This has been an album that I have wanted for over 30 years. At first, I was indifferent to Lowe’s tuneful New Wave pop since when he popped up on my radar, he was closer to the mainstream than the more contrived [read: synthetic] acts that I was more vividly drawn to. But by the early 80s, I had more time for Lowe and when in the CD era [post ’85 for me] I looked to buy CDs of his when I found them cheaply [as was my M.O. for most things]. That doesn’t mean that I’m hip deep in the things! To this day I have just four Nick Lowe CDs; including this one! It’s his first “solo” album following the early 70s Brinsley Schwartz part of his career. He cut the songs on this while he was busy polishing up early, formative efforts of The Damned, Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, and Wreckless Eric as The Producer. A friend gave me the US LP of this when they moved away in the early 90s, but I was not spinning vinyl much and it got the boot later. If it’s on a CD, I won’t bother playing vinyl, and I’ve been known to wait decades until that CD is in house.
#24 • Nick Lowe: Jesus of Cool DLX RM US CD 
- Music For Money
- I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass
- Little Hitler
- Shake And Pop
- So It Goes
- No Reason
- 36″ High
- Marie Provost
- Nutted By Reality
- Heart Of The City (Live)
- Shake That Rat
- I Love My Label
- They Called It Rock
- Born A Woman
- Endless Sleep
- Halfway To Paradise
- Rollers Show
- Cruel To Be Kind (Original Version)
- Heart Of The City
- I Don’t Want The Night To End
The UK album was of a vastly different sequencing and composition from the US version of this album, non-controversially entitled “Pure Pop For Now People.” The opener, “Music For Money” had what I’d almost call a heavy rock [!] sound for Lowe, but a second listen began triggering thoughts of T-Rex’s “Children Of the Revolution.” The typically cynical lyrical stance was somewhat wasted on the pedestrian [even dire] music.At any rate, an odd one out for him. Far better was a song I never tire of hearing of in this, or any other, form. “I Love The Sound of Breaking Glass” was at least in my Record Cell for years in the form of a great Marti Jones cover on her “My Long Haired Life” album of 1996. Unca Nick’s version is every bit as wonderful and the slight disco rhythm section on this gave it a boost into the pop zone. The arrangement makes me think of side one of Bowie’s “Low,” ironically enough [I’ll explain later for those in the dark]. I can easily imagine the instrumentation changed to an ARP and with the drums run through the Eventide Harmonizer… oh yeah! A song right off of “Low.”
“Shake + Pop” would show up as the B-side to “Little Hitler” as played by Rockpile under the Dave Edmunds bestowed title of “They Called It Rock.” “Tonight” I’ve knows since almost day one from Lene Lovich’s cover version on her “Stateless” album. I have to say that as much as Marti Jones maintains the high standard that Lowe established with “Breaking Glass,” I still prefer what Ms. Lovich brought to the song. I guess it just sounds like a woman’s song to me after 39 years.
I’ve also had a copy of “So It Goes” in Lowe’s original version for almost 20 years on a great Rhino New Wave comp; “D.I.Y. UK Pop Vol 1.” The arrangement sort of reminds me of Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ In The Years” to this day, but it’s an infectious pop number with deep, barbed hooks that don’t quit. “No Reason” was a shocker as it was the first [and so far, only] time that I’d heard Lowe dip his toe into reggae style. Given that the backing band on this cut was The Rumour, and Graham Parker was never shy about dabbling, I’ll put it down to their influence. The whole thing comes within a hair’s breadth of the vibe on “Watching The Detectives;” one of Lowe’s more famous productions.
“Marie Provost” was another song I was familiar from the great Rhino D.I.Y. series [“UK Pop Vol. 2”] and this one was also on Nick’s “Bowi” EP. So called because after writing a song called “Breaking Glass,” someone told him that Bowie had just put a song with that title out on an album called “Low” so Nick felt the least he could do in response was to release a record where he misspelt Bowie’s name as a wiseguy tit-fot-tat. The sweet harmonies here belied Nick’s recounting of Marie’s ghoulish canine dining on his expired mistress.
Things moved quickly in ’77-’78 and Nick had a brace of non-LP A/B sides and all of them are here, with the exception of a Dutch only 7″, and those tracks were included as DLs with the album as released in 2008… for at least a year with the DL available for about a year. Thus making my very late purchase a non event for “Keep It Out Of Sight” and “[I’ve Been Taking The] Truth Drug.” Grrrrr. On a happier note, the “Bowi” EP had three wildly diverse B-ides; all present here. “Shake That Rat” was a revelation! I have never heard bass-led instro surf rock… until now! This makes Nick’s linkup with Los Straitjackets seem much more natural [thought I’ve seen both live together and they geet on like a house on fire]. “Born A Woman” sounded like a 60s country song from the pen of Martha Sharp and “Endless Sleep” is the oddest song I’ve ever heard from Lowe. It sounded like his take on “Please Mr. Gravedigger,” the primordial Bowie song from ’67. It also opened with sound effects and Lowe sounded as if he was in your closet, barely singing this weirdly intimate death-rock song with almost no accompaniment and a plodding 30 BPM!
“They Called It Rock” was the retitled “Shake + Pop” with accompaniment in a rockabilly via Rockpile instead of The Rumour. “I Love My Label” was a gut-busting love song to Stiff Records as chronicled on “A Bunch Of Stiffs” the previous year. “Halfway To Paradise” and “I Don’t Want The Night To End” were a stand-alone single. The former a Goffin-King cover. That one felt a little left field for Nick.
More appropriate was the hilarity of The Tartan Horde’s “Rollers Show.” Nick’s pseudonymous possible tribute/probable rip on the mid-70s Scottish sensations that was a single only in Japan and the Netherlands. I’m certain that the sales in Japan were to Roller’s fans but if you didn’t know anything about Lowe’s personality, you wouldn’t know it could be anything but a glassy-eyed Rollers pastiche/tribute. Brilliant stuff that for some reason Columbia put on the US copy of “Pure Pop For Now People” even though Americans might not have gotten the joke.
The “Little Hitler” B-side was the early, wimpier version of “Cruel To Be Kind” made without the pop chops that made the second version Nick’s only Top 20 US hit the next year. There’s no comparison to these ears. And for some reason, the LP had a blistering, twice as long live take of “Heart Of The City” leaving the original studio cut as a B-side instead. That was a lot of bonus tracks squeezed onto this CD! Any other less succinct artist would have had these 21 songs on two discs, but not Nick Lowe!
This was pretty much a hoot from start to finish. The melange of tunes had many of them recorded at Pathway Studios, where John Foxx would decamp to make “Metamatic” by late 1979. The modest 8-track sound serves these quick bursts of pop well, even if the production seems a little muffled on some of these. Nick Lowe was called “Basher” for his propensity to get it all down on tape pretty fast, and this portion of his career was rife with the goods of an performer who was finally coming onto his own both as a producer and artiste in the ’77-’78 timespan as captured on this disc.
CONCLUSION: enjoy… a lot