Saturday, December 17, 2005

PPPDA: Nick Lowe Interview from 1979

More from the continuing series of historical documents of the power pop era. Here we have Nick Lowe, late of Brinsley Schwartz and Rockpile, slagging and praising his contemporaries.

SEE Nick Lowe praise Cheap Trick as "the best group I've seen in years"!
SEE Nick Lowe call Mike Love a wanker for his treatment of Brian Wilson!
SEE Nick Lowe explain how the young girls love Gary Glitter!
SEE Nick Lowe slag Rod Stewart for "trying to get a bit of New Wave credibility"!

from Bomp, January 1979.

Nick Lowe. Posted by Picasa

Nick Lowe: A Candid Interview
by Bobby Adams

You may think New Wave was invented by John Rotten and Malcolm McDuck, but if you take away all the shock/horror hoopla and look closely at who has exerted the most control, gained the most power, and profited the most from the British New Wave explosion, curiously enough it turns out to be a small, closely-related group of people who have been working together since the pub rock days of 1971-74. With their experience, it's no accident that success has come to Dai Davies [Albion Agency, Stranglers] and Dave Robinson [Stiff, Graham Parker], former managers of Brinsley Schwarz; Jake Riviera [former manager of Chilli Willi, Dr. Feelgood, now Elvis Costello & Nick Lowe]; Andrew Lauder [Radar Records], formerly A & R chief of UA Records, where most of the best pub rockers recorded; Ian Dury [Kilburn & the High Roads, incidentally managed by Charlie Gillett, whose Oval Records is now distributed by Stiff]; and of course Dave Edmunds and Rockfield Studios, where they all crossed paths sooner or later. It's been a rather incestuous scene, with all the musicians playing on or producing one another's records, the managers booking and getting deals for them all, Lauder getting Stiff off the ground by donating UA's pressing facilities, etc., etc. And at the center of the whole scene, as the ghost of Brinsley Schwarz, most beloved of pub bands with 8 albums [re-releases are still being done, with 2 LPs and a 45 in recent months] during their six-year span. Most of the ex-members, managers, and associates of this group have found more glory through New Wave and their ability to capitalize on it, than it ever seemed likely they'd attain, and what's more they did it without substantially altering the music they'd been making all along, "punk" notwithstanding. Of them none has become more of a focal point than NICK LOWE, the likeable, quirky, modestly brilliant songwriter/singer/multi-instrumentalist who [with Ian Gomm] was the nucleus of the Brinsleys. Lowe, now 29, has produced more than his share of the classic records of the past two years, co-written most of Dave Edmunds' best songs, fronted one of the most exciting bands—Rockpile—and for the first time in his career become a successful recording artist in his own right with the Jesus of Cool/Pure Pop for Now People album.

A ponderous list of accomplishments, and a perhaps confusing history of involvements, but some indication perhaps of why Lowe seems destined to remain one of the most enduring success stories to come out of British New Wave. And far from being the stereotyped "behind the scenes" sort. Lowe is well equipped to enjoy his position of preeminence. His engaging personality and outspoken views are a refreshing alternative to the tiresome naivete of the punks and the jaded smugness of establishment rockers. In an extensive series of talks with Bobby Abrams, from which his comments here are extracted, Lowe spoke out on a wide range of topics, and as usual, his aim is true... - Ed.

We got the record out and to our amazement it sold very well. This is due to a number of things. Jake Riviera is very shrewd about how and where to advertise and how to appeal and realize that people are going to buy the record. He also knows how to approach them. It was a very cheeky approach at the time, that's what got everyone's imagination...They were sick of all those English groups.

My favorite groups were the Small Faces and the Move. I also liked the Creation and the Who. I was kind of interested in Pink Floyd but I was more interested in American groups. I could never understand how everyone got off on Cream. I've always thought that Ginger Baker was the most useless drummer, he couldn't keep time or anything. I couldn't understand what everyone was talking about. There’s no point inbeing a drummer if you can't keep time. I liked Yes a lot when they first started, when they had Tony Kaye and Peter Banks. I also liked King Crimson when they first started as well. I started liking the American stuff when I heard the first Crosby Stills Nash album. I've never heard anything like it and the second LP as well. I liked the Byrds singles but not their albums. I also like ELO and Cheap Trick. Cheap Trick are the best group I've seen in years. They're great cus they've got a sense of humor. There's so many people who take themselves seriously. Cheap Trick are tight. They got it all covered. They've got two pretty boys and two bozos. It works perfectly...I'd really like to work with them.

Well, I used to like them. What a drag that brilliant man, Brian Wilson, he's such a brilliant and talented guy and now cus he's gone round the twist, no one has taken him seriously. Like what's that bloke's name… Mike Love? Is he the one that wears that hat all the time? What a wanker that bloke is! When he came over to England, I saw him on the television. He was being interviewed and he was like this crass American tourist and he all but said your policemen are wonderful and I just came over here for the girls, you got so many pretty girls here. I thought, for fuck’s sake, what is this wimp doing? He had on this sort of LA beige suit on and the beads around his neck. He just looked like the biggest wanker I'd ever seen. And his stupid little yachting cap! I thought is this the bloke who's supposed to be the Savior? Is this the guy trying to tell Brian Wilson that it's time for him to lie down and take his pills? You know, calm down Brian. Do you wanna do "Johnny B. Goode" in D minor? You can't do that. Why the fuck not? I think that's awful. The man is being swallowed up, he's got all these wimps around him. But obviously you can't knock the Beach Boys for what they've done, even though nowadays I wouldn't cross over the road to buy their records.

For a good musician, I think it's good to have a bit of brains. For instance, one of the best guitar players I know is Martin Belmont from the Rumour, He's rhythm player and he's not really very good lead guitar wise, he's not a virtuoso, but he's got a great sense of his own ability, of what he can do and what he can't do and he operates totally within that. I mean he pushes himself and he operates totally within that because he's intelligent musically. He knows when to play and when not to play. Terry Williams, the drummer from Rockpile, he's the same as Martin Belmont except he's technically better at his instrument than Martin Belmont is on guitar. He's got the same attitude...There's people who are considered to be good musicians who I think are just charlatans and phonies. Fur instance, I'm not into jazz or classical music, I just don't understand it but I know enough about the noise of music to know when somebody is bluffing, when somebody is not a good musician. There's a bloke called Chick Corea who I think is diabolical. I think he's soaked up. I cannot believe that so many people think he's hot. I mean I can't play the piano, but I can play the piano.

They were like a gang, your favourite street gang who happened to play guitars. It didn't really matter if they could or couldn't play, really. Rotten gives the greatest interviews, great quotes. He hit it right on the nail. That's why I like him, he really shook it up. I mean, they were the ones who did it. In England, people are so cynical and they believe in the Pistols. The Pistols were their gods, so if
they got back together again especially after all that they've said about each other in the papers, people would say, "Oh, they're doing it for the money or they're doing it for this or that" but I think Johnny Rotten could do something. I don't know what form it would take, cus Glen used to do most of the tunes, and they were good tunes.

There's so many new bands in England and they're all copying the Sex Pistols. It's such a joke. They might as well be copying Smokie or something. It’s just bandwagon jumping... The Pistols were saying "Why copy me, make you're own thing up. You must be thick if you copy me". I quite agree with that. Why copy somebody else's style, make your own style up… In England clothes fashion and pop music have always been very close. People In England really like to dress up in a style to follow the groups. I used to go see the Small Faces in the mod era, and I had a scooter and spikey haircut and the kids used to go and dress up in the new clothes. That' the thing with the New Wave, that's part of the fun of it, the clothes. The English kids go in for it much more than the kids over here.

Whenever the Ramones or Blondie come over here there's always a few of the Pistols there. It's a drag because it was the same with the Damned as well. When I first met the Damned, I hated their group. I thought they were terrible but it was the fact that other musicians I knew hated them as well. They just didn't think they were a shitty group, they hated them. I thought, well, any group that can stir that emotion up in people must have something going for them so I started going around with them and going to see a few gigs and I changed my mind about them. I thought this was great, it was irritating people so much. It was the same as when the Stones used to come on the television and my old man used to leap out of his chair and change the channel. Also, I thought it was great how those kids of eighteen said, "Oh, Jimmy Page, wanker. He hasn't played a good solo for fucking years. He's just a wanker." And I thought, "Yeah, he is a wanker, you' re quite right", I loved all that. But as soon as the punks started getting famous, they started doing all those things themselves. They were all hanging out with all these pop stars. Take Rod Stewart. Rod's trying to get a bit of New Wave credibility there. They did all that crap the same as the Pistols, they put all this stuff down, and now you see they're the pillars of the establishment. I don't feel like that. I still feel like I'm on the outside of it and that's the way I like to stay. That means l can change my mind, just what ol’ John Rotten's gonna do and that's another reason he's good. He is that guy!

"I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass" was number eight in the disco charts for a couple of weeks, which I think was quite funny, actually. I've got a backing track at the moment in England of a tune that I'm halfway through called" Cigarette". It's an old thing by a group called the Visions and I've rearranged that and it's sort of disco that will be quite good. I’ll put that out when I get around to finishing it.

Obviously, we wanted to go with a record company that was sympathetic to what we're doing and they don't mind cause we've got a few off the wall things we're doing that haven't been done before. I always want to go with people who understand and trust our intuition. Radar is like that. They've put up with a lot of strange ideas, which have worked out. I'm sure that as soon as they stop working out, they're gonna clamp down, same as CBS. But they've really been great. Elvis and I were the first to sign up with them.

The problem with Stiff was when all the bills came in and all the boring stuff; everyone wanted to go down to the gigs and hear the new records and there was no one taking care of the fucking account. So we wanted to go with a record company where we could have a certain amount of freedom, but also have the machinery to take care of all that boring stuff and Radar is a happy medium.
They've got Warner's clout and in England that's very substantial. Also, they've got Martin and Andrew and they're good guys. They understand me and Elvis and Jake and all our little idiosyncrasies.

There is this crossover between pop which is why I started saying to people: "I'm a pop singer." It's kind of a glib phrase since it was very uncool to say you were a pop singer. Elvis' audience, for instance, consists not only of people who are music enthusiasts, but also a lot of young girls who really get off on him like they do with Gary Glitter or did with Marc Bolan: I've never seen that before. I saw it a bit with Dr. Feelgood, they were a bit like that, People were sort of hardcore music fans, yet there were also kids who buy the teen mags and things like that.' That's what happened to Elvis, his audience is just like that I think that's healthy because rock & roll or pop music is the property of young people. Certainly people younger than me.

I think there's a lot of people who could do what I'm doing. I don't think that I'm particularly talented. What I have got which a lot of people don't is an eye for style and for people with style: I can recognize it I don't even think that I have it but I can certainly recognize people who have got it, which I think is a talent in itself. So, I'm just a jack of all trades and master of none. I'm like a music fan and I'm in this position where I can do all of this. I have a very temporary attitude to the whole thing. I don't take it seriously and I don't think it will last forever. As soon as I stop thinking like that, I'll be bad. I don't want to go through all that pop star crap.

(As always, apologies for beaking copyright law, and I'll take it down if you really want me to.)


Anonymous said...

Excuse me while I plug my friends band, Joe Turner & The Seven Levels. They've been described as "indie psych-pop rock" and, as such, perhaps your readers will dig 'em.

Robert G. said...

If he has such an eye for style, how could he possibly like early Yes?

Not power pop, I know, but The Convincer is one of my favourite records of the past few years. Great for drunken sing-alongs.

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