've got Pat McGlynn, and so long as he's a Roller, then we'll love him..." (from "Rollers Show"--a dead solid perfect parody of the Bay City Rollers!)
  • And my all-time favorite: "Well, do you remember Rick Astley? He had a big fat hitit was ghastly..." (from "All Men Are Liars")
And if you want to hear a really good record, check out Nick Lowe's sadly-overlooked 1990 release Party Of One, which Edmunds co-produced and played on. "Liars" and "Refrigerator" are on there, as well as other great songs like "(I Wanna Build A) Jumbo Ark", "Gai-Gin Man", "You Got The Look I Like" and "Shting-Shtang".  His 1988 release Pinker And Prouder Than Previous doesn't suck either.  If you like old-school bar band Rock 'N' Roll mixed with a little humor, you'll love this stuff.

My all-time Nick Lowe Top 10:
1) All Men Are Liars (1990)
2) What Did I Do Last Night? (1977-Dave Edmunds)
3) Refrigerator White (1990)
4) Bobo Ska Diddle Daddle (1985)
5) Half A Boy & Half A Man (1984)
6) Rollers Show (1978)
7) Stick It Where The Sun Don’t Shine (1982)
8) I Knew The Bride (When She Used To Rock 'N' Roll) (1985)
9) Tanque-Rae (1983)
10) Shting-Shtang (1990)


Cathy said...

The problem with Party of One is that it has "Who Was That Man," which was so poignant and memorable that I'm now afraid to take the Tube at King's Cross...

But I haven't heard any of his albums since then. Which ones would you recommend?

Brian Holland said...

Well Cathy, I can't really recommend anything post-'Party of One' apart from Nick's stuff on the Little Village album from 1992 which I really liked. His
'Impossible Bird' release from '94 is the only other thing I even have of his since 'Party', and it left me really flat--too mellow, and only a couple of standout tracks ("12-Step Program" and "I Live On A Battlefield"). Beyond that, I'm afraid I'm not much help to you.

What I'm really desperate for are Nick's '80s releases on CD, which are unavailable in the States, for whatever reason. Ebay and the Internet haven't been much help, either--any suggestions?