Stiff – Class of ’78
Stiff Records – London England. Stiff Records ran from 1976 – 1985. Their first signings were The Damned, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Ian Dury, Wreckless Eric and Lene Lovich, (among a few other less famous – i.e. Pink Fairies, and Plummet Airlines, but what a great name). They released what is considered the first punk single, that being The Damned’s New Rose in 1976. With early hits from Elvis Costello and Ian Dury they were off to the races, crashing in ’85, as most of their roster went on to greener and better paying pastures. The four unlikely lads below comprized the 2nd package tour of the US, called Live Stiffs.
Elvis Costello (born Declan Patrick MacManus, 25 August 1954) Elvis has probably done the best for himself over the years. Never a real stadium draw Elvis has managed to fill medium sized venues throughout his career giving him the freedom to do whatever he wants – a country LP, Almost Blue, a crooner LP, Painted from Memory w/ Burt Baccarach and LP with a Swedish opera singer Sophie Van Otter and one with the avante garde Kronos Quartet. Elvis doesn’t sit still for long. He even occasionally shows up in a sitcom or movie. His turn on The Larry Sanders Show is still a favorite and how can you forget his role as ‘Bartender’ in the Spice Girls movie Spiceworld. He’s now married to muscian Diana Krall with which he has 2 young twin sons and continues to tour and record.
Ian Robins Dury (12 May 1942 – 27 March 2000) Ian was considered the old man of punk rock, being about 35 when the scene finally broke. Already a star on the Pub-Rock circuit with his band Killburn and the High Roads, Ian was excepted by the young punks because he was so god-damned good and so god-damned funny. Mixing old British Music Hall with funk rhythms and punk DYI, Ian was truly one-of-a-kind. A short man ravaged by polio when he was a boy, Ian was not your typical rock star. Ian would go on to record his best albums with his band The Blockheads and would later turn to acting, including a role in Peter Greenaways’ The Cook, The Thief, His wife, and her Lover with Helen Mirren. He would eventually pass away from colorectal cancer, but played to the end with his final show in February of the same year. Ians Greatest Hits? Sex, and Drugs and Rock and Roll (title of his excellant biopic), Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick, Reasons to be Cherrful, Pt.3.
Nicholas Drain “Nick” Lowe (born 24 March 1949) Another Pub-Rock star, with the band Brinsley Schwartz, Nick was a producer, (Elvis 1st LP) and a hit-maker, most notably his cross-over single Cruel to Be Kind (though not his best, by a long shot). Stiff pissed off America by calling his debut LP Jesus of Cool, a great name, but one the record lables where afraid of (?). The LP was repackaged for an American audience as Pure Pop for Now People. Doesn’t matter, it’s his best with So it Goes, Breaking Glass, Marie Provost, et al. Nick briefly became Johnny Cash’s son-in-law marrying Johnny’s step daughter – Carlene Carter. Nick still performs today on a very low-key scale, mostly acoustic shows in smaller venues and he’s still got a great head of hair.
Wreckless Eric (born Eric Goulden, 18 May 1954) Last and probably least we have Wreckless Eric, a goofy little bastard who couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. But that was punk and we’re all better for it. Mr. Eric/Goulden had a couple hits in his home country – his best being (I’d Go) The Whole Wide World – (which I heard in a movie recently). Which is indeed a great song. But one song does not a career make. He currently lives and tours with his wife, the lovely Amy Rigby.