Certain Songs #1335: Nick Lowe – “Skin Deep”

Album: Labour of Lust
Year: 1979

My favorite song on Labour of Lust, and along with “So It Goes,” my favorite Nick Lowe song period, “Skin Deep” is a yet another incredibly cynical look at love and sex.

It’s also a perfect microcosm of what made Rockpile such a great band: songs that had great basslines, powerful drum parts, weird harmonies, and floated on mattresses of acoustic guitars with electric guitars serving as decoration or stingers.

And so it went with “Skin Deep,” which also boasted a modified Bo Diddley beat on the verses as Nick Lowe almost sighed through an opening verse — only verse, really — that is still one of my favorite lyrics ever written:

Promises promised
In a moment of passion
Melt in the morning
And soon forgotten
Forever and ever
Is just a fun idea
Love and affection
Of the coveted kind
Is just belly to belly
But never eye to eye
A moment to treasure
Is just a matter of time

And there is so much going on during that verse: the melody line, of course, but also Dave Edmunds’ long arching processed “ahhhhhhhhhss” halfway through the verse, Terry Williams sneaking in quick drum rolls here and there, and then going into double-time as they switch gears for the chorus

Skin deep
The way you shake my hand
And bleed so bland
Engulf my gland
Skin deep, skin deep
Skin deep, skin deep, skin deep
Heaven is here, but only
Skin deep

The rest of the song is basically a mashup of that verse and the chorus, with a slightly-long-than-usual Billy Bremner guitar solo to break things up and hide the fact that Nick only wrote a single verse for the song. But, as I mentioned before, it’s a hell of a verse, and more importantly, a pretty cool groove.

Which is why the last minute of the song is basically the riff with Terry Williams tossing in rolls as somebody repeats “Doo do do do doo skin deep” in a deep voice over and over until the fade. With guitars and vocal effects crashing on the top, that ending is equal parts lovely and hypnotic, and back in 1980 after I bought Labor of Lust, a perfect capper to a great side of music.

“Skin Deep”

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