Friday, January 11, 2008

"Shake and Pop" / Nick Lowe

As most of you know, I am completely soft in the head for Nick Lowe. Of course I already possess the CD Jesus of Cool, which I bought as an import, as well as an autographed 1978 vinyl copy of the US version, Pure Pop for Now People (apparently the US record company wouldn't release a record comparing anybody to Jesus, not after the John Lennon incident). Nevertheless, I have just pre-ordered both the CD and the LP of Jesus Of Cool's momentous 30th-anniversary re-issue. My only excuse is that it promises bonus tracks. Okay, okay, I already have those bonus tracks from a CD called the Wilderness Years, but still. Like I said, soft in the head.

Jesus of Cool should have been re-released years ago; hell, it should never have gone out of print. What's wrong with the world? This 1978 album, Nick's first solo effort, is just bursting with creative mischief. Unofficially it was really a Rockpile album, since his Rockpile mates Dave Edmunds, Billy Bremner, and Terry Williams all played on it. But you wouldn't have known that from the record cover, which didn't list the musicians; there wasn't even a tracklist, let alone liner notes. Nope, just a load of pictures of an unshaven Nick in different outfits, striking solemn poses with various guitars.

I could do an entire post about the different photos on the two releases, and another about the different track orders. (I suppose the whole point of making the two records so different was to give collectors and completists--like me--an incentive to buy both, and of course I fell for it.) But for today, I'll just write about one of my favorite songs, the one that got left off of the US version.

"Shake and Pop" falls into a full category of Nick Lowe satires about the music industry. My favorite is the deeply ironic "I Love My Label" (also on The Wilderness Years); on this album alone we get three other gems on the subject, "So It Goes," "Music For Money," and "They Called It Rock." To be honest, "Shake And Pop" is just a reworking of "They Called It Rock"--Nick Lowe is pop music's most efficient recycler, pinching riffs, chord patterns, and tunes from everybody, including himself. But it does have different lyrics and a different rhythm, scrapping the rockabilly bounce of TCIR for a chugging power-pop beat overlaid with frenzied honkytonk piano fills (Dave Edmunds? who knows?).

That darker, more aggressive arrangement suits this cynical little story about a one-hit wonder band. In verse 1, their first record hits the charts and they become media darlings: "Someone in the newspaper said it was art / Disco Casanova had it heavy on the breath / The local teeny bopper band was playing it to death." The predictable buzz surrounds the boys, with phones ringing and personal appearances that have them "jetting out to Rio and some other sunny spots." They are HOT.

The bridge is particularly snarky: "Hey long distance it’s a rock and roll romance/ CBS are gonna pay a great big advance / Hey Atlantic come on take a chance / Arista say they love it but the kids can’t dance to it." (I can't help thinking of that publicity stunt Jake Riveria cooked up to have Elvis Costello busking outside the hotel where CBS executives were staying, complete with London bobbies showing up to arrest him.)

Verse three delivers the tragic denouement--"They cut another record / It never was a hit / Someone in the newspaper said it was shit"--and how things played out for the band members: "The drummer is a bookie / The singer is a whore / The bass player’s selling clothes he never woulda wore." And lo and behold, there's the bass player on the album cover, posing in an outlandish bunch of clothes. Like I said, bursting with creative mischief.

Check it out: Jesus of Cool pre-order


IƱaki said...

Good to see you back Holly Hughes!

uNCLE e said...

What can I say bout Nick that you haven't?
I love the guy's music, and it's a damn shame he's not up there with the rest of Rock's Royalty (McCartney, Jagger, Thonshend, Davies, et all).

Anonymous said...

I found your blog through the Kinks forum. A kindred spirit.

Lonndoggie said...

Completely different lyrics? The only lyrics that are different are the choru: Shake and Pop vs. They Called It Rock.

But whatever, this album was something I listened to a bazillion times back in the day, and I can't wait until the minty fresh new vinyl copy shows up at my doorstep.!

Anonymous said...

Great note; great song. 30 years: oh my! Thanks.

martin said...

The bass player line still makes me smile 30 years on.