Buffalo State College Record, March 21, 1978

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Nick Lowe

Steve Ralbovsky

Jesus of Cool meets The King of Power Pop in the Heart of the City (or Arista says they love it but the kids can't dance to it)

Nick Lowe is a happening guy.

When Elvis Costello's roadies arrived at Moot Hall to set up for the shows he did a couple weeks back, their first comments centered on the music screeching out of a portable cassette recorder.

Where'd you get that?' they asked suspiciously, referring to songs that appear on Lowe's first solo album, a record just released as an import prior to the Costello group's arrival in town, and put on tape as music to play during the setup and between performances.

Unaware that the album was available (Costello had been on tour since late January), the roadies were taken back a bit let's say. When we found out that Nick Lowe was not only in town with Elvis, but that if enough Vodka/J. Daniels was around, he would play with him that night. We were completely amazed.

When Nick showed up with Elvis and members of The Attractions, he was amazed that anyone beside the attentive Costello fan who saw Nick credited as producer of My Aim Is True would know who he was.

He was further surprised by the knowledge and interest we had for the tradition of music (hey) he and Elvis come from. Questions about the Brinsley Schwarz group and Dave Edmunds, next to his work with Elvis and other Stiff Records acts, his most popular and enjoyable work, he was glad to answer.

I don't know if Nick Lowe has been asked for autographs like he was that night. And I don't know if everybody at the show realized it, but the power pop sound Nick Lowe helped create will be fashioned, bouncy, return-to-singing direction the New Wave will take. Power pop stars and rockabilly revivalists like Edmunds, Costello, and Robert Gordon have already given some shape to the scene.

But Nick Lowe is the really happening guy. You shouldn't be put off by the record's title which is one of the funniest thugs about the package. Hey, Nick is a rather modest guy on top of it all. He's more than Elvis Costello's producer, gang, he's a studied pop fan who could be our best new popstar. The Record Theatre sold out of the import version of his album in two days. When a slightly different version is released in a week or two in the states, you'll have all the opportunity you need to be a happy, happening record buyer.

He's really happening. Last year alone he produced albums by Graham Parker (Stick To Me), The Rumour, (Max), The Damned (Damned Damned Damned), and worked on Dave Edmunds' revivalist masterpiece Get It and the two Stiff samplers, A Bunch of Stiffs, and Hits Greatest Stiffs. This year, beginning in April, he will tour America with Elvis and Mink DeVille.

"I've still got to get a band together," he said rather calmly considering the tour is only a month away." Might ask The Rumour to do it if they could, or Thin Lizzy, you know."

Lowe is friends with both groups from the early days of Brinsley Schwarz and the countrified pub-rock sound that has gone all but unnoticed to even he most ardent fan of rock who has been looking for something other than crashing, simplistic punk. But here's the tradition I mentioned. A honest to goodness genre (although it's hard to give it any absolutely unique musical quality definition because it was essentially a circuit of low paying pub dates for blues-rock bands) of rock and roll that never got written up as such; never got grabbed onto because of that. Brinsley Schwarz started when Nick Lowe and Brinsley Schwarz (currently The Rumour's guitarist along with Martin Belmont, who also showed up at the Costello show to play with Nick) formed a band called 4 Plus 1 in High School, 1964. After a year of Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Bo Diddley covers, and after the Beatles had forever changed the possibilities open to British rock bands, Schwarz changed the sound of his band.

The new group was without Lowe, called Three's A Crowd, and they played music that featured an attempt at Hollies/Beach Boys harmonies. Signed to Parlophone Records, the group recorded a few singles. Nothing happened. Again Schwarz changed the format, adding one of rock's most underrated keyboardists, current Rumour member Bob Andrews, and called the group Kippington Lodge. Nick Lowe had come back by this time, but soon the Kippingtons, and their Parlophone contract, were gone,

Answering a Melody Maker ad, Famepusher Management became BS's next hope. The company tried showcasing the group at the Fillmore East in front of 150 journalists after United Artists released their first album in 1969. It flopped, the band showing up late and tired, missing their soundcheck. That unfortunate evening turned out to be a scar that didn't heal for almost two years.

In the meantime, the albums Brinsley Schwarz and Despite It All with tunes like "Shining Brightly" and "Country Girl" and "Funk Angel" respectively displayed Britain's first distinguished country-rock group, and one with a clean sense of McCartney-pop vocals. "Funk Angel" and "Ju Ju Man" from Sliver Pistol, their third album (released in 1971), shows a decided return, with Ian Gomm's streamlined jangly lead guitar, to the Bo Diddley or Eddie Cochran influence of the pre-BS incarnations.

In 1972 the new idol became Allan Toussaint, and a saxophone-filled sound not unlike the freshness of the less frantic Al Kooper Blues Project songs. "Surrender To The Rhythm" is one of Lowe's best songs, and it comes from the BS's best album, Nervous On The Road, released in early 1973. At this point, the group was making about $250.00 a night playing the pub circuit, dubbed a "pub rock hand" by the press, and in general not taken too seriously. Three albums followed, two of them reissues of the group's best early material. Nick Lowe, after having written and sung almost all the group's best songs, left in 1975. The rest of the group planned to join Chilli Willi, another of the pub rock bands that included Bruce Thomas, who is the Attractions' current drummer, but those plans fell through. All but Gomm and drummer Billy Rankin are now with The Rumour.

So it's no big thing for Nick to ask them to tour with him. Graham Parker cancelled his last U.S. tour, so conceivably they're not too busy. I suggested to Nick that he form the International Rockabilly Band with Dave Edmunds and John Fogerty.

"No, no I don't thing we could do that," he smiled. "Have to keep it all British."

Indeed, for Americans have never picked up on Brinsley or Ducks Deluxe, the group Sean Tyla and Martin Belmont once played for. America hasn't really picked up on Graham Parker yet either.

Dave Robinson used to produce Brinsley Schwarz. About a year and a half ago, he and Jake Riviera formed Stiff Records, still today (as Stiff is now being distributed through Clive Davis's Arista Records), the most consistently entertaining and anti-commercial small company around. Slogans like

Remaining text and scanner-error corrections to come...

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"It they're dead, we'll sign 'em". "Todays music today" and 'Stiff the world's most flexible record company are printed on great pictured sleeves of the group's 45's and albums Stiff has been an enormous boost to the reinterest in buying and collection rock singles.

Anyway Dave and Jake split recently Jake getting the management rights for Graham Parker, Elvis Costello, Ian Dury and Nick Lowe. Since then he's formed Radar Records in Britain to release future product by Lowe and Costello. Robinson still has the rights to Stiff, which is growing in popularity as the most unique packagers of new rock.

Nick Lowe's new album on Radar (released by Columbia in the U S) is an absolute success and the best rock album so far this year. His early solo singles like "So It Goes" and "Marie Provost" are here as well as me instant classics "Nutted By Reality" and "Breaking Glass", (which he did at the Elvis Concert). Lowe's self production is typically anti-slick and he sometimes (as did Stick To Me and My Aim Is True) get too muddy and garbled for his own good. But the album's real genius is its allusions and extraordinary debt to a range of great pop spanning from Gene Vincent to Paul McCartney to the Jackson 5. All this sang in a rather thin undistinguished voice songs with lines like She was the winner/that became the doggies dinner and I remember one night the kid cut off his right arm in a fit to save a better power" He's got 50,000 watts And a big acoustic tower. HAPPENING I TELL YOU!

"So It Goes" is the song is that last line; infact it's the opening line. The song is one of Lowe's best. "Shake and Pop", which may be his document to the BS years, is convincing enough to be put next to "Tumbling Dice" as a sloppy rock dance tune and lyrically potent enough to replace the term Rock and Roll as the generic term for this Rock and Power Pop.

{{n}Hey long distance it's a rock 'n' roll romance
{{n}CBS is gonna pay a great big advance
{{n}Hey Atlantic c'mon take a chance
{{n}Arista says they love me but the [ ]

Indeed this is a mystery dance Here's a true pop sound for adults "Nutted By Reality" has that Jackson 5 - I want You Back" bounce opening McCartney style vocals IN ONE SONG!

There are six pictures on the album's front cover depicting the really cool periods at rockin' pop from the Denim jacket, acoustic guitar. Everly Brothers sound through Nehru jackets heavymetal learner ones. The sequence ends with Lowe as he looks today. In need of a shave hungover playing with twin-neck combo bass and guitar in a dark blazer and collared shirt. Letters in each box spell out the message "Pure Pop For Now People" I can't think of a better description.

So get Nick Lowe when it comes out on Columbia as part of their blockbuster "new release" that will also include the new Bruce Springsteen and the new Elvis Costello tentatively titled This Year's Model. See the tour, it features England's two best songwriters, and one of America's best white soul singers in Willy DeVille. And forget about Warren Zevon and Jackson Browne.

That last part wasn't necessary except they are getting written about too much like American gotta have the sophisticated and contemporary songwriters and bands. They don't and its something to be ashamed of. The Rumour is a better rock band than Fleetwood Mac who are by now Americans. Graham Parker is a better songwriter than Boz Scaggs. Elvis Costello is a better songwriter than Bruce Springsteen and Nick Lowe might be responsible.


Buffalo State College Record, March 21, 1978

Steve Ralbovsky profiles Nick Lowe.

T.J. Marinis reviews Elvis Costello & The Attractions with guests Nick Lowe and Martin Belmont and opening act Willie Alexander, Saturday, March 4, 1978, Moot Hall, Buffalo State College, Buffalo, NY.


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Elvis Costello

Moot Hall, Buffalo

T.J. Midnight Marinis

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It was about five in the afternoon when Elvis Costello sauntered into Buffalo State College's Moot Hall. Dressed in a trench coat and jeans he looked younger and less hungry than his photos or Saturday Night Live appearance indicated. Everybody stared as he walked over to a long brown lunch table and layed down with his hands in his pockets. He seemed tired of being away from home. Maybe it was boredom. He'd played twenty or more schools in the last six weeks but tonight ended his six week American tour, so perhaps this seeming alienation was a meditative psyche or just a little calm before the storm.

The rumor that Nick Lowe (producer of Elvis's album My Aim is True as well as Graham Parker's Stick To Me and his own Jesus of Cool) intended to help end the tour with Rumour guitarist Martin Belmont seemed true enough when during his friend's soundcheck, Nick walked in and calmly stood watching as Elvis Costello and the Attractions warmed up. The starry eyed fan in me took control for an instant during which I went and got his autograph. He seemed surprised and flattered at being recognized, pleased his album had been well received. Minutes later he was on stage doing "Nutted By Reality" in medley with "Breaking Glass" and "Heart of the City" from his album. It was quite a surprise.

The crowd that showed up for the 8 o'clock show was not a anxious mass of filth bent on self denial. Oh, they smoked pot and the cozy night club atmosphere allowed for a cheap drunk, but many of these people were happy college kids out only for a fun Saturday night. Punk images slapped at my wrist as Willie Alexander and the Boom Boom Band came out. Dressed in leather jackets their presence onstage evoked street scenes of hungry orphans in the dirt, stray dogs pissing in city after city. Slithering through "You Lost That Loving Feeling," Willie "Loco" takes off his jacket chorusing "you lost it" accusingly at the audience. Playing "Look at Me" and "Radio Heart," the Boom Boom's, while producing fine sounds seemed tired, their low-key stage presence failing to incite. The crowd wanted more, their high expectations had been subtly raised.

A cheering audience greeted the appearance of Elvis. The air was split by a piercing drum beat and "The Mystery Dance" filled everyone with an electric vitality. The usually more mellow early show crowd applauded heavily almost rising as the non-stop music overwhelmed them.

Costello's vocals demand attention as he rigidly flails about. His stiff palsied manner contrasts with the flow of the music. Fast breaks and quick changes mix familiar songs with form-fitting newer material. A gasping audience barely has time to applaud between numbers. Biting off the foam microphone cover he spits out "Watching The Detectives," a taunting song about a girl infatuated with the heartless men who think of life and death in terms of a days work. Staring blankly he sings;

 I get so angry when the teardrops start
 You can't be wounded when you got no heart

And so it goes. "This is 'Pump it Up'," he says. He jeers; "This looks like a kids tea party with the pretty cloths on the tables." Then a big kid trying to get his younger playmates to do the dirty work; "Tear em off and stand on the fuckin tables." The obliging crowd is then treated with the appearance of Rumour lead guitarist Martin Belmont. The ensuing tune has the coeds bouncing when Elvis introduces Nick Lowe whose rousing additions kept the mood to finish the show with that kind of finale ending that leaves one feeling justified in having taken part in any event.

The second show was different enough to be equally and at times more exciting. The late crowd provided some of the excitement and an apparently happy Elvis jumped out in to the audience to finish "Watching The Detectives" on top of one of those same lunch tables he had hours before looked so alone upon.

He also did an Ian Dury song before which he said, "This is a song by a man named Ian Dury. He's coming out here in a couple of weeks (April 28) and you better be nice to him." "What are you gonna do?," someone yells. "I'll be back to deal with you," he replies.

More than a thousand people were entertained, and next time they'll be there to see him again.

Photos by Steve Cohen.
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Buffalo State College Record


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Elvis Costello's "Alison" released in this country with strings added. The real bonus is the b-side, a manic rave-up of "Miracle Man," live in London... everyone pulling for "Radio, Radio" as the next single...

Arista lands the U.S. distribution of Stiff singles catalogue — first one out of the gate is Ian Dury. The song? "Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll"...

Nick Lowe's long awaited LP out in the U.K. on Radar. The American release will he delayed six weeks and show up with a new title and two different songs; standard procedure.

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