Saturday, March 28, 2009

You Know Who's Great? Nick Lowe

[Postscript added!]

You know how some Native-Americans assigned people "animal spirit" names to honor their connection to nature? If people were assigned pop spirits instead, honoring their connection to the sacred stereo, I think I'd be He Who Digs Nick Lowe. For me, it's the whole romantic disposition, the scalpel-sharp wit, the air-tight hooks, the warm, distinct production and wide-ranging genre-hopping -- it all adds up to a kind of musico-spiritual kinship. (Not that I'm worthy, but I try to live up to the example of my pop spirit.)

This was hammered home once again when I found Nick the Nife (1982) in a vinyl bin up in New Hampshire a couple weeks ago. Funny story, that: I was in a place called Bull Moose Records, which is a regional chain started in Brunswick, Maine, in 1989. I only know this because I moved to Maine in 1989 and was wandering around the sleepy village a few weeks before starting college when I found a tiny music shop on a back street with two greasy Bowdoin grads on the floor opening cases of new cassette tapes. The store was probably 14 feet by 14 feet, carpeted, florescent lights overhead, and the sole product was cassette tapes. I remember the guys were living in the back room in sleeping bags. It was barely a store, really. I was a new kid in town but happened to have a superior attitude about punk rock and so I started up a conversation, jibber-jabbering about Bad Brains and wiling away the afternoon trying to be cool. I wanted them to like me and I bought a Sonic Youth cassette. I think I probably showed up every day for the rest of the summer, too.

Well, you know how this story ends: They have this massive chain of record stores now. And they're great shops, too, lots of vinyl, packed with bored college kids wiling away their afternoons surfing the bins. What's the Maine motto? The way life should be. Anyway, I found this amazing Nick Lowe album there and now have to listen to these three songs over and over and over and over again because they're just so damned frickin perfect.

Heart - Nick Lowe

Let Me Kiss Ya - Nick Lowe

Raining Raining - Nick Lowe

And check out the completely different version of "Heart" from the Nick Lowe/Dave Edmunds supergroup Rockpile that came out the year before, it's also sensational:

Heart - Rockpile

Finally: I also found a vinyl copy of Rod Stewart's Never a Dull Moment (1972) at a used book store down the block and was rewarded with that increasingly rare music-lovers high that junkies absolutely need to live: a song that captures that mysterious amalgam of nostalgia and triumph and hits that least-expected-to-be-hit button just when you need it hit and the way you need it hit:

Lost Paraguayos - Rod Stewart



Chris said...

I'm sure at least some of you saw Nick Lowe recently on Austin City Limits. In the interview clip he said that he had always been a fan of "old guy" music, something that is exquisitely clear in his new song "I Read a Lot" (the following YouTube video has a long blabbering intro and bad picture but A+ sound) The rock star pants really never fit, which is probably why these older songs still sound so good. Thanks for the links.

Lefty said...

Funny, I saw him play "I Read a Lot" last year and was so in love with the song that I learned it on guitar. I enjoy thinking that my kinship with Nick Lowe just means I'm prematurely old inside.

Happy In Bag said...

I love the sound of breaking glass.

Chris said...

Indeed, very nice atmospherics, bottles knocked over, someone saying "what? I read a lot?".

What's old is new to the young. Pretty soon it's going to be really cool to be 70. Actually, I guess Nick Lowe is as likely a poster child for this new hipness as anybody . . . back to the rock star pants.

Lefty said...

Tweed flat-front slacks are the new rock star pants.

Chris said...

Amen, brother.