June 13, 2018

If It Ain’t Stiff, It Ain’t Worth a Fuck

If It Ain't StiffLong before Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe became musical elder statesmen, they were at the tip of the Punk spear as part of a dirty little British record company called Stiff Records. The company was run by two scrappy pub-rock-band managers, Dave Robinson and Jake Riviera. In 1976 Stiff released the first Punk single “New Rose” from The Damned. During the following year the company put together a bus tour for five of its acts that didn’t stray too far from their London home.

The resulting documentary of that magical musical episode captures the likes of Wreckless Eric, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Dave Edmunds, Larry Wallis, along with Elvis and Nick honing their musical chops with considerable help from all available band members. Check out Ian Dury keeping perfect time playing drums for Wreckless Eric on “Reconnez Cherie,” or Pete Thomas and Billy Bremner playing dual drumkits on “Watching the Detectives” for an angst-spewing Elvis Costello. Mesmerizing.

Billy & Pete

The sold-out concerts led to the release of a live record “Live Stiffs,” but there’s a big difference in being able to hear or witness such brilliant musical history in the making. This down and dirty doc has been favorably compared to The Rolling Stones’ “Cocksucker Blues,” but trust me this film is better.


For many years “If It Ain’t Stiff, It Ain’t Worth a Fuck” was an incredibly rare find available only on scratchy VHS copies. That it now shows up on Amazon Prime gives it fitting exposure for the masses. Witness a bunch of inspired, talented, and frequently drunk and stoned musicians laying down the jam harder than you knew they did. Elvis Costello might have thought he was better than the company he kept, but he was wrong. And as the record shows, Elvis Costello was also Punk as fuck at the time.

Not rated. 51 mins. (A-) (Four stars — out of five / no halves)


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