Monday, March 8, 2010

The Producers: Nick Lowe

In the occasional series that has included geniuses such as Steve Lillywhite and the team of Langer & Winstanley, this time we take a listen to the production work of the great Nick Lowe. Whether it's his work as part of Brinsley Schwartz, Rockpile or as a solo artist, I have admired every turn in his career, including his role as producer.

While wearing that hat, he will always be best known as the guy behind the board of Elvis Costello's earliest and, arguably, best work. Lowe was recently a guest on 'Spectacle,' Costello's show on the Sundance Channel, and he said keeping things simple is the one rule that has given him a long and successful career. It seems like he has kept it pretty simple as producer, too. You won't hear any amazing wizardry, but you have to keep his importance as producer in context. He worked with Costello, Wreckless Eric, The Damned, Mickey Jupp and countless others at Stiff Records, almost single-handedly keeping the label going in its infancy. It is also no coincidence the best work of Paul Carrack and Carlene Carter were when Lowe was producing (and helping out as songwriter and bassist to boot).

Perhaps his only misstep as producer was after working with the Pretenders on their first single... a cover of "Stop Your Sobbing." Lowe quit working with Chrissy Hynde and the boys after that one song because he thought the band "wasn't going anywhere." Other acts Lowe produced you may want to check out include Johnny Cash, the Mavericks, Graham Parker, the Katydids and Dr. Feelgood. Now, obviously, the production on his own work and with Dave Edmunds/Rockpile should be your first stop.

Here are a few other interesting notes about the songs featured below:

Carter is the daughter of June Carter and stepdaughter of Johnny Cash. She put out two fabulous records while the wife of Lowe ('Musical Shapes' in 1980 and 'Blue Nun' in 1981). Both were produced by Lowe, and her backing band, in essence, was Rockpile. Carrack played a big role on the second LP.

Lowe covered Jupp's "You'll Never Get Me Up In One Of Those" on his 1984 album 'Nick Lowe & His Cowboy Outfit.' Carrack, coincidentally, was in Lowe's band during that period. Lowe's Rockpile mate Dave Edmunds also covered Jupp's song on his 1981 album 'Twangin'.'

Lowe played bass (and other instruments) and Ian Dury played drums on Wreckless Eric's "Whole Wide World."

The Damned's "New Rose," released in 1976, is widely considered the first punk single ever released by a British group.

Pretenders - Stop Your Sobbing (mp3) (1979)
Wreckless Eric - Whole Wide World (mp3) (1977)
Carlene Carter - That Boy (mp3) (1981)
The Damned - New Rose (mp3) (1976)
Paul Carrack - What A Way To Go (mp3) (1982)
Mickey Jupp - You'll Never Get Me Up In One Of Those (mp3) (1978)

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