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Jesus Of Cool

June 4th, 2008

Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello changed my life. Back in 1977 I was heavily into what we then called “country-rock”: Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, Jerry Jeff Walker, The Byrds, John Stewart, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Townes Van Zandt, etc. I was working at a record store in Austin, TX called Zebra Records. In addition to multiple other duties one of the hats I wore was “import buyer.” We mostly purchased import LPs and singles from JEM Records, then the biggest US importer. It was mostly UK pressings with some occasional Japanese, French, Belgium, etc. pressings thrown in now and then. You could divide the music import business into three main categories at that time: 1. LPs and singles that hadn’t been released in the US; 2. LPs and singles that were markedly different in import versions (different songs, picture sleeves, etc.); and 3. foreign pressings of popular bands like the Beatles or Pink Floyd. As new things would come in I would play as many of them as I could.

The first single released on the Stiff records label, early home to Lowe and Costello, was Lowe’s “So It Goes” b/w “Heart Of The City” (BUY 1). BUY 11 was Cosetllo’s “Less Than Zero” b/w “Radio Sweetheart.” BUY 14 was Costello’s “Alison” b/w “Welcome To The Working Week.” These three singles turned my musical world upside down. At least it seemed that way at the time. But, in reality, it wasn’t such a big stretch. I’d grown up on 60s pop & rock. I love melody. I love a great little catchy pop song. As Bruce Springsteen once said, “We learned more from a three minute record than we ever learned in school.” That’s exactly what these were, short, sharp, pop songs for the 70s. These singles opened up a whole new world of The Clash, The Sex Pistols, Wreckless Eric, Graham Parker, Eddie & The Hot Rods, The Stranglers and a lot more. No one who knows me very well would be surprised to know that I’ve still got all these singles and albums. I think I probably have every Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello single and EP released in the UK and/or the US during those early years. Lots of great picture sleeves and unreleased B-sides.

During 1977 and 1978 Lowe released a clutch of singles and EPs who’s impact on the music scene at the time can not be overestimated. When his first album, Jesus Of Cool, was finally issued in March 1978 the US name was changed to Pure Pop For Now People. Apparently, the UK title was deemed inappropriate for us Americans. A few songs were added to the US release, a few were removed, the cover was altered slightly  and the sequence of the songs was changed. So, of course, I had both the UK and US versions. It’s always been one of my favorite albums, in my top 25 of all time. I think it was released briefly on CD in the 90s, but it was always hard to find and fetched big bucks. I ripped my vinyl copies to my Mac, combined the unique tracks from each version and created by own Jesus Of Cool/Pure Pop For Now People CD.

So, imagine my delight when I saw that Nick’s current label, Yep Rock Records, was finally reissuing the album. I can’t say enough good things about this reissue. It’s everything you would want. Not only have they used the original Jesus Of Cool title and song sequence, they’ve added 10, count em 10, bonus tracks. The tracks that originally appeared on the US pressing, along with several other great singles from the time period that didn’t appear on the album (most notably “Halfway To Paradise,” “Born A Woman” and “I Don’t Want The Night To End”). The artwork is fantastic. They’ve reproduced both the UK and US album covers and more in a unique Digidesign package that opens up into a big cross. There’s an excellent 16 page booklet with lots of photos, track information and a great essay by Will Birch. And, if all that wasn’t enough they gave you two digital download bonus tracks! All in all, this is what every collector wants in a reissue. It could not have been done better. Congratulations to Yep Rock for getting this SO right. And a big thanks from this fan and collector.

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2 Responses

  1. T Conger says:

    I have stories to go with all of my favorite albums too, and I used to like to spend alot of time browsing in record stores and reading liner notes and music magazines. In December of ’77 I bought My Aim is True on the strength of a rave review in Rolling Stone and I was blown away; it was unlike anything I had ever heard before. In the summer of ’78 I went to a record collectors convention and there was only one guy at the convention who had any Elvis records. I talked with him for a while and bought a couple of Elvis singles with B-sides that he recommended. He told me his name was Steve and that he was the manager of a record store in town and gave me his number in case I ever wanted to buy any more records. A couple of months later I called him and asked for a job at the record store. I started on Halloween night 1978 at Disc Records in the Galleria in Houston, TX. Steve turned me on to Nick Lowe, Graham Parker, Dave Edmunds, and all the good stuff. The rest as they say, is history.
    Thanks, Steve!

  2. Steve says:

    Wow! Talk about a blast from the past. Good to hear from you! I remember those days so well. We had some good times at the old Galleria Mall, saw some great shows and listened to a lot of great music. Thanks for touching base. Hope you’re well and still listening to “the good stuff.”

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