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?