Cruel To Be Kind–Twice

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It was the late fall of 1979. 

I had just moved back to Austin to get “serious” about college.  I partied and wasted the two previous years since graduating from High School and at the ripe old age of 20, I knew I needed to get my fecal matter together.

So, as fate would hate it,  I was working my way through school as a Bridal Consultant in the China and Crystal department at Foley’s in Highland Mall.     I was driving through downtown Austin on my way to work from my humble apartment on the student populated Riverside section when I first heard Nick Lowe’s song, “Cruel To Be Kind”.   It was an instant hint in the radio station in my head, KKLK.  I loved it.

Here it is again in case you haven’t seen the video or heard the song in a while.   Interesting collection of sights and sounds.  It was also one of the first to air on MTV which would launch a few years later.

I’d like to touch on a few points of interest, if I may.   First off, from what I understand, the video contains footage of Lowe’s actual  1979 wedding to Carleen Carter, the daughter of country singers Carl Smith and June Carter Cash.  Carter is also the stepdaughter of Johnny Cash.   Lowe adopted her daughter, Tiffany Anastasia and the marriage ended in the mid 1980s, but they remained friends, and Lowe remained close to the Carter/Cash family.   In fact, he played and recorded with Johnny Cash, and Cash recorded several of Lowe’s songs.

How’s that for a solid happening relationship with in-laws past and present!

One of the guitar players, the limousine driver and one of the groomsmen is fellow musician and longtime friend and former Rockpile band mate, Dave Edmunds (of “I Hear You Knocking” and “Girls Talk” fame).

Since “Cruel To Be Kind” hit the charts 30 years ago (and frankly, just typing that out makes me shake my head to realize the awful rapidity of time), he’s played with a few bands here and there and spent time in studio as both a session player and a producer.

And in a twist of Lowe’s own song title, “time has been cruel and hardly kind” to the 61 year old.  

To be honest, I hadn’t heard this song, much less thought about Nick Lowe in quite some time.  So, when I was reminded of “Cruel To Be Kind”,  when it was played on one of satellite music channels at home, I decided to You Tube it to hear it again.   That made me curious about Nick and what he had been up to since…well 1979. 

For starters, he’s aged quite a bit, but  when you reach 61 years on this planet and you’re a musician who’s lived through Rock’s sophomore effort (the 60’s), its strange cohabitation with other music genres in the early to mid 70’s and the punk rock/new wave scene of the late 70’s and early 80’s, you’d imagine time has taken its toll.  He’s earned every gray hair.

But in spite of the snow on top, Nick Lowe still has his voice, which is more than you can say for a lot of his fellow rockers who lived life just as hard, if not harder.  The venerable British musician is aware of the aging process and its effect on him.   On a recent tour of smaller venues both in the States and in England, Lowe informed  the  New York Daily News of his greatest fear in recent years  regarding the passage of time in this industry, “I didn’t want to become one of those thinning-haired, jowly old geezers who still does the same shtick they did when they were young, slim and beautiful,” he said. “That’s revolting and rather tragic.”

Well, I suppose it would be tragic  ONLY if you allow it to be and I think despite the gray hair, the wrinkles and the sensible, easy-care pants worn up to his nipples, he’s doing just fine.   In fact,  he still has “it”.  Proof of that is in this little gem.   It’s a  video of what we used to call a “jam session”.  I suppose now it’s just sitting in on  an acoustic set.   

Well, whatever you call it, here’s another version of “Cruel To Be Kind”, sung this time with Daryl Hall (sans Oates)  and the late T-Bone Wolk.

The You Tube link for embedding this video has been disabled, so click here to be taken to  the site.  

This was taped in the summer of 2008 at Hall’s house for a series of webcasts he was hosting.

It’s still cool to watch and kind of poignant and sweet.   Oh and while I’m at it, the man in the wool cap is T-Bone Wolk, who died just this past Saturday night.  The 58-year-old died from an apparent heart attack,  just hours after recording  an album with Hall in New York.   Both Hall and Oates were set to appear as part of the one-year anniversary show for NBC’s ‘Late Night with Jimmy Fallon’ on Monday night.    That didn’t happen.

Wolk not only performed with Hall and Oates for 30 years, he also worked with cadre of  artists such as Elvis Costello, Bette Midler, Billy Joel, Carly Simon, Rosanne Cash, and more recently, Avril Lavigne.   He also played bass in the ‘Saturday Night Live’ house band from 1986 to 1992, under Music Director and former Hall and Oates band member, G.E. Smith (who I should mention is a former Mr. Gilda Radner) .

Hall not only worked with Wolk,  but also considered him a very close friend, one he says he’ll miss very much.  “It’s not if I will go on, but how I’ll go on.” He continued, “T-Bone was one of the most sensitive and good human beings that I have ever known.”

And what do you think about that wicked-wooly, happenin’ knit chapeau that he’s rockin’, Chief Brody??? 

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The name is actually Laurie, Mr Scheider, but that’s OK.  Since the  literal Jaws Of Life took yours about two years ago,  I’ll cut you some slack.

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2 comments

  1. HOLY CRAP! On so many levels, on several topics…from the history of the original, to the loss of T Bone, to the origin of “That’s some bad hat…”, you blow me away again, LK!!

  2. I love Nick Lowe more and more as the years go by, and I really enjoyed this post. I stumbled across the very great “Cruel to Be Kind” video with Nick Lowe, Daryl Hall, and T-Bone Wolk a couple of days ago, which led me back to the original vid with Nick and Rockpile, which led me to wonder if some of that wedding footage was real, which led me to Google, which led me here.

    BTW there is some equally wonderful footage on the “Live from Daryl’s House” site from a multi-song session with Toots Hibbert that will shake your house down.

    Sounds like you and I hit Austin at about the same time (June 1979 for me). The music scene was blowing up, and the town was big enough to have a good time and small enough to get just about anywhere in 30 minutes or less. It was a great time to live in Austin.

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