The Stiff Records clock: When You Kill Time You Murder Success
Stiff Records was on fire in 1977.
The British independent record label, with owners Jake Riviera and Dave Robinson snapping up acts and art director Barney Bubbles applying his unsurpassable skills to the visualising of their music, came straight out of the traps 40 years ago this month with the release of the first ‘punk’ LP Damned Damned Damned by – who else? – The Damned.
This would be followed by an amazing run of singles and albums in what was one of popular music’s golden years from a diverse roster of artists from The Adverts, Elvis Costello, Ian Dury and Nick Lowe to Mick Farren, Max Wall, Larry Wallis, Wreckless Eric and The Yachts.
Backed up by managerial nous and an innate understanding of the needs of musicians and performers, Riviera proved a whirlwind of ideas and slogans, not least of which was the creation of the promotional Stiff Records clock.
Made from a vinyl 12″ and summing up the company’s hell-for-leather philosophy, it is a little-known fact that the phrase originated in a notice in a Los Angeles dry cleaners clocked (apologies) by Riviera when he accompanied The Damned to the US in the summer of 1977.
And Riviera soon proved that time was of the essence when the partnership with Robinson was dissolved in the autumn of that year and he moved on to make his mark as one of British music’s greats, steering the careers of Costello and Lowe among others and founding such important independent business as F-Beat, Edsel and Demon Records.