It should have been a unique and even revolutionary show, a return to the ideals and philosophy of the rock business in the early sixties. The outstanding record company of the year had been Stiff, who have gone against all established music business styles to launch their anarchic and very clever campaign to prove that the most unlikely of discarded British musicians can become respected cult heroes.
In two cases they have already succeeded, though the effort has left the outfit in some disarray — Stiff's leading manager, producer and artist are all apparently moving on.
Last night the Stiffs were at the Lyceum where a fashion conscious, capacity crowd sweltered through a weirdly uneven set of performances. Was this a showcase for major new British artists or a freaky hippy circus of rejects for the Pub Entertainer of The Year? Apparently a bit of both. The distinguished duo of Dave Edmunds and writer producer Nick Lowe bashed cheerfully through a set of good-time rock and roll songs including a great version of "I Knew the Bride," before letting the stage be invaded by a small, unremarkable young man called Reckless Eric who was as hopeless at being outrageous as he was at singing.
After this burst of amateurs night came Elvis Costello. He still hadn't fully managed the transformation from small clubs but from behind the Stiff uniform of baggy grey suit, this gaunt, bespectacled figure produced an impressive batch of his thoughtful often tortured ballads. At last, music to justify Stiff's originality.