Cover Story, Culture
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Cover Story – Part III – Stiff Records

Stiff Records is a British independent record label formed in London,England, by Dave Robinson and Andrew Jakeman (aka Jake Riviera). Originally active from 1976 to 1985, the label was reactivated in 2007.

Established at the outset of the punk rock boom, Stiff Records signed various punk and new wave acts such as Nick Lowe, the Damned,Lene Lovich, Wreckless Eric, Plummet Airlines, Elvis Costello, and Ian Dury. The label’s marketing and advertising was often provocative and witty billing itself as “The World’s Most Flexible Record Label”. Other slogans were “We came. We saw. We left”, “If It Ain’t Stiff, It Ain’t Worth a Fuck”, and “When You Kill Time, You Murder Success” (printed on promotional wall clocks). On the label of Stiff’s sampler compilation Heroes & Cowards was printed: “In ’78 everyone born in ’45 will be 33-1/3”. A very early Stiff sampler album, A Bunch of Stiff Records, introduced the slogan, “If they’re dead, we’ll sign them” and “Undertakers to the Industry”.

Stiff also produced eccentric but highly effective promotional campaigns, such as the three package tours in 1977 (Live Stiffs), 1978 (Be Stiff) and 1980 (Son Of Stiff), Elvis Costello’s “busking outside CBS Records” arrest and the at least 29 different wallpaper sleeves printed for Ian Dury’s second album, Do It Yourself, with associated unscheduled makeovers of unsuspecting record shops.

Barney Bubbles was responsible for much of the graphic art associated with the early Stiff releases.

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