Monday, January 26, 2009

Dave Edmunds Overhears A Little Girls Talk

Prior to disbanding themselves, the Brinsley Schwarz crew hung around to provide backing on Edmunds’ next solo set, 1975’s ‘Subtle As a Flying Mallet’, and Nick Lowe wrote a number of tracks, with his innately catchy pop rock hooks quickly becoming a complimentary element to Edmunds’ intuitively rhythmic touch. Incidentally the album featured drumming from two future Dire Straits’ drummers, Pick Withers and Terry Williams. Dave Edmunds then signed to Led Zeppelin’s own Swan Song label, and released a couple of low key singles during 1976 as his first outing with his new label stable. During the same period the recording and performing activities between Edmunds, Nick Lowe, Terry Williams and guitarist Billy Bremner, solidified and formalised into the fully fledged roots rock/blues outfit Rockpile - see immediately preceding post for more detail. The quartet made their studio debut together on Edmunds’ 1977 album ‘Get It’ (OZ#31), which spawned the hit ‘I Knew The Bride (When She Used To Rock ‘N’ Roll)’ (UK#26/OZ#32), the song subsequently a hit for Lowe in 1986 (see next post). Over the next three or four years Dave Edmunds’ diary must have been brimming to the limit with commitments, as he juggled recording, touring and production duties. He handled production on albums from pop-rock veterans The Flamin’ Groovies, pub rockers Ducks Deluxe and Dr. Feelgood (see future post), and helmed two Nick Lowe albums; ‘Pure Pop For Now People’ (1978) and ‘Labour Of Lust’ (1979).

In 1978 Edmunds released his ‘Tracks On Wax’ set (OZ#93), which further refined the chemistry within Rockpile, but it was his 1979 album ‘Repeat When Necessary’ (UK#39/US#54/OZ#37) that proved a commercial breakthrough. The critically lauded set yielded several hit singles; the Graham Parker (see earlier post) penned ‘Crawling From The Wreckage’ (UK#59), ‘Queen Of Hearts’ (UK#11/OZ#59) - later a 1981 U.S. and Australian hit for Juice Newton (see previous post), and the aforementioned pop-rock gem ‘Girls Talk’ (UK#4/OZ#9/US#65), which had been written by Elvis Costello, who had also become a frequent collaborator (along with Graham Parker) with the ‘roots rock firm’ of Edmunds and Lowe. Edmunds’ ‘Repeat When Necessary’ album was recorded during the same extended sessions, which delivered up Nick Lowe’s ‘Labour Of Lust’ set, and the Rockpile-linked projects were featured on the BBC television documentary ‘Born Fighter’. A cover of the old Guy Mitchell standard ‘Singin’ The Blues’ (UK#28/OZ#67) was Edmunds only foray into the charts during 1980 as a solo artist, but for most of the year he devoted time in studio (and on the road) to duties with Rockpile (see last post).

After a rather acrimonious split with Rockpile, and in particular Nick Lowe, in early 1981, Edmunds resumed focus on his solo career, primarily relying on session players and old friends to provide the support cast in studio for his next album ‘Twangin’ (UK#37/US#48). The album spawned two minor hits, the John Fogerty penned ‘Almost Saturday Night’ (US#54/UK#58), and a song originally recorded by country star George Jones titled ‘The Race Is On’ (UK#34), the latter marking the first collaboration on record between Dave Edmunds and young rockabilly-revivalist powerhouse Stray Cats (see future post), for whom Edmunds would produce several hit albums. Over the course of 1982 Edmunds toured (with old Love Sculpture guitarist Mickey Gee hooking up), and released the album ‘D.E. 7th’ (UK#60/US#46), which was Edmunds first album for the Arista label, and his, yes you guessed it, seventh album overall. The album included the rockin-ravin’ track ‘From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)’, penned for Edmunds by friend Bruce Springsteen.

E.L.O. impresario Jeff Lynne was brought in to co-produce Dave Edmunds next two albums, 1983’s ‘Information’ (UK#92/US#51), which spawned the minor hit ‘Slipping Away’ (US#39/UK#60), and 1984’s ‘Riff Raff’ (US#140). Both albums (which featured contributions from former Rockpile band-mate Billy Bremner) were imbued with Lynne’s trademark use of synthesizers and electronically processed vocals, which provided an intriguing counter balance to Edmunds’ more traditional approach, and marked the first significant departure from his usual straight up roots rock formula. As a performer Edmunds only returned to the singles charts twice more, in 1985 with ‘High School Nights’ (US#91), from the ‘Porky’s Revenge!’ soundtrack, and ‘King Of Love’ (UK#68) in 1990, which reunited Edmunds once more with Stray Cats’ Brian Setzer and Lee Rocker on Edmunds’ album ’Closer To The Flame’ (US#146). The remainder of the 80s saw Edmunds resume his purists love affair with roots rock, and he worked with some of the very legends that had inspired him thirty years previous. He served as producer with rock and roll legends like the Everly Brothers, Chet Atkins and Carl Perkins, as well as playing guitar on several tracks from Paul McCartney’s 1984 film soundtrack ‘Give My Regards To Broadstreet’. In 1986 he scored his second association with a U.K. #1, this time as producer for retro-rocker Shakin’ Stevens’ ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ (Edmunds had actually produced for Shakin’ Stevens back in 1970, when Stevens was with the Sunsets - see future post). Reflective of Edmunds adaptability as a producer and musical stylist, was his involvement as a producer/guitarist with artists as diverse in approach as Fabulous Thunderbirds (‘Tuff Enuff’ - see future post), k.d. Lang, Dion, Mason Ruffner and Status Quo, and he also resumed civilities with old cohort Nick Lowe on Lowe’s 1990 album ‘Party Of One’. Over the course of the late 80s/early 90s Edmunds acted as bandleader for several ‘supergroup’ and tribute shows, including ‘Guitar Greats’ and ‘Legends of Rock and Roll’.

In 1994 Edmunds joined the MTV ‘Unplugged’ bandwagon, and released the album ‘Plugged In’, which featured a dedication to another of his early influences on the track ‘Beach Boy Blood (In My Veins)’, and once more he hit the road to tour. The remainder of the 90s saw limited output from Edmunds as a performer, with 1999’s ‘Musical Fantasies’ re-exploring old ground. He worked on occasion with Ringo Starr’s All Star Band, but his production and touring duties had wound back substantially. With the phrase ‘semi-retirement’ attached to his name, Edmunds dusted off the rock and roll kitbag in 2007 to embark on an extensive U.K. tour with fellow rock ‘n’ roller Joe Brown. Rejuvenated by the experience, Edmunds once again hooked up with his old Stray Cats mates for an onstage appearance in September 2008, belting out the numbers ‘Tear It Up’ and ‘The Race Is On’, and soon after a fresh ‘best of’ collection was released titled ‘The Many Sides Of Dave Edmunds’.

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