JF: Just found this sweet doc about Stiff Records, a UK indie label best known for discovering Elvis Costello. We had the pleasure of working closely with Stiff co-founder Dave Robinson on Mink Car–and that association was a genuine thrill for me. This doc brought back a tremendous number very powerful memories for me as a teenage record fan. Below are a series of youtube clips, many without much going on visually, but the music is worth listening to.
Nick Lowe was the first artist signed to Stiff and seemed to function as their house producer. “I Love My Label” is typical of his arch sensibility, and his keen sense of a straight forward groove delivered with conviction and a simple, catchy melody.
In one lucky month in the summer of 1977 I got to travel to the UK. Buying 7″ singles and on a bit of a pub crawl, I went to see Elvis Costello at the Nashville Room–largely based on his unusual name (an idea that seems impossible to me now) Evidently the show was actually Costello’s professional debut. And yes, it was a pretty great show.
There were MANY singular acts on Stiff, and all of them seemed to have a wonderful sense of what a pop song really was about.
Kirsty MacColl’s single They Don’t Know is another great example–and even now it’s spark just floors me.
It was pop music for sure–and pop music can really be great–as this inspired track by Madness (produced by Langer/Wnstanley who were behind the board for some big tracks off of Flood)
Stiff went on to have some glorious hits, some glorious flops and ultimately be swept away by some distribution deal gone sideways. But when I think back on that time, those discs still make me smile and think anything is possible….
And the fact that this Jona Lewie song–inspired but really quite odd–was a genuine hit on Top of the Pops proves it–
As spectacular as Elvis Costello’s talent is, there was something wonderfully direct about Nick Lowes sensibility that has always appealed to me. He has progressed as an artist and now puts out more beautiful, gentle albums of introspective songs. This is a melancholy masterpiece he wrote somewhere in the transitional years between being a brash pub rocker and his mellower, more respectable persona of recent years.
“Patently unclear if it’s New York or New Year” is a hell of a lyric…