Nick Lowe: Marie Provost (Bowi EP) Stiff.


Back in the summer of 1977 when I bought Nick Lowe’s Bowi EP, I had no idea of the subject matter of the song Marie Provost.

Some years later, though, I remember giving it a spin and suddenly picking up on the lyrics. ‘She was a winner that became a doggie’s dinner.’

Eh, what?

The story that Basher incorporates into this bright and breezy sounding song is supposedly that of Marie Prevost – and don’t ask me why he made that slight alteration to her name. Prevost was as Lowe puts it a ‘mysterious angel of the silent screen’ who worked with some big names in Tinseltown and was regularly cast as a flapper in the Roaring Twenties. She experienced problems though adjusting to the world of the talkies. She began to pile on the pounds. Parts began drying up. Se began hitting the bottle. She couldn’t dry herself out.

According to Kenneth Anger’s sordid and sometimes unsubstantiated book Hollywood Babylon, Prevost was found dead in her apartment by cops, her corpse half-eaten by her starving pet Dachshund, who had nothing else to survive on.

The veracity of Hollywood Babylon has been disputed since the day it came out. In fact, it was banned within ten days of its original publication in English in 1965 and wouldn’t find its way back into print until a decade later when my guess is that Nick Lowe read a copy or at least discussed the Prevost story with someone who had got his or her mitts on the book.

It would also be my guess that Lowe didn’t read the review of its reprint from a critic from The New York Times, who denounced it thus: ‘If a book such as this can be said to have charm, it lies in the fact that here is a book without one single redeeming merit.’

Hollywood Babylon

Well, to be fair, it also went on to inspire a great track too, albeit a great track that is definitely more than a little sick and very probably wilfully inaccurate.

The not so salacious truth of the matter?

In all likelihood the pet pooch had tried to rouse the dead actress and in doing so left some teeth marks on her body.

Here is Marie Provost:

Joining Marie Provost on the EP were Born A Woman (a song originally performed by Sandy Posey), Shake That Rat and Endless Sleep. Just in case you don’t know why Lowe called the EP Bowi, then Google is your friend, albeit a friend that insists on incessantly spying on you. Startpage is maybe a better friend to have.

The song later made its way on to Nick’s 1978 album, Jesus of Cool, or Pure Pop for Now People, as it was re-titled for the rather more God-fearing American market.

More Nick Lowe in the coming months, folks.


Finally a quick mention for Stuart Cosgrove, the author of Hampden Babylon, which obviously took the template of the Anger book but substituted bevvied up Scottish footballers like Jinky Johnstone out on the randan in Ayrshire coastal towns for depraved and drug addled movie stars and celebrities living in la-la land.

On an entirely different theme is Cosgrove’s soon to be published Detroit 67, which details an incredibly dramatic and creative musical year in the Motor City focussing on acts such as The Supremes, Marvin Gaye and The MC5 during a time of urban riots, revolutionary counterculture and the escalating war in Vietnam.

Detroit 67

For Stuart’s Detroit 67 Facebook page, here you go.

And for a great blog featuring six of Stuart’s favourite artists from Detroit, click here.