BUY 46 – Lene Lovich: Say When

12 Jul

Stateless had also charted and – keen to profit from the success of Lucky Number – Stiff released the high-tempo Say When as a single on 4 May [1979]. Lovich performed it with rapid arm movements which were mimicked by an ecstatic audience in the accompanying video made by Stiff Visions. Lovich and Stiff were clearly on a roll. Sounds named it Single Of The Week and it entered the chart on 12 May. Five weeks later it had made No 19, ensuring two consecutive Top 20 hits for the new lady of Stiff.’

BUY 76 – The Plasmatics: Butcher Baby

5 Jul


The Plasmatics’ Butcher Baby (BUY 76) was released in 1980 on blood-splattered marble vinyl. The B-side Tight Black Pants was a live recording of another track from their album New Hope For The Wretched (SEEZ 24).

As well as the lurid coloured vinyl for fans to salivate over, the back cover carried information about a promotional offer. ‘For your Plasmatics T shirt and patch send £3.00 inclusive to: Plasmatics Offer c/o Stiff Mail Order, 9-11 Woodfield Road, London W9’.

Disappointingly, the single reached number 55 in the UK chart, the same position achieved by the album. And after health and safety officers at the Greater London Council put paid to the band’s widely promoted show at Hammersmith Odeon 8 August 1980, fans in the UK were denied the chance to see the band’s explosive and outrageous live show, which involved blowing up cars and singer Wendy O Williams taking a chainsaw to a guitar.

The Be Stiff interviews: Jona Lewie

11 Jun

Photo by Nigel Dick

Jona Lewie on playing New York’s Bottom Line as part of the Be Stiff Tour in 1978.

“I was glad of all that live experience. It is like a tennis match where you don’t win. You come out thinking, ‘Right. I’ve learned a lot from that match’ and that was more my attitude. I went forward and even more from having played at The Bottom Line and by then my act was really quite brazen. You had tables and chairs at The Bottom Line where people sat down to drink and have a little bit of food perhaps, that went right to the stage and right out to the little venue. And I just ran out and ran along the tables where all their coffees and drinks and food was, jumped down on to the floor, went around and back on the stage again and carried on singing. And on one of the nights, I just threw myself into the audience. I’ve seen that happen with other people since, so I was quite brazen by then; I’d developed my act. It wasn’t even an act, it was just impulse and desperation to try and make it and try and crack the States. In the sixties, the culture was, ‘If you can make it in the States…’ And indeed, my album was getting airplay all over America, apparently. But frankly Stiff blew it. They didn’t manage to get a label deal with Arista, who they were in negotiation with and there was a reason why Arista was put off them.”

Elvis and his band go live!

1 Jun
With Gregg Geller and EC - 12.77 end of tour party NYC

End of tour party at Ukrainian Ballroom, New York. L-R: Eileen Schneider (Columbia press), Gregg Geller (A&R) Columbia Records, Hope Antman (head of Columbia press), Elvis, Dick Wingate (EC’s product/marketing manager at Columbia). Pic courtesy of Dick Wingate.

Excerpt from Be Stiff: The Stiff Records Story

The raw power of this new group was unleashed for the first time on Thursday 14 July at The Garden, ‘The South West’s Top Rock Centre’, in Penzance. For just £1, those who were there got to see the historic first public performance by Elvis Costello and his new band. Headlining was sometime cross-dressing American punk Wayne County (later Jayne County) and The Electric Chairs, who were just months away from releasing their fabulously trashy 45 (If You Don’t Want To Fuck Me Baby) Fuck Off. Staff from Alexander Street had made the long trek to catch the showcase gig, crammed into a van and sitting on furniture they had brought from the office. Some of them had to restrain holidaymaker Captain Sensible from leaping on the stage mid-set to jam with Costello and crew. “The whole idea was ‘destroy’,” comments Pete Thomas. “It was all about going on stage and flattening people. Costello was Mr Angry. I don’t think he was really. I think it was sort of expected. In retrospect, he is a really clever bloke and he’d dropped it. ‘Right, we’ve got The Jam, we’ve got the Sex Pistols, we’ve got The Clash. We can fit into this.” Adds Bruce Thomas: “He [Wayne County] was going, ‘Who are you guys?’ and we said, ‘This is our first gig’, and he said, ‘Fuck!’.”

Lene Lovich – Toppermost

5 May

I’ve written a piece about Lene Lovich for the Toppermost website and selected what I feel to be her best 10 tracks. Have a read and let me know what you think of my choices.

Can’t Start Dancin’

14 Apr


Stiff Sounds – Can’t Start Dancin’

‘This exciting LP is not available on cassette 8 track or anywhere else’. So triumphed the sleeve of Can’t Start Dancin’, a compilation album produced by the music paper Sounds as part of Stiff’s lavish promotion of the train tour in 1978.

Even by its own standards, Stiff really went to town when it came to the publicity in the run-up to what was an ambitious venture and a risky financial gamble by Dave Robinson. Sponsorship money had been prised out of Polygram, the Bron Agency, Ensign Records and the NME by the label in order to keep costs to a minimum. Sounds meanwhile had invested £35,000 on a 10-week promotional campaign that included national press advertising, commercial radio spots, specialist press ads, fly- posting and promotion at festivals and college campuses.

Sounds also produced an album of tracks by the five artists on the tour – Mickey Jupp, Jona Lewie, Lene Lovich, Rachel Sweet and Wreckless Eric. There were two songs by each of them, as well as from label-mates Ian Dury and The Rumour, making it a 14-track affair. The record was advertised heavily in the press and on radio.

The rear of the sleeve showcased the five covers of the albums Stiff was releasing on the same day to coincide with the start of the tour. Each was on a different coloured vinyl and picture disc. ‘If you require any information regarding Stiff Records and its heinous activities,’ it advised, ‘write to The Stiff Secret Service, 32 Alexander Street, London W2’.

BUY 22 – Larry Wallis: Police Car

12 Apr

Larry Wallis - Police Car

Larry Wallis: Police Car/On Parole (released October 1977)

[Excerpt from Be Stiff: The Stiff Records Story]

Wallis casts his mind back to the hallucinogenic evening that inspired the song. “I was living in a church with a bunch of architects,” he recalls. “But my girlfriend Rose and I lived in the church hall at the back of the place, like a couple of vampires. We lived on Jim Beam, amphetamine sulphate, hash and fish fingers. Someone had built a very high platform, where we basically lived. It had all we needed: a bed, a Sony Trinitron, two shot glasses, a mirror, blade, and drinking straws.

“One Friday evening, as usual, we were as stoned as two boogie owls, and watching Angie Dickinson in Police Woman, when suddenly there was a close-up of a police car roaring towards the camera. Its radiator grille, to my stoned eyes, was a big grin, and its siren was screaming, ‘I’m a Police Car’. I immediately stopped watching the show, and 15 minutes later, tops, ‘I’m a Police Car’ was completely written.”

Another Miss For Eric

4 Apr


Wreckess Eric: Hit And Miss Judy/Let’s Go To The Pictures + I Need A Situation (12″). Released 6 July 1979. 

[Book excerpt]

Despite two Stiff tours, five singles, two albums, costly adverts in the music press and no shortage of media attention, Wreckless still hadn’t troubled the charts. ‘Hit And Miss Judy’ had been a radio-friendly slice of pop, released in orange vinyl and on seven and 12-inch to increase its appeal. But miss it did, further deepening Wreckless’s sense of frustration.

BUY 2 – The Pink Fairies

31 Mar

Pink Fairies - Between The Lines

The Pink Fairies: Between The Lines (BUY 2) was released in the summer of 1976, purporting to be on Bacon Records. The picture sleeve – the first produced by the label – was designed by Edward Barker, a long-time friend of the group. Stiff ordered 2,000 copies to be pressed up. Like the bulk of its early releases it didn’t trouble the charts, but this high-speed, hell-for-leather affair courtesy of the rowdy psychedelic band fronted by frazzle-haired Larry Wallis, remains a favourite among many Stiff fans. Between The Lines and its flip Spoiling For A Fight are also reflective of the raw power and old-style rock ‘n’ roll energy of many of its early releases.

BUY a signed 1

31 Mar

A limited number of signed copies are available and you can request your own special dedication. All copies come in the black cover. To BUY 1 purchase, click on the link below