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Nick Lowe

As the leader of the seminal pub rockers Brinsley Schwarz, a producer, and a solo artist, Nick Lowe held considerable influence over the development of punk rock. With the Brinsleys, Lowe began a back-to-basics movement that flowered into punk rock in the late '70s. As the house producer for Stiff, he recorded many seminal records by the likes of the Damned, Elvis Costello, and the Pretenders. His rough, ragged production style earned him the nickname "Basher" and also established the amateurish, D.I.Y. aesthetics of punk. Despite his massive influence on punk rock, Lowe was never really a punk rocker. He was concerned with bringing back the tradition of three-minute pop singles and hard-driving rock & roll, but he subverted his melodic songcraft with a nasty sense of humor. His early solo singles and albums, Jesus of Cool and Labour of Lust, overflowed with hooks, bizarre jokes, and an infectious energy that made them some of the most acclaimed pop records of the new wave era. As new wave began to fade away in the early '80s, Lowe began to explore roots rock, eventually becoming a full-fledged country-rocker in the '90s. While he never had another hit after 1980's "Cruel to Be Kind," his records found a devoted cult audience and were often critically praised.

The son of a British Royal Air Force officer, Lowe spent part of his childhood stationed in the Middle East before his family settled in Kent. As a teenager, he played in a variety of bands, including Three's a Crowd and Sounds 4 Plus 1, with his friend, guitarist Brinsley Schwarz. In 1965, the pair formed the guitar pop band Kippington Lodge, which landed a contract with Parlophone Records the following year. Over the next four years, the group released five singles, none of which received much attention. In 1969, Kippington Lodge evolved into the country-rock band Brinsley Schwarz, who secured a record contract with United Artists the following year. At the outset of their career, the Brinsleys attempted to gain fame by holding a showcase concert at the Fillmore East, but the publicity stunt backfired, making them outcasts from the British music scene by the time their first album was released. Over the next five years, the group slowly built a following as the leading exponents of pub rock, a back-to-basics movement of good-time rock & roll that found a niche in the early '70s.

With their unassuming appearance and unpretentious music, pub rockers set the stage for punk rock in the late '70s, not only by relying on three-chord rock & roll, but also establishing a circuit of pubs to play. Of all the old-guard pub rockers, Lowe was the most significant in the development of punk rock. By the time Brinsley Schwarz broke up in 1975, he had already gained a reputation as an excellent, eccentric songwriter, and he was beginning to produce artists like Graham Parker, Dr. Feelgood, and the Kursaal Flyers. At the time, his songwriting was veering away from the country-rock and bluesy rock that distinguished his Brinsley work, and he was beginning to write inventive pop songs. Lowe wanted to leave United Artists, but the label refused to let him go, so he proceeded to record a series of deliberately unmarketable singles in hopes of getting kicked off the label. The first was "Bay City Rollers We Love You," a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the teen pop sensations credited to the Tartan Horde. Inexplicably, the single became a hit in Japan -- the Japanese branch of UA even asked for a full album -- and the label kept him as an artist. However, after "Let's Go to the Disco," credited to the Disco Brothers, UA dropped him from the label.

After leaving UA, Lowe became the first artist on Jake Riviera and Dave Robinson's fledgling independent label Stiff Records, as well as the label's in-house producer. Recorded for just 65 pounds and released in the summer of 1976, "So It Goes"/"Heart of the City" became the first British proto-punk single of the late '70s, earning glowing reviews if not sales. Lowe began producing records at a rapid rate, helming the Damned's debut album, Damned Damned Damned -- the first British punk album -- and Costello's My Aim Is True in 1977; he would produce all of Costello's albums between My Aim Is True and 1981's Trust. Lowe also produced singles by Wreckless Eric, the Rumour, and Alberto y los Trios Paranoias, as well as Graham Parker's early albums. In the summer, he became part of Dave Edmunds' touring band Rockpile, which would become his backing band within a year. He also released the Bowi EP (a play on the title of David Bowie's Low LP) in 1977, and toured with the Stiff package tour Live Stiffs before leaving the label with Costello to join Riviera's new label, Radar Records.

Lowe released his debut album, Jesus of Cool (retitled Pure Pop for Now People for its American release), in 1978, which featured his first British Top Ten hit, "(I Love the Sound Of) Breaking Glass." The single "American Squirm" was released in the fall of 1978 to little success. After producing the Pretenders' debut single, "Stop Your Sobbing," Lowe recorded his second album, Labour of Lust, supported by Rockpile; Edmunds' Repeat When Necessary was recorded at the same session. Labour of Lust featured Lowe's one big American hit, "Cruel to Be Kind," which was a reworked version of an old Brinsley Schwarz song. Between the recording and touring in 1979, Lowe married Carlene Carter, the stepdaughter of Johnny Cash; he would produce her albums Musical Shapes (1980) and Blue Nun (1981).

Lowe and Edmunds toured with Rockpile to support their respective 1979 albums, and the pair were the subject of the BBC documentary Born Fighters later that year. Rockpile became notorious for their wild, frequently drunken performances and their spirited selection of originals and obscure covers. In 1980, the bandmembers decided to record an album together, but the sessions were plagued by tension between Lowe and Edmunds. Seconds of Pleasure, the group's lone album, was released in the fall of 1980 to mixed reviews; it generated one hit single, the Eddie Phillips-written "Teacher Teacher." Rockpile split only months after the release of Seconds of Pleasure, with the remaining members choosing to support Edmunds on his solo album.

Lowe returned with Nick the Knife in February of 1982, supporting the album with a band featuring guitarist Martin Belmont and keyboardist Paul Carrack; the group was first called the Chaps, but their name changed to Noise to Go during the American tour. Nick the Knife was a moderate hit, but its follow-up, 1983's The Abominable Showman, was a flop. Lowe retaliated by shifting his music toward roots rock on his 1984 album And His Cowboy Outfit. Both Cowboy Outfit and its 1985 successor, Rose of England, were greeted with positive reviews and improved sales; the former featured his last U.K. hit, "Half a Boy Half a Man," and the latter featured his last U.S. hit, a reworking of his chestnut "I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock & Roll)." In 1986, he reunited with Costello to produce Blood & Chocolate. The album was one of many records -- including efforts by the Fabulous Thunderbirds, John Hiatt, and Paul Carrack -- he produced in the '80s.

During much of the mid-'80s, Lowe suffered from alcohol abuse, but with the assistance of his old mates Costello and Riviera, he recovered and gave up looking for a crossover pop hit, concentrating on country-rock and roots rock. Pinker and Prouder Than Previous (1988) was the first indication of this shift in style, but the record largely went unnoticed. Produced by Dave Edmunds, Party of One (1990) became his first charting album since 1985. Later that year, Lowe divorced Carter. The following year, he formed the supergroup Little Village with John Hiatt, Ry Cooder, and Jim Keltner; all of the musicians played on Hiatt's 1987 breakthrough album, Bring the Family. Little Village were fraught with tension, and their eponymous 1992 album and its supporting tour suffered as a result. The group disbanded upon the tour's conclusion. While he was working on material for a new album, Lowe's Brinsley Schwarz composition "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding," which had previously been a hit for Costello, was covered by Curtis Stigers for the soundtrack to Whitney Houston's film The Bodyguard. The album became the biggest-selling soundtrack album in history and, in the process, Lowe unexpectedly became a millionaire from the songwriting royalties.

Lowe made a comeback in 1994 with the straight country album The Impossible Bird. Hailed as his finest effort in years, the album became a hit in the burgeoning Americana movement in the U.S., and he supported the album with his first solo tour in five years; his touring band featured former Commander Cody guitarist Bill Kirchen. In 1998, Lowe returned with Dig My Mood, followed by a series of three albums for Yep Roc: 2001's The Convincer, 2004's live Untouched Takeaway, and 2007's At My Age. His fourth outing for the label, The Old Magic, followed in 2011 to bigger sales numbers than his other Yep Roc titles due to nearly universal critical acclaim. Two years later, Lowe returned with Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection for All the Family, his first collection of Christmas music. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
full bio

Selected Discography


Track List: My Heart Hurts (Single)

1. My Heart Hurts


Track List: The Old Magic

1. Stoplight Roses

2. Checkout Time

3. House For Sale

4. Sensitive Man

5. I Read A Lot

6. Shame On The Rain

7. Restless Feeling

8. The Poisoned Rose

9. Somebody Cares For Me

10. You Don't Know Me At All

11. 'Til The Real Thing Comes Along


Track List: Quiet Please: The New Best Of Nick Lowe

1. (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love And Understanding

2. So It Goes

3. Heart Of The City

4. Endless Sleep

5. Marie Provost

6. I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass

7. Cracking Up

8. American Squirm

9. Cruel To Be Kind

10. Without Love

11. You Make Me

12. When I Write The Book

13. Play That Fast Thing (One More Time)

14. Burning

15. Heart

16. Man That I've Become

17. Raining Raining

18. Ragin' Eyes

19. Mess Around With Love

20. Wish You Were Here

21. L.A.F.S.

22. Half A Boy And Half A Man

23. The Gee And The Rick And The Three Card Trick

24. The Rose Of England

25. I Knew The Bride (When She Used To Rock And Roll)

26. Wishing Well

27. Lovers Jamboree

28. Shting-Shtang

29. All Men Are Liars

30. What's Shakin' On The Hill

31. Don't Think About Her

32. Fool Who Knows

33. Soulful Wind

34. The Beast In Me

35. I Live On A Battlefield

36. Shelley My Love

37. You Inspire Me

38. Lonesome Reverie

39. Faithless Lover

40. What Lack Of Love Has Done

41. Lately I've Let Things Slide

42. Homewrecker

43. Has She Got A Friend?

44. Let's Stay In And Make Love

45. Indian Queens

46. I Trained Her To Love Me

47. People Change

48. Long Limbed Girl

49. Hope For Us All


Track List: At My Age

1. A Better Man

2. Long Limbed Girl

3. I Trained Her To Love Me

4. The Club

5. Hope For Us All

6. People Change

7. A Man In Love

8. Love's Got A Lot To Answer For

9. Rome Wasn't Built In A Day

10. Not Too Long Ago

11. The Other Side Of The Coin

12. Feel Again


Track List: The Convincer

1. Homewrecker

2. Only A Fool Breaks His Own Heart

3. Lately I've Let Things Slide

4. She's Got Soul

5. Cupid Must Be Angry

6. Indian Queens

7. Poor Side Of Town

8. I'm A Mess

9. Between Dark And Dawn

10. Bygones (Won't Go)

11. Has She Got A Friend?

12. Let's Stay In And Make Love


Track List: Dig My Mood

1. Faithless Lover

2. Lonesome Reverie

3. You Inspire Me

4. What Lack Of Love Has Done

5. Time I Took A Holiday

6. Failed Christian

7. Man That I've Become

8. Freezing

9. High On A Hilltop

10. Lead Me Not

11. I Must Be Getting Over You

12. Cold Grey Light Of Dawn


Track List: The Impossible Bird

1. Soulful Wind

2. The Beast In Me

3. True Love Travels On A Gravel Road

4. Trail Of Tears

5. Shelley My Love

6. Where's My Everything?

7. 12-Step Program (To Quit You Babe)

8. Lover Don't Go

9. Drive-Thru Man

10. Withered On The Vine

11. I Live On A Battlefield

12. 14 Days

13. I'll Be There


Track List: Basher: The Best Of Nick Lowe

1. So It Goes

2. Heart Of The City

3. (I Love The Sound Of) Breaking Glass

4. Little Hitler

5. No Reason

6. 36 Inches High

7. Marie Provost

8. American Squirm

9. Cracking Up

10. Big Kick, Plain Scrap

11. Born Fighter

12. Switch Board Susan

13. Without Love

14. Cruel To Be Kind

15. When I Write The Book

16. Heart

17. Raging Eyes

19. Maureen

20. Half A Boy & Half A Man

21. 7 Nights To Rock

22. She Don't Love Nobody

23. The Rose Of England

25. Lovers Jamboree


Track List: Labour Of Lust

1. Cruel To Be Kind

2. Cracking Up

3. Big Kick, Plain Scrap!

4. American Squirm

5. Born Fighter

6. You Make Me

7. Skin Deep

8. Switchboard Susan

9. Endless Grey Ribbon

10. Without Love

11. Dose Of You

12. Love So Fine

13. Basing Street


Track List: Jesus Of Cool

1. Music For Money

2. I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass

3. Little Hitler

4. Shake And Pop

5. Tonight

6. So It Goes

7. No Reason

8. 36 Inches High

9. Marie Provost

10. Nutted By Reality

11. Heart Of The City (Live)

12. Shake That Rat

13. I Love My Label

14. They Called It Rock

15. Born A Woman

16. Endless Sleep

17. Halfway To Paradise

18. Rollers Show

19. Cruel To Be Kind (Original Version)

20. Heart Of The City

21. I Don't Want The Night To End


Report as inappropriate
If you're interested in rock history, check out the band Brinsley Schwarz--Low e was vocalist and bass player. They called it pub rock, but it's great English pop with a hint of American C+W, and superb playing all around.
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Yeah, Tony Orlando Lol
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I caught Nick's Birchsmere show last year. Pure magic. Just Nick on stage, solo, acoustic
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He lyrically has the greatest sense of humor and play. It started for me with Pure Pop/Jesus of Cool (depending on what side of the pond!) Bay City Rollers and it is interspersed in a lot of his music. He does it all great.
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not bad but not as good as Tony Orlando
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Yep, he produced some for Elvis Costello and many other folks. I saw NIck Lowe and Rockpile open for Tom Petty at the Nassau Coliseum on L.I. NY in 1982 and my memories are that it was pretty keen, the entire show both acts kicked serious butt. And please guys, let's not beat up on some young music fans who are only discovering Nick now; let's even be glad that someone that young is even LISTENING to Nick Lowe. Considering the wretched miserable trash considered most modern pop music nowadays.
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Met Nick Lowe at the Bear's Laire at Cal Berkeley in 1977 :-)
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Raging Eyes and Cruel to be Kind NEVER get old; LOVE those songs!
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Nick Lowe really is the Jesus of Cool.
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A true treasure!
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Just saw him open for Wilco. Fantastic!
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Owen, if you're 14 and listening to Nick Lowe then you're a cool dude.
Report as inappropriate
@Sarah Mahany: Jeez, calm down. I was asking a simple question, alright? I like his music too, but I'm only 14, so I wasn't even alive when he recorded most of his stuff. Also, I like his hair.
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I hear you knockin'
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people sure are ig'nant. Nick Lowe is one of the greats. One of those people that made this "melodic pop type stuff" cool.
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Thanx Sarah,
Who are these people,indee d . I've had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Lowe with Rockpile, opening for Elvis, and solo a few times... the best of the best!!!!!!!!
i know ignorance is bliss but puhlease
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Cruel to be Kind is a great song..Who really cares what his hair looks like.. I'd go see him play and sing..
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okay-all comments about this guys hair as so absurd. Also-he did a song about firecrackers that I just can't find. Nowhere. It's not 'breaking glass'...any w a y . Tried to get into the Birchmere in Wash DC to see this minor God..but no luck. Jesus of Cool. Absolutely. Rewrote everything about rock and roll. 'Did he produce some for Elvis Costello?" Who are you people?
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brother brazole got soul
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didn't he produce some for Elvis Costello?
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Nick is currently on a short American tour, with only nine dates, I believe.
I'm seeing him 10/09/09 at a small venue in So. NH. Can't wait!
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Lol, I don't mean to be mean but that hair looks like a copy of Donald Trump's bad comb-over... f u n music - fun beat
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A consumate genius in the world of pop/rock 'n' roll, Nick Lowe is one of my all-time favs... truly a living legend. His songs just seem to wrap their arms around you. In his latter years, his introspectio n and sense of humor has only become more profound. My man, Nick... the Jesus of Cool.....
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Cruel To Be Kind is a masterpiece!
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Pure pop then, pure pop now, alot of today's music makers really need to listen to Nick to truely get a sence of real music
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he's an underground icon, but i sure didn't expect him to show up on my reggae station, a pleasant surprise though!~lox
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The Jesus of Cool yo he's making Pure Pop For Now People Forever

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