Veteran British singer-songwriter Nick Lowe wasn’t exactly filled with the Christmas spirit when his American record company suggested he make a holiday album.
A fixture of the pub-rock and New Wave scenes of the Seventies and Eighties, Lowe said he needed to get his head round the idea. In his native England, holiday albums aren’t exactly the coolest thing to do.
“Lots of people do Christmas records, one record, but a CD is seen as rather desperate, you know. But, over the course of the afternoon, that day, as it was put to me, I started examining my feelings and said, well, wait a minute, this could be a really great opportunity if not to do something that stands a chance of being really good, it might at least be able to work on more than one level,” he said.
With its tongue-in-cheek title “Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection for All the Family”, the album is an easy blend of rockabilly, crooning and gospel. Among the album’s dozen songs, “Silent Night” is the only well-known carol, and even it is given a Tex-Mex flavor.
“We wanted to try to avoid the 12 tunes that everybody nearly always does. And if we were going to do very familiar tunes, we wanted to dress them up in a new suit of clothes,” said Lowe.
Lowe wrote three new songs for the album, including the witty “Christmas at the Airport”, the story of a snowed-in traveller based on a real-life experience about being stuck at Zurich airport the day after a gig.
Nick Lowe knew no matter how original he wanted to be, he couldn’t take himself too seriously:
“Christmas is the biggest cliché that there is, really, and you have to join in with it. If it’s too arty farty, it’s not viewed very well. And I think you can’t be too snobby about it.”
For “I was born in Bethlehem”, Lowe said he was inspired by a dream he had about meeting Jesus on a plane and striking up conversation with him over cocktails.
Nick Lowe’s Christmas album “Quality Street” is out now.