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Nick Lowe's America

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11:10 a.m. Sept. 19

I've been a Nick Lowe fan since his 1977 solo debut "Pure Pop For Now People," a vinyl copy of which I am now holding in one hand. What a great record. Side one begins with the high octane rock anthem "So It Goes," it includes "Marie Provost," a ditty about a hungry dachshund devouring an aging starlet and concludes with a glam rock parody on the Bay City Rollers.
I have been to London twice in the past 30 years and each time I have combed record stores for similar compact pop in the style of Lowe, a native of Woodchurch, Suffolk. One of my best finds was Dodgy's engaging "Staying Out For The Summer' 95." All this is part of my quest to merge music with travel.
Lowe looks at things in a similar light............


...."I love American music and all musicians of my generation did," Lowe told me when we were talking about a slightly cheesey 1960s's Nashville/Floyd Cramer piano riff on his current album "At My Age." "All of us looked at the U.S. and I see no reason to change my mind. Although I love what happens to American music when it crosses back over the Atlantic to the U.K. The Beatles, the Stones, the Who, we all had no concept of the different areas the music came from until we came to America. We didn't understand how huge this country was.
"So we've always found it easy to mix up influences: a little bit of Cajun here, with a bit of soul there. Nowadays its an instinctual thing. You cut the track and sort of leave the session with your jacket hooked over your shoulder and say to the piano guy to fiddle around at the top. You'll get this world-weary mood. We're not slavish in a copy of something. We just go with the instinct."
It wasn't always so for Lowe.
As in-house prodcuer at Stiff Records, Lowe was on the periphery of the 1970s punk movement. Lowe was behind the wheels of the Damned's first album. He produced Elvis Costello's sterling "My Aim Is True" debut as well as the Pretenders "Stop Your Sobbing" 1979 debut.
"I'm one of those people who thought that punk rock was the end of pop music," Lowe said. "We were all dancing around the corpse, giving it a kick. We'd all be back in the biscuit factory and doing our proper jobs by the end of the year. In fact, I've had a very lucrative career since then. But I'm not very interested in much music that's been recorded after 1975. I don't know quite why that is. I never liked what they called punk rock music. I liked 'garage rock.."
Lowe has matured into a minimalist, organic songwriter who gets to the point. In 2001 he told me, "I try to get to a place where the song sounds like I didn't have anything to do with it. When you see your little tricks and skills, it gets on your nerves. You don't think 'How clever I am.' What you really want is to be direct-to-the-source where you can't see interference in it at all. The older I get the less I know what I'm doing. I'll discard what I've heard before."
A few weeks ago Lowe talked about punk rock with tones of a survivalist's disdain. "The music I listen to is the stuff that punk rock was supposed to have swept away," he said. "At the moment I'm listening to a lot of (trad Nashville songwriter) Don Gibson (who wrote Patsy Cline's "Sweet Dreams" and the Ray Charles hit "I Can't Stop Loving You"). There seems to be an inexahustable supply of new stuff that was recorded between the end of the second world war and 1975.
"And then something happened."

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1 Comment

My dad wrote 6 articles a week for The Chicago Sun (no Times) in the Marshall Fields days. There is much to be said about the Marshall Field days....but not much is written. There is a lot to be told and I have a little. Maybe on a slow news day something could be a filler.

Ed Douglas
Corpus Christi, TX

Hey Ed, please bring it on.
Dave

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Dave Hoekstra

Dave Hoekstra has been a Chicago Sun-Times staff writer since 1985. His collection of Sun-Times travel columns, "Ticket To Everywhere," was published in 2000 by Lake Claremont Press. He was lead writer for "Farm Aid: Song for America" (Rodale Press, 2005) which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Willie Nelson inspired effort.
He won a 1987 Chicago Newspaper Guild Stick O-Type Award for Column Writing. Hoekstra wrote and co-proudced the WTTW-Channel 11 PBS special: "The Staple Singers and the Civil Rights Movement," nominated for a 2001-02 Chicago Emmy for a documentary program/cultural significance.
He lives in Chicago.

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This page contains a single entry by David Hoekstra published on September 19, 2007 11:13 AM.

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