'Are There Any Jobs For The Old Blokes?'

19 February 2012 | 9:14 am | Michael Smith

Nick Lowe is probably best known for singles like Cruel To Be Kind and I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass, as well as (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding, a hit for Elvis Costello, whose first few albums he produced. He is one of the UK's great punk/new wave survivors, a musical artisan rather than a pop star, as happy being in back of the likes of Costello and Ry Cooder or just part of the band, as he's been with Brinsley Schwarz and Rockpile. Last year he released his 13th solo album, The Old Magic, an album that digs back, stylistically, to the kind of music popular when he was a kid.

“Yes, I suppose so,” Lowe admits, on the line from London. “It's a curious thing about getting older in this business that there actually wasn't a job available of my age [he turns 63 during his Australian tour] until fairly recently. Now they're four a penny, you know – Bob Dylan and Paul Simon – I mean they're all doing very good work. It's not like they're just still grinding round the circuit on their past glories; they're still serious artists and their records are considered.

“One of the perks of being lucky enough to still have a career in your sixties and to still be writing is that you lose a lot of the youthful snobbery, I think, that certainly my generation had. It wasn't all our fault, but our generation rejected our parents' music when rock'n'roll came along. It was like, 'We don't need your stuff.' Nowadays of course that's not the case, kids and their parents all like the same stuff in many cases. When you get older, a lot of that sort of nonsense all goes by the board and suddenly you start to see how great Peggy Lee is or someone who my folks used to listen to and I always liked it back then, but when I became a teenager it was, 'Ooh no, no, no.' It took me to the age of about forty to actually figure it out, but I'm glad I finally did,” he laughs.

The advantage Lowe had in coming to terms with his parents' music was that he's a songwriter and ultimately heard the incredible craft behind that music, in the songwriting of people like Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer and Irving Berlin.
 “I always loved American music of any stripe, be it straight pop or country and western, blues or gospel, but also Broadway and film music and things like that. I always loved that stuff and I love what happened to that music when it came across the Atlantic to us and to Europe, so I also love French and Italian pop music, which is sort of a joke but there's something in there that is sort of cool. If you mix it up – mix and match – you can come up with something really interesting and kinda hip.

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“I'm not trying to take the old masters on [with The Old Magic] – I am trying to make pop music, which is fairly disposable – but I like the skill and the craft of songwriting, which I think is kind of dying out now,” Lowe laughs again, “but I still enjoy it.”