Nick Lowe discusses his contribution to Buddy Holly tribute album, and his slot on upcoming Wilco tour
Nick Lowe sounded positively -- but unnecessarily -- apologetic when I spoke to him last week about his contribution to the new “Rave on Buddy Holly” tribute album on which his track appears alongside others from Paul McCartney, Cee Lo Green, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, the Black Keys, Fiona Apple and Jon Brion, She & Him and several more.
Lowe, who will tour in September opening for Wilco when his first album in four years, "The Old Magic," is released, picked “Changing All Those Changes,” a comparatively lesser-known Holly song that appeared on the posthumous 1963 album, “Remembering,” and which Lowe gives a raw rockabilly-skiffle treatment.
Lowe hadn’t heard the finished album when we spoke, but said, “My jaw has been dropping when I’ve read some of the descriptions of what other people have done on their tracks,” a reference to the drastically reworked arrangements many artists have used in their performances.
“We did it pretty much like Buddy did it,” said the 62-year-old English rocker, who in recent years has taken to wearing Holly-ish horn-rimmed glasses. “I’ve always known that song. The original sounds really, really unfinished, which was part of the reason I was attracted to doing it. We could arrange it a little bit differently, but essentially, we do that rockabilly kind of music in our show now, so it was not really a big jump for us to do that sort of thing.
“But I’m rather ashamed of our contribution," he said, "because there are all these fancy reworkings of Buddy Holly tunes. It sounds like we knocked ours off in 10 minutes, but with his music I felt like that’s the way we’re supposed to do it."
Album co-producer Randall Poster, the music supervisor known for his work on movies by Martin Scorsese, Todd Haynes and others, quickly tried to disabuse Lowe’s self-criticism when I spoke to him the following day.
“I think he stayed true to himself,” Poster said. “It’s very much in the Nick Lowe style. It’s funny -- when we first started talking, one of things about doing this is that I’ve been dying to work with Nick Lowe forever. Probably those first three Elvis Costello records [that he produced] are my favorites of all time, and I was a huge fan of Rockpile,” Lowe’s band of the late-1970s and early '80s with Dave Edmunds, Billy Bremner and Terry Williams.
“When that Rockpile album came out and had that 7-inch single with him and Dave Edmunds doing Everly Brothers songs," Poster said, "that helped take me back to certain [early rock 'n' roll]; it was part of my school of rock, so to speak. So when the Buddy Holly thing came about, one thought was, 'I can work with Nick now.'"
Lowe himself is looking forward to touring with Wilco in the fall. "I've got a feeling their audience could be my audience," he said. "They just don't know it yet."
-- Randy Lewis
Photo of Nick Lowe. Credit: Dan Burn-Forti