Despite coming from a scene so presumably male-dominated as pub-rock, Stiff did a great deal for promoting original, female talent in face of the archaic attitudes of the early 1980s. Before The Belle Stars came Lene Lovich, a performer who delivered seven singles and three albums on the label between 1978 and 1982.
Half Bosnian, half British, Lili-Marlene Premilovich was born in Detroit but raised in Hull. When she was 29, DJ and journalist Charlie Gillett heard her covering I Think We’re Alone Now (the very same song that became a hit for Tiffany years later) he signed it to his Oval imprint and licensed it to Stiff. Gillett certainly had an ear for the Stiff sound, having had a major hand in bringing both Ian Dury and Elvis Costello to the public’s attention though his Capital Radio show.
An exciting combination of punk and new wave, Robinson loved what he heard and released I Think We’re Alone Now almost immediately and, within a few months, Lene was part of the Be Stiff Route 78 Tour along with other new signing Rachel Sweet and heavyweights like Jona Lewie and Wreckless Eric.
Two singles later and a speeded up version of Alone Now’s B-side – Lucky Number – became a massive, breakthrough hit, reaching number three in February of 1979. Its follow-up - Say When - also cracked the top 20. Always genre-hopping, or genre-blending, Lene ventured into primitive electronica, too, recording vocals for The Residents and Thomas Dolby, who spent his pre-solo career as part of Lene’s live band and co-wrote her last single for the label, New Toy (BUY 97).