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Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Stiff Records - The Early Years Part Two 1977

BUY 10
A-Side: Neat Neat Neat.

Released on 18th February 1977, the 2nd single from The Damned coincided with the release of the very first British Punk album, and the debut LP for Stiff Records - 'Damned Damned Damned' (SEEZ 1). The single didn't reach the charts but the album did get to a respecatble #36 on the Chart.

BUY 11
A-Side: Less Than Zero.

The debut single from Elvis Costello came out 25th March 1977 and would also appear on his debut album 'My Aim is True' (SEEZ 3) - released two months later.

The song was also involved in Costello's infamous performance on Saturday Night Live on December 17, 1977. Following pressure from his record company to play the song on the show, Costello began to play the song, but he stopped after only a few bars, saying that "there's no reason to do this song here." He then launched into an unannounced performance of 'Radio Radio', a song he had promised not to play. As a result, he was banned from the show until 1989.

BUY 12
A-Side: England's Glory.
B-Side: Dream Tobacco.

'England’s Glory' (BUY 12) was Max Wall’s first single, released at the princely age of 69.  He’d spent the 30s and 40s working the music hall circuit and, by the 70s, was enjoying quite a renaissance.  John Cleese openly acknowledged Wall as an influence on him and the Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks.  He found a new, younger audience when he joined Mott The Hoople’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus tour.  And he won rave reviews for his forays into straight acting, with The Guardian declaring “Max Wall makes Olivier look like an amateur.”
A true eccentric, Wall played King Bruno the Questionable in Terry Gilliam’s Jabberwocky.  And right up until his death in 1990 he never owned a telephone, preferring instead to attend his local phone booth at 1.00pm every weekday should he receive an incoming call.
'England’s Glory' - written by Ian Dury, one of his ‘list’ songs à la Reasons To Be Cheerful - was Stiff’s first venture away from punk and pub rock.  The first physical evidence that this record label could do something other than surf a musical wave or try and break new acts.  It was the single that first defined Stiff as a variety act in itself.  But for all this, it failed to sell in spectacular fashion, the label’s first true stiff.  But it was revived soon after to appear on a compilation album, the appropriate titled, Hits Greatest Stiffs.

BUY 13
B-Side: Quickstep.

This is probably one of my favourite singles of the early Stiff Records catalogue.

The Adverts had been on the go since 1976 and their first big break came when they got a deal with Stiff and in April this classic Punk single was released.

" I wonder what we’ll play for you tonight
Something heavy or something light
Something to set your soul alight
I wonder how we’ll answer when you say
‘We don’t like you – go away
Come back when you’ve learnt to play"

The Adverts went out on tour with label mates The Damned and Stiff, as was their forte came up with a classic tour poster:

BUY 14
A-Side: Alison.

The second single from Elvis Costello didn't even dent the chart and yet it is, in my honest opinion, one of his finest.

BUY 15
A-Side: Red Shoes.
B-Side: Mystery Dance.

'Red Shoes' is another that for some strange reason totally escaped the charts and yet Elvis found himself on Top of the Pops performing it!

BUY 16
This Side: Whole Wide World.
That Side: Semaphore Signals.

This little ditty is easily in my Top Ten Favourite Singles ever released. Released in August 1977 as a single but it had appeared first on the Stiff Album 'A Bunch of Stiffs' (SEEZ 2). The reasoning from Stiff behind this was that Eric had gone fishing and it had taken them 2 weeks to track him down to get into the studio to record a b-side!
Nick Lowe features on Guitar and Bass on This Side as does drummer Steve Goulding of Graham Parker and the Rumour. On That Side featured Ian Dury on Drums!
The song itself was written by Eric after he had fallen out with his girlfriend.

BUY 17

Stiff Records demonstrated their craftiness with the release of the debut single by former Kilburn and the High Roads frontman Ian Dury. Two months after it was released it was deleted after 19,000 copies were sold. "We're a record company not a museum", they expalined. What they didn't tell anyone was that they immediately planned to release it in France and soon shops in the UK were loaded with boxes of the single!

BUY 18
A-Side: Problem Child.

Issued in September 28 1977, 'Problem Child' was a preview of the up and coming second album 'Music For Pleasure' produced by Pink Floyd's Nick Mason! The single failed again to reach the charts. The single also featured new guitarist Lu Edmonds.

BUY 19
A-Side: Suffice to Say.

Liverpool based band who got signed to Stiff after their debut performance at Eric's in Liverpool supporting Elvis Costello.

BUY 20 
B-Side: Blame It On Cain (Live)/Mystery Dance (Live).

Stiff's first Top 20 single in the UK and of course Elvis Costello's first hit single after three previous attempts. The single spent 11 weeks on the chart.

BUY 21

Originally recorded by Tony Orlando in the 60's, the final Stiff single by Nick Lowe failed to make any impression on the charts.

BUY 22
A-Side: Police Car.
B-Side: On Parole.

Former Pink Fairie Larry Wallis' debut solo single. At the time he was an in house producer for Stiff Records. On the single he is backed by two members of Eddie and the Hot Rods - Paul Gray on Bass and Steve Nicol on Drums.
Both songs here are probably better known by the cover versions: Motorhead doing 'On Parole' and The Members doing 'Police Car'. But I've always had a soft spot for Larry's version.

 BUY 23

My favourite Ian Dury single. Gene Vincent was one of Dury's musical heroes and it is said that the death of the rock and roll legend in 1971 forced Dury to start taking his position in Kilburn and the High Roads more seriously.

BUY 24
D-Side: Don't Cry Wolf.
D-Side: One Way Love.

Issued on 11th December 1977 this was the final single of The Damned for Stiff and for the line-up that featured Brian James and Lu Edmonds. The band would split in 1978 and would then get back together again in 1979 where they would enjoy far greater chart success than their first couple of years of output.

The first 5,000 copies of the single were in Pink Vinyl, though I have to say I can't ever recall seeing a black vinyl one apart from in pictures!

There are a number of other releases from 1977 that do not have the BUY catalogue numbers and I will have a look at some of them in the next post.

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