The following interview with Dave Edmunds is meant as a follow-up to the Edmunds history which appeared in TP 12 and subsequently in TPP 3 (The Greatest Hits). At the time the interview was done, late May, Edmunds was happily in the midst of his first American tour with Rockpile (Edmunds, guitar/vocals; Nick Lowe, bass/vocals; Billy Bremner, guitar/vocals; Terry Williams, drums), going down extremely well as the support band for Bad Company. They had played just a few dates of what was to be a three-month tour with Bad Co, and Edmunds, extremely shy and nervous by nature, seemed to be bristling with enthusiasm almost in spite of himself. He couldn't believe how well things were going.
Well, it didn't take long for things to foul themselves up. Within a week of the interview came the announcement that Edmunds and Rockpile had been cancelled from the tour. The reason? Apparently tickets hadn't been selling as well as expected for the tour and a "stronger" opening act was needed to bolster sales. So the Outlaws were called in and Edmunds and crew departed for England leaving lots of (but not enough) disappointed fans. After Edmunds had finally been coaxed out on the road, the cancellation was really a crusher both to Edmunds and those who had been hoping finally to see him perform. Here's hoping he'll be back in the States shortly. Hang in there, Dave.
TP: How's the tour going and why did you decide to put together a band right now?
DE: It's going really well. Couldn't ask for better. We were told that support bands often get a lot of stick and rarely encores, but we've been getting encores and really good receptions.
TP: What you're doing live is more or less the stuff from Get It?
DE: Yeah, we're doing about five from the record. The ones that we can do and make them work.
TP: The rest of the set is in a similar vein?
DE: Well Billy Bremner, the guitarist does a couple of numbers and we do a few Nick Lowe songs and one Nick and I wrote together. There's no old chestnuts in it like "Blue Suede Shoes" or "Hound Dog" — no revivals.
TP: But lots of rock 'n roll…
DE: Oh yeah. Smelly rock 'n' roll. It stinks.
TP: Was the album a conscious attempt to touch on all different 'fifties rock 'n' roll styles? A ballad, a Chuck Berry-ish number…
DE: It was a conscious effort to make it one type of music as opposed to my other two albums where it was like a various artists compilation. It didn't sound like the same artist sometimes. I can't remember specifically, but it'd go from one track to another and sound like someone else.
TP: There's a great variety of styles on Get It, though.
DE: I think it's believable, that it is one artist. You tell me, I think so, that's what I tried for. I did throw in a few strange ones. "Where or When" was an odd one. I just liked doing it.
TP: How come "New York's a Lonely Town" (English B-side of "Where or When") wasn't included?
DE: For that reason. It was getting too messy like the other ones. To put a surfing thing on as well wouldn't have been right.
TP: Last time we spoke you said how reluctant you were to put together a band, how you didn't like being on the road.
DE: I'd have never believed it a year ago if someone told me I'd be doing a four-month tour of the States back on the road.
TP: What made you change your mind?
DE: What happened was I signed with Swan Song and I had this album to do and had the time booked and had recorded a few tracks. I was doing nothing apart from that. I knew this album wouldn't take long to do as opposed to the others. It was done in six weeks apart from "Ju Ju Man" which was recorded two years ago and "My Baby Left Me" which was a throwaway thing I'd done about eight years ago.
TP: It's astonishing the way you captured Elvis' feel on "My Baby Left Me."
DE: That's what we were doing with Love Sculpture when we came over here. Terry [drummer Terry Williams] was in the band then and it was the same line-up; we recorded "My Baby Left Me" and a few others. Greg Shaw brought them to light. Somehow we found out about them and I was asked questions about them in interviews. Y'know, "What about these legendary mystery tapes you did?" and so on. So I tried to dig them up, but could only find one, although we actually did four of them.
TP: Who actually played on it then, you and Terry?
DE: And John Williams and Micky Gee from Love Sculpture.
On the Road Again
TP: You were telling us why you went back on the road.
DE: I was hanging around doing a lot of drinking with Nick Lowe. We just had nothing to do for a few months. We were just going to a certain pub in London where a lot of musicians hang out. Jake [Riviera] was hanging out as well. We were talking about if we did get a band together, who would it be? Just sort of drunk talk, really. I said it would have to be Terry 'cause he's my favorite drummer and I know him, but that's out of the question because he'll never leave the Man band, they'll be going forever. They've made 13 albums and have been going for 15 years. When it came to a fourth member, we'd need a good guitarist and I spotted this guy playing in Fatso, which was Neil Innes's backing group. He was great, great voice, great guitar player, yeah, that would be the guy. And then Terry phoned me up and said : "It's a big secret. Don't tell anyone, but the Man band is splitting up. Do you wanna have a go?" I said, "I don't know. I'll be in touch with you." Two days later Billy phoned me up and said, "I hear you've been trying to get a hold of me." I think I met him once, briefly. I never mentioned it to him, but it got back to him somehow. So Jake said, "Right, here we go." And we said, "No Jake, hold it, we'll just do a few gigs." Next thing I know I'm told by Swan Song, "There's a Bad Company tour, are you interested? We know you've got a band together, do you want to do it?" Well, what else can I do? It was all there, laid out on a plate and I hadn't done a thing except talk about it.
TP: Why hadn't you a band for so long?
DE: I just wasn't interested, or thought I wasn't anyway. Well, I definitely wasn't interested when I jacked in Love Sculpture —I really didn't want to know.
TP: Do you think of yourself as being a producer?
DE: No, never, I never thought that. It was just a question of giving a hand out to a few mates in the studio if they wanted me to do it. If they want to call me "producer," great. And give me two percent, lovely. But it was just that I do the engineering and act as a go-between, between the equipment and the band. I throw in a few suggestions but I couldn't be a producer as such, sitting next to the engineer and telling the group what to do, what songs they could do and what they can't do and all that. I couldn't do that.
Birth of a Songwriter
TP: Do you write at all on your own?
DE: I've got one on Get It, but apart from that I hope to do more in the future.
TP: When did you meet Nick Lowe?
DE: I first knew him when the Brinsleys came up to Rockfield to do a couple of albums, but we became good friends when I produced New Favourites for them.
TP: Do you write with him often?
DE: Well, I'd never written a song before. I was convinced I couldn't write songs, because of a few abortive attempts and Love Sculpture B-sides which were all miserable. Then I moved to London, which was a great idea because I realized I'd been completely out of touch. I'd been in Wales for five years, taken too many quaaludes and too much speed and the only musicians I met were people who used to come down to the studio. Seeing bands play, getting into what's going on and watching Nick write songs spurred me on. He used to come up to my flat and write and I'd say, "Why don't you try this chord here." He admitted later that he was thinking, "Who's this guy telling me how to write my songs?" Then he agreed that some of the times it worked out. That's how "Little Darling" came about and "Here Comes the Weekend." With "Little Darling" he did all the lyrics and I just changed the chords and tune about and arranged it. It was just two verses and a middle eight he dreamed up and strummed out to me. I had a go at it and he said, "Well, you've completely changed it, you may as well have half of it." All of a sudden I felt like a songwriter. My ego was starting to increase; I had lift-off, right? Then one night we were in the Nashville watching Graham Parker and I asked Nick if he had any songs and he said, "There hasn't been a song about the weekend since Eddie Cochran [obviously unaware of the Dictators' epic — ed. ], let's do one. Next thing I knew we were scribbling away on a cigarette packet in the dressing room. After about 10 minutes we had it done. So now I thought, "What a fucking good song… and I contributed over half." Well, my ego was being fed even more. By now I was fired and ready to go. One night at the pub I told Nick this great idea I had for a country and western song based on a line I got from a Bob Hope movie. Someone wanted some money from Bob in the film and he said, "My suits are worn out, but my pockets are brand new." Nick looked at me and didn't know what I was talking about, he later admitted. He really thought I was onto a turkey. So I just carried on and did the whole song myself.
TP: So now you're a songwriter.
DE: Yeah. That's why I was very disappointed when "Here Comes the Weekend" wasn't a big hit. It came so close.
A Bunch of Stiffs
TP: Where did the "Jo Jo Gunne" track come from?
DE: That was another joke, really. It was done about 1970. I was just messing around with phasing and using all the effects I could find. In fact it was only phasing and echo at that time.
TP: Who was on that one?
DE: Just me.
TP: Who are Wreckless Eric and Elvis Costello?
DE: Elvis is Elvis. His real name is Dec—don't know what that's short for. It's him in the picture.
TP: And Wreckless Eric is a real person?
DE: Yep. A little guy about 5'2". He walked into Stiff one day and went up to the receptionist and said, "I'm one of those idiots who walks into record companies and wants to make a record." All rehearsed. She told him to see Jake, so he goes over and says, "I'm one of those idiots who walks into record companies and wants to make a record." Nick was there and there was something, Nick being the oddball that he is, that he loved about it; perhaps it was a certain bit of bad taste. So he asked to hear the tape and we loved it.
TP: Tell us about "Food Rock" and the Takeaways.
DE: It was just a one off, though there's another cut we did called "Let's Eat," it's better than "Food." Nick sings on it.