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Welcome (finally!) to the second in a series titled "Music You Never Heard But Should Have." Again, although probably not grammatically correct, the title states it plainly. There's great music out there that for one reason or another was just never heard by a majority of people.

This edition focuses on a band that technically only released one album as a real group. They can, however, be heard for the most part on other albums as well. What's that supposed to mean, you ask? I'll explain in a minute. The album to which I refer was released in 1980 under the name of...

Rockpile - Seconds Of Pleasure



First off -- about the music. This is simply a great pop album. The first twelve cuts (which made up the original vinyl LP) are made up of masterful covers of obscure rock 'n roll songs and finely-crafted originals that blend perfectly. The style is hard to pinpoint -- "power pop", rockabilly, rhythm & blues, Buddy Holly...it's kind of a mixture of everything. You just have to hear it.

Now, about the band. Rockpile was actually the supporting band for two more well-known artists; Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe. Besides Edmunds on vocals and guitar and Lowe on vocals and bass, the group included Billy Bremner on guitar and sometimes lead vocals, and Terry Williams on drums. The group derived its name from the title of the 1972 Dave Edmunds debut solo album "Rockpile", which featured Edmunds' biggest hit "I Hear You Knockin'". The band released their albums under the two different artists' names mostly because Edmunds and Lowe had contracts with different record labels and different managers, but the group was essentially intact throughout the mid-to-late '70s. Rockpile is a literal "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" type of band. Let me see if I can explain this...

It all started when Dave Edmunds toured for his 1972 debut album with a band that included drummer Terry Williams under the name of "Dave Edmunds and Rockpile." On the second leg of the tour, drummer Terry Williams left and was replaced with Pick Withers. Pick would later go on to be a founding member of Dire Straits, and Williams would come back into Rockpile. Now, as many of you probably know, Terry Williams later replaced Pick Withers in Dire Straits, and is probably best known for his pounding intro to "Money For Nothing." With me so far?

In the early '70's Edmunds and Rockpile essentially began what was called the British "Pub Rock" scene. The music typically centered around revved-up versions of old classics by the likes of Chuck Berry, Gene Chandler and Joe Tex. Another band to emerge in that scene was Brinsley Schwarz. This group included bassist Nick Lowe. Brinsley Schwartz recorded a song written by Lowe called "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding", which was produced by Dave Edmunds. Most people recognize that song by the version later done by Elvis Costello, which was produced by Nick Lowe. Complicated enough? We're just getting started.

After Brinsley Schwartz broke up, Nick Lowe began working more with Edmunds, especially on Edmunds' 1975 album "Subtle As A Flying Mallet". A year later, they added guitarist Billy Bremner. Many people may not recognize the name Billy Bremner, and yet millions of people listen to him nearly every day. After Rockpile, Bremner briefly joined The Pretenders to replace guitarist James Honeyman-Scott, who had died in 1982 of a cocaine overdose. Bremner was with The Pretenders during some of the recording of "Learning to Crawl", released in 1984. Bremner plays the familiar lead guitar line in "Back On The Chain Gang", and provides the bluesy riff in "My City Was Gone", which is heard by millions on weekdays opening each hour of the Rush Limbaugh radio show.

The Rockpile lineup of Edmunds, Lowe, Bremner and Williams was present for the recording of Edmunds' album "Repeat When Necessary", and Nick Lowe's "Labour Of Lust", both released in 1979. Edmunds' album contained the songs "Girls Talk", later recorded by Linda Ronstadt, and "Queen Of Hearts", a much superior version than the one later recorded by Juice Newton. Lowe's album featured his one big U.S. hit "Cruel To Be Kind".

The band was building a strong reputation in their support of Edmunds and Lowe, so they decided to attempt an album just as the group Rockpile. This album, titled "Seconds Of Pleasure", was released in 1980. The original LP contained twelve songs -- five sung by Edmunds, five by Lowe, and two by Bremner. The combination of Edmunds' polished attention to detail and Lowe's more ragged "bar band" sound created an album full of great music. There's just no "filler" in this LP. The songs bounce between Lowe's "power pop" style and Edmunds preference for "rockabilly". (By the way, Edmunds was instrumental in launching the Stray Cats, and produced their first album.) My favorites are "Heart", sung by Bremner and written by Lowe, and "If Sugar Was As Sweet As You", a Joe Tex tune sung by Edmunds. The original CD release added four acoustic songs sung by Edmunds and Lowe with "Everly Brothers" type harmonies, and the latest remastered version now available contains those plus three live songs -- two from BBC sessions and one from The Concert For Kampuchea.

The group began to tour in support of the album in 1981 but soon split up over tensions between Edmunds and Lowe. They never recorded or played as a full group again.

The initial critical reaction to this album was rather lukewarm, as the band's "Pub Rock" following expected something a little less polished and "pop". However, the years have shown that this album stands up as a true classic. It is now often included on various lists of "Best Rock Albums". I highly recommend that you check it out sometime!

 
   
 

Song Samplers:

"If Sugar Was As Sweet As You"

"Heart"

 
   
 

Also See:

Volume I: Guadalcanal Diary

Volume III: Shoegazer