By Lily Doolin
As we get closer to our 70th Birthday Party here at WERS, we’re taking a deep dive into the discography of our special guest performer—UK singer/songwriter Nick Lowe.
While you may know Lowe from his hit songs like “Cruel to be Kind” and “So It Goes,” his career as a songwriter and producer is just as expansive as his personal discography. From songwriting for former father-in-law Johnny Cash to producing albums for Elvis Costello, Lowe has left his fingerprints all over music history. In this post, we’re looking into Lowe’s behind-the-scenes work in the industry.
Tickets to our 70th Birthday Party are going fast, so buy yours now!
Can’t make it in-person? Listen as we broadcast our 70th birthday party! The pre-show starts at 6 pm with George Knight and Phil Jones, and music with Nick Lowe and Adia Victoria at 8 pm!
“Without Love” by Johnny Cash
Fact: Johnny Cash is actually Nick Lowe’s former father-in-law. Lowe originally wrote, produced, and sang “Without Love” on his 1979 album Labour of Lust. In its first iteration, the song was firmly rooted in the old-fashioned rock & roll genre emerging at the time. “Without Love,” from Lowe’s point of view as an artist, has an upbeat rhythm and a playful tone. However, you can hear a slight twang in Lowe’s voice in the song, possibly suggesting some Southern influences from the onset.
A year later, in 1980, Cash took a crack at covering the song. His version is a lot more mellow, his soulful vocals making the tune more somber than spirited. Without a doubt, though, both the cover and the rendition are incredible in their own right. I love how these two versions of the same song demonstrate just how different one song can be in the hands of a different artist.
“Stop Your Sobbing” by The Pretenders
Covers and remixes of songs seem to follow in the wake of Lowe’s work as a producer. “Stop Your Sobbing” was originally released in the early sixties by UK band the Kinks. The original is reminiscent of the early infestation of rock in mainstream popular music. There’s a hint of electric guitar and hard-hitting rhythms, but it’s, on the whole, a relatively chill song about frustration in a relationship.
In walks ’80s band the Pretenders, fresh onto the music scene and looking to produce their debut album. The band demoed their cover of the song, and it eventually ended up in the capable hands of Lowe. The Pretenders’ version of the track definitely reminds me of Lowe’s sound in the early ’80s: There’s the smooth electric guitars, a whole lot of tambourines, and that classic rock feel. Lead singer Chrissie Hynde’s vocals are smooth and ethereal, but still retain that rough, unpolished vibe of classic rock. A true match made in heaven.
“Alison” by Elvis Costello
This was the first of five consecutive albums released by Costello that were produced by Lowe. Lowe was first brought on to the project to help sway Stiff Records into signing Costello. Off of Costello’s debut album, My Aim is True, “Alison” was one of the first singles off the record. Interestingly enough, however, the song did poorly as a single. This left Costello thinking his music career would never take off.
However, after the full album was released, “Alison” shot up on the charts. Right off the bat, the twangy guitar and smooth, slow tempo make this song the perfect slow jam. It reminds me of something you might hear at a dancing club back in the ’40s (as if I were alive back then?), with couples swaying on the dance floor. Its vintage rock at its best.
“Heart” by Rockpile
Nick Lowe was the bassist and a vocalist for British rock band Rockpile in the ’70s and ’80s, in addition to his solo work and producing. Lowe largely wrote their first and only album Seconds of Pleasure. The record was chock-full of smashing rock & roll hits reminiscent of the ’50s rock of Elvis Presley, mixed with some undertones of early punk vibes.
The song “Heart” was entirely the brainchild of Lowe, and is one of the most fun songs on the record. It really does make your heart beat a mile a minute, and your head bang wildly. There’s a sense that the members of the band had a blast recording this one. It’s wildly exciting, invigorating, and definitely a great song to cheer you up when you need a boost.
“Love Starvation” by Nick Lowe & Los Straitjackets
“Love Starvation” comes off of Lowe’s latest release, an EP of the same name. The EP was the culmination of a long-standing partnership between Lowe and American rock/instrumental band Los Straitjackets from Nashville. Los Straitjackets’ modernist, hard-hitting classic rock tunes marry perfectly with Lowe’s incredible knack for penning hit songs.
Lowe continues to make hits that get people on their feet and onto the dancefloor. “Love Starvation” is the perfect call-back to some of Lowe’s earlier classic rock, but contains a certain level of maturity to it. The song is polished: There’s not one note or word that sounds out of place. It’s going to be fun to hear this one live at our 70th Birthday for sure.
Buy your tickets now before they sell out, and don’t forget to tune in to 88.9 on November 2nd at 6 pm as we kick off a night of celebration and fun with George Knight and Phil Jones.