A legendary label, Stiff Records introduced some of the best Power Pop, Pub Rock, Punk & New Wave artists to the world in the late 70s and early 80s. The label was Founded by two London-based artist managers, Dave Robinson (Jimi Hendrix, Brinsley Schwarz) and Jake Riviera (Dr. Feelgood, Elvis Costello).
Stiff’s first single was Nick Lowe’s “So It Goes” in August 1976:
Just a few months into the label’s existence, Stiff put out the first UK Punk single, The Damned’s “New Rose”. The label built momentum following the success of the single, putting out records from Wreckless Eric, The Damned, Ian Dury, Richard Hell, Motorhead, and The Adverts to name a few.
A series of disagreements caused Jake Riviera to leave the label in early 1978, taking Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe with him to form a new label called Radar Records.In spite of this, Stiff experienced continued success, hitting #1 with Ian Dury’s “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick” in November ’78. Around the same time, the label’s subsidiary, Magic Records, sold 30,000 copies of a record called The Wit and Wisdom of Ronald Reagan that was blank on both sides .
The early 80’s were a musically diverse and commercially successful period for the label. Check out a few highlights from this period below:
Madness “Our House”
The Feelies “Fa Ce-La”
Kirsty MacColl “A New England”
The Pogues “Dirty Old Town”
In 1983, Island bought a 50% share in the label. It was a strange deal, Robinson had to lend 1,000,000 pounds to Island to fund the purchase. In return, Robinson ran both labels. The deal didn’t go well and Stiff became independent again in 1985 before shutting it’s doors in 1987.
In 2007, the label re-emerged, releasing new music from British Indie band, The Enemy, along with new music from past Stiff artists like Wreckless Eric.
If you’ve got a minute, or 90, get started on the full documentary “If It Ain’t Stiff” here.
– Submitted by Justin Main, Music Design