Sampler Daze: A Bunch Of Stiff Records

Bunch-Of-Stiffs---Front

Back in the days of dinosaurs and vinyl LPs, record labels used to put out “samplers,” full albums with a track each from their top artists and usually budget priced.  In 1976, the pioneering punk/New Wave label Stiff Records came on to the scene and they put out an 11-song sampler LP in early 1977 to promote the first artists they signed.

Stiff---Elvis-Costello

Elvis Costello

A Bunch of Stiff Records now sounds prescient, because the Stiff roster included Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, Wreckless Eric, Graham Parker, the Tyla Gang and this guy named Elvis Costello – who would all become the most influential U.K. rockers of the era.  Perhaps the most ear-catching track on the album, Elvis’ “Less Than Zero” was one of three songs on the LP that had been issued as singles.  This version is slightly different than the track that appears on My Aim Is True.

Stiff also had, for some reason, Motörhead – the heavy metal rockers were formed in 1975 by Lemmy Kilmister, formerly a roadie for Jimi Hendrix.  Like a few of the early Stiff Records artists, they were under contract to United Artists when they cut sides for Stiff so there was a bit of a legal tangle that prevented some of this music, like the single “White Line Fever”, from seeing the light of day until years later.

Dave Edmunds checks in with a revved-up Chuck Berry cover, “Jo Jo Gunne,” and Edmunds produces a mysterious artist, Jill Read, who sings “Maybe.”  The story was that she was reclusive, blah blah, and it’s most likely Edmunds (or even Nick Lowe) doing the singing with some studio effects (or some extra tight underwear) to get that voice a little higher.

Lowe himself did a self-serving track, “I Love My Label,” and produced a number of others, including the bloozy instrumental “Jump For Joy” by a group called Stones Masonry.  That was actually a pub-rock supergroup – with players from a number of groups.  The album also had a “mystery” (unlisted) track, a speedy “Back to Schooldays” by Graham Parker & the Rumour.

Stiff Records would of course go on to introduce a number of artists who defined the New Wave movement – the Pogues, Madness, Ian Dury & the Blockheads, Wreckless Eric, Devo, Tracey Ullman, the Plasmatics, Rachel Sweet and many others.

MP3: “Jo Jo Gunne” by Dave Edmunds

MP3: “Less Than Zero” by Elvis Costello

MP3: “Maybe” by Jill Read

MP3: “Jump For Joy” by Stones Masonry

MP3: “White Line Fever” by Motörhead

Stiff Records official website

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