Tag Archives: Wreckless Eric

Be Stiff Route 78

2 Aug

Here’s some great footage taken on 10 October 1978 at Olympia station in London as the Be Stiff train tour headed to Bristol for the opening night. Wreckless Eric, Lene Lovich, Rachel Sweet, Jona Lewie and Mickey Jupp were on the bill for what proved an ambitious and costly venture and which took in such outposts as Wick in Scotland. The 33-date itinerary came to a close at London’s Lyceum Ballroom on 19 November and the artists – minus Mickey Jupp – flew to New York for four shows at The Bottom Line. Anne Nightingale was presenting Old Grey Whistle Test at the time and is doing the voiceover.

Stiff’s Greatest Stiffs

31 Jul

Stiff tour scheduleStiff rehearsals

Dumping Music On The People…In Your Town!

Stiff’s Greatest Stiffs was unleashed on the great British public on Monday 3 October at High Wycombe Town Hall and winding up on Saturday 5 November at the University Of Lancaster. The line-up was Elvis Costello, Ian Dury, Nick Lowe, Larry Wallis and Wreckless Eric. Interestingly, it was Costello who was handed the final slot at the two run-throughs, which took place at Manticore Studios in Fulham’s North End Road over the previous weekend. A surviving schedule for the tour shows Wreckless going first and Dury and Lowe alternating. Larry Wallis played on stage with Lowe and performed a few of his own songs, including his single Police Car, during his set.

[Excerpt from Be Stiff]

The concept of a rotating bill was novel, but it almost instantly became the cause of resentment. At the centre of it was a power struggle between the artists with the biggest egos – Costello and Dury. Both saw themselves as the most important act on the bill and openly coveted the headline slot. Practical considerations also played a part in the nightly schedule being reviewed just a few dates into the expedition. Dury argued that he needed a rest between drumming for Wreckless and his own set. Likewise, Pete Thomas wanted a decent break between playing with Lowe and Costello.

Lowe was more interested in finishing his set and getting to the nearest pub than topping the bill, as was Edmunds. Wreckless was too drink-addled to be competitive. It also became clear early on that of the five acts, Costello and Dury were best equipped to bring the shows to a climax and send the punters away buzzing. So with the help of Dave Robinson, a compromise had to be hammered out involving two running orders. The first was Lowe/Wallis, Wreckless, Costello and Dury; the second Wreckless, Lowe/Wallis, Dury and Costello.

“That tour caused a lot of friction,” says Paul Conroy, “because as soon as you put artists on stage, it’s all very well with this, ‘You’re on next’, but it didn’t work that way and you could see that Jake was floating more off to the Elvis side. Then, of course, you had Ian Dury with Peter Jenner and Andrew King coming in and Kosmo [Vinyl], and it all started to fracture. And, of course, Eric didn’t really have a manager as such. It goes on in the film and people have said, it became serious. It wasn’t just, ‘We’re all having a laugh and we’ll have a few beers with the late-night, 24-Hour Club.’ Elvis was certainly taking it very seriously and so was Ian. Those two were extremely competitive with each other and Nick was along for the ride…”

Can’t Start Dancin’

14 Apr

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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’.

Be Stiff: The Stiff Records Story

31 Aug

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Stiff Records book coming soon!

17 Aug

Fans of Ian Dury – and many other highly original acts from the same era – may be interested in my second book, which I’ve just finished writing.

Be Stiff: The Story of Stiff Records is due to be published by Soundcheck Books in October. For the very first time, it tells the extraordinary story of how against all odds a small record label formed by two industry mavericks backed rank insiders other labels had sent packing and propelled them to mainstream success.

Shane MacGowan, Wreckless Eric, Jona Lewie, Lene Lovich and Ed Tudor Pole are just some of the artists to give first-hand accounts of their time at Stiff. Former employees from pluggers and press officers to graphic designers also reveal the inside story behind the irreverent label that ripped up the rulebook and declared, ‘If it ain’t Stiff, it ain’t worth a fuck’.

Stiff fans, start spreading the word…