Sunday, August 16, 2009

Live Stiffs

"Sex,Drugs, Rock n' Roll and Chaos" is the (bastardized) title of the final track on this L.P , featuring Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Wreckless Eric, Larry Wallis and Ian Dury) and it's a pretty damn good summary of the whole enterprise. The enterprise was to gather the eminent Stiff artists of 1977 and send 'em off all together on a package tour like Motown did with its stars back in the sixties.

Those Motown shows were, witnesses say, professional, polished performances whereas the Stiff shows were, often, a shambles albeit a glorious shambles. Look at those lovable losers grinning out at you from the cover, as if to say, "We were third tier sloggers but now we've got a shot at the top." Sure enough, everyone of those grinners, save Wallis, took a serious shot at the pop charts, all with some, if varying, levels of success.

Nick Lowe's was long known for his love of just bashing the music out (hence that "Basher' nick name). That reckless spirit, which made Nick a conduit between the old pubsters and the angry kids, permeates this record. Nick's prominent on both versions of the cover (with poor E.C. hiding at the back). Nick's tunes here include his best released version of "I Knew the Bride" and a fun obscurity, "Let's Eat", Wreckelss Eric's songs - "Reconez Cherie" and "Semaphore Signals" are a bloody mess (and bloody good - much more here) while Elvis C. and the Attraction attack "Miracle Man" and, shades of Imperial Bedroom, cover Bacharch-David's "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself". Larry Wallis only gets to play his best song ("Police Car") so that polio survivor and funky eccentric Ian Dury can get three songs (counting that pile-on version of "Sex, Drugs and Rock n' Roll" that ends the album). Enjoy this raw document because it seems impossible to imagine prominent label nowadays with a roster of such resolute individuals surviving.

Download Life Stiffs L.P.


  1. Got this on CD.Highly recommended.

    Seen the artists live(except for Wallis) at various times in various forms.All good.

    Strangest was Ian Dury opening for the very self important and dour Lou Reed in the late 1970s.Ian and the Blockheads blew Lou off the stage.

  2. I wasn't sure if this even got re-issued on CD (I had the cheap knock-off on vinyl years ago.)

    I've only seen Lowe. I passed on Costello this summer (probably wrongly) due to my disinterest in most of his post eighties stuff. Still hope to see W.E. one day.

    "Self-important and dour" - nice description of later Lou. Still love the man's early work but he can be a bore at times.

  3. Demon released 'Live Stiffs' on CD in the mid 1990s.Costly on ebay or amazon marketplace.Maybe it will get a nice deluxe CD reissue??

    Wreckless Eric released a very good album with his wife Amy Rigby last year.I have heard them do live sets on BBC Radio.

  4. Wow, I remember the day I brought this slab o' vinyl home. It honestly sounded like the birth of a whole new set of classics. Of course, the term "new wave" hadn't yet been appropriated by dancing ponces with angular hairdos. Saw Costello shortly after on his "This Year's Model" tour with the Battered Wives opening - but didn't get to see Lowe until over a decade later, and didn't get to see Wreckless Eric until 2006 (and lemme just say - the man still puts on an awesome, memorable, and intense show). Never did see Dury, dammit. Definitely one of the greatest collections of supremely talented oddballs ever assembled.

  5. I have this one on vinyl, and it's been a very long time since I played it. My favorite Stiffs compilation is 1978's "Heroes and Cowards," which provided my initial exposure to Ian Dury, Wreckless Eric, The Adverts, The Damned, and -- how bizarre -- Motorhead. The "Live Stiffs" photo is great. Elvis, Dury, and Wreckless Eric are a matched set, all of them looking rather hopeless. EC didn't end up taking over the world or anything, but that you now have to ask "Which one?" when someone references Elvis is kind of mind-boggling.

  6. Doug
    The Demon re-issue is what I must've seen going for lots on Amazon. A good re-issue is in order (they must have more songs int he can for a 2nd disc).
    I liked parts of that new WE album but it's not my fave of his ignored albums.

    "dancing ponces with angular hairdo" best phrase of the day!. I sure wish I'd seen Elvis in the seventies (even with the somewhat bandwagonish BW). His appearance here at the Folk Festival was his first time in Winnipeg since 1978.

    I found a history of Stiff book in the store I'm working at and it says that "Heroes and Cowards" was an Italian compilation (and pretty strong from the track listing) though the book accurately notes that oddly 3/4 0f the Albertos punxploitation e.p. makes the cut.

  7. jeffen,

    I didn't include Albert y Lost etc. in my list of bands to which "Heroes and Cowards" initially exposed me, since that was my only exposure to them. The band's tracks (from the "Snuff Rock" ep, if I'm remembering correctly) are, if not the best, certainly the most hilarious on the comp. The track "Kill" even begins with the spoken "Is she really going out with him?" in reference to Damned's "New Rose," which is also on the disk.

    Why do I still have all this crap in my brain? I'm sure I have more important things to remember.

  8. Crozier,

    Ah I think that's why I began this blog as a way to drain the near-toxic levels of trivial crap that slosh around in my skull.

    Albert Y Los were a fitting piss-take on punk and worth a few knowing smirks.

  9. yeah- i have the original vinyl on this too (what is "vinyl" granpa?)

  10. Regarding Orson Family....

    The Orson Family ' discography consists of:

    One self released EP (3 Epics) posted by garychching

    Two 12" on New Rose records... "The River Of Desire"(that actually includes the complete first EP - posted on Punks On Postcards in November 2008) + "No One Waits Forever" (aptly titled as I'll probably post that one in the near (????) future...)

    One live LP "Bugles, Guitars & Amphetamine" (posted here

    + the single (again on their own label) just posted.


  11. J.

    An excellent disc-blog-raphy. I'll keep my eye out for the last piece of the puzzle.

  12. Nuzz

    "Damn digital generation, their music is just numbers..."

  13. Great album saw them all at one time or another although Larry Wallis was in the Pink Fairies at the time. Nice post keep up the great work thanks Jeff.

  14. The world of pub-rock has never been the same since the passing of the late, great Ian Dury - although the Blockheads can still rock up a storm live... a while back they toured with Phil Jupitus taking the vocal honours and it was a worthy tribute to Ian.

    They played to a packed house who knew every single word to every single song, that sort of love must surely be the greatest tribute any songwriter could ever hope for... and, in his quirky way, Ian Dury was one of the very best.

  15. Marky

    Again, my jealousy knows no bounds. (In what era did you see the Pink Fairies? That sounds like it could be a good yarn...

    Re: Ian's appeal:
    I have a teacher friend whose students ask her, "You're not gonna play any more stuff by that British guy who can't sing are you?"
    Strangely my fave Dury album is "Laughter" because I had a copy as a teenager (it was cheap here) and I really loved Dance of the Crackpots.
    In my novel, which I will never finish writing, the character who is a polio survivor's name is Dury (just 'ad to be that way).

  16. Just an afterthought - anybody in the southwest of Englan might be interested to know WRECKLESS ERIC is sharing a gig with AMY RIGBY at The Thunderbolt in Bristol, on 19th September, so here's your chance to get down and offer the guy a bit of support - it'll be a bloody good night and I'll certainly be there!

    If you've not seen him live before - do it if you can, you'll enjoy it, I promise. :-)

    Other dates in the UK are on his website

    And other stuff at The Thunderbolt

    It's always worth keeping an eye on your local live music venues as they're one way you can reward the artists for their hard work without buying some twunt at the record label a new Mercedes while the artist is struggling to keep the electric on!

  17. jeffen, my favourite Dury recordings are live bootlegs rather than anything from a studio - although they're good, he really needed an audience to give of his best... it was not unknown (when he'd partaken of a few sherberts) for him to improvise an entirely new verse to a well-known song on-the-fly!
    When you've got a band as talented as The Blockheads behind you, you have the freedom to arse about to your heart's content safe in the knowledge you won't trip them up... I've seen more than one trainwreck over the years when performers with less 'tight' bands have attempted tricks like that... but I won't embarrass David Bowie with a namecheck, LOL

  18. Richard
    You're knowledgeable enough to start your own blog! (However in the meantime if you want to do a guest-post, upload a great Dury show and do write-up on it and send it all my way. It'd be an interesting post.

    P.S. Give WE a big cheer for me, I still want to see him badly.

  19. I saw Larry Wallis with the reformed Pink Fairies late '87 they had just released an album called "Kill 'Em and Eat 'Em" I don't think they lasted long before they split again.

  20. They seem to be an on-again, off-again proposition. I've never really listened to them much. Perhaps I will soon.

  21. Hey thanx!
    The OOP vinyl mix is different than the CD mix.

  22. Anon
    This I did not know - thanks.


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