Stiff Records, yes that label, was somewhat recently brought back to life here in the US thanks to Razor & Tie - usually specialists in releases for children, and compilations of 80's hair metal ballads only available when advertised on late night television. For the black Friday version of Record Store Day they'll be releasing a nice & neat little 7" boxset of classic Stiff releases. This year it falls on Nov. 29. Here's what you get:
PINK FAIRIES - Between The Lines / Spoiling For A Fight
A remnant of London’s psychedelic club scene, Pink Fairies had already been recording for five years prior to joining Stiff, where they recorded their one and only release “Between The Lines” with new guitarist Larry Wallis. The band left Stiff after this single, but Wallis, after joining Lemmy in the first incarnation of Motorhead, became an in-house producer at Stiff.
WRECKLESS ERIC - Whole Wide World / Semaphore Signals
Produced by Nick Lowe, who also played bass on the track, “Whole Wide World” is probably the best known track of English rock / new wave singer Wreckess Eric. More than two decades after its release, it was included on Mojo Magazine’s list of best punk rock singles of all time! The song has since been covered by Lightning Seeds, The Monkees, The Proclaimers, and Paul Westerberg, among others.
JONA LEWIE - You’ll Always Find Me In The Kitchen at Parties / Bureaucrats
Stiff spotted ingenious songwriter Jona Lewie as he experienced success as a member of Brett Marvin and The Thunderbolts and off-shoots Terry Dactyl and The Dinosaurs. His career with Stiff spanned five years, and saw the release of 11 singles, the fourth of which was the synth-pop masterpiece “You’ll Always Find Me In The Kitchen At Parties”, which made it into the UK Top 20.
DESMOND DEKKER - Israelites / Why Fight?
A legend in Jamaican music, Desmond Dekker had a successful touring business, but only sporadic hits through the 60’s and 70’s. After joining Stiff, Dave Robinson quickly teamed up Dekker with The Rumour and other Jamaican artists who backed him on new recordings of various old hits to create the album Black & Dekker, which included the single “Israelites”, which reached number 10 in the UK.
PLASMATICS - Monkey Suit / Squirm (Live)
Led by the ‘Queen of Shock Rock’, Wendy O Williams, Plasmatics, with their porno sleeves, S&M styling, fusion of punk and heavy metal, were the most parent-frightening and gloriously perverted band a teenager could find in the 80s. Released in 1980, “Butcher Baby” would have been far better suited for the year 2000. A band definitely ahead of its’ time.
TENPOLE TUDOR - Swords of a Thousand Men / Love and Food
After appearing in the Sex Pistols’ film The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle, Malcolm McLaren told Ed Tudor-Pole he could “either form a band or go into pornography”, hence Tenpole Tudor was formed. On Stiff, the band delivered six singles, including the UK chart hit “Swords of a Thousand Men”, as well as two albums.
TRACEY ULLMAN - They Don’t Know / The B-Side
As part of the BBC comedy trio Three Of A Kind, Tracey Ullman was already a household name before joining Stiff in 1983 to record 60’s throwback, bubblegum-pop singles. The first three, “Breakaway”, “They Don’t Know”, and “Move Over Darling”, all went Top 10 in the UK, with “They Don’t Know” also hitting number 8 in the U.S.
KIRSTY MACCOLL - A New England / Patrick
Originally spotted by Stiff singing backing vocals for the punk band Drug Addix, Kirsty MacColl was signed to a solo deal and released her first single “They Don’t Know” in 1979. After leaving Stiff for Polydor in 1981, singer-songwriter MacColl returned to the label to work with Tracey Ullman, who had a hit with a cover of “They Don’t Know”, on a cover of her own, Billy Bragg’s “A New England”, which reached number 7 on the UK charts. This version includes two extra verses specially written for her by Bragg for the release.
THE UNTOUCHABLES - (I Spy For The) FBI / Whiplash
Part of the early 80’s Silver Lake, Los Angeles, ska revival scene, The Untouchables cut their teeth playing covers of the Blue Magoos and the Small Faces. Upon signing to Stiff, they recorded a few singles, including “(I Spy For The) FBI”, which charted at number 59 in the UK.
MINT JULEPS - Docklands / Docklands 12” Version
The Stiff 7” That Never Was! An all-female group centered around the four Picket sisters toured with everyone from Sister Sledge to Billy Bragg, as well as singing backup for Bob Geldof and Dr. Feelgood before joining Stiff. Their soulful, a cappella style fused with earthenware pop songs set them apart from other similar acts. The single “Docklands” has only previously been released as a 12” (BUY264), never before as a 7”.