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.
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.
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.
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
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!