Dave Edmunds had a top 10 single in 1970 with his quirky interpretation of Freddie Bartholomew's "I Hear You Knocking." It won him the instant admiration of John Lennon among others, but through two solo albums, numerous singles, a movie role and a notoriety as a producer, he still remains virtually an unknown entity.
John Lennon is not the only one aware of Edmunds' talent: it had been suggested that he was the only logical replacement for Mick Taylor in the Rolling Stones, and Phil Spector has reportedly called him the producer he most respects. Greg Shaw summed it up best in Bomp magazine though, when he wrote, "Musicians, critics, people in the music business generally have such enormous regard for him that the slightest news concerning his activities is enough to arouse keen excitement."
Why then his relative obscurity? Edmunds achieved some initial success in the '60s with the group Love Sculpture, but has spent the better part of the '70s in the control booth of Rockfield Studios in Wales where he singlehandedly reworked the Spector stratagem on songs like "Born To Be With You" and "Baby, I Love You" and captured the primitive sound of the early Sun days through his painstaking use of overdubs: recording, engineering, producing, playing all the instruments and singing all of the vocal lines himself.
As a result, he has only recorded some three dozen sides over the past six years on two solo albums, some nine sporadic single releases and one side of the soundtrack lp to Stardust. It is this very scarcity of product that fuels the legend. It is the fact that he has side-stepped the road to stardom after attaining some initial success that he remains an enigma.
Only recently has Edmunds found that being a living legend is not as rewarding as it sounds. Between being revered by fellow musicians and record buffs and producing albums for Foghat, the Flamin' Groovies, Brinsley Schwarz, Ducks Deluxe, Deke Leonard and Del Shannon, he realized that he was spreading himself too thin.
It took him 18 months to follow his single success of "I Hear You Knocking" with the Rockpile lp (MAM), but it was too late and there were no further singles released from it. His second album, Subtle As A Flying Mallet (RCA), was a collection of tracks recorded over a three year period in addition to a couple of songs recorded live with Brinsley Schwarz. It too was too late to follow his British chart successes of "Born To Be With You" and "Baby, I Love You." Its American release was even one year later and only came about after the release of the Stardust movie for which he contributed one side to the soundtrack and made his screen debut.
"The first thing I decided," he told RW last summer, "was to stop producing other artists. It took me six years to realize that I've never really tried to capitalize on my own personal success, If anything has held me back, it's been the fact that I've always been far too busy trying to finish other artists' albums instead of concentrating on my own. Making solo albums is something I did between producing... it just dissipates your enthusiasm. From now on, I'm just going to concentrate on my own recordings."
Since being signed to Swan Song last summer, Edmunds' career appears to be on the upswing once again. His first single, "Here Comes The Weekend," was not as remarkable for the sound which seemed to rekindle the spirit of the Everly Brothers, as it was for the fact that he wrote the song with Nick Lowe.
Finding material has always been Edmunds' biggest obstacle as he openly admitted. "I can't even write bad songs," he told RW, "I just have a very hard time with lyrics. Years ago I wrote the B-side of a Love Sculpture single, but it was dreadful."
Edmunds recorded "Here Comes The Weekend" three days after it was written with help from Lowe, Stephen Goulding from the Rumour and a member of Roogalator. It turned out so well that the demo they cut for under $100 ended up as the master.
With a little consistency and some luck, 1977 could be Edmunds' year.