Certain Songs #1332: Nick Lowe – “Heart of the City (Live)”

Album: Jesus of Cool
Year: 1978

So let’s get even more convoluted, shall we? While I prefer the U.S. Pure Pop for Now People to the U.K. Jesus of Cool, I definitely prefer the live version of “Heart of the City” that showed up on the later to the studio version on the former.

Why? While the studio version of “Heart of The City” is perfectly fine — it was recorded at the same session as “So It Goes,” so there was definitely magic in the air — it’s lacking a key component found in the live version: Rockpile.

We’re in the heart of the city
Where the alligator roams
I’m a little lost lamb
Ain’t got no place to go
I ain’t got one penny
Just got a shirt on my back
I left home in a hurry
I ain’t never goin’ back
I’m lookin’ for a lover
In the heart of the city

In both versions, Nick’s lyrics of a neophyte in the big city still ring true, though his character has a better run of it than the guy in Stevie Wonder’s “Living For The City, and indeed, has a experience that’s closer to the guy in “Take it Easy.”

Well I’m a standin’ on the street
And I’m a steppin’ off the end
Yeah I’m lookin’ for a lover
Lookin’ lookin’ everywhere
Maybe I’m in with a chance
I hear a clickety clack
There’s a girl my Lord
I see her stop
Check
Turn and double back
I’m lookin’ for a lover
In the heart of the city

But in the live version, Rockpile are playing it at punk rock speed, while still able to do a stop-time on a dime during “stop. check. turn and double back” sequence. And they’re totally on fire throughout: Terry Williams kicks it off with a merciless double-time, and Dave Edmunds outraces him with white-hot razor-sharp leads, and there’s even a neat moment prior towhere Edmunds and Billy Bremner twist leads in and around each other while Williams practically throws his drums at them.

Meanwhile, Nick Lowe foreshadows the carnal concerns that will dominate his next album.

We’re in the heart of the city
We’re in the heart of the stars
I hear the crash of music
And a thousand guitars
And the boys are on the prowl
And they’re checkin’ the meat
They know a bird up in the hand
Is worth two out on the streets
Checkin’ the meat
In the heart of the city

It’s a Ramones-level combination utterly ferocious and utterly funny, but with a shitton of lead guitar, and just goes to show what a great band can do for a song. And that great band was just about to do their greatest work.

“Heart of the City (Live)”

“Heart of the City (Studio)”

“Heart of the City” performed live in Sweden, 1978

The Certain Songs Database
A filterable, searchable & sortable somewhat up to date database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

Comments are closed.