Nicholas Drain Lowe on March 24, 1949 in Walton-on-Thames, England
Along with childhood friend Brinsley Schwarz, Lowe played in a number of mid-'60s rock bands as a teen, eventually gaining some notice for a very English-sounding outfit, Kippington Lodge, of which both were a member. Eventually that group morphed into a band bearing the name of Lowe's close cohort, and by the early '70s Brinsley Schwarz became one of the most recognizable names and performing acts within Britain's throwback, no-nonsense pub rock scene. The simple roots-influenced rock and roll of this era would have a profound influence on the rise of punk rock in England a few years later.
Nick Lowe Emerges As Major Player:
Before punk's explosion in Britain in 1976 and 1977, Lowe had already established himself as a significant songwriter and producer, serving as a mentor to a number of bands prepared to strike a balance between rootsy, retro pub rock and the fresh, inspired sound that would come to define punk. As a major force on the now-legendary label Stiff Records, Lowe contributed a major single in "So It Goes"/"Heart of the City" but almost as quickly became producer du jour for major artists like first-wave punkers the Damned and fellow boundary-exploding singer-songwriter Elvis Costello.
Toward a Solo Career:
A true original, Lowe had simultaneously grown more distinctive and quirky as a performer, deconstructing the pop song in his early singles and forging an entirely personal interpretation of the country and blues-inflected music he had made with Brinsley Schwarz. In fact, following his critically acclaimed 1978 debut, Jesus of Cool, Lowe enjoyed his only real American hit in 1979 with a new version of "Cruel to Be Kind," an old Brinsley Schwarz tune his former band had never embraced. Although still rather difficult to categorize, Lowe now seemed to fit into the newly christened new wave sound.
Stardom Evades Yet Another Singular Talent:
However, largely because of Lowe's refusal to take anyone's path but his own, a hitmaker's career was not to be. Having drifted away from Rockpile, the band in which he played with fellow roots rocker Dave Edmunds and with whom he recorded several late-'70s records, Lowe pressed on into the '80s with some unfocused releases that met primarily with audience confusion or disinterest, particularly 1982's Nick the Knife and 1983's The Abominable Showman. Still, by the next year Lowe had righted the ship with a return to roots rock, an approach he would generally stick with thereafter as artist and producer.
Nick Lowe - A Venerable Talent Matures & Endures:
By the late '80s Lowe reached another period of prolific output, releasing well-received studio albums and then forming another short-lived but lauded supergroup in Little Village (with John Hiatt, Ry Cooder and Jim Keltner). During the '90s Lowe's reputation grew and placed him into an advantageous position as the alternative country/Americana movement began to gain attention in America. Having finally embraced his status as cult favorite, Lowe has been as consistent as ever in the new millennium, releasing fine records and touring comfortably without resisting the changes middle age has had in store.