Nick LowePunk-Era Renaissance Man By Stewart Mason
From punk-era basher to rootsy crooner.
If anyone wants to invent a music version of that "Six degrees of Kevin Bacon" game, Nick Lowe is the obvious candidate, having produced or played with everyone from Johnny Cash (also his father-in-law during Lowe's marriage to country singer Carlene Carter) to Australian twee-popsters the Katydids. Following stints in third-string '60s beat group Kippington Lodge and that band's countrified pub-rock offshoot Brinsley Schwarz, Lowe found himself at the forefront of the punk revolution as house producer at Stiff Records, where his quick'n'dirty style for acts like The Damned and Elvis Costello earned him the nickname "Basher." Lowe's solo career began with the savagely ironic Jesus of Cool (timidly retitled Pure Pop For Now People in the states) and hit its commercial high point with 1979's Labour of Lust, featuring his sole Top 20 single "Cruel To Be Kind." During this period, Lowe co-led pub rock supergroup Rockpile with Dave Edmunds; the group split after their sole proper album, 1981's disappointing Seconds of Pleasure. Lowe spent much of the '80s in a creative funk, hampered by the disconnect between his increasingly rootsy musical proclivities and his label's desire for another hit. But when the ultra-bestselling soundtrack to The Bodyguard included a cover of the Lowe-penned "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding," the songwriter became an overnight millionaire from the royalties. Freed of commercial expectations, 1994's relaxed The Impossible Bird was Lowe's strongest album in 15 years, followed by a leisurely-paced string of equally solid, mature works.
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