Nick Lowe was a pivotal figure in the first, opening chapter of the Stiff Records story. He recorded the label’s first single, its first EP and worked as the label’s first in-house producer, earning himself the nickname ‘Basher’ in the process – as he could ‘bash it down and tart it up’ so quickly.
Lowe was 17 when he joined country band Kippington Lodge in the mid 60s. By the early 70s the band had moved into a more rock direction and changed their name to that of their lead guitarist, Brinsley Schwarz. Managed by Dave Robinson, they became firm favourites of the London pub rock scene and when that scene combined with Robinson and Jake Riviera to spawn Stiff Records, Lowe was an obvious choice as a first major signing.
He brought with him an idiosyncratic and deft songwriting style that has lasted to this day (2007’s At My Age being declared by the Village Voice as “utterly fantastic”). He also brought with him another ex-Brinsley, Ian Gomm who recorded as a solo act for Stiff and – just as importantly – brought a song that would help break Elvis Costello, (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.
Bearing the prized catalogue number of BUY 1, Nick Lowe’s debut solo single, So It Goes/Heart Of The City was Stiff’s debut too, appearing on 14 August 1976. As as pre-cursor for the punk spirit, it is said to have cost a little under £50 to record and was packaged in the classic, plain Stiff logo sleeve, albeit with an excited “earthlings awake!” note scratched around the inner grove.
Halfway To Paradise (BUY 21) followed the next year, along with production work for Elvis Costello and The Damned. And when David Bowie released the Low LP in 1977, Lowe had no choice but to answer with the Bowi EP. But from there Lowe and Stiff’s paths diverted, when he left with Jake Riviera to sign to his Radar label, his mark on Stiff remaining significant to this day.