Sunday, February 1, 2015

Jukebox: I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock 'n' Roll)

Nick Lowe: I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock 'n' Roll)

I’m pretty sure that Elvis Costello was my gateway drug to Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds and Rockpile. I suspect that I started exploring Lowe’s music very early into my WPRB career as a result of seeing that he had produced Costello’s (and Graham Parker’s) early albums. Of course, Pure Pop for Now People was genius. I can’t recall exactly when I connected up Dave Edmunds, or where I found out that essentially all of the Lowe and Edmunds albums were really just releases by a band called Rockpile that couldn’t record under that name for some contractual reason. But I do remember playing their music over and over. Ask my roommates. At that time, it did seem a bit odd—Lowe was considered part of the new wave movement, although his records in those days were more power pop, and Edmunds sounded like a throwback to Sun Records and rockabilly. In retrospect, all of this was part of an attempt by musicians to get back to their roots, simplify things and strip down the sound, as a reaction to what was seen as the excesses of the Classic Rock Age of the Dinosaurs. At times in their careers, though, both Lowe and Edmunds fell prey to the apparent requirement that musicians who start simple, but record for a long time, have to experiment with adding layers of instruments, effects and sound.

“I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock 'n' Roll)” is a fun song, in which the singer, somewhat wistfully, discusses how he remembers when the bride at issue, who is now all posh and proper, and marrying a rich stuffed shirt, used to hang out in her jeans at the bar, drinking and flirting and dancing and having fun. And, because our theme is Jukebox, it is important that she was always “Pumping all her money in the record machine.”

The first version of the song was released in 1977 by Edmunds on his Get It album, and it is a typically rootsy rocker. (Edmunds’ next disc, Tracks on Wax 4 featured a song called “A.1. on the Jukebox,” by the way.)

But my favorite version is the one downloadable above which came out a year later, on the Live Stiffs album, from a Stiff Records European tour that also featured Elvis Costello, Ian Dury, Wreckless Eric, and Larry Wallis. Billed to “Nick Lowe's Last Chicken in the Shop” (although introduced at the show as “Nick Lowe’s Led Zeppelin”), which included Edmunds on guitar and Rockpile’s drummer Terry Williams, drummer Pete Thomas from the Attractions and others, they rip through the song in a messy, 70’s punk way.

It appears that when Rockpile appeared live, though, they kind of split the difference in versions—there’s both punk and twang in this version from 1980:

I remember reading once that Lowe said that he was going to keep releasing this song until it became a hit, and in 1985 he tried again, with very dated sounding production by Huey Lewis, who also plays the harmonica and sings background. (Lewis’ early band, Clover, was brought to England by Lowe, and achieved little success there, although its members, minus Lewis, but including future Doobie Brother John McFee, were the backup band on Elvis Costello’s Lowe-produced debut, My Aim is True).

I’ve kind of lost track of Edmunds’ career over the past few years, but Lowe had reinvented himself again as sort of a crooner. And yes, he still drags out this old tune to play, despite the fact that (or maybe because) it is hard to find a “record machine” anywhere. Although he now plays it with more of Edmunds’ rockabilly tinged sound than his Stiffs Live energy.

It’s still not a hit, but it was covered by The Knack.

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