("bona fide" and "coincide" is particularly impressive)
March 20, 2015 10:10 AM   Subscribe

"Cruel To Be Kind" Official video | Behind the Scenes: Nick Lowe's "Cruel To Be Kind" video | Top of the Pops - 1979 | Countdown - 1979 | Interview with David Letterman | Take 40 Australia - acoustic version | Dig Music, Untidy desk - acoustic version

Song review by Stuart Mason at All Music Guide...
Nick Lowe's sole American hit single -- it hit number 12 in the summer of 1979 -- "Cruel To Be Kind" is an all-time power-pop classic, one of the finest singles of its era. This is one of those songs where seemingly everything single element of the tune and arrangement is its own hook, from Billy Bremner's galloping acoustic rhythm guitar and the strange extra flutter in every other measure of Terry Williams' backbeat to the Beach Boys-inspired backing vocals on the perfectly modulated bridge into Dave Edmund's slide guitar solo. The song, co-written by former Brinsley Schwartz bandmate Ian Gomm and originally recorded by that star-crossed band, is a masterful blend of clever rhymes ("bona fide" and "coincide" is particularly impressive) and perhaps Lowe's most insistently catchy chorus, but this remake is world's better than the comparatively shambolic original. The song was helped by a goofily endearing early music video that incorporated real home movie footage of Lowe's wedding to country singer Carlene Carter.
Wikipedia has background information:
"Cruel To Be Kind" was released on the Radar Records label in the UK and Columbia Records in the USA. It was originally featured on Lowe's second solo album Labour of Lust. The video to the song was one of the first music videos aired on MTV, and is a humorous re-enactment of Lowe's wedding to Carlene Carter, featuring Carter herself and Dave Edmunds as their limo driver. This version of the song has been included in many compilations of Lowe’s work..." (see link for rest of article)
Previously: "The Way They Were", Mavis Staples, Nick Lowe, and Wilco - "The Weight", Top Videos from MTV's First Day
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (42 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
posted by koeselitz at 10:14 AM on March 20, 2015

Rosanne Cash in white in an easy chair: 1:24 and 1:33 in the Behind the Scenes.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:21 AM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Nice! This song's been running through my head lately thanks to a rather convoluted path: Parks & Rec ending --> binging & remembering Ben and his Letters to Cleo shirt --> Hey, Letters to Cleo is in 10 Things I Hate About You, which is on HBO Go at the moment --> and their cover of Cruel to be Kind plays at one point --> I dig out a compilation CD which I bought in college which had Nick Lowe's version on it. And until now I didn't know that his version was also a cover.
posted by rewil at 10:24 AM on March 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

I love cheap weddings, and even cheaper music videos, and Rosanne Cash in an easy chair, and anything by Nick Lowe, so ...this.
posted by swift at 10:26 AM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Cruel to be Kind
posted by Navelgazer at 10:51 AM on March 20, 2015

Delightful, yet infuriating for the too-tight shot beside the black-painted pool of the legendary rock and roll Tropicana Motel (RIP). Pan, damn it, pan!
posted by Scram at 10:54 AM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Mr. Mason said it better, but this is just a perfect little song. I love it.
posted by marxchivist at 10:55 AM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Labour of Lust is one of those absolutely faultless records. Every song is at least very good, and "American Squirm", "You Make Me", and "Dose of You" are three of my very, very favorite songs. In truth, Cruel to be Kind is one of the weaker tracks on the album, and it's still a lovely little ditty.

Jesus of Cool/Pure Pop For Now People gets all the attention, but Labour of Lust is the real stunner.
posted by blue t-shirt at 10:56 AM on March 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

Listened to it again for the first time in a while. I thought, "what a great song. It's Beatles-quality. How had I never realized what a good pop song this was?"

Good post!
posted by persona au gratin at 11:01 AM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

I love all of the Nick Lowe/Dave Edmunds/Rockpile stuff. It greatly deserves more attention.
posted by tommasz at 11:18 AM on March 20, 2015 [12 favorites]

2007 version for the Beeb.
posted by maudlin at 11:28 AM on March 20, 2015

Thanks for this post! I've been listening to a lot of Nick Lowe lately - seriously how great is "Half a Boy and Half a Man"? Or "I Knew the Bride"? Or "Heart of the City"? But yes, "Cruel to be Kind" is like the platonic ideal of the perfect pop song. Its amazingness can scarcely be quantified.
posted by skycrashesdown at 11:29 AM on March 20, 2015 [6 favorites]

Yeah, this song is definitely one of the underrated gems. Just about perfect in every way, from the evocation of 50s and Brill Building pop to the crisp production. Dave Edmunds' "Information" is another completely forgotten and super-perfect gleaming pop gem.
posted by blucevalo at 11:37 AM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

His last couple of records are really good, although very different from this - they are mellow and a little countryfied

Check out this Johhny Rivers cover
posted by thelonius at 11:39 AM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I had the great fortune to see Nick Lowe and Rockpile back in '78. They were one of the warmup acts for Elvis Costello at Indy's Circle Theater. Fantastic stuff. Just damned good rock-n-roll, with some really sly smarts.

I have four Lowes tunes in rotation on my iPod. CTBK, of course. Also, I Knew the Bride, Music for Money, and the lovely and charming Marie Provost.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:54 AM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

The summer of 1979 and I'm working at an amusement park. On breaks, I'd often play pinball in the attached arcade. My memory of this song playing while I worked the flippers is warm and distinct. One of those perfect little moments.
posted by davebush at 11:59 AM on March 20, 2015 [7 favorites]

I love old Nick Lowe and Dave Edmonds stuff.
This song, Endless Sleep has gotta be my favorite Nick Lowe songs and possibly one of the saddest songs ever.
posted by dougzilla at 11:59 AM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've just been getting into Nick Lowe lately and I think no post would be complete without his not one but two Bay City Rollers "tributes".
posted by downtohisturtles at 12:03 PM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Forgot to add...For about three or four years, I helped run the scoreboard at my daughter's high school softball games. Part of my job was to also play a bit of music between team at-bats. If our team happened to have a particularly productive inning (like, bombing the opposing pitcher for a handful of runs, for example) my go-to tune was Cruel to be Kind.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:04 PM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

2007 version for the Beeb

It's too bad that his voice became quite faint over the course of the intervening 28 years. Great song though.
posted by slkinsey at 12:11 PM on March 20, 2015

I had the great fortune to see Nick Lowe and Rockpile back in '78. They were one of the warmup acts for Elvis Costello at Indy's Circle Theater. Fantastic stuff.

I was there too! And in '79 when Rockpile opened for Blondie at the Convention Center.
posted by in278s at 12:24 PM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

>High-fives in278s. Will buy a beer anytime.
That '78 show is easily in my top 5 all-time.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:52 PM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Nick Lowe really should be as well-known and appreciated as Elvis Costello.
posted by saul wright at 1:43 PM on March 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

In addition to Cruel to be Kind, All Men Are Liars and So It Goes must be some of the greatest songs ever written. IMO.
posted by humboldt32 at 2:19 PM on March 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

Anyone in need of even more Lowe should rush to listen to the "super group" Little Village (Hiatt! Keltner! Cooder! Lowe!), who performed his excellent "Fool Who Knows." The same personnel are featured on John Hiatt's album Bring the Family.
posted by ajryan at 2:40 PM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

CONFESSION TIME: I thought Cruel To Be Kind was an Elvis Costello song until literally just now
posted by The Whelk at 2:43 PM on March 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

Speaking of Ian Gomm - hold on, here's another lovely pop gem.
posted by davebush at 2:50 PM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

We really should put together a sort of "MeFi's list of perfect pop songs". I'm a sucker for really well-crafted pop songs. They're such delicious ear candy. I have a ton of guilty little pleasures on my iPod.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:54 PM on March 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

It is a shame that Nick's appearance on Austin City Limits is not available online.

It's too bad that his voice became quite faint over the course of the intervening 28 years.

That is the mature voice of an artist who knows he does not need to scream to be heard.

Anyway, for more Nick Lowe wedding action, I love the video for I Knew The Bride. It actually manages to exceed the sheer mayhem of the Cruel to Be Kind video.

One of my favorite vinyl records is a short EP called The Beverly Brothers. Just a few years ago, I was astonished to discover there were more songs recorded at that session, and one of the best is this very eccentric performance of I Knew The Bride.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:54 PM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Rockville, "Crawling From the Wreckage" live 1980. Similar to the version from the Concert for the People of Kampuchea but you can see the band perform in this one.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:47 PM on March 20, 2015

Charlie don't surf: Thanks so much for that! And for the bonus songs Blue Moon of Kentucky and The Race Is On.
posted by caryatid at 7:02 PM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I also saw Rockpile and Blondie on their 1979 tour, but at the Masonic Temple in Detroit. Great show !
posted by rfs at 7:14 PM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh damn this is good: Rockpile 30 minute performance on Danish TV 1979.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:25 PM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Nobody's mentioned "What's so funny about peace, love and understanding" yet. For shame. That and "Girls Talk" are my faves.
posted by emf at 7:58 PM on March 20, 2015

I Don't Want The Night To End has been my earworm for the past couple weeks. It's so simple yet it doesn't need anything else.
posted by downtohisturtles at 8:27 PM on March 20, 2015


When I was a kid, whenever this song would play on the radio or MTV, I'd drop everything. That hook made me just wait for it. I still get some sort of thrill when the chorus builds up to it. I have to sing along with that part. Eeeee, here it comes again....


I can't stop myself. It's hard-wired into me now. Thanks for linking to the video, I forgot how goofy and sincere it was.
posted by not_on_display at 10:00 PM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

A few years back Nick Lowe said in an interview the main reason he's able to afford making music long after his career peak was his publishing royalties for '(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding' on 'The Bodyguard' movie soundtrack, which sold ~45 million copies.
posted by Homer42 at 10:22 PM on March 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

Nick Lowe is fully awesome. Nice post, thanks for bringing it.
posted by Daddy-O at 10:40 PM on March 20, 2015

Also, Nick Lowe's cover of the John Hiatt song She Don't Love Nobody is excellent.
posted by Daddy-O at 11:04 PM on March 20, 2015

Weird. Listened to this song tonight on the way home. I wasn't really aware of his stuff as a teen but bought his greatest hits a year or so prior to his recent Mod Club appearance in Toronto. One of the best concerts I've ever been to and Cruel to be Kind was way more of a stand out than I'd expected it to be.
posted by bonobothegreat at 2:59 AM on March 21, 2015

Great to see all the love and support for Nick, Dave, Billy and Terry -- Rockpile is my all-time favorite band.
I love the quote that some critic came up with (Sorry I don't remember who) -- "Rockpile is fuelled by the same energy source as the punks but they can play rings around them." That's spot-on, IMHO.

Thought some of you might be interested in checking out the following Pile-related audio interviews I've produced:


posted by DougieGee at 7:46 AM on March 21, 2015

I did not know Nick Lowe wrote (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding until this thread.

(But I watch that Mavis Staples/Wilco video at least a couple times a month)
posted by DigDoug at 6:22 AM on March 23, 2015

« Older "I was not a very nice person and I had no...   |   aspiring to a world in which personality is... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments