2021 Song Draft- Round 1 Pick 9- Mike And Paul’s Music Blog- selects- ‘Cruel To Be Kind’- Nick Lowe.
Paul’s blog can be found at- https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/84200726
First, thanks to Hans and Max for inviting me to be part of this draft! I’m really enjoying reading everyone’s choices so far. Since I’m newcomer to this, I’ve decided to just feature songs that mean something to me in some way. So here goes.
A perfect example of power pop, this song takes me back to my days living in Philly in the early 90s.
When I was younger and single, I had this habit that when a band came to town that I wanted to see, I just went and bought a pair of tickets, many times before knowing if anyone I knew would be able to or was interested in going. Most times I cold corral a friend to attend, sometimes I would sell the other ticket outside the venue, and sometimes it would serve as a great date idea.
Such it was in 1992, when the band Little Village came to Philly. A “supergroup” of sorts, Little Village was John Hiatt, Ry Cooder, Nick Lowe, and Jim Keltner, the latter three all having played on Hiatt’s breakthrough album, 1987 Bring the Family. Being a huge Hiatt fan, I immediately got tickets, and ended up taking a young lady (whose name I no longer remember) to the concert on a first date. She was a trooper during the show, given that she didn’t know Little Village, or any of the material from the member’s solo work that was being played. But I could tell she was getting restless – and then about 3/4s of the way through the concert, Nick Lowe stepped forward and the band played Cruel to be Kind. She turned to me and said – “I love this song – its one of my favorites!” Date saved! Although as you can probably tell, nothing long term really came of that date – I don’t think there was a second date – but I digress!
Cruel to be Kind is off of Nick Lowe’s 1979 album Labour of Lust and was his highest (and really only) hit single in the US, reaching #12 on the charts. It was originally co-written by Lowe and fellow Brinsley Schwarz bandmember Ian Gomm for an album that never got released. Lowe re-recorded it for Labour of Lust and the rest as they say is history. As All Music notes, its “one of those songs where seemingly every single element of the tune and arrangement is its own hook.” I love the drum flutter at the beginning of the song, as it builds the anticipation of the start of the first verse. The harmony vocals, especially during the bridge, take the song to the next level.
Apparently, the phrase “cruel to be kind” is adapted from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “I must be cruel only to be kind; Thus bad begins and worse remains behind.” The lyrics do capture a decidedly jaded view of love:
Well I do my best to understand dear
But you still mystify and I want to know why
I pick myself up off the ground
To have you knock me back down, again and again
And when I ask you to explain, you say
You’ve gotta be cruel to be kind, in the right measure
Cruel to be kind, it’s a very good sign
Cruel to be kind, means that I love you, baby
(You’ve gotta be cruel)
You gotta be cruel to be kind
Source: Songfacts; All Music; Wikipedia; YouTube.