Thursday, April 27, 2006

If It Ain't Stiff , It Ain't Worth A F*%k

Looks like a class action suit has been filed against Sony, claiming that bands are being deprived of proper digital downloading revenue , generated by services such as I-Tunes. Out of every .99 cent download, bands like Cheap Trick & The Allman Brothers say they are entitled to about 30 cents, but instead are getting less than a nickel. This is because older contracts such as those signed in the 70s & 80s don't stipulate the payment, and newer deals do.

In other news...

Cultural maven, Mr. Mike Dingle reminds me that tonight is the closing of the Great Mongol State art exhibit in SF.

In addition to the paintings ,sculptures and works on display, SomArts will feature 5 traditional Mongolian musicians - throat singers, horse fiddle players and more - in a brief program w/ refreshments etc starting at 7pm when the gallery closes officially.

can't make it tonight? -

My buddy Mike Millet who started the Broken Rekids label, is organizing a tribute to the Stiff records label tonight afterwards at The Eagle Tavern as well... and they ain't that far apart...

I gotta miss the Mongolian throat singing unfortunately due to work... but they'll be scratchy throat singing for sure at the Stiff Records & Mentors tribute thing...

I Love My Label - plays Thursday April 27 at the Eagle with The
WoMentors - (They are a female Mentors tribute band).
That sound you hear is El Duce spinning in his grave.

The other 2 bands opening are AMALGAMATION and

here's some tunes that should remind ya why Stiff Records mattered...

Started in 1976, the indie label soon rose out of it's lowly pub rock surroundings heralding a new era for English rock. Stiff Records first came to be in the back of the Hope & Anchor pub where soundman Dave Robinson had a makeshift studio. Via a cash infusion from Lee Brilleaux from Dr. Feelgood, a gang of British drunks, including Dave Robinson & ex-boxer & pub rock band manager Jake Riviera brought along client Nick Lowe.

The first release was Buy 1 , a Lowe single "Heart of The City b/w So It Goes" , which followed in the stle of his old band Brinsley Schwarz. But the next few releases from groups like Roogalator and The Pink Fairies didn't really get the label off the ground. It took a punk rock band's first blast to do that...

Nick Lowe - So It Goes ( Nick Lowe mp3 links go to 3rd party download site)

Nick Lowe - Heart Of the City

Obviously, one of the prime bands of the early Stiff years, and of punk rock in general is The Damned.

a versions of Damned tracks, (but not the Stiff records versions)

The Damned - New Rose

The Damned - Neat Neat Neat ( BBC )

The Damned - Help (live)

The label continued on for a decade, with it's early years being the most revered. Lowe and Rivera left in 1977, taking Elvis Costello along with them, and so went the initial impetus...but the label hung in there.

Dave Robinson kept Stiff going, and many more records followed... the label became known for it's silly publicity campaigns, using slogans like the title of my post. Another they used was "Stiff... The Most Flexible Label. A diverse array of artists like The Pogues, Tracey Ullman, Wayne Kramer, The Go Go's and many others would get their single attempts together under the label's auspices. Lene Lovich was a Stiff records find out of Detroit, an avant garde new wave performer who had some success in the dance market. Her first record for Stiff ( Buy 32 ) was a cover of the old Tommy James & The Shondells song "I Think We're Alone Now", later a big hit for teeny bopper Tiffany. The origin of Buy 042, Lucky Number was the song went from a B-side to I Thnk We're Alone, and a sped up remix was made, and the song became an international hit on it's own.

Lene Lovich - Lucky Number (Buy 042)

Lene Lovich - Bird Song (Buy 053)

Lene Lovich - New Toy ( Buy 097)

By 1984, with sales tapering off, the Stiff brand name was sold to Chris Blackwell's Island label, and the back catalog has since been folded into the mammoth beast of Universal Music, most of it unlikely to see the light of day ever again. ( An "official" website has appeared though, offering to license the tracks...So It Goes...)

In the end, Stiff released around 80 singles, as well as many LPs , including the earliest albums by artists like Elvis Costello, Phranc, Madness, Ian Dury, The Plasmatics and numerous others...

Releasing singles on the label via one offs & licensing deals were groups like Devo, Boxtops, Adverts, Gary Glitter, Girlschool & more

Here's Declan MacManus, from Buy 15

Elvis Costello - Angels' Wanna Wear My Red Shoes

Motorhead doing White Line Fever was even scheduled to be one of the first single releases, but it never came out for some reason.

Look, even Scottish actor/comedian Billy Connolly was on the Stiff roster at one point, and he once hit the UK's top twenty with this novelty single.

The last release I remember owning was a Pogues/Dubliners 12" ( buy 258 ) of the two groups doing a version of The Irish Rover...

and like all good things , it eventually came to an end... some sort of disastrous US major label distribution deals no doubt played a part in the indie's demise.

here's BOY001 ( a play on Stiff's Buy code)

Devo - I Cant' No Satisfaction

This is from the artsy Damned LP, Music for Pleasure, produced by Pink Floyd's bon vivant car racing drummer Nick Mason, that supposedly got them "kicked off" of Stiff Records...

The Damned - You Know

In 1977 The label put together a great road show in the classic Dick Clark package tour mode that featured a good chunk of their roster...

Imagine Nick Lowe, Ian Dury, Wreckless Eric and Elvis Costello all playing a tour together...and finishng up the show with a sloppy group effort of ex & drugs & rock & roll... indeed...

Much love to the website Post Punk Junk who actually posted the entire tracklist of the out of print Live Stiffs LP in mp3 form... get it while it's's a couple tracks... go and get the rest yer badself...

Elvis Costello & The Attractions - I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself

Ian Dury & Everyone - Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll

other Stiff stuff...

Madness did one single on Jerry Dammer's of The Specials Two Tone records, and then Dave Robinson signed them to Stiff for their debut LP. They stayed affiliated with the label for most of their career and the band carried them through financially when everything else was collapsing. Madness left Stiff in 1985 for Geffen, times had changed and the label's days were relatively numbered, basically riding out their bleak late 80's period until the Pogues contract ended.

from their 1979 debut

Madness - My Girl

Madness - Tommorrow's Just Another Day


misc Stiff related shite:

Buy 65 was a solo album from Lee Brilleaux...

the track here is the remaining members of his old band Dr. Feelgood performing on a 2003 Euro tour, a song that was first heard on Dr. Feelgood's 1975 Mono album...original cover pictured below

Dr. Feelgood - Down By The Jetty

and lastly a mini mash up section of Stiff stuff

this one of 50 Cent & Belle Stars ...

50 Cent vs Belle Stars - Iko Iko Inferno

Madness vs Missy Elliott - One Step Beyind


PS - this just came in from Guerilla News Network (
Ian Inaba's new film about voter disenfranchisement, AMERICAN BLACKOUT, screens later tonight and in the next few days at the SF Internmational Film Fest - times and info listed below
San Francisco Film Festival @ the Kabuki Theater for ticket info 925-866-9559 (9am-4pm) or
Thursday 4/27 at 9pm
Friday 4/28 at 1pm (high school student screening)
Monday 5/1 at 4:15 pm (Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney speaking)

see ya later...

maybe, even hopefully at The Eagle

1 comment:

dickvandyke said...

Post of the month old boy. Many thanks