Artist

Jona Lewie

While he wasn't one of the biggest names on Stiff Records, Jona Lewie was one of those irrepressible characters who gave the pioneering British indie label its utterly unique flavor.

Born John Lewis, Lewie got his start in the early-'70s pub rock scene, playing keyboards for the Sussex group Brett Marvin & the Thunderbolts. Bizarrely, the group enjoyed its greatest success under the Lewie-helmed alias Terry Dactyl & the Dinosaurs, scoring a U.K. Top Five hit in 1972 with "Seaside Shuffle." However, subsequent releases under the name failed to duplicate that success, and Lewie departed the band. He resurfaced on Stiff in 1978 as a solo artist, singing pub rock and new wave tunes in a dry, deadpan, Ian Dury-ish voice. Most distinctive was his simultaneous taste for musical nostalgia (British music hall, skiffle, etc.), as evidenced on several cuts from his debut album, On the Other Hand There's a Fist. Lewie also participated in the 1978 Be Stiff package tour (the label's second). In 1980, Lewie scored a Top 20 U.K. hit with the self-effacing single "You'll Always Find Me in the Kitchen at Parties," which, according to legend, was backing vocalist Kirsty MacColl's first session for the label. Lewie trumped it several months later with "Stop the Cavalry," a strange blend of anti-war protest, brass band arrangements, and Christmas sentiment. Surprisingly, the single hit the Top Five and became something of a Christmas standard in the U.K., where it was trotted out every holiday season and featured on numerous Christmas compilations. Stiff rushed out another album, 1981's Heart Skips Beat, to capitalize, but lightning would only strike twice, and Lewie issued his last single in 1983. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi