Sitting in my hotel room...but my iPod seems haunted by Nick Lowe again! Yikes!
1. "Alone in the Summer" / Tom Gallagher
From Age of the Wheel (unreleased)
Lurchy, angst-ridden rock & roll from the late Tom Gallagher, a fellow Kinks fan whose musical gifts sadly escaped the recognition he deserved.
2. "Ireland" / Greg Trooper
From Between a House and a Hard Place (2010)
Ooh, another of my special guys! Here's a live acoustic performance of one of Troop's most euphoric love songs, a lilting rhapsody about a girl from ( -- wait for it -- ) Brooklyn. It's dizzying how over-the-moon he is -- "When I'm with you, it feels so right / My wallet's full on Friday night / My ship has docked, and my kingdom's come / And my heart's unlocked and overrun" -- 000h, that's love for you.
3. "What's Shakin' On the Hill" / Nick Lowe
From Party of One (1989)Here he is again. Wistful reflections from a misfit loner -- and yet he's still the Jesus of Cool.
4. "Nearer to You" / Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint
From The River in Reverse (2006)
Okay, so it's more Elvis than Allen. Still, Elvis (a.k.a. Nick Lowe's most famous protege) is spilling his heart out in classic R&B mode, all dressed up with AT's rippling piano riffs -- and if it ain't New Orleans proper, it's still a fine thing.
5. "Big Hair" / Nick Lowe
From Pinker and Prouder Than Previous (1988)
All roads lead back to Nick. "Big hair, where you going to?" One of my favorite driving songs ever, a rockabilly romp with a ton of car puns and a sexy subtext. Nick at his worst -- which still means it's wonderful.
6. "Summer Is Over" / Fred EaglesmithFrom Milly's Cafe (2006)
The country vibe continues with this twangy little waltz, perfect for the waning days of August, with a slightly scruffy carnival wheeze. Think Springsteen's "4th of July, Asbury Park," filtered through Tom Waits' lowlife sensibility, with a little Kerouac thrown in for good measure. There's no trumped-up melancholy here, though -- Eaglesmith's a genuine man of the people. Check him out; you'll love him.
7. "Star Ship" / Brinsley Schwarz
From Despite It All (1970)
Why, what a surprise -- Nick Lowe again! (Really, it's all coincidence, I swear.) Another waltz, a little more uptempo but just as twangy. A deservedly neglected track, from the days when Nick Lowe churned out imitative country-rock by the boatload.
8. "Show Me" / Lulu
From It's Lulu (1969)
Lulu pulls out the Big Production Values -- horns, strings, Latin percussion, and 60s-era sizzle worthy of a James Bond theme song. But beneath it all is a snappy R&B number from the pen of Joe Tex (remember Rockpile's version of his song "If Sugar Was As Sweet As You"? Another Nick connection. . . .) "Show me a woman that's got a good man / And I'll show you a woman doing all she can / To make life happy for her lovin' man / So worry don't cross his mind." It IS that simple, folks.
9. "Jack Shit George" / Ian Dury & the Blockheads
From Mr. Love Pants (1998)
Oh, ye modern rappers, look at how the Cockney master did it. Leading off Dury's final album -- which reunited him with the Blockheads after 15 years -- this snappy litany skewers all the ills of modern education and their dire consequences, spooling out over a background of deeply, deeply funky jazz. "What did you learn at school today? / Jack shit / The minute the teacher turns away / That's it / How many times were you truly intrigued? / Not any / Is boredom a symptom of mental fatigue? / Not many. . . ." (Oh, and guess who performed on the Live Stiffs Tour with Ian Dury?)
10. "Bowie" / Flight of the Conchords
From Flight of the Conchords (2008)
(Weren't we just talking about this number?) On the TV show, the spectacle of Jemaine tricked out like Ziggy Stardust, floating into Brett's dream, was one of the funniest comedy bits I've seen in ages. And of course the musical parody is spot-on. "Do you have one sequined jumpsuit in space, Bowie, or do you have ch-ch-changes?" The Nick connection? Just look at this David Bowie single's sleeve --
Now look at the single Nick Lowe released immediately after:
So you see, Nick Lowe likes to make fun of David Bowie too. There, I knew I'd find something!