Ian Christie on Nick Lowe

Nick_Lowe_at_Knuckleheads_SaloonI’d almost forgotten about the British singer and songwriter Nick Lowe, who had three years of fame in the late 70s as a pioneer of new wave pop, producing punks, playing in pubs and hitting the charts now and then. He wrote two of the best ever pop songs: What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding? and Cruel to be Kind. The latter may be the perfect post-Elvis pop song.

Then I came across a review of his recent albums and my interest was rekindled. Nick is now 64, snowy of hair and gentle in demeanour, and you’d never guess this was the man who produced the first hits of punk rock. Lowe has reinvented himself since the mid 1990s as a classic songwriter, drawing on country and western, pre-Elvis pop and the Great American Songbook. Anyhow, do yourself a favour and buy Nick Lowe albums this Christmas. He’s made it easy by releasing a quirky and rootsy Christmas record of his own – Quality Street – but my tip is 2011’s The Old Magic, a wonderful collection of songs that echo the great tunes and performers of the pre-Beatles period, from lounge-bar crooners to Johnny Cash. Few things have given me more pleasure in 2013 than listening to this CD, and especially to Lowe’s exquisite broken-heart song I Read A Lot.

Robert Stanier on the class system in England

Coventry_CarolAs a vicar in Surbiton (if you’re reading this but aren’t British, Surbiton is arguably the classic London suburb), I now take carol services of all types, including hosting schools from both the state sector and the independent (i.e. fee-paying) sector.
My discovery is this. If unbriefed, parents of a school in the state sector will automatically applaud at the end of a piece of choral music sung by students; parents from the independent sector will remain silent. Is it to do with one section of society being more stiff-upper-lipped than another? Is it something to do with treating what has happened as a performance vs an act of worship?
Somewhere along the line, I suspect it’s to do with an unspoken, unarticulated nature of class self-understanding that’s alive and kicking.
The images, of Nick Lowe and the music for the Coventry Carol, are both countesy of wikimedia.org, and are used here, with thanks, under a Creative Commons licence.

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