Posts Tagged ‘Stiff Records’

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Heart Of The City’ is the first of a series of newly-digitised Elvis Costello videos which will be rolled out on Tuesdays and Fridays over the next coming weeks. For further information, visit the artist’s official YouTube channel.

‘Heart Of The City’ first appeared on the flipside of Nick Lowe’s ‘So It Goes’, the first single released by UK independent label, Stiff Records, in August 1976. In the summer of that same year, Lowe’s manager Jake Riviera borrowed £400 from Dr. Feelgood’s Lee Brilleaux and rock photographer Keith Morris and along with Dave Robinson -who managed Lowe’s previous band Brinsley Schwartz – formed the Stiff imprint.

Elvis Costello’s live version of ‘Heart Of The City’ appeared on the 2012 box set Return Of The Spectacular Spinning Songbook. The title’s concept referred to a previous Costello tour when the singer-songwriter dressed up as a fictitious game show host of the same name, offering up a giant wheel for fans to spin to determine the next song he would play.

That tour took place in 1986, when Costello and his original band, The Attractions, took his album King of America out on the road with The’ Spectacular Spinning Songbook’, which featured the aforementioned giant wheel spun by fans to pick the next song to be played – hits, rarities, covers, it had it all. Each night, Costello would play the role of purposefully gaudy game show host Napoleon Dynamite.

Costello and the Imposters revisited that era for two concerts at Los Angeles’ Wiltern Theater in May of 2011, and those shows were documented on Return Of The Spectacular Spinning Songbook.

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BMG Records proudly present this limited edition set comprising of 5 x 7″ vinyl singles including the famed first ever punk single New Rose and all the other early hits from the impressively chaotic punk quartet. All singles have been recreated with their original artwork, including the ultra-rare, previously fan club only Stretcher Case Baby. These are all packed in a superb box, collaged with original press cuttings from back in the day. Also included is a Damned embroidered patch, exclusive to this boxset.

It was the summer of 1976 when Dave Vanian, Rat Scabies and Captain Sensible recruited guitarist and songwriter Brian James, they played their first gig supporting the Sex Pistols at the 100 Club and quickly signed to Stiff Records and began writing the very first chapter of the punk rock history books. Their debut 7” – New Rose – was written by Brian James and backed by a proto-thrash version of The Beatles’ Help. It was recorded by Stiff’s in-house producer, Nick Lowe and set the punk dream alight at exactly 9.00am when record shops opened for business on 22nd October 1976, stealing a march on the Pistols by becoming what is widely acknowledged as the very first punk record ever released.

The band really came into their own with their second single – Neat Neat Neat – which had two cuts on the B-side, Stab Yor Back and Singalongascabies. Produced, like New Rose, by Nick Lowe, the vinyl had a message from one band member scratched in the run-out groove: “this is your captain speaking…” So what were Captain Sensible’s favourite acts on Stiff, one journalist asked him in 2007? “I wasn’t interested!” he insists. “It was mainly pub rock in the early days, which we despised and sneered at in our young and snotty way…” After a special 7” – Stretcher Case Baby – cut to give away at gigs celebrating the band’s first anniversary, they went back into the studio, this time with Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason at the controls. Third single Problem Child was written by Brian James with Rat Scabies and featured new recruit Lu Edmonds on guitar.

An incendiary two minutes of the band in their prime, it failed to crack the UK top 40 but did make number 27 in NME’s alternative singles chart. By the end of 1977, the Damned were ready to part with Stiff, just as Brian James and Lu Edmonds were ready to part with The Damned. Their last single was Don’t Cry Wolf, backed with another Nick Mason-produced track, One Way Love.

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In 1976, Britain was a cultural wasteland for some with prog rock bands like ELP and Genesis and then the dregs of glam rock.  But Mick Jones and Tony James – who’d later play in the Clash and Generation X respectively – were starting a band called the London SS. We were all in a dingy basement auditioning a drummer called Chris Millar, who had scabies at the time, when a rat ran across the floor. So Chris became Rat Scabies.

Mick and Tony liked Rat’s drumming, but said he didn’t look right because he had a shabby overcoat and messy hair. So Rat and I went off to form a band with another guy, Ray Burns, who Rat knew through cleaning toilets at Fairfield Halls in Croydon.

Ray had long hair and was into John McLaughlin, a jazz fusion guitarist, so I played him the Stooges and the Ramones – and he became our infamous madcap guitarist Captain Sensible. Rat suggested a singer called Dave Vanian, who was into vampire stuff. We got our name from two 1960s films: Luchino Visconti’s The Damned, about the Nazis, and the horror movie The Village of the Damned. It was perfect for us.

Captain wore a nurse’s uniform on stage and, at the third gig, poured a pint of beer over his head. After that, it was just chaos every night. Audiences hated us.

I had a bunch of riffs I’d written when I was in a band called Bastard. When I played New Rose to Rat, his drumming set it on fire. We signed to Jake Riveria Stiff Records to do a single, and Nick Lowe produced us in a tiny eight-track studio. We spent more time in the pub round the corner than we spent recording, but Nick captured how wild we sounded.

We thought we were a fast rock’n’roll band, but the journalist Caroline Coon coined the term “punk rock” so suddenly “New Rose” was “the first British punk single”. Everything happened very quickly after that. Contrary to belief, New Rose isn’t a love song. The words were just imagery to go with the riffs: “I got a new rose, I got it good / Guess I knew that I always would / I can’t stop to mess around / I got a brand new rose in town.” . The single’s B-side was a cover of the Beatles’ hit “Help!”, performed about twice as fast as the original. Both songs became staples of the Damned’s live shows,

However, some lines did express my excitement about the early punk scene: “I got a feeling inside of me / It’s kinda strange like a stormy sea.” It was everything I’d ever dreamed of. And there I was in London with everyone going crazy for it.

Dave Vanian, singer recalls The band were auditioning for a singer, and I went early to check out the the guy before me, but he never turned up. Turned out it was Sid Vicious. Could he have become the singer in the Damned, rather than the bass-player in the Sex Pistols? We’ll never know.

Brian shouted the lyrics in my ear while he played guitar, and I did the best I could. He’d seen me in the audience at some shows and told me: “You look like a singer.” Before it became all torn clothes and spiky hair, punk was about individuality. I wore winkle-pickers and was going for that 1920s Rudolph Valentino look. I’d seen a few Hammer horror films, too, and decided I wanted to live in Baron Von Frankenstein’s castle. 

So I left my gravedigger job to join the Damned and everything started moving very fast. We’d rehearse, get in the van, tear up the country doing gigs, then get back in the studio.

“New Rose” was a raw, visceral, classic three-minute pop song. My famous spoken intro – “Is she really going out with him?” – taken is from the Shangri-La’s Leader of the Pack, which I adored. I’d just been clowning around, but everyone liked it so we kept it. We recorded a whole album – Damned Damned Damned – in two days flat. In those days, there was never much food around. We were fuelled by amphetamine sulphate and cider. The Damned were funny and had such a strong image, sometimes that acted against them, and people didn’t recognise and realise how great their records were. As well as being the first, New Rose is definitely one of the very best singles from this era – or any other era to be honest.

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elvis costello my aim is true

Released this day July 22nd in 1977: Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True

On My Aim Is True, Elvis Costello’s’ raw energy comes through in a way that’s never completely recaptured on later records. While the songs range from mellow country twang to full-on, spitting assault, there’s a strange cohesiveness to the album simply by virtue of its rough, rushed feel. Although it’s a studio album, there’s a latent energy to Nick Lowe’s production that grants My Aim Is True all the immediacy of a live show. Recorded at Pathway Studios in London 1976-1977.

Elvis Costello’s debut album brought home to me just how timid Little Criminals really is. Costello’s best songs are anything but timid, but they’re as intelligent as some of Newman’s finest, as endearingly elusive in their meanings, and funny in the same bitter, self-deprecating manner. They are also, like Newman’s signature songs, very weird. Originally released on Stiff Records but reissued on various labels, Columbia, Demon Rykodisc, Rhino Records and Hip O, Singles released from the album

  1. Less Than Zero
    Released: 22 March 1977
  2. Alison
    Released: 21 May 1977
  3. “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes”
    Released: 1977
  4. Watching the Detectives
    Released: 14 October 1977

Elvis Costello dartboard (pic credit Dick Wingate)

According to Costello’s own website, a second version of the album (with an identical track listing) was recorded over a 2-day period in July 1977. This second version was recorded by Elvis Costello and his new permanent backing band, The Attractions, with the intention of replacing the original tracks contained in My Aim Is True once the initial pressings had sold out. This never came to pass, however, and all released versions of the album continue to use the original recordings with members of Clover as the backing band. As well, although several reissues of My Aim Is True have featured various demos and 1977-era recordings as bonus tracks, the July 1977 album re-recordings have never been issued in any format.

On 8 November 2007, Costello reunited with the members of Clover from the original recording sessions to perform the songs from My Aim Is True. This marked the first ever (and to date only) live public performances of these songs by the original ensemble that recorded them. The event took place at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, and was a benefit for the Richard de Lone Special Housing Fund,

If one record perfectly encapsulated the ethos of Stiff Records, it is My Aim Is True. Combining Barney Bubbles’ iconic designs, Jake Riviera’s ingenious marketing slogans, Stiff’s irreverence and a unique artist, it did what the major labels had failed to do for years. It acknowledged that music fans deserved better and tapped into Britain’s deep-rooted culture of buying and collecting records. The Stiff template had been created and the bar set high.

Photographer Chris Gabrin had produced the black and white shots that had adorned the sleeves of ‘Less Than Zero’ and ‘Alison‘. However, it was Keith Morris who was invited to do the shoot for the album under Barney Bubbles’ direction. Bubbles reportedly threw Elvis Presley-like shapes around the room as the other Elvis struck a variety of poses against a pale backdrop. A picture of awkwardness in a jacket, open-neck shirt and tie, turned-up jeans, and National Health glasses, Costello was a geek years before it was chic. A vibrant yellow screen was placed over him for the initial run of 10,000, ensuring it would stand out in the racks and window displays of record shops. Then, when the album began to catch fire, Stiff made a discovery that would result in a collector’s dream. Riviera had gone with Bubbles to oversee the first run and found out that using different coloured inks wouldn’t cost more. He then demanded that every run of 5,000 copies be printed in a different colour.

Costello poster

On this day (April. 1st) in 1980: nerdy, nervous & noisy New Jersey band The Feelies released their debut album ‘Crazy Rhythms’ on Stiff Records in the UK (SEEZ 20); its fusion of post-punk & jangle pop was influential on the forthcoming alternative rock genre, with R.E.M. among others citing the album as an influence; although not commercially successful, it has remained a critically lauded cult fave in the decades since its release…The Feelies – Outstanding Debut Album ‘Crazy Rhythms’ Came Out 40 Years Ago…

The Feelies are a rock band from Haledon, New Jersey. They formed in 1976 and disbanded in 1992 after having released four albums. The band reunited in 2008.

New Jersey’s post-punk misfits The Feelies released their debut longplayer ‘‘Crazy Rhythms’’  on April Fools’ Day 1980 via legendary label Stiff Records. It wasn’t a commercial success but praised for years by the music press.

Rolling Stone wrote: The Feelies formed in 1976 in their small hometown of Haledon, New Jersey, as a lark. Tripping on acid one day, Million passed guitarist Glenn Mercer’s garage and was impressed to hear the band playing the Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” The like-minded guitarists formed a band that eventually included bassist Keith Clayton and drummer Anton Fier. The music is jittery, thumping and volatile, complementing titles like “The Boy With Perpetual Nervousness” and “Loveless Love.” There are long silences, repeated notes, wavering tones, pickups flipped on and off. Any gaps are filled with strange, found percussion instruments, including cans, shoe boxes and coat racks. After recording a four-song demo, the Feelies signed with England’s Stiff Records, the only label that would let the fledgling band produce itself.

“Crazy Rhythms is aptly titled,” says Bill Million of the Feelies. “There are a lot of weird things going on. We didn’t practice much, so we were kind of disjointed when we made the album.” Today, Crazy Rhythms is a landmark of jangly, guitar-driven avant-pop, and its shimmering sound can still be heard in bands like R.E.M.

The Feelies rarely worked with outside producers and created shimmering soundscapes with multiple guitar layers that set them apart from most of the punk/new wave bands of the late 1970s and early 1980s. They frequently played at Maxwell’s, a live music venue and bar restaurant in Hoboken during the 1980s, often on national holidays.

Although the Feelies never sold a great number of records, their influence was felt on the indie rock scene. Their first album, Crazy Rhythms (Stiff Records, 1980) was cited by R.E.M. as a major influence. The novelist Rick Moody has also cited the band as one of his influences (and allegedly based the punk band in his first book Garden State on them).

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.