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Dave Edmunds

Roots rockers are seldom as purist as Dave Edmunds. Throughout his career, he stayed true to '50s and '60s rock & roll -- for Edmunds, rock & roll history stopped somewhere in 1963, after the Beach Boys' first singles but before the Beatles' hits. After establishing himself as a hotshot lead guitarist in the blues-rockers Love Sculpture, he launched his solo career by painstakingly re-creating oldies in his own studio, usually recording every track by himself. Through all of his efforts, he learned how to uncannily replicate the sound of Sun, Chess, and Phil Spector records, which not only helped him garner several U.K. hits in the early '70s, but also led to successful production work with artists like the Flamin' Groovies and Brinsley Schwarz. In the late '70s, he hit the peak of his career when he teamed up with former Schwarz bassist Nick Lowe to form Rockpile. For several years, Edmunds recorded albums with Rockpile and toured relentlessly with the band, which resulted in a string of hit U.K. singles. After the group imploded in the early '80s, he slowly disappeared from the mainstream, even as he made his most commercial music with producer Jeff Lynne; Edmunds eventually retreated to cult status in the '90s.

Dave Edmunds never abandoned the music he discovered as a teenager in Cardiff, Wales. He learned to play guitar by playing with the Everly Brothers and Elvis Presley records, picking out leads by James Burton, Chet Atkins, and Scotty Moore. He was also fascinated by Phil Spector's records, as well as American blues and country. Edmunds began playing in various British blues bands in the early '60s, eventually forming Love Sculpture with bassist John Williams and drummer Bob Jones, who was later replaced by Terry Williams. Love Sculpture's gimmick was playing bluesy, psychedelicized versions of classical songs, and their interpretation of Khachaturian's Sabre Dance became a British Top Five hit in 1968. Within a year, the group rode out its success and broke up.

Edmunds returned to his home in Wales and constructed the eight-track studio Rockfield in Monmouthshire, where he holed up and taught himself how to meticulously re-create the sounds of his favorite records. Many of these recordings were made entirely by Edmunds, usually with Williams assisting on bass. One of the first records released from the Rockfield sessions was actually one of the least indicative of his style, since it interpreted the source material instead of replicating it. Featuring his vocal piped in through a telephone line, Edmunds' revamped version of Smiley Lewis' "I Hear You Knockin'" became a fluke hit, reaching the Top Ten in both America and England, and he quickly followed it with the Rockpile LP, a collection of straightforward oldies covers that became a modest success. Over the next few years, he recorded the material that became his second album, Subtle as a Flying Mallet, as well as producing records by similar-minded rockers like Ducks Deluxe, the Flamin' Groovies, and Brinsley Schwarz.

During 1974, Edmunds made a brief appearance in the film Stardust and helped assemble the soundtrack. Also that year, he produced the Brinsleys' last record, New Favourites. During the recording, he struck up a friendship with bassist Nick Lowe, who over the next few years became his key collaborator. Lowe helped Edmunds move away from covers and into performing new songs, largely written by Lowe, that re-created the spirit of old rock & roll. Following the 1975 release of Subtle as a Flying Mallet -- it produced two Top Ten U.K. hits with "Baby I Love You" and "Born to Be with You" -- Edmunds began to rely on Lowe's original material and sought out newer songs in the same vein, as well as more obscure oldies. In return, Lowe joined Edmunds' touring band, Rockpile, which also featured drummer Terry Williams and guitarist Billy Bremner. The first record the pair worked on heavily together was 1977's Get It, which also was Edmunds' first record for Led Zeppelin's label, Swan Song.

Get It was well-received, as was 1978's Tracks on Wax 4, the first album Edmunds recorded with Rockpile as his backing band. By that point, Rockpile were touring constantly, earning terrific reviews in the U.K. press, who grouped the band in with the burgeoning new wave movement largely because of their drunken, reckless energy. In 1979, the band entered the studio to simultaneously cut Edmunds' Repeat When Necessary and Lowe's Labour of Lust, and the sessions were captured on the BBC documentary Born Fighter. Both records were hits, with Repeat When Necessary generating the major British hit "Girls Talk," as well as the Top 20 "Queen of Hearts," which Juice Newton later replicated for her breakthrough success. Rockpile entered the studio in 1980 to record the group's first full-fledged album, Seconds of Pleasure. During the recording, tensions between Edmunds and Lowe began to surface, resulting in an album that failed to capture the band's live sound. Seconds of Pleasure was a moderate success, but the group disbanded following its supporting tour.

Twangin', Edmunds' first post-Rockpile album, appeared in 1981 and featured contributions from Williams and Bremner. The album was a minor hit, generating a hit cover of John Fogerty's "Almost Saturday Night." Edmunds signed with Columbia the following year, releasing D.E. 7th, another moderately successful record. With 1983's Information, Edmunds began working with producer Jeff Lynne, a former member of Electric Light Orchestra. Not surprisingly for a prog rock veteran, Lynne brought Edmunds a more measured sound, encouraging him to work with synthesizers and drum machines. While greeted with mixed reviews, Information was successful in the U.S., resulting in the hit "Slipping Away." The pair followed the same formula for 1984's Riff Raff, which was an unqualified bomb.

During the early '80s, Edmunds produced records for rockabilly revivalists the Stray Cats, and in 1984 he produced the Everly Brothers' comeback record, EB 84. As his solo career stalled in the wake of Riff Raff, Edmunds concentrated on production, working on several acclaimed records, including k.d. lang's debut, Angel with a Lariat, and the Fabulous Thunderbirds' breakthrough Tuff Enuff. He returned to his own career in 1987 with the live I Hear You Rockin', which was ignored. Three years later, he released Closer to the Flame, his first studio record in six years, to mixed reviews. That same year, he reunited with Nick Lowe to produce Lowe's Party of One. Rhino Records released the double-disc compilation Anthology in 1993, and the following year Edmunds returned with Plugged In, his first set of one-man band material since Subtle as a Flying Mallet. Plugged In was received with good reviews, and Edmunds supported the album with his first tour in several years.

Following this tour, Edmunds went into seclusion, popping up for an occasional live gig, then releasing two albums on the Internet in the new millennium: 2005's Musical Fantasies and Alive & Pickin'. Toward the end of the decade, Edmunds showed up on Jools Holland's Hootenanny concerts as part of his semi-regular gigging. Eventually, Edmunds resurfaced in 2013, first supporting RPM's reissue of Subtle as a Flying Mallet and then releasing Again, a record that was largely culled from Plugged In but also featured five brand-new songs -- his first new vocal recordings in nearly two decades. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

Get It was by far my favorite Edmunds LP. Met him several times and I must admit he is a very cool guy! I would love to see Dave and Nick do it one more time. Billy is still out there but I hear that Terry is retired.
I'm still holding out hope that DE will tour with Billy Bremner and Terry Williams from Rockpile.
Outstanding rock & ROLL !!!!!
the song high school nights sounds exactly like brick field nights by the boys.
pcj, truer words were never spoken better. NEW was THE staion to listen to. Between Scottso, Dave Herman, Dan Neer, Richard Neer, Carol Miller, and all the rest, I learned about music. All the classics, and then, bands like Rockpile, REM, The Police, Blondie, etc. The only other staion to listen to in NY back then was WLIR. Great music from great stations, at Jones Beach, West End 2!!!
My favorite artist!!! Too real. Love Dave soo much! All of the people in my school have never heard of him or don't like his music. What is their problem?!!?
This reminds me I still need to go buy that old Rhino Dave
Edmunds box set, hope I can still track a copy down!
Where's Closer To The Flame? I haven't heard that song in years!!!
HERE COME THE WEEKEND was the closing song for Dave Herman on WNEW 102.7 in New York City on Fridays when he signed off at 10 am. That Radio station was ICONIC, playing Artists like DE/ Rockpile etc, there has never been another station like it, Disc Jockeys with brains and personality. I'ts a shame that the station could not survive until the dawn of the internet. i would kill to be able to listen to them online......
philippoulos
pure pop music for thinking people
Edmunds, Lowe, Lynne......I love all those guys! Therese, you ran out of room, but I bet that you were going to say 'Crawling From The Wreckage', or 'I Hear You Knocking', or 'I Knew The Bride', or 'Deborah'... . . T a k e your pick, it's all good!
DE will always be one of my very favoirites. And I expect people long in the future will look back and marvel at the treasure we had in him.

About the only person who can cover others, even Chuck Berry, and make it better than the original (example "Oh What a Thrill".) He was just able to find that something that was hidden in the original.

Breadth and depth from cajun soul to pop marvels to the hardest rock going. Go from Almost Saturday Night, to Falling in a Hole, to Steel Claw, and
EVEN BETTER LIVE!
dianeandruss
Dave Edmunds & Nick Lowe were some of the best stuff around in the late 70's and early 80's.
His live album, "I Hear You Rockin'", will probably always be in my top 10.
Check out the album he produced for Dion called "Yo Frankie". It's great.
Cooooooooooo o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o l !

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