Edmunds' immersion and love of 50s and 60 straight ahead rock 'n' roll meant he has kept the spirit of that music alive in times when it had very little commercial potential.
And, importantly, he did it with incredible smarts and talent. What he lacks in authenticity (he was born in Cardiff, Wales in 1944) he makes up for in heart and a genuine feel for a music that he clearly loves.
Wikipedia: "Edmunds was born in Cardiff. As a teenager, he first played in 1954 with a band called the Edmunds Bros Duo with his older brother Geoff (born in 1940, Cardiff); this was a piano duo. Then the brothers were in the Stompers later called the Heartbeats formed around 1957 with Geoff on rhythm guitar, Dave on lead guitar, Denny Driscoll on lead vocals, Johnny Stark on drums and Ton Edwards on bass. Then Dave and Geoff were in The 99ers along with scientist and writer Brian J. Ford. After that Dave Edmunds was in Crick Feather's Hill-Bill's formed in c 1960, with Feathers (Edmunds) on lead guitar; Zee Dolan on bass; Tennessee Tony on lead vocals; Tony Kees on piano and Hank Two Sticks on drums. The first group that Edmunds fronted was the Cardiff-based 1950s style rockabilly trio The Raiders formed in 1961, along with Brian 'Rockhouse' Davies on bass and Ken Collier on drums. Edmunds was the only constant member of the group, which later included bassist Mick Still, Bob 'Congo' Jones on drums and John Williams (stage name John David) on bass. The Raiders worked almost exclusively in the South Wales area.
In 1966, after a short spell in a Parlophone recording band, the Image (1965–1966), with local drummer Tommy Riley, Edmunds shifted to a more blues-rock sound, reuniting with Congo Jones and bassist John Williams and adding second guitarist Mickey Gee to form the short lived Human Beans, a band that played mostly in London and on the UK university circuit. In 1967, the band recorded a cover of "Morning Dew" on the Columbia label, that failed to have any chart impact. After just eighteen months, the core of 'Human Beans' formed a new band called Love Sculpture that again reinstated Edmunds, Jones and Williams as a trio. Love Sculpture scored a quasi-novelty Top 5 hit by reworking Khachaturian's classical piece "Sabre Dance" as a speed-crazed rock number, inspired by Keith Emerson's classical rearrangements".
Post Love Sculpture Edmunds concentrated on his solo career, producing others and financing his own studio where he could do what he wanted.
His solo popularity reached it's peak in the late 70s / early 80s in England during the New Wave. The New Wave was really good to him and he was really good to and shaped it in no small way.
If you accept that new wave and punk were a musical return to the original spirit of rock (rather than the roots of rock) then it is easy to accept and understand why there was a revival in 50s sounds during the New Wave and in its immediate aftermath.
Edmunds was the more traditional of the progenitors but his music kicks as it does with others coming from the same place and popular during the New Wave: The Flamin Groovies, The Stray Cats, Shakin Stevens, Albert Lee, The Kingbees, Robert Gordon, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Tuff Darts and NRBQ.
Hell, even the Dead Kennedy's covered Elvis' "Viva Las Vegas"
Edmunds like the best of them never sounded old or old fashioned.
This record was the first Edmunds solo effort to feature all four members of the band Rockpile: Edmunds, Billy Bremner (who also wrote some tracks under the pen name Billy Murray), Nick Lowe, and Terry Williams. Rockpile acted as his backing band and he produced them on various solo albums. Oddly, due to a host of music industry missteps and manoeuvrings Rockpile only released one album as Rockpile in 1980 and that was fairly late in the piece. Their best work is on Edmunds and Nick Lowe solo albums.
And they kick.
Think the Travelling Wilburys with balls. In fact the Wilburys must have spent some time listening to these guys.
This is good time music which can be danced and is seriously infective. There are serious moments, but generally any message does no get in the way of the tune. In the style of 50s and early 60s rock the songs are about people, boys and girls and the "stuff" that happens to people in normal life when they aren't faced with cataclysmic events: love, sex, lies, work, going out and generally trying to make it from A to B.
Edmunds , picks some choice covers and being the sharp guy he is they are relatively obscure ones. It's not rocket science to say Chuck Berry has been often covered but generally its the same ten or so songs. Here Edmunds digs into the Chuck soingbook circa 1965.
Interestingly, it is often assumed that Edmunds is enamoured with 50s rock and roll and that is true but it is equally true that he is enamoured with 60s rock n roll, frat rock, and teen pop that existed in the world between Elvis getting out of the army in 1960 and the rise of the Beatles (to the top) in 1964.
Check out my other comments for other bio detail.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Trouble Boys – (Billy Bremner / Billy Murray) – A hoot of a teen rumble song ..bad boys move in on the narrator's girl. The song was covered by Thin Lizzy in 1981 and suits their retro urban violence perfectly.
- Never Been in Love – (Billy Bremner / Dave Edmunds / Nick Lowe / Rockpile / Terry Williams) – with a nod to The Everly Brothers this is otherwise a typical Rockpile / Edmunds song ….and that makes it well above average.
- Not a Woman, Not a Child – (Billy Murray) – a great semi stomper with a wonderful guitar break
- Television – (Nick Lowe) – a punchy Lowe song
- What Looks Best on You – (Dave Edmunds / Nick Lowe) – A teen ballad which could have come from 1962 though with some contemporary sexuality (well innuendo at least).
- Readers Wives – (Dave Edmunds) – a frantic rocker – all attitude …..rockabilly goes garage. Sweaty and magnificent.
- Deborah – (Dave Edmunds / Nick Lowe) – calling Buddy Holly! Great fun!
- Thread Your Needle – (W. Young) – originally recorded by the Ohio-based R&B duo Dean and Jean (Welton Young and Brenda Lee Jones) in 1964. Excellent
- A.1. on the Jukebox – (Will Birch / Dave Edmunds) – a good rocker.
- It's My Own Business – (Chuck Berry) – "It's My Own Business" is a great teen rebellion number (here made nastier) and originally done by Chuck Berry on his "Fresh Berry's" album from 1965.
- Heart of the City – (Nick Lowe) – The album's final song, "Heart Of The City", was originally recorded by Nick Lowe as a single in 1976 and then Rockpile did a live version on Lowe's Jesus of Cool album (1978). Edmunds apparently used the same backing track, but overdubbed his own lead vocals in place of Lowe's…well why not – he played on The Lowe album version. Not as good as Lowe's version but not bad either.
Magnificent, a blast from start to finish …. I'm keeping it.
Nick Lowe's "Heart of the City" with Dave Edmunds on guitar
- The record is, perhaps not surprisingly given Plant and Page's love of the 50s, on Led Zeppelins' "Swan Song" label.