Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


LOWE, Nick

(b 25 March 1949, Woodbridge, Suffolk, England) Singer-songwriter, bass guitar, producer. He formed his first band with Brinsley Schwarz while still in school, Sound 4 Plus 1 '63; they were reunited in Schwarz's group Kippington Lodge in the late '60s and cut flop singles; they relaunched as Brinsley Schwarz '69 and folded '75 after six albums.

Lowe produced Graham Parker and the Rumour; a new manager Andrew Jakeman (aka Jake Riviera) founded the Stiff label with ex-Brinsley manager Dave Robinson, and Stiff's first release solo was Lowe single 'So It Goes'. Much early Stiff stuff was produced by Lowe, including the Damned, Wreckless Eric etc; he produced Elvis Costello hit albums '77-80; also more Parker and Dr Feelgood.

Lowe left Stiff with Riviera and Costello at the end of '77 and scored own UK top ten hit 'I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass' '78; 'Cruel To Be Kind' '79 also charted in USA. His own debut LP Jesus Of Cool did well '78 (titled Pure Pop For Now People in the USA). He formed Rockpile with Dave Edmunds; they could not record as such for contractual reasons but LPs by either were effectively Rockpile; the group folded after one imperfect album under its own name '80. He married Johnny Cash's daughter Carlene Carter '79 (divorced '90); he told the story of Cash visiting them in England and the milkman being flabbergasted when Cash opened the door. He produced Carlene, as well as Pretenders' debut single; produced an album by Paul Carrack and formed band Noise to Go with him; also produced John Hiatt and the Fabulous Thunderbirds. His own album Nick The Knife barely made the bottom of the UK chart '82, but he remained a much-loved rocker.

Fun compilations were 16 All Time Lowes, Nick's Nacks, Basher (on Columbia USA), and more albums were Labour Of Lust '79, Abominable Showman '83, All New Material '84 (on RCA), And His Cowboy Outfit '84, Rose Of England '85, The Wilderness Years and Pinker And Prouder Than Previous, most on Demon CDs UK; Party Of One '88-9 (on WEA in UK) with Carrack, Ry Cooder etc and Nick Lowe and the Impossible Birds' Live! On The Battlefield '94 included Donnie Fritts, Dan Penn, Spooner Oldham etc (on Demon UK), both on Upstart USA.

Cruel To Be Kind: The life and music of Nick Lowe by Will Birch was published in 2020. As highly regarded as he was, his records had never been big sellers; he told Birch, record producer, journalist and a life-long friend, that he had decided at a certain point that he had to reinvent himself, 'And in order for it to work I had to be forgotten. I needed to spend some time in the Winderness.' John J. Winter, reviewing the book in the TLS, says that the Impossible Birds was his new arrival. The introspective Dig My Mood '97 on Demon confirmed him as the Jesus of Cool, followed by a series of 'tasteful, tuneful, gently swinging albums'.  

His second and last Billboard hit in the USA had been 'I Knew The Bride (When She Used To Rock 'n' Roll)' '85, but he had never aimed at fashion. He wrote 'The Beast In Me' for Cash, which turned up on Cash's American Recordings '94. In 2012 Lowe Country: The Songs of Nick Lowe on Fiesta Red saw 13 singers covering their favorites, including Lori McKenna, Caitlin Rose, Amanda Shires, Ron Sexsmith and others, described as 'roots-and-boots' artists by Marc Myers in the Wall Street Journal.