Santa Clara University Santa Clara, May 22, 1978

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Live Stiffs Live

Various artists

Ed Spear

A long time ago, in a United Kingdom far, far away, a couple of opportunists searched the streets of London, Chelsea, Essex and other spots of deviant behavior and found five really sick guys who had minimal musical talents and grudges against everybody who walked. The result was a tiny English record label called Stiff Records. A secondary result was a large ripple in the New Waves of British rock — a ripple that snuck up on and overcame the punks quicker than Johnny Rotten's breath.

By now, most persons with more intelligence than a garden snail have either heard of Stiff or at least one of the Stiff performers: Nick Lowe, Larry Wallis, Wreckless Eric, Ian Dury or Elvis "My Aim Is True, 'cos I'm the King" Costello. If not, turn yourself in to Idi Amin's Committee on Public Safety and have your ears cut off.

Or, if you don't like pain, go out and buy Live Stiff Live, a fine LP which features excellent performances by the aforementioned. Stiffs Live has to be the best live anthology released since Woodstock. Technically, the recording is clean, the audience doesn't overwhelm the bands, and nobody says anything as stupid as "Do you feel like I do?" Rather, you get Nick Lowe's super rockabilly on "I Knew the Bride" (Mr. Presley, look out), Larry Wallis' Psychedelic Rowdies' "Police Car" (a bonafide Top-40 hit this past winter), Ian Dury s flamingly suggestive and naughty "Wake Up & Make Love to Me," and Stiff's signature song, "Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll" (which most of you male coneheads out there wish your life at Santa Clara was all about). Of course, it wouldn't be truly Stiff without the King, and Elvis is there performing, of all things, Burt Bacharach and Hall David's "I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself," and a fine, biting version of "Miracle Man" from his first LP, My Aim is True.

One of the greatest things about Stiffs Live is that the music is the perfect party music. Unless you are one of those cultural cowards who still insist that Saturday Night Fever is spun consistently at all parties you attend (if this is the case, I know a good lobotomist), you will find quickly, should you have the creative intelligence to risk something so threatening as opening yourself to "new" music, that Stiffs Live is the perfect fingerpop, toe-tap, get-up-and-boogie album. Besides, if you can afford Santa Clara's five grand-a-year membership fee, what's $4.99 for some music that will make you the "Mystery Person" on your block?


The Santa Clara, May 22, 1978

Ed Spear reviews Live Stiffs and Nick Lowe's Pure Pop For Now People.


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Page scan.

Pure Pop For Now People

Nick Lowe

Ed Spear

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Speaking of Stiffs, it's nice to know that at least one of the gang doesn't harbour some kind of misanthropic or Just-Out-Of-Agnews passions. I'm talking about Nick Lowe and I'm sure most of your cretin pop-freaks out there will never give him five minutes of your time just because he's not played every hour on KFRC or KARA. Your loss because Nick Lowe comes closer to being the quintessential pop artist of our time than anyone being pandered by those over-paid kneejerks on the big six-ten.

Pure Pop for Now People, Lowe's debut album on Columbia Records is first rate fun. No pretensions, no bull. All Nick's doing is playing music that's easier to listen to than the Pied Piper of anywhere. Lowe fails to take any form of a stance on anything and it works to his benefit. In the course of maybe thirteen songs, this Godfather of England's non-punk New Wave is able to capture the essence of every Top-40 hit in the past ten years. On "And So It Goes" he sounds like a poor Thin Lizzy, which, I'll admit, is a redundancy. From there he hits on Lobo (Remember them?) Fleetwood Mac (They deserve a rip here and there) and Paul McCartney (to whom Lowe possesses a striking resemblance).

But you have to take Nick Lowe's talent seriously. He knows what he's doing when he takes stylistic shots at others. I mean, this guy has already produced for England's current leading act, Elvis Costello, and one of R&B-land's finest, Graham Parker. He's also written for and with Dave Edmunds, of whom none of you know about but whose Rockability rivals the other Elvis (the dearly departed Elvis). Further, he was an original member of Brinsley Schwartz band, which eventually became England's leading bar-room act and backed Parker under the name Rumour. Face it kiddies, Nick's been around. So buy his album. Believe me, he's no more Punk than the Eagles or Hall and Oates or Elton John.

Other choice cuts include a beautifully rendered slander of my critics' favorite, Bay City Rollers, called "Roller Concert," and "They Call it Rock," which could have easily been lifted from Fleetwood Mac's Kiln House.

Whether you want to admit it, or not, England's New Wave performers (And I don't mean Punk, you narrow-minded Clarans) are making quite a hit with American audiences. And Nick Lowe is in the forefront. So is Pure Pop for Now People.


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