Melody Maker, February 25, 1978

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Melody Maker


A Stiff bevy

Various artists / Live Stiffs

Ian Birch

They must have had a good time. Even Elvis Costello is smiling. In fact, the whole (and excellent) front cover is one infectious melon-slice grin. Ian Dury is so overwhelmed that his eyes have closed. Wreckless Eric smirks wickedly in his tartan steward livery, and Nick Lowe fronts them all in winkle-pickers that are preternaturally long; while Larry Wallis flashes his pearlies over Basher's shoulder.

The photo couldn't be more appropriate. Firstly, it reminds you just how strong the Stiff roster was in pre-Radar days; secondly, that they specialised in ale-sodden, rough-edged, spontaneous fun. And, of course, they are all ludicrously talented.

The album grew naturally out of last year's celebrated Stiff package tour, an insanely ambitious programme (think of all those clashing egos!) that oddly related more to a Sixties idea of touring than a Seventies. Then a label would lump everything they could together and call it a revue. Somehow that word doesn't sit well here. I don't really know the word.

The material comes basically from two concerts: that at the University of East Anglia, and the final hoedown in London's Lyceum. But down to the music. Kompere Kosmo Vinyl (also pressman for Ian Dury) belts onstage, tells everyone to stop drinking because the madness is about to start.

Whereupon the "one and only Nick Lowe" rushes on with his Last Chicken In The Shop combo. They're Larry Wallis, Terry Williams, Pete Thomas, Dave Edmunds (obviously on friendly terms that night) and Penny Tobin.

The Lowe/Edmunds axis deliver two numbers which sound a million times better than on the night I saw them (the Lyceum). Still, they're not what they should or could be. "I Knew The Bride" soars, but the precise attack of the single version has gone. "Let's Eat" is a long, Lowe pun which doesn't sustain itself.

Next onstage is Wreckless and his New Rockets, featuring mentor Dury on drums. Ian is a man of many parts. After his lunatic intro, which is capped by mention of Victor Sylvester dancing with Ray McVay in a very obscene fashion, Wreckless launches into those two seminal songs, "Semaphore Signals" and "Reconnez Cherie," also his new single.

He's Norman Wisdom crossed with Johnny Rotten, and has an intuitive understanding of dirt-under-the-fingernails teenbeat. His voice cracks, howls, bays and slides all over the place like sweaty ballbearings on a Mecca dance floor.

Side One ends with Wallis, the battered leather bandolero doing his very own "Police Car," a solid greasy work-out.

First on the second side is Costello and his Attractions and, for my entrance fee, they steal the show with a beautifully fraught version of Bacharach and David's "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself." They even rival Dusty Springfield's arrangement.

It's a perfect vehicle for Costello: he can do superb battle with the despairing lyrics. Moreover, the Attractions are sympathetic and understated. Then they rev up and roar into a furious version of "Miracle Man," a convulsive treatment in which Elvis sneers as defiantly as ever.

We now have Ian Dury who does assured but adventurous versions of two tracks from his hit album: "Billericay Dickie" and "Wake Up And Make Love To Me." I was one of the three or so people who were not that knocked out by the album, but in this context they come alive in the absurdly relaxed performance of the Blockheads and of Ian's showmanship – the East End fruitseller meets the Shakespearean fool meets the Gene Vincent fan.

And the last track? What else could it be but the anthem for '77, "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll." However, "& Chaos" has now been tacked on for good measure. Somehow, everyone has managed to clamber on stage. Wreckless is probably beating up saxophonist Davey Payne again.

Ian introduces everyone while just about managing to keep his vocals outfront. The audience begin to pick up more and more on the mantra until the whole hall is blissing out on the chant of the ever-circling loonies. Cacophony finally takes over. The end.

Musicians include Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Nick Lowe's Last Chicken In The Shop, Elvis Costello and The Attractions, Wreckless Eric and the New Rockets, Larry Wallis' Psychedelic Rowdies. Recorded on the Rak Mobile by Tim Summerhayes and Mick Crickmer. Recorded at University of East Anglia and the Lyceum, London. Mixed by Peter Jenner, Laurie Latham, Larry Wallis, Dale Liberator and Barry Blew.

Tags: Live StiffsStiff's Greatest Stiffs LiveNick LoweJesus Of CoolIan DuryWreckless EricLarry WallisStiff RecordsRadarUniversity Of East AngliaLyceum BallroomNick Lowe's Last Chicken In The ShopKosmo VinylLarry WallisTerry WilliamsPete ThomasPenny TobinDave EdmundsI Knew The BrideJohnny RottenThe AttractionsBurt BacharachHal DavidI Just Don't Know What To Do With MyselfDusty SpringfieldMiracle ManThe BlockheadsSex & Drugs & Rock & Roll & ChaosDavey Payne

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Melody Maker, February 25, 1978

Ian Birch reviews Live Stiffs.

Also includes a review of Nick Lowe's Jesus Of Cool  (page 22).


1978-02-25 Melody Maker page 21 clipping 01.jpg

1978-02-25 Melody Maker cover.jpg


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