WHO IS NICK LOWE?
Author: Bruce Jenkins Date Posted:20 May 2022
RSD 2022 saw a welcome re-issue of power pop legend Nick Lowe’s first solo album, originally released in 1978. Filled with catchy songs evoking all the bands you would hope for—Beatles, Badfinger, Kinks—it is infectiously entertaining and great fun. But why is it called Wireless World? And why does the hype sticker mysteriously refer to it as Lowe’s "polyonymous" debut? The first part of the story, at least, is interesting and verifiable.
Following a single release of "So it goes" (on Stiff Records), Lowe’s debut LP was released in the UK with the title Jesus Of Cool. Wise heads at the record company realised this might not be well received by church-going communities in the US of A, so they borrowed the phrase spread across the photo-panels of the British release and called the American version Pure Pop For Now People. Messing about with the photos, track listing and running order customised it further for the US market.
Being mischievous lads, Nick Lowe and a Stiff records sidekick referred to the forthcoming album as Wireless World, a bit of interview silliness a magazine duly reported as a news flash. It wasn’t. So the RSD suggestion that this is somehow another 'rediscovered' version of the original 1978 album is a complete beat up. What it is, however, is a fourteen track LP that gathers the songs from both original US and UK versions onto one album.
Interestingly, YepRoc Records (USA) released a 2 LP version of the album in 2008 that replicated the original UK version on the first record and included a further seven songs on a bonus disc. So maybe it really is a record of many names (which is what polyonymous means). Or many versions. Or both. Another talking point is how the wonderful portraits of the artist as a variety of rock and roll characters also changes across versions and countries, which is rather neat (if frustrating for completists!).
Back to the music. Songs like "Heart of the city" and "Shake and pop" really nail the bouncy, literate pop that Nick Lowe specialised in. Wry reflections, tongue-in-cheek observations, and classic song-writing craft make this a most enjoyable listen.
Here, just for fun, are a few bonus Nick Lowe facts.
- A couple of verses of "So it goes" appear in the cult film Rock And Roll High School.
- Lowe’s biggest hit in the UK was "I love the sound of breaking glass".
- He wrote "(What’s so funny 'bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding", a hit for Elvis Costello.
- Lowe was in the band Rockpile with Dave Edmunds, who had an Australian Top 5 hit with "I hear you knocking".
- He was a member of "super group" Little Village with Ry Cooder and John Hiatt.
- After the 1978 debut, Lowe released a further thirteen solo albums, often with humorous punning titles such as The Abominable Showman.