Nick Lowe never was lacking in confidence. The former Brinsley Schwarz bassist/vocalist had already defined pub-rock as a member of that band, and did much the same for the burgeoning punk movement as producer of Elvis Costello’s first albums. Now he was in the forefront of the so-called “new wave” vanguard, and Lowe realized there was little he couldn’t do. Armed with hubris but with tongue firmly planted in cheek, he named his 1978 Radar Records (U.K.) debut Jesus of Cool. Its artwork depicted him in various musical get-ups: hippie, folkie, greaser. (When Lowe’s American record label, Columbia, got cold feet about its title, the album was renamed Pure Pop for Now People, still making a grand if totally appropriate claim.) With Brinsley Schwarz, side project Rockpile and on his own, Lowe evinced his mastery of the three-minute song, deciding which pop/rock style would best suit each LP; he touched most stylistic bases on Jesus.
For its 1979 follow-up, Labour of Lust, Lowe embraced the rootsy pub-rock sound he perfected with Brinsley Schwarz, but still largely contained himself to the snappy, melodic song form again. The result provided Lowe with his only American hit, the sparkling and taut “Cruel to Be Kind.” The able instrumental support of his Rockpile mates saw that every song had a crisp sheen and the album had more of a band flavor than its predecessor. News has arrived that Labour of Lust is due for reissue on March 14 in the U.K. from Proper Records, with an American release likely to follow on the Yep Roc label. Labour follows the expanded Jesus of Cool, released in 2008 with ten additional songs augmenting the original eleven-track lineup, and Quiet, Please: The New Best of Nick Lowe, a comprehensive CD/DVD anthology from 2009. The wait has been a long one, especially as most of Lowe’s solo catalogue is out-of-print and in great need of upgrade. But if these past projects are any indication, the wait will have been worth it. Hit the jump for more on Nick’s Labour!
Labour of Lust was recorded simultaneously with Dave Edmunds’ Swan Song LP, Repeat When Necessary, and took full advantage of Rockpile’s tight combo sound. (If anybody reading this isn’t familiar with Rockpile’s sadly out-of-print Seconds of Pleasure, do yourself a favor: Stop reading and find a copy, post haste!) The Lowe/Edmunds scene was an incestuous one, anyway; Edmunds’ album featured a Brinsley Schwarz cover (“Home in My Hand”) and an Elvis Costello one (“Girls Talk”)!
While “Cruel to Be Kind” remains the standout track, Labour was filled with the quirky, slightly skewed songs for which Lowe was becoming known. “Without Love” would later receive a cover version by Johnny Cash, Lowe’s one-time father-in-law, and “Born Fighter” features future News frontman Huey Lewis on harmonica. Lowe also recorded perhaps the definitive cover of “Switchboard Susan” by pal Mickey Jupp, whom Lowe had produced for Stiff Records.
The Proper reissue features new liner notes by pub-rock historian Will Birch and a note from Gregg Geller, the A&R man at Columbia Records who first suggested to Lowe that he rework his “Cruel to Be Kind” (co-written with Ian Gomm). Lowe complied, and the rest is musical history! (The original, a Radar B-side in 1978, is included on the Jesus of Cool reissue, where Lowe describes it as written “with one ear on ‘The Love I Lost’ by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. As I reinvented myself as a thrusting New Waver, I was a bit embarrassed by the song.” He adds, “[When] Columbia records hove into view in the shape of Gregg Geller, he insisted – to my horror – that I record [it on my next album!]”)
“American Squirm,” on which Lowe is backed by Elvis Costello and The Attractions, is one of the two confirmed bonus tracks for this reissue; it originally appeared as a non-LP single (credited to “Nick Lowe and His Sound” and backed with Elvis’ recording of Lowe’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding?”) and also on the album’s American release, replacing “Endless Grey Ribbon.” The B-side of “Cracking Up,” “Basing Street,” will also appear. No other bonus tracks have been announced at this time. The album will, of course, be remastered for this release. No pre-order link is yet available, but the track listing for the original LP and bonus tracks follows!
Nick Lowe, Labour of Lust (Radar RAD21 (UK)/, Columbia JC 36087 (US), 1979 – reissued Proper, 2011)
- Cruel to Be Kind
- Cracking Up
- Bick Kick, Plain Scrap!
- Born Fighter
- You Make Me
- Skin Deep
- Switchboard Susan
- Endless Grey Ribbon
- Without Love
- Dose of You
- Love So Fine
- American Squirm
- Basing Street
Track 12 also appears on Radar single ADA 26 (U.K.), 1979
Track 13 from Radar single ADA 34 (U.K.), 1979