The Sunday Dozen: Nick Lowe

I’ve been a Nick Lowe fan for longer than I care to admit. I first saw him with Dave Edmunds and Rockpile in the late 1970’s. I wish I could say I was in utero, but nobody would buy that, right?

Nick has always been on the periphery of rock stardom but never quite made it. I think it’s because he’s too funny. I like funny song and album titles, but many do not. What’s not to love about Jesus of Cool, The Abominable Showman, or Nick The Knife?

His record companies supported him throughout the 1980’s. John Hiatt promo videos are scare. Nick Lowe videos are plentiful and dot the landscape of this post.

For many years, Nick supported himself as a producer of such artists as Elvis Costello, John Hiatt, Graham Parker, and his ex-wife Carlene Carter and her stepfather Johnny Cash.

The first real money Nick Lowe made off his music is when Curtis Stigers’ cover of (What’s So Funny Bout) Peace Love and Understanding was selected for the hit film The Bodyguard. Nick was able to bask in Whitney Houston’s reflected glory: the soundtrack album was a smash hit and provided a nest-egg for Nick.

With one exception, I’ve focused on Nick’s solo work, which means no Brinsley Schwarz, which was his first major gig. His most famous song from those days was mentioned above and will turn up as lagniappe at the end of this post.

I should hate Nick because he still has good hair, but I don’t and can’t. It’s all about the music.

This was another tough one. I started off with 25-30 songs. Nick has written many fine ballads in the 21st Century but my taste runs to rockers.

As always, the songs are arranged in chronological order and reflect, for good or ill, my own personal taste.

We begin at the beginning with So It Goes from Nick’s debut solo album, Jesus Of Cool. It always makes me think of Kurt Vonnegut. So it goes.

I’ve often paired Marie Provost on mix tapes/CDs with Warren Zevon’s Excitable Boy. It, too, is a cheerful tune about murder most foul, “Poor, poor Marie.”

Cruel To Be Kind is the biggest radio/MTV hit of Nick’s commercially checkered career. In this case, his wit proved profitable.

When I Write The Book comes from Rockpile’s Seconds of Pleasure album. It’s given me with hours of pleasure.

This is the only time I’ll cheat on this list. These two songs are back-to-back on the same album and reflect Nick’s disdain for sexist rock and roll posturing. I give you Time Wounds All Heels and Man of a Fool.

The organizing principle of Half A Boy Half A Man is Paul Carrack’s organ. I’m talking about the instrument, not the body part. Please remove your minds from the gutter.

The Rose Of England is one of Nick’s loveliest mid-tempo songs, “So says the Rose of England.”

Nick wrote I Knew The Bride (When She Used To Rock and Roll) but his Rockpile colleague Dave Edmunds popularized it.

What is it with Nick Lowe and parenthetical titles? Beats the hell outta me.

All Men Are Liars comes from one of my favorite Nick Lowe albums, Party Of One, “Do you remember Rick Astley, he had a big fat hit, it was ghastly.”

We have two songs from The Impossible Bird. First, Soulful Wind which has been a semi-frequent live opener. It’s soulful but not windy.

How could I omit 12-Step Program (To Quit You Babe) from the Nick Lowe Dozen? In addition to being parenthetical, it’s one of Nick’s funniest songs. He really wields the knife on this one.

Finally, my favorite number from Nick’s 21st Century balladeer period, Indian Queens.

It’s lagniappe time. This week, covers of two of Nick’s finest songs by Elvis Costello followed by Johnny Cash. The Beast In Me was used in an episode of The Sopranos. David Chase has great taste in music.

I haven’t done a closing meme for this feature before. I was convinced that WP’s social media sharing thing would decapitate Nick if I used it as the featured image, but the picture is too good not to use.

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