Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"I Got the Love" / Nick Lowe

Happy 61st Birthday, Nick!

If you'll check the Labels section to the right, you'll see I've already written plenty about Nick Lowe -- thirty-two times, in fact. It's embarrassing, really, the depth of my devotion to this man I've barely ever even met. And yet here it is his birthday again, and somehow miraculously I've found yet another Nick Lowe song worth writing about.

Coming out of my month-long 100 Singles project, I've been thinking so much about The Big Hits lately, I've lost touch with the overlooked gems. Yet it occurs to me that the musicians I most love -- Ray Davies, Elvis Costello, John Hiatt, Marshall Crenshaw, Robyn Hitchcock, and of course Nick Lowe -- aren't the guys with the major hits. They're the ones with depth -- the one whose most obscure tracks are often my most favorite songs of all. And so why bother looking for a famous Nick Lowe song to write about, when just about anything he's ever done is worth a blog post?

Nick was never much of a hit machine -- in forty-plus years as a professional musician, "Cruel to Be Kind" and "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love, and Understanding" are about the extent of it (and even "What's So Funny" only became a hit when Elvis Costello sang it). But "I Got The Love"? It isn't even on the short list of songs that Nick regularly pulls out in concert. You'll find it tucked at the end of Side One on one of Nick's least admired LPs, 1988's Pinker and Prouder Than Previous -- a record that's been out of print for ages, in CD, vinyl, AND audiocassette. Some would say it was the absolute nadir of Nick's long and checkered career. Hell, even I would say that. But that doesn't mean it was a bad album.

I'm glad I've figured out how to do videos, now, because -- along with all the lovely photos of Nick at various ages -- it gives you a chance to hear this track and make up your own mind. It's one of only two tracks on this album that were recorded in Austin, Texas, instead of London, and I definitely hear a country skip in its syncopated step. Stripped-down it is indeed -- there's nothing here but Nick's electric bass (lead bass!!!!), Bobby Irwin's minimal drums, and a few faint blushes of organ from the divine Paul Carrack. Oh, and every once in awhile there's a single piano key struck -- let's assume that's Paul as well. It's such a tiny thing, that piano accent, and yet that's the sort of detail that makes this track come alive.

Lyrics? The simplest possible. Nearly every line begins declaring "I've got the love," as if it's the only thing this singer has on his mind. Well, when you're really in love, it IS the only thing on your mind. "I've got the love and I'm gonna give it / I've got the love and you're gonna get it" -- that's about as complicated as it needs to be. It could be pure caveman grunt, if not for the prancing bassline and the light release of Nick's vocals. Joy is the order of the day, and that slouchy relaxed rhythm suits it just fine. It's not even clear how his sweetheart feels about it -- he's still pleading with her ("Don't make me wait no later than Monday," "Lay down your arms to my surrender"). But his love is a crazy itch he's GOT to scratch.

Dig the bridge -- it's "I've got the love" repeated FOUR times, almost like an obsessive fixation, before he pulls himself up abruptly to declare (a capella): "And if it don't stop -- I'm a-gonna pop!!" Gonna pop? He does pop.

All right, I'm willing to admit it's a bit of a throwaway track. There is nothing of any great social significance here, no stirring poetry, no heartfelt autobiographical confessions. It's just a song about a guy elated with desire (and the way Nick sings it, it is love, not just lust). But that's part of what I love most about "I Got The Love." It's just a pop song, a pure distillation of timeless emotion in two minutes and forty seconds. I'm guessing that he and Bobby and Paul had a great time laying down this track, and that copasetic groove comes right out of the speakers and into my heart.

If Nick Lowe could turn out a charmer like this at the rock bottom of his career -- well, that's a musician I'd follow anywhere. Happy birthday, Nick!!!


wwolfe said...

Happy birthday, Nick! One of my touchstones as a songwriter. It's worth tracking down the interview he gave to Bomp! magazine around 1978, if you haven't read it before. Very sharp and funny, to no one's surprise.

Holly A Hughes said...

When is he NOT sharp and funny?

NickS said...

The obviously analogous track (good track on a bad album) for Elvis Costello would be "The Deportees Club".

Now I'm trying to figure out how many other albums I own (as albums) that are mediocre within the scope of an artists work but which contain worthwhile songs. It's tricky, because there aren't that many people for whom I would buy their mediocre albums.

Mark said...

Another good little pop song from Nick. I've never heard this song before, thanks for sharing it Holly! Oh, I wish Nick's albums from the 80's would get re-issued!

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tim haen said...

The beauty of the song IS the simplicity of its production. It is so well crafted. Similar to Cry It Out off the same album. Sheer beauty.