Entertainment behind the scenes
Friends In Lowe Places
When Elvis Costello was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003, he expressed dismay from the podium how his one-time mentor Nick Lowe could be excluded from the revered ranks of luminaries.
So it made sense when Costello made a surprise appearance during the encore of Lowe’s New York concert at the Manhattan Center Wednesday night. Costello and Lowe dueted on “Indoor Fireworks,” a song Costello penned for Lowe for his 1985 album The Rose Of England. Then Costello, Lowe and opening act Robyn Hitchcock performed spirited versions of “Hungry For Love,” the 1963 hit by Johnny Kidd & The Pirates; “If I Fell” by the Beatles; and “Mystery Train,” the Junior Parker/Elvis Presley classic (although their version was closer to The Band’s 1973 cover version).
For most of his career, Lowe has toiled in the shadows of his proteges, such as Costello, the Pretenders and the Damned. His own energetic power-pop songs were often too acerbic, and let’s face it, too smart for American radio. Outside of his 1979 Top 20 hit “Cruel To Be Kind,” he’s probably best known for penning Costello’s anthem “(What’s So Funny Bout) Peace Love and Understanding.”
But Lowe’s influence stretches further. His band from the early 70s Brinsley Schwarz was the best known band of a strain of British pop music known as pub rock, a hybrid of R&B and country with often irreverent lyrics that formed an important precursor to punk rock. Lowe’s proto-punk 1976 single “So It Goes” b/w “Heart Of The City” pre-dated the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy In The U.K.” by three months. With Dave Edmunds, he formed Rockpile, one of greatest of the roots-rock bands to emerge from the 1970s. As the house producer for the legendary independent label Stiff Records, he produced Costello’s first three albums — My Aim Is True, This Years Model, and Armed Forces – his most successful and arguably his best.
Lowe’s latest album, At My Age (Yep Roc Records) follows in the more mellow vein of his last three albums. Eschewing the aggressive sound he was known for in the 70s and 80s, he has added more blues, country and even jazz influences to the mix. The result is a rich and smoky sound, not unlike the late Arthur Alexander. His wit remains in full display with “I’ve Trained Her To Love Me” and “Long Limbed Girl.”
But for those who long for the classic sound of “pure pop for now people,” as he described it back in 1978, Yep Roc has also reissued his debut album Jesus Of Cool in celebration of the 30th anniversary of its original release. It’s essential listening for any fan of Costello or 70s New Wave music.
(Photo: Derek Caney, Reuters)