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Dave Edmunds

+ {Love Sculpture} + {Rockpile}

Keeping the rock’n’roll/R&B traits and traditions in tact throughout his long and illustrious career, image-free Welsh singer/guitarist DAVE EDMUNDS helped paved the way for an upsurge of mid-70s pub-rock artists; many such as NICK LOWE, ELVIS COSTELLO, et al, musically rhetorical in their thanks by way of hit-song contributions – including `I Knew The Bride’ and `Girls Talk’, respectively.
Born 15th April 1944 in Cardiff, Dave’s earliest ambitions were with two local mid-60s beat bands, The 99’ers and The Raiders. After a spell with The Image (one assumes he joined on their 1966 final one-of-three 45s, `I Can’t Stop Myself’), Dave formed The Human Beans, alongside bassist John David Williams and drummer Tommy Riley; one solitary single for Columbia Records, a rendition of TIM ROSE’s `Morning Dew’, was released in summer ‘67.
The following year, the trio changed their corny moniker to LOVE SCULPTURE, and after a couple of false starts for Parlophone/EMI in `River To Another Day’ and WILLIE DIXON’s `Wang-Dang-Doodle’, they duly smashed into the Top 5 with a rocking re-vamp of Arma Khachaturian’s classical piece, `Sabre Dance’. By this time, Rob “Congo” Jones had superseded Riley, while the group’s transitional but patchy debut set, BLUES HELPING (1968) {*6}, was too late to be saved from suffocating under the deluge of psychedelic-blues/pre-prog LPs on the market. Concentrating on cover takes (except the group-penned title track), already familiar jewels `I Believe To My Soul’, `On The Road Again’, `Come Back Baby’ and `Summertime’, created little more than the usual John Peel airplay, while `Shake Your Hips’ (from SLIM HARPO) was a poor cousin to the subsequent “Exile On…” recital by The ROLLING STONES.
Adding a bit of “gasical class” by way of the year-old `Sabre Dance’ (in its 11-minute entirety) and the similar flop `Farandole’ (from Bizet’s “L’Arlesienne”), FORMS AND FEELINGS (1969) {*5} was given the thumbs-down by most critics, although once again it proved that Dave was one mean axeman, very much in the mould of CLAPTON, BECK and PAGE. Helped by greenhorn songsmiths Mike Finesilver and Peter Ker (on dated, bubblegum-esque `In The Land Of The Few’, `People People’, `Nobody’s Talking’ and `Why (How Now)’), the group’s no-sense of direction was lost by the time their re-tread of CHUCK BERRY’s `You Can’t Catch Me’ came to the fore; note too that Holst’s `Mars’ (from “The Planets”) was granted only an American licence and excluded from the UK LP.
It was no surprise that, when US audiences found the band were no NICE or EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER, just a run-of-the-mill Brit bubblegum-blues band, LOVE SCULPTURE – whom by this time, 1970, had added guitarist Mickey Gee (ex-JOE COCKER’s Grease Band, ex-TOM JONES band) and Terry Williams (ex-The Dream) to replace SASSAFRAS-bound Jones – went their separate ways; Gee and Williams later joined Welsh prog-meisters, MAN.
Almost immediately retreating to his newly-converted Rockfield Studios in the Welsh borders, the multi-instrumentalist DAVE EDMUNDS (and his pseudonymous ROCKPILE) abandoned classical aspirations and returned to his first love – the blues. Combining nostalgic rock’n’roll with R&B, the man hit the top of the hit parade with a trundling, triple-tracked take of SMILEY LEWIS’s near-forgotten gemstone, `I Hear You Knocking’, which unlike “Sabre Dance”, also gave him a Top 5 entry Stateside. Although his ROCKPILE (1972) {*6} set tracked the same bargain-bin route as his previous LP attempts, DAVE EDMUNDS solo, scored with a further couple of Top 10 hits in The RONETTES’ `Baby I Love You’ and The Chordettes `Born To Be With You’.
As well as appearing in the 1974 film, Stardust (alongside DAVID ESSEX, KEITH MOON, et al), EDMUNDS also had his hands full within his Rockfield confines, a perenially popular operation where he first met Nick Lowe, then bass player for BRINSLEY SCHWARZ; Nick would subsequently collaborate with EDMUNDS on a number of occasions. Read on. Augmented by Bob Andrews (keyboards), Ian Gomm (guitar), and drummers Pick Withers, Terry Williams and Billy Rankin, SUBTLE AS A FLYING MALLET {*6}, was finally released in ’75. Basically a round-up of his previous three years’ work, it was no shock when it bombed unceremoniously.
Signing to LED ZEPPELIN’s Swan Song imprint shortly afterwards, EDMUNDS formed a semi-permanent backing band, aka ROCKPILE, consisting of Lowe, guitarist Billy Bremner (no, not the wee Scottish footballer!) and a reunion with drummer Terry Williams; this line-up marking their LP debut on GET IT (1977) {*6}. With Lowe also co-writing, Dave’s knack for clever pop combined with his instinctive rhythm and blues feel resulted in such enduring tracks as the aforementioned `I Knew The Bride’, a Top 30 hit in summer ‘77. Wearing his heartfelt influences firmly on his sleeve, EDMUNDS managed to re-create and pay homage to the R&R genre by way of various sources, from the old HANK WILLIAMS (`Hey, Good Lookin’’) and ARTHUR CRUDUP (`My Baby Left Me’) – and more besides – to relatively new cohorts, GRAHAM PARKER (`Back To School Days’) and BOB SEGER (`Get Out Of Denver’). Taking his cue from usual suspects, LOWE, BERRY, PARKER, Billy Murray, HUEY LEWIS, etc., TRACKS ON WAX 4 (1978) {*6} was followed by his inaugural critically-acclaimed Top 40 LP, REPEAT WHEN NECESSARY (1979) {*8}, a record which extended the formula to include big hitters, `Girls Talk’ (penned by ELVIS COSTELLO) and the BUDDY HOLLY-ish `Queen Of Hearts’, while `Crawling From The Wreckage’ and `The Creature From The Black Lagoon’, brought him attention in a revival-torn America.
Recorded under the ROCKPILE moniker, 1980’s SECONDS OF PLEASURE {*7} was Dave’s first album under his new US contract with Columbia Records; the album achieving a healthy Top 30 chart position on the back of a Stateside tour with label-mates BAD COMPANY. The singer fulfilled his obligations to Swan Song with the subsequent year’s TWANGIN… (1981) {*5}, his first for some time without LOWE and Co (Nick continued to enjoy a relatively successful solo career, while Williams went on to join DIRE STRAITS). As well as reviving songs by IAN GOMM (`It’s Been So Long’), MICKEY JUPP (You’ll Never Get Me Up (In One Of Those)’), JOHN HIATT (`Something Happens’) and JOHN FOGERTY (`Almost Saturday Night’), the half-hour set created a crafty combination with The STRAY CATS on Top 40 hit, `The Race Is On’; Dave had produced these quiff-ed rockers throughout the 80s; incidentally, many artists called upon EDMUNDS for production, including SHAKIN’ STEVENS & The Sunsets (in 1970), BRINSLEY SCHWARZ (1974), The FLAMIN’ GROOVIES (1976), The FABULOUS THUNDERBIRDS (1980-81), while he continued to work with an eclectic variety of acts throughout the rest of the 80s: The EVERLY BROTHERS, k.d.LANG, NICK LOWE and DION – the respect afforded him in this area, a mark of the man’s adaptability and musical intuition.
Recruiting a new band and signing to Arista (Columbia Records in the States), EDMUNDS released the sturdy D.E 7th (1982) {*6} – featuring opening gambit `From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)’ from the pen of SPRINGSTEEN, before hooking up with ELO chief producer, JEFF LYNNE for INFORMATION (1983) {*4} and RIFF RAFF (1984) {*4}. As The DAVE EDMUNDS BAND, nostalgia was kept apace with the live I HEAR YOU ROCKIN’ (1987) {*5}, showcasing some of his best-known cuts up to now.
The next decade saw EDMUNDS return with the star-studded CLOSER TO THE FLAME (1990) {*4}, a straight-from-the-hip set of songs that did nothing but keep him in contention among a “rock” world that was moving on fast and furious – but without him. His anti-contribution to the MTV “Unplugged” era, PLUGGED IN (1994) {*5}, showed no signs of compromise as he unveiled good-time roots’n’roll numbers with his own `I Love Music’.
Content sitting out in semi-retirement, only clawing back the years on concert efforts, A PILE OF ROCK: LIVE (2000) {*5} – with Swedes, The Refreshments, October 1997 – and ALIVE & PICKIN’ (2005) {*4}, EDMUNDS looked to have hung up his guitar for good. Although fresher but mainly culled from his previous studio set in ’94, and also featuring a handful of newer covers, the appropriately-titled …AGAIN (2013) {*5}, was a comeback set that short-changed fans of the Welshman’s past achievements. But if one can forgive the man his follies and foibles, at least he’s stuck to his retro-rock’n’roll guns, hardly wavering from the status quo. As an addendum to the previous set, the wholly instrumental ON GUITAR… RAGS & CLASSICS (2015) {*5} provided Dave an outlet to put on his classical/country-pop Stetson.
© MC Strong 1994-2004/GRD // rev-up MCS Nov2013-Sep2015

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