The other week, while on holiday in Fife we wandered past the students union at St Andrews University and I found myself remembering the first time I met Nick Lowe. He was part of Rockpile and they were playing the Union on one of those nights when you were glad to be alive and thanked the Gods that things like this still happened. More than that I can’t remember, but I was grateful for seeing such a great rock n roll band in such an intimate setting.
A few years later I found myself for the first and last time at The Reading Festival. I’d never quite understood why we were unlucky enough to be booked but, needless to say, the words of our production manager at the time did not augur well. ‘Listen chaps,’ they’re a little boisterous out there and when the acts kick off they tend to throw a few beer cans towards the stage…nothing personal…they’re a great crowd.’ I’m old fashioned and frankly I didn’t need Reading or their cans of piss and I led our group off stage after a number and a half. That we never got back mattered very little to them or us. One lovely thing did happen however. On the sister stage, set up adjacent to ours was John Hiatt. I’d fallen for his music a year or so before after Tom Morton turned me on to his album, ‘Bring The Family.’ I decided to make myself known and knocked on his door to find, to my delight, an earlier visitor, Nick Lowe, was still there. In truth I was probably even more thrilled to meet Nick than I was to encounter John, but I was more than delighted to meet them both.
A couple of years later and I found myself in L’Escargot in Soho in the unlikely role of judging on an awards panel. It was a few hours of life I will never get back but there was to be a lovely consolation prize…Nick was also on the panel. By this time we recognised each other and he made a point of telling me I should have his phone number…I’d not asked..but he assured me I should call whenever. I, of course, never did but carried the number around in my old diary as a souvenir of the day we met.
From that day on Nick disappeared a little from view. I knew a little of his output but in all honesty lost track until nearly twenty years went by and he brought out a run of solo albums which re ignited all my earlier fandom. In the meantime Nick himself had been married and divorced to Carlene Carter, been welcomed in to the Carter Cash family, had his songs cut by Johnny and become an overnight millionaire when one of his songs was included on the Bodyguard film soundtrack.
Picking up on the late output I fell in love all over again with his songs on The Convincer, At My Age and The Old Magic. They make a beautiful trilogy and I really can’t recommend them highly enough. In 2011 all of this came together in the perfect way.
Booked to play at Glastonbury around this time of year I discovered to my delight that the act on before us was the man himself. We spoke, I watched his set and then we went on to enjoy one of the best nights we have ever had on stage in our long time of good nights.
In the intervening years Nick has been a guest on the show but this week, in the middle of his first major tour in the UK for 20 years he has brought in the excellent Los Straitjackets (all the way from Nashville) and cut four live session tracks for us. That’s not all! In the second hour of the show I sit down with Nick and talk songs, stories and county connections…..and there are so many.
If you think you don’t like Nick Lowe you might just need to listen closer, if you think you don’t like country music you might need to hear about it through the songs and stories of a man who loves it.
It’s The Another Country Nick Lowe special and it’s on BBC Radio Scotland this Tuesday evening from five past nine.