Thursday, May 9, 2013

Nick Lowe

Nicholas Drain "Nick" Lowe, a pivotal figure in new wave, punk rock and U.K. pub rock was born March 24, 1949 in Walton-On-Thames, Surrey, England. He is a singer-songwriter who plays guitar, bass guitar, keyboards and harmonica. Beginning his musical career in 1967, he joined a band called Kippington Lodge with his friend from school, Brinsley Schwarz. The band recorded a handful of singles on the Parlaphone label before renaming the band Brinsley Schwarz in 1969. It was while in this band that Lowe wrote some of his best-known songs, including "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love And Understanding" which was a hit by Elvis Costello in 1979 and "Cruel To Be Kind", a solo hit for Lowe himself, also in 1979.

Lowe left Brinsley Schwarz in 1975 and by 1976 he had begun playing in Rockpile with Dave Edmunds in addition to recording as a solo performer. He was also an in-house producer for Stiff Records. As a producer he was nicknamed "The Basher" due to his rough and raw production style. In addition to producing Elvis Costello's first five albums, he produced early works by The Pretenders, The Damned, Dr. Feelgood, Graham Parker and others. His first single, released in August of 1976 was "So It Goes". It was also the first single released on the Stiff Records label.

Despite the impact Lowe has had on punk rock, he was never really a punk rocker. Musically, his roots were in pub rock, a back-to-basics movement popularized in England as a three-chord good-time type of sound that found a niche in the late 70s and early 80s. Lowe's own music was a blend of hard rock and power pop, infused with hooks, melodic songcraft and a wicked sense of humour, As new wave began to fade in the late 80s, Lowe turned his attention to roots rock and eventually became a full-fledged country rocker in the 90s.

Having earned a reputation as an eccentric but excellent songwriter by 1975, Lowe wanted to leave the label he was signed to at the time United Artists Records, but the label did not want to let him go. Lowe proceeded to record a string of deliberately unmarketable singles in an effort to get United Artists to drop him. The first of these was "Bay City Rollers We Love You", a satiric homage to the teen pop sensations. It unexpectedly became a hit in Japan. Finally, after releasing "Let's Go To The Disco" credited to The Disco Brothers, United Artists dropped him from the label.

"(I Love The Sound Of) Breaking Glass" was Lowe's first top 10 hit and was featured on his first solo LP, Jesus Of Cool (changed to Pure Pop For Now People on the U.S. release) in 1978. His second album, Labor Of Lust, was supported by Rockpile and contained his only major U.S. hit, "Cruel To Be Kind" which sounds quite a bit like something you would hear from The Grass Roots and incidently, one of my favorite Lowe songs along with a song from the only album officially by the group Rockpile, Labour Of Lust, a number titled "Teacher, Teacher".

During much of the 1980s, Lowe struggled with alcoholism. It was with the help of his long-time friends Elvis Costello and Stiff Records executive Jake Rivera that he recovered and remained sober ever since. After this he decided to stop looking for crossover pop hits and concentrated on country rock and roots rock. His last U.K. hit was 1984's "Half A Boy And Half A Man", and his final hit in the U.S. was 1985's "I Knew The Bride (When She Used To Rock And Roll)".

Lowe described his move from regular pop music as having "escaped the tyranny of the snare drum". On his recent album releases such as At My Age, The Convincer and The Impossible Bird, he has clearly and artfully recast himself as an earnest, world-traveling balladeer, respectfully digging deep into American roots music. To this day he renders vintage country, soul and RnB with a heartfelt, graceful dignity that he wears well at this stage of his long and influential career.

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