The finest from the secret godfather of British Pop.
Nick Lowe, born in 1949 as Nicholas Drain Lowe in Walton-On-Thames, England. Producer, musician (bass, guitar, piano, harmonica), singer, songwriter. One of the most interesting, versatile, enjoyable, also most simpatico characters in British Pop music.
After starting his musical career in 1967 in his first fledgling band Nick Lowe was already at the beginning of the 1970s the singing, song writing bassist with Brinsley Schwarz – one of the best and the most legendary band of the British Pubrock scene; Lowe wrote and sang his fantastic song (What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding for them.
Nick Lowe learned his craft as a producer in the recording studio from his pal, the Welsh rock’n’roller Dave Edmunds. As a producer for the early records of Dr. Feelgood, Graham Parker, The Damned and The Pretenders as well as co-founder of the small independent record label Stiff Records he became an important figure in the Punk and New Wave scene.
Nick Lowe also produced the first five albums of Elvis Costello, that alone should secure him his place in all pop history books. As solo artist our man in question had his breakthrough with the witty, swift Rock’n’Roll and Powerpop of his 1978 solo debut Jesus Of Cool, which had to be renamed in the US of A because of odd religious concerns, but Pure Pop for Now People seems still aptly for the Lowe’s kind of music was making then.
Already in 1976 Nick Lowe had started the ravishing Rock’n’Roll combo Rockpile with Dave Edmunds, which had to back both singer-songwriters on their solo records like Nick Lowe’s Labour of Lust (1979) and Dave Edmund’s Tracks on Wax 4 (1978), Repeat When Necessary (1979) and Twangin… (1981), because Lowe and Edmunds were signed to different record companies. The same recording contract problems are the reason there’s only one but all the greater official Rockpile studio album, the programmatically titled Seconds of Pleasure, released in 1980.
Elvis Costello recorded Nick Lowe’s fab (What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding, from his tenure with Brinsley Schwarz, already in 1978 but scored a hit a year later. Curtis Stiger‘s lukewarm extraction of the same song landed in 1992 on the original soundtrack of Whitney Houston’s movie blockbuster The Bodyguard that was sold 44 million times; this should have disposed its author once for all of his financial worries.
After releasing his 4th solo album in 1983, the excellent The Abominable Showman, Nick Lowe recorded in the second half of the 1980s a few not so good Countryrock records like Pinker and Prouder Than Previous, not on par with his previous work.
In 1992 Lowe co-founded with the US-Americans John Hiatt (vocals, guitar, piano), Ry Cooder (vocals, guitar) and Jim Keltner (drums) the fine but short-lived and ineffective band Little Village, which released only one album. But their self-titled record was underwhelming – considering the quality of the individual bandmembers. That they could make a great record they showed in 1987, when they first came together, and recorded John Hiatt’s brilliant album Bring the Family.
But there’s another positive thing in this special period: Nick Lowe could finally stabilize his turbulent private life as manic jester, heavy drinker and temporary son-in-law of Country music godfather Johnny Cash.
Today Nick Lowe is married for the second time and father of a little boy. With the more mature longplayer The Impossible Bird, released in 1994, Lowe, who knows every trick in the book of song writing, kind of started his late work that’s still running today. In 1998 the gloomy, soul searching album Dig My Mood came next. After that the more easy-going and wittier, but no less superb platters The Convincer (2001) und At My Age (2007) followed – with their charming Americanized sound, a mixture of Soul, Jazz and Countrypop.
Nick Lowe’s super fine new Best-of-collection Quiet Please… The New Best of Nick Lowe was released in the UK on March 24th, 2009 – just in time for his 60th birthday. The limited first edition has a great bonus – an excellent concert DVD from a gig in Brussels. The two CDs draw a bow over Lowe’s whole musical career: From Brinsley Schwarz (Peace, Love and Understanding) to Rockpile (the rousing When I Write the Book) to Little Village (Fool Who Knows). From his first brilliant New Wave records stem top-class Powerpop songs like So It Goes, I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass, Cracking Up, Cruel to Be Kind and the delightful reggae groover Heart – besides them stand the best of his 1980s’ Country rockers like The Rose Of England.
The songs of Nick Lowe’s more seasoned late work are consistently so good, that they make you want to kneel – they nearly claim the whole of the second CD, above all the jet black The Beast in Me, which has been played in an episode of The Sopranos. But also, Faithless Lover, Homewrecker, People Change or Hope for Us All do a great job to make Quiet Please… The New Best of Nick Lowe a worthy retrospective of Nick Lowe’s grand career.
Nick Lowe Quiet Please… The New Best of Nick Lowe, Proper Records, 2009
(now! N° 77, April 2009, at last revised and translated in October 2018)