Last week, AP carried a story with the news that Nick Lowe is releasing a Christmas album with the odd name “Quality Street”:
Nick Lowe wasn’t exactly filled with the Christmas spirit when his American record company suggested he make his first holiday album.
He’s no Scrooge. But for musicians in his native England, holiday albums aren’t the coolest thing to do. A song or two is nice, but an entire album? It has the faint whiff of desperation. (Continue Reading…)
The desperation question is fair, but misplaced. Lowe, by this point, certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt. Here is a bit from his Wikipedia profile:
After leaving Brinsley Schwarz in 1975, Lowe began playing in Rockpile with Dave Edmunds. In August 1976, Lowe released “So It Goes” b/w “Heart of the City”, the first single on the Stiff Records label where he was an in-house producer. The single and thus the label was funded by a loan of £400 from Dr. Feelgood’s Lee Brilleaux. The label’s first EP was Lowe’s 1977 four-track release Bowi, apparently named in response to David Bowie’s contemporaneous LP Low. (The joke was repeated when Lowe produced The Rumour’s album Max as an ‘answer’ to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours). Lowe continued producing albums on Stiff and other labels. In 1977 he produced Dr. Feelgood’s album, Be Seeing You, which included his own song, “That’s It, I Quit”. The following year’s Dr. Feelgood album, Private Practice, contained a song Lowe jointly penned with Gypie Mayo – “Milk and Alcohol”. Along with “I Love The Sound of Breaking Glass”, “Milk and Alcohol” is one of only two Lowe compositions to ever reach the Top 10 of the UK Singles Chart. (Continue Reading…)
Lowe was married for 11 years to June Carter’s daughter Carlene. That made Johnny Cash his step father.
Above is an acoustic version of his biggest hit, “Cruel to Be Kind.” (I invariably like acoustic versions of rock hits better than the originals.) Below is “So it Goes,” which seems to owe a bit to Warren Zevon.
On Monday, TDMB featured Gioacchino Antonio Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville,” so it seems to make sense to follow it up with Ian Dury and the Blockheads.
AllMusic has an affectionate profile. Here is the start:
Rock & roll has always been populated by fringe figures, cult artists who managed to develop a fanatical following because of their outsized quirks, but few cult rockers have ever been quite as weird, or beloved, as Ian Dury. As the leader of the underappreciated and ill-fated pub rockers Kilburn & the High Roads, Dury cut a striking figure — he remained handicapped from a childhood bout with polio, yet stalked the stage with dynamic charisma, spitting out music hall numbers and rockers in his thick Cockney accent. Dury was 28 at the time he formed Kilburn, and once they disbanded, conventional wisdom would have suggested that he was far too old to become a pop star, but conventional wisdom never played much of a role in Dury’s career. Signing with the fledgling indie label Stiff in 1978, Dury developed a strange fusion of music hall, punk rock, and disco that brought him to stardom in his native England. Driven by a warped sense of humor and a pulsating beat, singles like “Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick,” “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll,” and “Reasons to Be Cheerful, Pt. 3″ became Top Ten hits in the U.K., yet Dury’s most distinctive qualities — his dry wit and wordplay, thick Cockney accent, and fascination with music hall — kept him from gaining popularity outside of England. After his second album, Dury’s style became formulaic, and he faded away in the early ’80s, turning to an acting career instead. (Continue Reading…)
Actually, the mention of “a childhood bout with polio” is understating things. Dury was badly disabled, and it’s a testament to his talent, perseverance and sense of humor that he rose to prominence. It’s really terrific: Ian Dury’s campy fun probably had the deeper meaning of being a triumph against despair. I don’t know enough to say this definitively, but it is a nice thought. Check out this moving interview with British talk show host Michael Parkinson.
Dury was a great writer who is responsible for the iconic phrase “sex and drugs and rock and roll,” which comes from the song of the same name:
Sex and drugs and rock and roll Is all my brain and body need Sex and drugs and rock and roll Are very good indeed
Above is “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick” and below is “Reasons to be Cheerful (Part 3).” The evidence here shows that The Blockheads were quite a band as well. The video above notes that “Rhythm Stick” became the top song (in the U.K., I believe) in 1979. The funny thing is that it replaced The Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.”
This Day in Music says that the CBGBs opened on the lower east side of Manhattan on this day in 1971. The item reports that CBGBs stands for “country, bluegrass, blues.” The latter part of the name — OMUG — stands for “other music for up lifting gourmandizers,” according to the site promoting a festival in honor of the club. And, yes, “gourmandizer” is a word.
Above is Blondie performing Rifle Range at the club in 1977.
Here is a bit from the bio from The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which inducted the band in 2003:
Quite simply, the Clash were among the most explosive and exciting bands in rock and roll history. They played a major role in creating and defining the punk movement. If the short-lived Sex Pistols were glorious nihilists, then the Clash expressed punk’s impassioned political conscience. Their explosive, uptempo punk-rock manifestos were unleashed with pure adrenaline and total conviction.
The Ramones came from Forest Hills, which is in Queens, New York. Forest Hills also produced Simon and Garfunkel. That’s probably the only thing the two groups had in common.
The beginning of the Ramones bio at allmusic sums it up nicely:
The Ramones are the first punk rock band. Other bands, such as the Stooges and the New York Dolls, came before them and set the stage and aesthetic for punk, and bands that immediately followed, such as the Sex Pistols, made the latent violence of the music more explicit, but The Ramones crystallized the musical ideals of the genre. By cutting rock & roll down to its bare essentials — four chords; a simple, catchy melody; and irresistibly inane lyrics — and speeding up the tempo considerably, The Ramones created something that was rooted in early ’60s, pre-Beatles rock & roll and pop but sounded revolutionary.
There are, of course, a tremendous number of sites dedicated to the band. The Ramones Museum is in Berlin and Wikipedia has the discography. Two members of The Ramones — Joey and Johnny Ramone — died of cancer, while Dee Dee died of a heroin overdose.