warming up to the ice age


1985, january, Geffen

LP. GHS 24055
  CAS. M5G 24055


CD. 2 - 24055

2003 Lemon Records


1 The usual 3:46 30 seconds preview
2 The crush 4:11 30 seconds preview
3 When we ran 4:42 30 seconds preview
4 She said the same things to me 4:01 30 seconds preview
5 Living a little, laughing a little 4:03 30 seconds preview
6 Zero house 3:41 30 seconds preview
7 Warming up to the ice age 3:43 30 seconds preview
8 I'm a real man 2:31 30 seconds preview
9 Number one honest game 4:27 30 seconds preview
10 I got a gun 3:46 30 seconds preview

Total running time:



the self help group

John Hiatt:



Jesse Boyce:


Rhythm Guitar (2)

Larry Londin: Drums
Randy McCormick: Keyboards

additional support

Elvis Costello: Vocals (5)
Bobby King: Vocals (2)
Willie Greene Jr.: Bass Vocals (2, 4)
Frieda Woody: Vocals (4)
Tracy Nelson: Background Vocals (5, 9)
Anita Baugh: Background Vocals (5, 9)
Diane Davidson: Background Vocals (5, 9)
Mack Gayden: Rhythm Guitar (4)
Joh Goin: Guitar (5, 7, 6)
Shana Keister: Keyboards (5)

Horn section on: 1 and 2

Jerry Hey Trumpet
Gary Grant: Trumpet
Chuck Findley: Trombone
Bill Reichenbach: Trombone
Larry Williams Saxophone
Kim Hutchcroft: Saxophone


Produced: Norbert Putnam


Don Cobb

Norbert Putnam


Norbert Putnam

Scott Hendricks (4, 6, 8)

Assisted: J.T. Cantwell
Mastered: Dan Hersch
album design: laura lipuma
CD design: robert fisher
photography: jim mcGuire


  • All songs written by John Hiatt Except "Living a little, laughing a little" written by: Thom Bell and Linda Creed.

  • thanks to all at geffen records and warner bros. records, bug music, theresa scercy and margaret newkirk

press photo


nigel williamson september 2003

Over the years, many have covered John Hiatt songs, from Rosanne Cash to Iggy Pop and from Bonnie Raitt to Dr Feelgood. In fact, there are so many covers out there, there's even a compilation album of them all, called Love Gets Strange: The Songs of John Hiatt.
But when the greatest songwriter the world has ever seen, the man who penned like A Rolling Stone and Mr Tambourine Man and Visions Of Johanna and a thousand other classics, says he's taken such a shine to one of your songs that he wants to put it on his next record...well, then you know that you've got to be doing something right. It's like Tiger Woods asking your advice on his golf swing or Picasso wanting your assistance because he can't quite get his brush strokes right. But while Bob Dylan's reaction to hearing John Hiatt's Warming Up To The Ice Age on its release in January 1985, was to decide to cover one of its songs, over at Geffen Records, they had a different reaction. They decided to drop John Hiatt.
At the time the label was also involved in a bitter dispute with Neil Young over the allegedly 'non-commercial' albums he was delivering, so there was hardly any shame in that.
But it came at a difficult juncture in Hiatt's career. Around the time of Warming Up To The Ice Age, a chill blast was blowing through his life. Not only was he about to be dropped by his record label (for the third time in his career), but his second wife had committed suicide and by the end of 1985, he was in a rehabilitation programme.
Fortunately, there was a happy ending. By 1986, he had remarried and signed a new deal with A&M Records. With a backing band that featured Ry Cooder, Nick Lowe and Jim Keltner he recorded the superb album, Bring The Family, and the line-up went on to record and tour in its own right as Little Village. And true to his word, Dylan did his bit by putting Hiatt's song, The Usual, on his 1988 album, Down In The Groove.

Yet despite - or perhaps because of - his difficulties, Warming Up To The Ice Age found John Hiatt at his most potent. To make the album, he turned to the veteran Nashville producer Norbert Putnam (who had played in Area Code 615, who recorded Stone Fox Chase, better known as the theme for The Old Grey Whistle Test). Despite Putnam's country background, he gave Hiatt a punchy, hard-rocking sound.
The core band of Jesse Boyce (bass), Randy McCormick (keyboards) and Lenny Louden (drums) were a perfect foil for Hiatt's elastic vocals and his crunching guitar playing. And there is no doubting the quality of such compositions as The Usual and She Said The Same Thing To Me, which includes a guest appearance from Mac Gayden on guitar. Burning Down The Zero, the title track and I've Got A Gun are further characteristic examples of Hiatt's passion. Tracy Nelson is among those providing backing vocals and the album also includes a duet with Elvis Costello.
The appearance of the British 'new wave' singer-songwriter was intriguing for in the late 1970s, Hiatt had been much touted as 'the American Elvis Costello'. In many ways, it was a silly comparison. Hiatt had actually begun his recording career in 1974, three years before Costello's debut album had made him the darling of the London punk scene. Yet, as can be heard, there clearly was a close musical affinity between the two songwriters - even if , ironically, the song they duet on, Living A Little, Laughing A Little, is actually a cover of an old Spinners' hit.

Growing up in Indianapolis in the 1960s, Hiatt began his career playing in local garage bands and was heavily influenced - as was just about everyone else at the time - by the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. By the end of the decade, he was in a band called The White Ducks, who attracted a bit of attention. But at the age of 18, he relocated to Nashville where his burgeoning songwriting skills landed him a job with Tree Publishing. Over the next few years, those his songs were placed with included Tracy Nelson, Conway Twitty and Three Dog Night, who took his Sure As I'm Sitting Here to number 16 on the Billboard chart in the summer of 1974.
Hiatt kept his hand in as a performer playing in Nashville clubs and bars and eventually, in 1974, at the age of 22, he signed a recording contract with Epic, for whom he recorded Hangin' Around The Observatory (1974) and Overcoats (1975). But when neither sold well, he was dropped and in 1978, he relocated to Los Angeles. There he signed to MCA and recorded the albums Slug Line (1979) and Two Bit Monsters (1980). Although he was promoted as an American version of Costello or Joe Jackson, again the albums failed to sell. Again he found himself dropped.
After a spell playing in Ry Cooder's band (he appears on his Borderline album), Hiatt next signed with Geffen, whose first move was to team him with David Bowie's producer, Tony Visconti. The result was the 1983 album, All Of A Sudden. It was followed the following year by Riding With The King, which featured a superb backing band which included Nick Lowe and Paul Carrack. Next up was the rather fine album you have in your hand.
After Warming Up To The Ice Age failed to thaw the people at Geffen, Hiatt teamed up with his old friend Cooder and made a string of albums for A&M. Bring The Family in 1987 was followed swiftly by Slow Turning (1988) and Stolen Moments (1990). Between them they constituted a trio of fine albums that took him in a more roots-based direction.

Next up was 1993ís solo effort Perfectly Good Guitar, a more overtly rock album on which Hiatt was joined by members of alternative rock bands School Of Fish and Wire.
1995's Walk On, which included guest appearances by Bonnie Raitt and the Jayhawks. Little Head came two years later in 1997. Since then, there's been the excellent The Tiki Bar Is Open and, most recently, Beneath This Gruff Exterior, the first album to give his band The Goners equal credit.

His sales figures may never have' matched his reputation or his talent as a songwriter, guitarist and powerful singer. But that's rock'n'roll. When Bob Dylan covers your songs and Ry Cooder asks you to play guitar in his band, then whatever the man in the suit from the record' company says, you know you're doing something right.

John Hiatt has been doing it right now for the best part of 30 years. Long may he run



Hiatt turned to veteran country producer Norbert Putnam here, but the result still rocked hard, with the occasional soul touch (notably those obnoxious thumb-struck bass lines that are so prevalent in '80s music). Highlights here are "The Usual," later covered by Bob Dylan, and "She Said the Same Things to Me." There is also an odd duet with Elvis Costello on the old Spinners hit "Living a Little, Laughing a Little" (try and tell them apart). Critics' darling or not, when this album went into the tank, Geffen became the third label to drop Hiatt.