Richard Balls: Be Stiff: The Stiff Records Story

Entertaining account of the rise and fall of the record label.

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Stiff Records were intertwined with the history of punk and derived from the same disaffection with the complacent, bloated mid-70s music business. Its founders, including Jake Riviera, were fed up of seeing highly talented pub-rock acts overlooked because major-label A&R men felt it was beneath them to check them out.

With its visually imaginative, aggressively quirky ethos and love of the misfit, Stiff would help launch The Damned, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Madness and The Pogues on the world.

Unfortunately, a democratic tendency to invest in a vast flotilla of also-rans alongside these stars spelt eventual financial downfall as the pop times moved in a smoother direction – the label was wound up in 1986.

Balls has written a capable and highly detailed history of the label and its colourful players, whose high jinks were part of their charm, as well as their undoing. We’ll never see their like again./o:p

David Stubbs

David Stubbs is a music, film, TV and football journalist. He has written for The Guardian, NME, The Wire and Uncut, and has written books on Jimi Hendrix, Eminem, Electronic Music and the footballer Charlie Nicholas.