Singer, songwriter, producer, guitar
Considered by many as the quintessential musician’s musician, British retro revivalist Dave Edmunds has gained recognition not only as an accomplished guitarist, songwriter, and solo performer, but also for his efforts as a producer, sideman, frontman, vocalist, and as a member of the band Rockpile—a second-tier supergroup that also included Nick Lowe on bass, drummer Terry Williams, and Billy Bremner on guitar. Edmunds, more of a knowledgeable stylist than a purist, has worked in several forms of music as well, from traditional American rock and roll and pop to country, but has never fallen back on mere genre-mongering. “There’s nothing fancy about Edmunds’ chosen music,” commented Newsday reporter David Herndon in 1994. He displayed his talents best in these styles, always emphasizing impeccable taste, craft, and a good-time vibe.
Throughout his 30-year career as a singer, guitarist, and producer, Edmunds usually invested a greater amount of his own energy in comparison to most modern-day musicians. In addition to producing for most of his own projects, Edmunds also built a myriad of production credits for other artists; a few examples include the Stray Cats’ first two British albums, the Everly Brothers’ comeback effort entitled EB ’84, and Lowe’s Party of One. Edmunds has also produced albums for the Fabulous Thunderbirds and k.d. lang.
Born on April 15, 1943, in Cardiff, Wales, Edmunds began his career in music in the late 1960s with his first real band, a psychedelic blues trio called the Love Sculptures. Most of that group’s output—a total of two albums—approached “headache-inducing guitar music,” according to Music Hound Rock contributor Leland Rucker. However, the band did produce one hit with “Sabre Dance.” Following his tenure leading the Love Sculptures, Edmunds struck out on his own. Soon thereafter, he scored his biggest success, “I Hear You Knocking,” a number one British single in 1970 that also reached number four on charts in the United States. More than a dozen British hits would follow his initial accomplishment, including songs penned by Elvis Costello (“Girls Talk”), Bruce Springsteen (“From Small Things, Big Things Come”), and Graham Parker (“Crawling From the Wreckage).
After “I Hear You Knocking,” Edmunds released his first two solo efforts, Rockpile, released in 1972, and Subtle as a Flying Mallet, 1975. Both of these patchy, yet enjoyable albums saw Edmunds acting largely as a one-man studio band covering Chuck Berry-styled rock and roll, rockabilly, and the blues. Despite his British roots, Edmunds had, in his younger years, already adopted the regional styles of Louisiana and Memphis, Tennessee, and blended them with the sounds of 1960s pop radio
Born April 15, 1943, in Cardiff, Wales.
Began career in music with a psychedelic-blues trio called the Love Sculptures, late-1960s; “I Hear You Knocking” became a number one U.K. single, 1970; released first two solo albums, Rockpile, 1972; and Subtle as a Flying Magnet, 1975; played in Rockpile, 1976-81; released D.E. 7th, 1982; released comeback album Plugged In, 1994; has produced albums for the Stray Cats, the Everly Brothers, Nick Lowe, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and k.d. lang.
Addresses: Record company —Pyramid, 1208 Lula Lake Rd., Lookout Mountain, GA 37350.
hits. Some of his favorite hit makers from that era included the Beach Boys and Phil Spector, although Chuck Berry remained his greatest songwriting influence throughout his career. “He was it. He’s the poet,” Edmunds asserted to Herndon. As for his guitar inspirations, Edmunds cited Chet Atkins, Scotty Moore, and James Burton. While working on his first two albums, Edmunds also recorded several rock and roll oldies covers for the 1974 movie Stardust. Coincidental, the band credited with six of the seven tracks on the soundtrack album was called the Stray Cats, and Edmunds later produced for an unrelated trio by the same name in the 1980s.
Later on, Edmunds’ earlier work was compiled to form various releases. The Early Edmunds, released in 1991 in Britain by EMI, included both albums by the Love Sculptures and their hit single, Edmunds’ solo Rockpile album, as well as a rare single by Edmunds’ short-lived band prior to the Love Sculptures called Human Beans. Two other compilations, 1997’s Dave Edmunds, Rocker: Early Works 1968-1972 and 1980’s Dave Edmunds & Love Sculptures Singles A’s & B’s, also covered the first phase of the singer’s recording career.
During the next period of Edmunds’ career, the musician worked extensively with bassist/singer Nick Lowe, guitarist Billy Bremner, and drummer Terry Williams in a live/studio outfit called Rockpile. The collaboration proved a beneficial arrangement for Edmunds, who found a sympathetic writing partner in Lowe. The four men formed the rootsy, new-wave pop group in 1976 in London, England, and adopted a relaxed approach to their music-making. “We’d meet at the bar at the London airport and go on tour,” he recalled to Herndon, adding that he still considered the band’s eventual break-up over a contractual dispute a “bitter disappointment.”
Although the group worked together until they disbanded in 1981, Rockpile only released one album, 1980’s Seconds of Pleasure, as a collective unit. However, during the years spent with Rockpile, Edmunds recorded with the band and himself produced for the Swan Song label three of his best projects. Get It, released in 1977, included the tracks “I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock ‘n’ Roll),” “Get Out of Denver,” and “JuJu Man.” His next offering, Tracks on Wax 4, released in 1978, was Rockpile’s hardest rocking album, while Repeat When Necessary, released in 1979, showcased the band’s sharp and consistent work ethic at a time when Rockpile was also busy working on Lowe’s impressive Labour of Lust album. The 1981 sampler/compilation album The Best of Dave Edmunds reflected his years with Swan Song and Rockpile.
While saddened over Rockpile’s demise, Edmunds at the same time began to concentrate more on his guitar technique. “I didn’t learn a thing on guitar during the 70’s,” he admitted to Kevin Ransom in a 1994 interviewter Guitar Player. After joining Rockpile, Edmunds said, “I just wasn’t sitting down and picking anymore.” Furthermore, he rediscovered the Chet Atkins roots of his earlier days. “He’s the guy who got me interested in the guitar in the first place,” Edmunds said. “I’ve been developing that finger-picking thing quite seriously the last several years, and I’ve become a lot more proficient at it.” Edmunds would later utilize these skills in his surprise 1994 comeback album.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Edmunds continued to release records with mixed results, but his first post-Rockpile effort, 1982’s D.E. 7th, hit the mark. This collection of rollicking rock songs (none of which were penned by Edmunds) disclosed the Springsteen song “From Small Things, Big Things Come,” a cover of N RBQ’s “Me and My Boys,” and a little-known Chuck Berry original entitled “Dear Dad.” Following this, Edmunds teamed unsuccessfully with machine-pop wizard Jeff Lynne for the albums Information, released in 1983, and Riff Raff, released in 1984. Sharing songwriting and production duties, Lynne employed techniques that were inappropriate for Edmunds’ style which made for two poor collections. Devoted fans of Edmunds saw both releases as dreadful examples of the musician’s work. Although his next release, 1990’s Closer to the Flame, was an improvement over his previous two efforts, hinting again at both rhythm and blues and rockabilly, it nonetheless failed to excite his fans.
Between recording Riff Raff and Closer to the Flame, Edmunds took time away from working on solo projects, using this break to produce for numerous other artists. However, he did take on working on the soundtrack for the 1985 teen-movie sequel Porky’s Revenge. Earning acclaim for his efforts, Edmunds contributed three new songs for the film soundtrack and also played on tracks by former Beatle George Harrison, guitarist Jeff Beck, Clarence Clemons, and former Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant. In 1987, Columbia Records released another greatest hits album of sorts entitled The Dave Edmunds Band Live: I Hear You Rockin,’ with music taken from various live performances.
After the disappointment of Closer to the Flame, Edmunds again went on a hiatus from recording his own albums, but emerged in 1994 with the critically acclaimed Plugged In. He recorded the entire album himself and played all the instruments, building songs track by track in his new studio in Los Angeles, California. “Booking a studio and going in with a band and a bunch of songs just isn’t as much fun as doing it all myself,” he explained to Ransom. Reminiscent of his best work from the 1970s and 1980s, Plugged In returned to rockabilly, country-inspired leads, and rock and roll rhythms. Notable tracks from the album included a cover of Jerry Reed’s “The Claw,” and a remake of “Sabre Dance.”
After more than three decades as a viable and consistent participant in the rock and roll business, Edmunds felt fortunate about his longevity. “I’ve lived a life of music I choose to like and record,” he said to Herndon. “I haven’t had to join the rest of the human race in their social jail on the nine-to-five corporate ladder, and I’m very grateful.” And although mainstream popularity in the United States continued to elude him throughout his accomplished career, Edmunds insisted that earning stardom to him was no big thing. “I’m not out to prove anything, as if there’s a goal,” Edmunds added. “The traveling is the goal.”
Rockpile, MAM, 1972.
(With others) Stardust, (soundtrack), Arista, 1974.
Subtle as a Flying Mallet, RCA, 1975.
Dave Edmunds, Rocker: Early Works 1968-1972, (France) Parlophone/EMI, 1977.
Get It, Swan Song, 1977.
Tracks on Wax, Swan Song, 1978.
Repeat When Necessary, Swan Song, 1979.
Dave Edmunds & Love Sculptures Singles A’s & B’s, (U.K.) See for Miles, 1980.
(Rockpile) Seconds of Pleasure, Columbia, 1980.
Twangin…, Swan Song, 1981.
The Best of Dave Edmunds, Swan Song, 1981.
D.E. 7thColumbia, 1982.
Information, Columbia, 1983.
Riff Raff, Columbia, 1984.
(With others) Porky’s Revenge, (soundtrack), Columbia, 1985.
The Dave Edmunds Band Live: I Hear You Rockin’, Columbia, 1987.
Closer to the Flame, Capitol, 1990.
The Early Edmunds, (U.K.) EMI, 1991.
The Dave Edmunds Anthology (1968-90), Rhino, 1993.
Plugged In, Pyramid, 1994.
MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, Visible Ink Press, 1999.
Robbins, Ira A., editor, Trouser Press Guide to ’90s Rock, Fireside/Simon and Schuster, 1997.
Boston Globe, June 19, 1998.
Guitar Player, October 1994, p. 123; December 1994, pp. 38-39.
Los Angeles Times, January 30, 1997; April 25, 1998.
Newsday, September 9, 1994, p. B25.
Playboy, June 1990, p. 20.
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