Certain Songs #1334: Nick Lowe – “American Squirm”

Album: Labour of Lust
Year: 1979

Nick Lowe had a pretty fucking great 1979, even beyond the success of “Cruel to Be Kind.”

Not only did he record and release two albums with Rockpile — his own Labour of Lust and and Dave Edmunds’ Repeat When Necessary — he also found time to produce his fourth Elvis Costello album in three years, Get Happy!!, all of which was part of his D.I.Y. aesthetic, a philosophy that has stuck with me to this day.

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Certain Songs #1333: Nick Lowe – “Cruel to Be Kind”

Album: Labour of Lust
Year: 1979

Why “Cruel to Be Kind”??

Without dismissing it as a song — it’s a great pop song on every level — out of all of the great power-pop songs floating around in 1979, how is it that “Cruel to Be Kind” became a massive hit, peaking a #12 not just here in the U.S., but also in the U.K., Australia, Canada and New Zealand?

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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.

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Certain Songs #1331: Nick Lowe – “So It Goes”

Album: Pure Pop for Now People
Year: 1976

Yes, I realize that Jesus of Cool is a much better album title than Pure Pop For Now People, but I will argue to my grave that the U.S. configuration — which added “Rollers Show” and used the studio version of “Heart in the City” instead of the live one — is far superior to the original U.K. edition, especially in terms of sequencing.

And that’s because Pure Pop for Now People almost instantly justifies its title by leading off with “So It Goes,” a serious contender for the greatest power pop song ever recorded.

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Certain Songs #1330: Nick Lowe – “Let’s Eat (Live)”

Album: Live Stiffs Live
Year: 1978

One of the first indie labels to be established in the U.K. as punk rock started exploding, Stiff Records almost instantly established a formidable stable of musicians who for the most part weren’t quite as noisy as the Sex Pistols or The Clash, but were certainly indebted to the sudden musical freedom that came in the wake of punk.

Establishing a tone with their very first single, Nick Lowe’s immortal “So It Goes” (which I’ll be writing about tomorrow), Stiff Records alternated cheeky marketing — “If it ain’t Stiff, it ain’t worth a fuck! — with seriously groundbreaking music.

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