Posts Tagged ‘Nick Lowe’

Elvis Costello / Brutal Youth 2LP red vinyl

Perhaps realizing that The Juliet Letters was one step too far, especially after the willfully eclectic pair of “Spike” and “Mighty Like a Rose”, Elvis Costello set out to make a straight-ahead rock & roll record with “Brutal Youth”, reuniting with the Attractions (though Bruce Thomas appears on only five tracks) and Nick Lowe (who plays bass on most of the rest). Unfortunately, all this nostalgia and good intentions are cancelled by the retention of producer Mitchell Froom, whose junkyard, hazily cerebral productions stand in direct contrast to the Attractions’ best work. Likely, Froom’s self-conscious production appealed to Costello, since it makes “Brutal Youth” look less like a retreat, but it severely undercuts the effectiveness of the music, since it lacks guts, no matter how smugly secure it is in its tempered “experimentation.” Costello certainly had the raw elements for a dynamic little record here the band, when they can be heard, sound good, and many songs (highlighted by “Pony St.,” “Kinder Murder,” “13 Steps Lead Down,” “You Tripped at Every Step,” and “20% Amnesia”) are fresh, effective evocations of his classic work — but it needed to be punchier to succeed. He needed to be produced by Lowe, instead of just having him sit in on bass. Elvis Costello’s wonderful “Brutal Youth” album from 1994, which featured the full Attractions line up on a number of songs, limited edition 2LP . The album was produced by Mitchell Froom and was well received, reaching number two in the UK album charts, thanks in part to excellent word-of-mouth and a top thirty hit in “Sulky Girl”.

Although a relatively long album at 15 songs, it’s a real cracker with some wonderful material, including moving ballads like ‘All The Rage’, ‘Favourite Hour’ and ‘Still Too Soon To Know’ and fiercer, spiky numbers like ‘Just About Glad’, ‘20% Amnesia’ and ‘My Science Fiction Twin’.

Anyway, Brutal Youth is issued as this double coloured vinyl pressing via Music On Vinyl on 31st July 2020. It’s limited to just 1000 units with only 300 earmarked for the UK.

The record mostly features Costello with The Attractions Steve Nieve, Pete Thomas and Nick Lowe (on bass), but original Attractions member Bruce Thomas does play the bass on five tracks.

Elvis Costello Armed Forces SDE

As a follow-up to the agitation of “This Year’s Model,” 1979’s “Armed Forces” might have had even more rage to it — but it was better disguised, as Costello, his band the Attractions and Lowe committed to putting more of a pop sheen on the songs, trading organ for synths or, on the politicized “Oliver’s Army,” a piano sound they borrowed from ABBA’s “Dancing Queen.”

“By the time we got to ‘Armed Forces,’ we had the idea we wanted to make an actual studio record,” Elvis Costello recalls. “And that was our version of what a studio sounded like. We played cassettes in the station wagon driving around America for the first time, of the same four or five records round and around. Little wonder that became our language for that next record, things that we were listening to in that moment — including ABBA. We put aside the rock ’n’ roll, Small Faces/Rolling Stones references of ‘This Year’s Model’ and into it came the synthesizer, which came from those David Bowie and Iggy Pop records — ‘Station to Station,’ ‘Low,’ ‘Heroes,’ ‘The Idiot,’ ‘Lust for Life.’” Then, considering more stripped-down techno influences, he adds, “I don’t think we thought we were making a Giorgio Moroder record, but we liked the mechanistic sound of Kraftwerk, even if we weren’t going to make records that were that austere. I wanted the emotion in them.”

Guitar music figured in — barely. “Certainly ‘Party Girl’ has a reference to the Beatles, obviously in the arpeggio at the end. There are some Cheap Trick songs that sound like that too, though, and we loved Cheap Trick. So were we ripping off the Beatles, or were we just ‘Hey, Cheap Trick — I like them’?” He hears us chuckle at the idea he might’ve been influenced as much in the moment by Rick Nielsen as George Harrison. “You’re laughing,” he says, “but I’m deadly serious!”

Columbia Records added a cover of Nick Lowe’s “(What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding,” recorded for another project, to the album. “They thought it sounded more rock ’n’ roll than many of the other things, and that’s what they wanted. This record didn’t suit them at all.” Although Costello says of the song that “in my mind, it’s not even on this album” (and it wasn’t, on the original U.K. version), he’s not unhappy that it became so wildly popular that fans have expected to hear his version of Lowe’s tune closing out most of his shows for 40 years now.

“I think there was a little irony in the way Nick recorded it originally,” Costello says, recalling that Lowe first had the idea of gently satirizing hippie sentiments with “Peace, Love and Understanding.” “But if you’ve ever heard him perform it in recent years, he sings it very much like the lament that it deserves to be. I think both approaches to the song are really appropriate. I like all the versions of the song that I’ve heard. Sometimes it takes you a moment to hear it again in a different way, but I’ve had reason to sing it as a ballad, as a rocker and somewhere in between. I’ve heard Bruce Springsteen sing it and Chris Cornell sing it, and Josh Homme sang it with Sharon Van Etten. I mean,  there’s some really good versions. Nick’s version with a choir earlier this year was beautiful. You know, it shouldn’t be needed now, but we still have to sing it. How long, how long must we sing this song — as Bono said, you know?”

The “Armed Forces” boxed set is coming out on vinyl as well as digitally with several extra LPs’ or EPs’ worth of live material from ’79. He picked out only the performances he thought were great from that period, he says. “I appreciate the Grateful Dead fans really want all those ‘Dick’s Picks’ releases and want the differences between each show, but I don’t really think there’s a lot of difference between the performances over the course of one year of the Attractions. It’s more about the atmosphere of some of those shows. One is from a show in Sydney where there was a riot. You can hear the show just about to go out of control. I love records that fade out just before it goes somewhere; that one fades just before it goes somewhere, but nowhere good. ‘Live at Hollywood High’ has a great atmosphere because we were in this high school gym, and it slightly ironic that there were no high school students at that gig, just some 35-year-old divorcees dressed like teenagers, and record executives. And Linda Ronstadt apparently was at that show. I’m really thrilled to know that she actually heard ‘Party Girl’ at that show for the first time, and then went ahead and recorded it. Not that I was particularly grateful as my younger, very snotty self.”

Costello’s biggest project yet for 2020: a deluxe 9-disc vinyl “Super Deluxe Edition” ofArmed Forces with three 12-inch LPs, three 10-inch LPs, and three 7-inch singles including 23 previously unreleased live tracks and the complete contents of the previous Rhino/Edsel deluxe edition. It’s due from UMe on November 6th.

Armed Forces was the third studio album from Elvis Costello and second with The Attractions, arriving in January 1979. It was originally conceived under the title Emotional Fascism, which says a lot about the artist’s state of mind while writing and recording. Much was made at the time about Costello moving away from the punk sound of its predecessors and embracing a new wave style, but (then as now) genre tags were simply reductive when it came to Costello’s oeuvre. He brought a deep and abiding love of pop, rock, and R&B in all their forms to Armed Forces, turning in some of his most beloved compositions including “Oliver’s Army” (anchored by Steve Nieve’s ABBA-inspired keyboard riff) about the Troubles in Northern Ireland; the tense, paranoid “Green Shirt”; and elegant, haunting “Accidents Will Happen,” inspired by Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Anyone Who Had a Heart.” One of the LP’s most famed songs wasn’t on the original U.K. issue, however. “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” was introduced by Nick Lowe – the producer of Armed Forces – by his band Brinsley Schwarz in 1974 and re-recorded by Costello, The Attractions, and producer Lowe in 1978 credited to “Nick Lowe & His Sound.” Costello’s biting rendition was added to the U.S. version of the album where it replaced “Sunday’s Best.”

Various configurations of Armed Forces have been released over the years. The original U.K. LP had the “elephant stampede” cover, while the U.S. edition had the “splattered paint” artwork. Early pressings included a three-track EP, Live at Hollywood High, with a live version of “Accidents Will Happen” as well as “Alison” and “Watching the Detectives.” Rykodisc’s 1993 CD issue based on the original U.K. sequence appended “What’s So Funny” and the EP plus five additional bonus cuts. The 2002 deluxe edition, released by Rhino in the U.S. and Edsel in the U.K., upped the ante with an entire bonus disc of 17 selections including all of the Ryko bonuses and a generously expanded Hollywood High boasting nine songs. In 2007, Universal’s Hip-o imprint controversially restored Costello’s catalogue to its original form on CD, meaning that Armed Forces lost all additional material other than “What’s So Funny.” In 2010, the June 4th, 1978 Hollywood High show received its first standalone release on CD with 20 total songs.

After the disappointing string of early releases in the wake of the superlative Rhino/Edsel series, UMe has thrown down the gauntlet with this presentation of Armed Forces. The set has been personally curated by Costello. It’s housed in a slipcase bearing the Barney Bubbles “splattered paint” artwork and in effect expands on the 2002 Rhino/Edsel deluxe edition in the vinyl format. It contains:

  • New remaster by Bob Ludwig and EC of Armed Forces from the original tapes, “with the sonic fidelity matching the original 1979 U.K. pressing”;
  • Sketches for Emotional Fascism 10-inch, with four previously issued bonus tracks;
  • Riot at the Regent: Live in Sydney ’78 10-inch, with six previously unreleased live tracks;
  • Europe ’79: Live at Pinkpop 12-inch, with 13 previously unreleased live tracks;
  • Christmas in the Dominion: Live 24th December ’78 10-inch, with four previously unreleased live tracks;
  • Live at Hollywood High and Elsewhere 12-inch, with the 10 live tracks included on the 2002 Rhino/Edsel deluxe edition of Armed Forces;
  • “Oliver’s Army” b/w “Big Boys (Demo)” 7-inch single;
  • “Accidents Will Happen” b/w “Busy Bodies (Alternate)” 7-inch single;
  • “American Squirm” b/w “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” – Nick Lowe & His Sound 7-inch single.

In addition to the nine vinyl platters, the box also includes seven notebooks including updated liner notes by Elvis (nearly 10,000 words in length) and his handwritten lyrics, plus a replica of the “grenade and gun” poster and original postcards of Elvis and the Attractions: keyboard maestro Steve Nieve, drummer Pete Thomas, and bassist Bruce Thomas.

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He knew the bride when she used to rock and roll. Back in the day, pub rocker-turned-crooner Nick Lowe put out some of the best rockabilly-tinged, jump-up-and-down drinking music on the planet. “Bride,” which showed up in 1977 on fellow Rockpile singer/guitarist Dave Edmonds’ solo release, Get It, is a raucous, rattly ode to never growing old and going for your dream even when somebody else has a-hold of it. Lowe still inspires grey hairs in the audience to do a somewhat arthritic but still spirited version of the pogo whenever he performs it live.

But Lowe didn’t want to be known solely for his youthful musical exploits. After a brief fling with country — he produced then-wife Carlene Carter’s country album Musical Shapes in 1980 and put out a couple of Tex-Mex, Bakersfield, and rockabilly-blended albums of his own — Lowe settled into crooner mode in the ’90s and has yet to come out.

That’s no mean feat when your backing band is Los Straitjackets, a wrestling-mask-clad surf rock/ rockabilly aggregation with subtlety not in their vocabulary. But since they met in 2012 at a Yep Roc party, the twin guitar leads of Danny Amis (since replaced by Greg Townson) and Eddie Angel have fit Lowe like a bespoke suit.

His latest EP, Lay It On Me, is more of the velvety Lowe the now silver-haired crooner espouses. But that doesn’t mean that the band can’t get its twang on. “Don’t Be Nice to Me” wobbles between spaghetti western soundtrack and Ventures surf party, with Lowe’s vocal invoking memories of British invasion pop idol Freddie and the Dreamers.

“Lay It On Me Baby” has a ’60s  pop feel as well, once again bringing back memories of the British  invasion, with a Beatlemania-era “yeah yeah yeah” shout-out embedded in a Herman and the Hermits framework with a more muscular guitar backing. It’s a cross-chart hopper that could have also found a slot on the country charts of that era. “Here Comes That Feeling” is the snappiest cut that Lowe sings on, soft-core rockabilly that has Eddie Angel’s guitar riffs trying to jump the fence and gallop off into the sunset, Lowe’s soulful delivery barely restraining them.

The Straitjackets shrug off their restraints in their cover of the Dutch band Shocking Blue’s 1969 psychedelic hit “Venus,” also covered by Bananarama in 1986. The Straitjackets twang it up a few notches and march it along stiffly, giving it a significant bassline punch courtesy of Pete Curry before it degenerates briefly into a spaghetti western opera and then whammy bars to a quivery finish.

Crooner Lowe can still rock and roll, perhaps a little grayer, but still shakin’, rattlin’, and rollin’ when the spirit moves him.

Rockpile recorded at the height of their powers. Includes live versions of ‘Girls Talk’, ‘Cruel To Be Kind’ and Rockpile’s version of ‘Jailhouse Rock’.

Rockpile were a British rock and roll group of the late 1970s and early 1980s, noted for their strong pub rock, rockabilly and power pop influences, and as a foundational influence on new wave. The band consisted of Dave Edmunds (vocals, guitar), Nick Lowe (vocals, bass guitar), Billy Bremner (vocals, guitar) and Terry Williams (drums). Rockpile recorded four studio albums, though only one (Seconds of Pleasure) was released under the Rockpile banner. Two other albums (Tracks on Wax 4 and Repeat When Necessary) were released as Dave Edmunds solo albums, and one more (Labour of Lust) was released as a Nick Lowe solo album.


Image of Rocklipe 'Live at the Palladium' red vinyl LP.

Coming late April/early May on our Vogon imprint, this concert captures Rockpile at the height of their powers. Includes live versions of ‘Girls Talk’, ‘Cruel To Be Kind’ and Rockpile’s version of ‘Jailhouse Rock’.

Rockpile were a British rock and roll group of the late 1970s and early 1980s, noted for their strong pub rock, rockabilly and power pop influences, and as a foundational influence on new wave. The band consisted of Dave Edmunds (vocals, guitar), Nick Lowe (vocals, bass guitar), Billy Bremner (vocals, guitar) and Terry Williams (drums). Rockpile recorded four studio albums, though only one (Seconds of Pleasure) was released under the Rockpile group banner. Two other albums (Tracks on Wax 4 and Repeat When Necessary) were released as the Dave Edmunds solo albums, and one more (Labour of Lust) was released as a Nick Lowe solo album.



Side 1. Down, Down, Down / So It Goes / I Knew The Bride / Switchboard Susan / Crawlin’ From The Wreckage / Trouble Boys

Side 2. Girls Talk / Crackin’ Up / Born Fighter / Let It Rock / Cruel To Be Kind / I Hear You Knocking / Jailhouse Rock

Yep Roc Records is excited to announce that for the first time in decades, you can now own Nick the Knife, The Abominable Showman, Nick Lowe and His Cowboy Outfit, The Rose of England, Pinker and Prouder Than Previous, and Party of One all on CD and LP! Bundle all of them together and get a great discount PLUS a limited edition Nick Lowe lunchbox is for free!

Nick Lowe first came to prominence during the British pub-rock scene of the early ‘70s as a member of the legendary band Brinsley Schwarz. Between 1969 and ’75, Lowe sang, played bass, and wrote songs for the band’s six albums, which today are cherished collectibles for the faithful pub-rock fan. After the break-up of Brinsley Schwarz, Lowe tinkered around as a solo artist, releasing singles like “So It Goes” for Stiff Records, where he also worked as the label’s staff producer (working with Elvis Costello, the Damned, and Dr. Feelgood). Lowe also performed as part of the band Rockpile with Dave Edmunds. Lowe released his solo debut, Jesus of Cool (titled Pure Pop for Now People in the U.S.) in 1978, followed by the hit album Labour of Lust.

After marrying singer Carlene Carter (Johnny Cash’s stepdaughter) in 1979, Lowe recorded a single album with Rockpile, 1980’s Seconds of Pleasure, the band enjoying a modest hit when the album charted Top 30 in the U.S. After the break-up of Rockpile (whose members had also played played on various Lowe and Edmunds solo LPs), Lowe returned to his solo career with Nick the Knife. Recruiting former Rockpile bandmates Billy Bremner (guitar) and Terry Williams (drums), Lowe brought friends like guitarist Martin Belmont (from the Rumour) and keyboardists Steve Nieve (the Attractions) and Paul Carrack (Squeeze) into the studio. Nick the Knife features a solid set of Lowe’s pop-rock originals (including two songs co-written with Carter, who also sings on the album) as well as a version of the Rockpile song “Heart.”

The following year’s The Abominable Showman found Lowe returning to his pub-rock roots, recording with a stripped-down band that included Belmont, Carrack, and drummer Bobby Irwin, who formed the core of Lowe’s Cowboy Outfit backing band throughout the decade. The album offers up some fine rockin’ country-tinged moments and a few great songs like “Ragin’ Eyes,” “We Want Action,” and “Time Wounds All Heels,” the last two co-written with Carter. A cover of Moon Martin’s “Paid the Price” fits nicely on the track list.

Reissues of both of these long out-of-print albums is certainly welcome, and comes at a nice time as Lowe’s friends and Yep Roc labelmate’s Los Straitjackets will be releasing their tribute to the songwriter with their new album, What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and


There are some songs that we wish weren’t still relevant, But  “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, And Understanding” would now sound hopelessly dated, as if it were the relic of another time. Instead the song, written by Nick Lowe in 1974 and performed by his band Brinsley Schwarz, is as timely as it’s ever been, its searching questions begging for answers in this day and age now more than ever.

Nick Lowe, has said he originally intended the song to be tongue-in-cheek, only to rethink the tone along the way. “I wrote the song in 1973, and the hippie thing was going out, and everyone was starting to take harder drugs and rediscover drink,” he said. “Alcohol was coming back, and everyone sort of slipped out of the hippie dream and into a more cynical and more unpleasant frame of mind. And this song was supposed to be an old hippie, laughed at by the new thinking, saying to these new smarty-pants types, ‘Look, you think you got it all going on. You can laugh at me, but all I’m saying is ‘What’s so funny about peace, love, and understanding?’ And that was the idea of the song. But I think as I started writing it, something told me it was too good of an idea to make it into a joke. It was originally supposed to be a joke song, but something told me there was a little grain of wisdom in this thing, and not to mess it up.”

Adorned with Who-style power chords and Beach Boys-flavored harmonies, Brinsley Schwarz’s take on the song charges full-on into the breach even as Lowe begs us to stop and consider his pleas. His narrator attempts to navigate “this wicked world” and “searches for light in the darkness of insanity.” He admits that despair is never too far removed: “My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes.”

“Is all hope lost?” he wonders, and he laments about the ubiquity of “pain, hatred and misery.” Yet he suggests that the only way out of this malaise is vigilance, the kind that constantly presses and pushes for something better than the status quo, which he expresses via a series of queries: “So where are the strong?/ And who are the trusted?/ And where is the harmony?”

By keeping any kind of specifics out of his tale, Lowe ensured that his song would resonate in times of worldly turmoil or personal angst. It all builds to the scorching common sense of the refrain: “And each time I feel it slipping away, it just makes me want to cry/ What’s so funny about peace, love, and understanding.

Elvis Costello’s 1978 hard-charging, heart-on-sleeve version of the song, which was produced by Lowe, brought it to a wider audience and became one of Costello’s best-known recordings. Lowe, however, probably preferred the 1992 version by Curtis Stigers. Why? Because it appeared on the multi-platinum soundtrack to The Bodyguard, thus producing a royalties windfall for the writer.

In any case, “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, And Understanding” endures. Hopefully we’ll reach a day where we can appreciate the song based on its artistic merits alone and not because the title sounds like it could be the headline of an editorial in this morning’s newspaper rather than the lament of a songwriter written fortysomething years ago.

On this day May 14th in 1977: Nick Lowe released his four-song ‘Bowi’ EP in the UK on Stiff Records (LAST 1 – actually the first EP to be released by the indie label); the mysterious title made sense when Nick Lowe explained his mock disappointment when David Bowie misnamed his latest album ‘Low’, omitting the “e”; so Nick decided to repay the compliment with ‘Bowi‘, “e” excerpted; the tracks were “Born A Woman” (originally performed by Sandy Posey), “Shake That Rat”, “Marie Provost” & “Endless Sleep”…




A true classic and a landmark album released on the 22nd July 1977 Costello’s debut album has been listed as one of the best debut of all time. recorded at Pathway studios in Islington late at night sessions taking approximately 24 hours to record it was also the first of five consecutive albums produced by Nick Lowe. Costello had been performing his songs in clubs and pubs in liverpool he had cut some demos and sent them to various labels with no success, He had been asked by Stiff Records to record some demos for the possibility of being a songwriter for Dave Edmunds but Edmunds was reluctant, Costello at this time was still working his day job as a data clerk, The label had Costello and the band Clover record to show his songs off but decided to release the songs as his first album, the first two singles had done very little and Costello was still working at his day job when the album was released in July 1977,
He was asked to give up his job they would match his wages gave him an amp and a tape recorder and he became a professional musician. the iconic cover shot which became Elvis’s trademark look with the Buddy Holly glasses and bent knee. The album was re-recorded with the same songs and arrangements with Elvis’s permanent backing band The Attractions at a later date that summer the idea was to replace the original recording with the Clover version and the initial pressings had sold out but this never happened, Costello and Clover played together for a one off benefit in November 2007 in San Francisco. There have been several re-issues with added tracks but the Costello/Attractions version has never been released. The standout tracks of “Less Than Zero, Alison, Red Shoes and Watching The Detectives.