Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"They Called It Rock"

"Well, they went and cut the record/The record hit the charts/And someone in the newspaper said that it was hot." Ain't that always the way?

Form is temporary, they say; class is permanent. In that case, this is the case for Nick Lowe.

For a start, he was a member of one of the greatest missed opportunities of the 70s -- Brinsley Schwarz -- and wrote the wonderful "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?" which I hope you've heard by now.

When the Schwarz broke up, Lowe moved on to join one of the greatest live bands from the "pub rock" era -- Rockpile. Dave Edmunds may have been the leader, but Lowe was the soul and when Edmunds couldn't move on from rock 'n roll, Lowe strapped on his boots and went to work as the house producer for one of the top punk record labels - Stiff Records.

His list of producing credits is a veritable who's who of punk and new wave: Wreckless Eric, Dr Feelgood, the Damned, the Pretenders, Graham Parker, even Elvis Costello passed beneath his studio benevolence.

And he found the time to record what may be the first punk 45 -- "So It Goes" -- and to put together one of the truly great new wave albums, "Jesus of Cool," also known as "Pure Pop for Now People," a record so perfect that even today it sounds fresh, clear and relevant.

It's stubbornly anti-punk. Instead of fuzzbox powerchords, you get twang, shuffle and proper tunes. How punk was that? "Tonight" is one of the truly great love songs, "Marie Provost" is just epic, and epicly strange as well, while "They Called It Rock" is the music business in a nutshell.

Imagine a straight-ahead country-billy workout and you're half-way to this song. It's tight, driving and complete in a way that so few songs are.

"Well, they cut another record/It never was a hit/And someone in the newspaper said it was shit."

Not Nick Lowe, then.


Evil Minx said...

Stiff were not punk.

(As you can tell, I'm in "poking-the-bear" mode today.)

Holly A Hughes said...

Nice write-up -- I love this Nick Lowe track. (Well, I pretty much love all Nick Lowe tracks.) FYI, he's got a new album coming out in June, titled "At My Age".

Last Saturday was Nick's birthday (he turned 58) and in honor of that, I devoted my blog last week to several Nick Lowe tracks. I'd love to hear what you, a fellow Nick fan, think of it. The link is www.thesonginmyheadtoday.blogspot.com.


Richard Sambrook said...

And I thought I was the only one who still remembered Brinsley Schwarz.....