Pete Johnson’s Blast From My Past: Dave Edmunds – “Repeat When Necessary”

One of the blessings of my life was to be able to grow up in such a great time of musical fertility. You’d be living your life and an artist or group would release a gem like this. From my own recollections, Dave was what I would call a B-list musical artist. People recognized his talent and his worth as an artist, guitar player, songwriter and producer. But was he A-list like a Fleetwood Mac or a Tom Petty, or even Flock of Seagulls? You could not really make that case at the time. By the way Flock of Seagulls was an attempt at a lil’ humor. Even though A-listers like McCartney would invite Dave to the Concert for Kampuchea for example. There was just an A-list glass ceiling feeling for me about him.

History has been kind to Dave. To me this album today shines like a rare gem. Well played rock and roll is such a rare commodity now. Very few acts these days can whip out an album as well crafted. This was, I believe, the 5th album by Dave. He obviously had been working within the band unit of what was called Rockpile. They were a musical factory that was to be marveled at from my perspective. They cranked out musical gems for a living. More than that, they were great at it.

You can see by the personnel line up and by the song writing credits just how strong the people involved with this project were: Dave Edmunds (guitars, piano and vocals), Billy Bremner (guitar and backing vocals), Nick Lowe (bass and backing vocals), Terry Williams (drums). Additional personnel included: Huey Lewis (harmonica on “Bad Is Bad”), Albert Lee (guitar on “Sweet Little Lisa”), and Roger Bechirian (piano on “Girls Talk”. The great Billy Bremner did some writing under a nom de plume. Elvis Costello contributed, as did Graham Parker. Dave and Rockpile were riding high at this time. The album came out of the mighty Led Zeppelins Swan Song label.

This same basic band had also done extremely high quality work on the bassist Nick Lowe’s “Labor of Love”. Every song is great, or really, really good on this record. The swagger and confidence of a great band living greatness in the moment seeps out of every song and performance. Just the opening punch of “Girl’s Talk” and “Crawling from the Wreckage” alone would be enough to enshrine this album as one of the true greats. Add the genius “Queen of Hearts” to that and this album should have sold millions upon millions. I love the B-sides of great singles. They can quite often be the balance for a rewarding listening experience. Too much A-side and it can make the listener have the aural experience of the equivalent of a too sweet, decadent dessert.

Over the years I have seen Dave a number of times; never with Rockpile, but once with Terry and Billy, and a number of times solo. He is always great and I love to hear him sing and play guitar. Edmunds is one of the most underrated guitar players in the world. He is at Mike Campbell’s level of underrated. “Take Me for A While”, for example, is such a great piece of production. It makes me think of what a Brian Wilson rockabilly record would sound like. “We Were Both Wrong” is classic 1950’s rock and roll updated for its time. I think one of the great tragedies of rock and roll today is the way musicians have lost touch with the 1950s. No punk band has ever even come close to the energy and class of those 50s records. They would do well to revisit, well to open their minds and well to open their ears. Listen to these songs, marvel at all aspects of the constructs, then go out and buy this record and thank me later. ;o)

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