In the 1979 B-side "Basing Street," Nick Lowe describes how the effect of one brutal moment ripples through a city.
In the 1979 B-side "Basing Street," Nick Lowe describes how the effect of one brutal moment ripples through a city. Dan Burn-Forti
Song: "Basing Street"
Artist: Nick Lowe
CD: Labour of Lust
It's not hard to hear why "Basing Street" missed the cut for the original lineup of Labour of Lust. Nick Lowe's 1979 sophomore set — home of "Cruel to Be Kind," Lowe's one and only visit to the Top 40 — is raucous, funny and carnally minded, and "Basing Street," a B-side tacked onto the end of the recent reissue, is the opposite of all those things. The closest it comes lyrically is in the second verse, with its reference to "the lost and lonely and their late-night ways," which is worlds away from the pleasures of Switchboard Susan.
What Lowe brings instead is sharp observation of a horrific crime scene. In two and a half minutes, he paints a detailed picture of the action on the street and across town as a radio announcer prepares to break the news. Lowe doesn't bother stepping back to reveal anything about what actually happened before the cops showed up, because that's not what interests him, which is how the effect of one brutal moment ripples through a city. He also provides subtle descriptions of people enduring sadness by simply doing their jobs: the police, the DJ, the firemen washing the blood away.
While many details of the story Lowe has to tell unfurl through indirect means, the music itself could hardly be more straightforward. It's hushed and sepulchral, anticipating the last decade of his career more than the first. The only embellishment beyond acoustic guitar and voice is what sounds like a pedal steel plinking out eight lonesome notes over the course of the song. Lowe has long been recognized as a great songwriter — just not one of this particular type.