This past weekend, Susan and I saw Walk the Line, the movie about Johnny Cash (it got a good review from me). As such things do, it got me doing some research about Johnny Cash. I had been kind of disappointed with the greatest hits CD I had gotten several years ago. It had “Ring of Fire” and “Boy Named Sue” (which I don’t even like, though it’s a good story), but seemed lacking. A lot of the songs in the movie were from his earliest days at Sun records and were more appealing to me. So I went off looking for some of that music and bought a few songs from iTunes, plus a good duet with June Carter they played at the end of the movie. Then I decided to make a virtual CD in iTunes of the new stuff from iTunes and the good stuff from my CD, filtering out songs I wasn’t crazy about. I was trying to figure out what would be good from my old CD and in the liner notes saw that one of the later songs was by Nick Lowe with Nick Lowe on guitar. I don’t know if I’d never made it that far on the CD, but I’d never noticed it before and it was a pretty good song (“Without Love,” the CD also has Cash doing a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Highway Patrolman” which Jeb would probably like, but didn’t make my cut). I’d seen Nick Lowe’s name come up a lot before and I just had to figure out who he was.
I went to AllMusic and found out he was a member of Brinsley Schwarz in the early 70’s, which meant nothing to me since I’d never heard of them. He’s considered a founder of New Wave, but the only hit song he had in the US was “Cruel To Be Kind” in the 80’s (which I remember). He also wrote “Wha’ts so Funny About Peace, Love, and Understanding?” which Elvis Costello later performed and put on his greatest hits album. I knew he had been connected with Elvis Costello and it turns out he produced several of Costello’s albums. He also produced some songs by The Pretenders when they were big.
It turns out he is a real character. To get out of a record contract with United Artists once, he decided to write really bad songs. One of them was “Bay City Rollers We Love You” but it became a surprise hit in Japan and the record company kept him under contract. As far as I can tell he stayed mostly below the radar for his entire career (though he’s still around, so who knows?). In 1987 someone (not Elvis Costello) remade “Peace Love” again for the soundtrack for The Bodyguard which also featured Whitney Houston’s giant, enormous hit (by Dolly Parton) “I Will Always Love You”. The album broke all kinds of sales records for a soundtrack and Lowe became a millionaire just from the royalties for writing a song most people probably skipped. Happy ending.
And the Johnny Cash connection? It turns out that just before Cash made that song with Lowe, Lowe had married Carlene Carter who was Johnny’s wife’s daughter by a previous marriage. So Cash was Lowe’s step father in law (until they got divorced in 1990).
Here’s the whole article though I’ve told you most of the good parts.