Kingdom Come, September 29, 1977

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Kingdom Come

Fanzines

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The Stiff story


Johnny Waller

With the advent of the new wave & greater accessibility of bands who are getting back to basics, perhaps it was on the cards that we might get a few record companies being formed on the same basis. Geez, we have! Ladeez n’ Gennulmen may I present Jake Riviera & his bunch of Stiffs.

Stiff record company was formed just over a year ago by Riviera & Dave Robinson (manager of Damned, Graham Parker) using £100 they had between them, plus £200 they borrowed from photographer Keith Morris, plus another £200 from Lee Brilleaux (Feelgoods vocalist) Riviera himself has said it was easy to start up; “All you need is to make a tape and get it mastered”

After a project EP, to be released in Holland, fell through because of contractual difficulties, Nick Lowe recorded a demo tape consisting of “So It Goes” & “Heart Of The City” which cost £45 for both sides. This then became Stiff’s first release on 14th August 1976, and, in fact, “City” although it was the B side, was picked as a record of the week by two music papers it wasn’t actually a hit (good record though, mate) but after the first 1,000 copies were sold, Stiff simply re-ordered & so it goes! In fact, none of the first 14 singles failed to sell more than 5,000 copies.

The material for the other early singles was obtained by hard work & money. These first discs included the Damned’s frantic version of ‘Help’, Richard Hell’s ‘Blank Generation’ EP, Roogalators 33⅓ rpm single (with Beatles take-off cover shot) & the Tyla Gang’s ‘Styrofoam’/ ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ double B side (thereby beating the Rezillos by several months). The Adverts were noticed by Jake down at the Roxy & recorded “One Chord Wonders” before leaving for Anchor & current chart stardom. Elvis Costello sent in a tape, which Jake liked (he doesn’t usually listen to them, as he says most are rubbish) & the result was the sadly neglected “Less Than Zero”.

After a degree of success (certainly saleswise) with the singles, an album was planned – with The Damned. Over to Jake: “The Damned was the most risky release, because it was the first album we’d ever put out & we didn’t have very much money, but Island records gave us lots of money, cos it was selling well.” In an attempt to have “Damned, Damned, Damned” released in the States, Jake & the band went over, but “We lost £4,300 taking The Damned to America. We had record deals before we went out there. Business acumen it’s called.” Incidentally, early copies of that record showed The Rods on the reverse of the sleeve by mistake (Oh Yeah?).

It got lotsa publicity, dinnit Jake?

The label’s real coup though, is of course, Elvis Costello whose album debut ‘My Aim Is True’ is in the Top 20. The hype surrounding his launch (“We at Stiff say Elvis is King”) worked well & a short but triumphant tour left everyone wanting more two other singles ‘Alison’ & ‘Red Shoes’ have been culled from the album & the latter has been hovering just outside the Top 30 for a couple of weeks now, apparently a new single (not from the album) due soon. Watch for it.

To round up, Stiff’s early history is traced in two excellent albums ‘A Bunch Of Stiffs’ & ‘Hits Greatest Stiffs’ which proudly proclaims “Contains no hit singles whatsoever”, they’re both great & contain stuff now unobtainable in the original form. Buy them now.

If It Ain’t Stiff…..

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Kingdom Come, No. 1, September 29, 1977


Johnny Waller profiles Elvis Costello and Stiff Records.

Images

1977-09-29 Kingdom Come page 05.jpg 1977-09-29 Kingdom Come page 09.jpg
Page scans.


The Elvis Page


Johnny Waller

Extract:

The king is dead ...

Never was a great Presley fan myself, but anyone who makes records that sound as fresh 20 years on (Hound Dog, Heartbreak Hotel…) has got something pretty special. Still, I must agree with one of J. Rotten’s comments that his gut has cast a shadow over rock recently. Think I’ll stick to the Sun recordings & early RCA records. (Look what happens when you join the army!) The saddest thing about this whole Elvismania trip is the sudden demand for anything remotely connected with Presley. Where were these ghoulish collectors when we was alive (obese & releasing nondescript music, for sure but still here) & needed a final shove back to rock.

What’s even worse is the proliferation of ‘tributes’ ; Dross like “I remember Elvis’ makes me sick. If you really want to remember him, go out & buy some of his early albums (not film soundtracks) or check out the later compilations such as ’40 Greatest Hits’ which has all the good (& not-so-good) stuff he ever did for RCA.

...long live the king

If you’re still not hip to the other Elvis (Costello, dummy) by now, you’re a bit late … but don’t give up, read on. I don’t intend to review the sublime album here, as it’s been out a while & you should already have bought it, suffice to say that it’s the most immediate album since……. (fill in your own choice). The songs are all short (some too short) & punchy, with biting lyrics and memorable hooks. Boy, is Elvis angry, and frustrated, and intense, and great.

He’s got the same sort of intensity as Graham Parker, & this was fully shown at his Tiffany’s gig, when (after breaking strings on 3 successive guitars & unable to get new ones from behind a locked door) he threw his guitar at the amp & shouted “I’ve just been on Top of The Pops, meant to be a big star & still can’t get in the fuckin’ dressing room.” That gig highlighted that his newer material (try “Chelsea” or “Watching The Detectives”) is , if possible, better than the album trax.

If you missed him at Edinburgh, there’s still a chance to catch him on the Stiffs tour at Glasgow Apollo on October 13th.

See you there!



1977-09-29 Kingdom Come cover.jpg 1977-09-29 Kingdom Come page 10.jpg
Cover and page scan.

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