Nick Lowe Sings “The Beast In Me”

Nick LoweListen to this track by former Johnny Cash son-in-law and seasoned singer-songwriter Nick Lowe. It’s “The Beast In Me”, a highlight from his career-shifting 1994 record The Impossible Bird.

This record would represent something of a comeback for Lowe, at a time when he’d cut any hope of being a “pop star” loose, and embraced those influences that had inspired him to become a songwriter and musician in the first place instead. One such influence was Johnny Cash, who by the late 1970s had also become his father-in-law, since Nick had married Carlene Carter, Cash’s stepdaughter.

This song was written after the spark of an idea spurred its author to work on a new song well into the night, with the help of three bottles (or so) of wine. The results took a while to gestate, and not without a modicum of pain and embarassment first. Read more

Advertisements

Brinsley Schwarz Plays “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding”

Listen to this track by British pub rock kings Brinsley Schwarz, featuring one Nick Lowe on bass and vocals, and the author of this song.  It’s the anthemic “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding”, as featured on the group’s 1974 The New Favourites of Brinsley Schwartz, and more recently on the Nick Lowe compilation album, Quiet Please: The New Best of Nick Lowe.

Lowe would later pass this tune along to one of his charges in the studio as a producer – Elvis Costello – who went on to make it famous.

The band, named perhaps confusingly after lead guitarist Brinsley Schwarz, is known as one of the key groups in the early 70s British pub rock scenes, which began to spring up all over England at that time.

Read more

Rockpile Featuring Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds Perform ‘When I Write The Book’

Listen to this track from pub-rock holdovers and back to basics rock-pop craftsmen Rockpile, featuring singer, songwriter, bassist, and producer Nick Lowe, along with rock n roll revivalist Dave Edmunds.  It’s ‘When I Write The Book’, a tuneful treat for the ear as featured on the band’s sole album, Seconds of Pleasure from 1980.

A album like this from musicians of this caliber had tons and tons of promise.  Yet, it would be something of a burst of energy that ultimately fizzled out.  But, that has nothing to do with the songwriting, particularly not on this tune which is rooted in the best tradition of early rock n roll and early 60s Brill Building pop.  The passions felt by both Lowe and Edmunds for this period of musical history is palpable.  And what’s best, they were able to translate that enthusiasm in a live setting, as well as here on vinyl.

Perhaps expectations for this album were based on the more ragged, visceral ferocity of the back-to-basics approach as championed on the pub rock scene out of which both Edmunds and Lowe sprang.  ‘When I Write The Book’, for instance is not a growling R&B number, but more like a Goffin-King girl group throwback which sounds like a more sensible second cousin to the type of skinny tie new wave being made by people like Wreckless Eric, who also sprang from pub rock and from the Stiff Records crowd.

But in Nick Lowe’s case, he had always veered closer to the poppier end of the pop rock spectrum, where Dave Edmunds mined the Sun Records rockabilly end to a greater extent.  Perhaps it’s this tension which makes this song, and the rest of the album, pop with such jubilance.  It could also be the reason Rockpile never made it past their debut, and that Lowe and Edmunds would continue separately.

This band consisted of Lowe on bass, Edmunds on guitar, Terry Williams on drums, and Billy Bremner on guitar.  Since the mid-70s, they played on solo records by leaders Edmunds and Lowe (who were on different labels as solo artists), and gained a reputation as a forced to be reckoned with as a live act before this debut.  They in fact had recorded three other albums together as a unit.  Two were Edmunds solo albums (Tracks on Wax 4 and Repeat When Necessary), and a third was one of Lowe’s Labour of Lust on which his most recognizable song “Cruel to Be Kind” is also featured . And as if to prove their range of musical talent even further, they also backed up country singer Carlene Carter (to whom Lowe had been married at the time).

Their musical range presented both a huge potential, and something of a detriment, too. When you’ve got a record with cover versions by 60s psych band the Creation, soul man Joe Tex, rock pioneer Chuck Berry, and by Difford & Tilbrook of  new wave pop outfit Squeeze, you know your getting an eclectic listening experience. But, perhaps you’re not getting a record by a band who’s found their focus.

Besides how well or not the songs sit together, ‘When I Write The Book’ is an enormously charming pop song, with stunning harmony and call-and-response verve.  If there was ever any doubt about Nick Lowe as a songwriter with an ear for big pop song hooks, then let them be banished here.  He would take this talent and build on it into his continuing solo career with songs like ‘Rose of England’, which is another one of my favourites of his.  And Edmunds would continue to wave the banner high for traditional rock n’ roll in the spirit of the Founding Fathers.

Who knows what the key factor was for the false start which was Rockpile.  Perhaps they were individually too big for their boots to keep the band together, which perhaps explains why the project arguably lacks a certain cohesion in the ears of critics.   Of course, despite the dissolution of Rockpile as a formal band, the members would continue to collaborate through the 1980s and into the 1990s.  A fierce love of rock n’ roll between colleagues is hard to kill, after all.

To read more, check out the full story of Rockpile.

Enjoy!

Nick Lowe Sings “Let’s Stay In and Make Love”

nick-lowe-convincerListen to this song by former pub rock stalwart and current classic pop crooner Nick Lowe with a highlight track from his The Convincer.  It’s “Let’s Stay In And Make Love”, the story of a busy couple with a full calendar who one night decide to re-prioritize.

The Convincer had been seen as a completed volume in a trio of albums, starting with 1994’s The Impossible Bird,  and it’s follow-up Dig My Mood in 1998.  With these albums, it was the sound of a new Nick Lowe, a musical place where he excelled in bringing together soul music, country, and tin pan alley pop.  As such, this direction has gone past the trilogy into his newest, At My Age, also in the same vein.

Nick Lowe is one of my favorite singers, with a seasoned and sonorous baritone that once was one applied to pub rock and new wave, notably on his biggest hit “Cruel to Be Kind”. Yet in recent years, Lowe has found a new voice in the vein of classic pop singing, with Sam Cooke-meets-Charlie Rich overtones that really suit him.  And as a songwriter he’s become something of a deft hand at telling tales of love and all of the directions it can take.

I really love this one, a song about how a fast and busy life can often overtake you, and the basic, yet important things get lost too.  This is a pure love song about catching that idea in mid-stream, just as you’re headed out the door to the next big event that everyone is going to.  It’s about reconnecting with love and the things that inspired it in the first place, far from the crowds, and closer to the one who is love’s object.

For more information about Nick Lowe, check out the Nick Lowe Official Website.

Enjoy!

Nick Lowe and Daryl Hall Perform For A ‘Live From Daryl’s House’ Webcast

Thanks to some of my fellow music-geek colleagues bringing it to my attention, here’s a link to a seemingly impromptu (but not really – it’s a webcast!) jam between British songwriting giant Nick Lowe, world-renowned blue-eyed soul and late of Hall & Oates crooner Daryl Hall. Hot session guy T-Bone Wolk joins them for added licks and interplay. This is a part of Daryl Hall’s self-produced webcast series appropriately titled Live at Daryl’s House.

To see the whole show once you get to the site, the show in two parts, or selected clips, click on the images to the right of the viewing screen. If you’re going to cherry-pick, my recommendations are the group’s rendition of “Shelley My Love”, originally from Nick Lowe’s 1994 album The Impossible Bird, and their version of his 1979 radio hit “Cruel to Be Kind”. Actually, watch the whole show and tell me what you think, good people.

***

Nick LoweNick Lowe has always been a songwriting classicist, letting the trends roll over him as the years went by like they were nothing, and much to his credit. Yet for a number of years, times were tough for him, plying his trade in Beatlesque power pop, country-rock, and 50s & 60s-styled rhythm & blues during a musical period that had pretty much left all that behind in favour of the DX7 synthesizer and Linn drum.

Some years before, he’d been house producer for the independent label Stiff records where he gained his nickname “Basher” for the bash-it-out-in-one-take production style for which he was known at the time. Lowe served as the sonic midwife for albums by Elvis Costello, The Damned, and the Pretenders, among many others. He was also a writer, singer, and bassist in his own right as a solo performer, and previously in the semi-legendary pub rock band Brinsley Swartz. While with the band in the mid-70s, he’d written a little number called “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding”, which Elvis Costello had a hit with years later, recording it for his own Armed Forces album in 1979, which Lowe produced. But by the early 90s it would be the song that would keep on giving for Lowe by way of an unlikely source.

In the late 80s and early 90s while Lowe was floundering on the fringes of the pop universe, pop-soul singer Whitney Houston was at its center. At the height of her powers, she made a film with Kevin Costner called the Bodyguard, with a career-defining title track in Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” in the charts. The movie had an impressive box-office showing. But the soundtrack album was a worldwide smash, released at the end of 1992 in North America and spending fourteen weeks at the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100. It was certified at an incredible 17 x platinum, which means that it sold 17 million units. One of the album tracks on that record was a contribution by soul singer Curtis Stiegers. The song: “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding” by Nick Lowe.

Nick Lowe was in again.

Nick LoweWith the continuing proceeds from the Bodyguard Soundtrack (approximately $1 million, all told), Nick Lowe was free to make any sort of album he wanted to make. And the first record he made, the aforementioned The Impossible Bird, was arguably his strongest since his early career. And the money allowed both a tour of the States to support the album, and a follow-up album too.

He would go on to make several other records following a similar stylistic trajectory, all featuring his lustrous baritone, with excursions into the musical traditions of classic pop music; pop-soul, straight-up country, and even tin pan alley jazz. The albums Dig My Mood in 1998 and The Convincer in 2001, were looked upon as completing the trilogy that was started with The Impossible Bird, garnering similar praise from critics along with comfortable sales.

Nick Lowe’s newest album, At My Age, is out now, as is the re-issue of his 1978 debut LP Jesus of Cool, an album which was re-titled for the North American market as Pure Pop For Now People, possibly to avoid record burnings in the bible-belt.

You can read Lowe’s own thoughts on the Bodyguard soundtrack, among other things, in this great interview with Nick Lowe.

For more music, check out the Nick Lowe MySpace page.

For tour information and other fan goodies, hightail it to the official Nick Lowe website.

Enjoy!