There was a movement in the late 70’s that played directly to the most cynical of pop fans. It wasn’t punk or new wave, although some fans tried to lump them into that category; it wasn’t power-pop, except the music certainly was reminiscent of the tag. This music was literate and subversive while taking influences from 60’s pop bands like the Beatles, Beach Boys, Motown, Phil Spector and STAX, but lyrically it was far more sarcastic and very willing to bite the so-called “hand that feeds them.”
This is the world where Nick Lowe lived for a while. His single “Cruel To Be Kind” (from Labour Of Lust) could be played on AM radio, but most of his songs were strictly FM bound, or not to be played on radio at all. This was because Labour Of Lust, much like Elvis Costello’s This Year’s Model, featured songs that attacked both radio and the music industry in general. Yet you had to love him for it. He was crafting perfectly awesome pop songs (back when pop wasn’t a word used to describe musical masturbation) without patronizing you with stupidity in the process. It was brilliant!
Unfortunately, the movement didn’t last long enough to forever remain in the hipster consciousness and it all but disappeared for a time. However, some great things have happened since the turn of the century. People who were influenced by these great sounds started singing the praises of these albums and independent record companies started picking up what the big guys had dropped. So here we are with several choices to grab not just a great album, but a substantial one.
If you’re crate digging in North America, finding Jesus Of Cool might be a little difficult as it was re-titled Pure Pop For Now People. Apparently, Columbia Records just had to screw with things for the American audience even exchanging one song (“Shake and Pop”) for another (“They Call It Rock”) and changing the running order entirely. Used copies will cost you under $10.
It wasn’t until 1989 that a CD (as well as a vinyl re-release) version of the record was released by Demon Records in the UK. The CD had a different cover, while the vinyl returned to the original cover. The CD can be purchased under $10 used but the ’89 vinyl has one reseller asking over a $100 for a new copy.
Spending that kind of money on a new copy really isn’t necessary, as some great things happened for the Jesus of Cool on its 30th anniversary. Complete remasters were done in 2008 on both sides of the Atlantic with a companion disc added to a gatefold cover. Yep Rock actually released two versions of the vinyl set. One was in standard black wax and the other came in red and yellow translucent vinyl. You can still find them at your finer record retailers and they shouldn’t set you back more than $30.
The companion disc also includes an earlier version of “Cruel To Be Kind” that had not previously been released.
In all, it’s an outstanding record you should give a try… after all, there is nothing quite like a sarcastic SOB with deadly accurate aim. Believe me his shot at fans of the Bay City Rollers is worth the price of admission all by itself.