Born David William Edmunds, 15 April 1944, Cardiff, Wales
Singer / guitarist / songwriter / producer / arranger
The music of Dave Edmunds ("the real Prince of Wales" according to Phil Davies) is firmly rooted in the rock n roll of the 1950s and early 1960s. But though he has recorded a lot of R&R classics (many Chuck Berry tunes especially), he is no mere revivalist, relying heavily as he does on newer material by Nick Lowe, Graham Parker, Elvis Costello and others, liberally sprinkling their songs with elements of roots rock.
After a period of gigging around South Wales with local R&B/Beat groups, Edmunds moved to London in 1966. His first appearance on record was in 1967, with a trio called The Human Beans who recorded "Morning Dew" for Columbia. This group evolved into Love Sculpture and it was with this outfit that Edmunds scored his first hit in late 1968 with "Sabre Dance" (# 5 UK), a guitar-on-speed version of the classic Khatchaturian piece. So astonishingly fast was Edmunds' twanging that many people thought it was speeded-up, but it wasn't.
In the late 1960s Edmunds established himself as a resident producer / engineer / session man at the Rockfield Studio (developed by the brothers Charles and Kingsley Ward in 1963) in Rockfield, near Monmouth in Wales, the world's first residential studio. One of his first productions there was the debut LP of Shakin' Stevens, "A Legend" (1970), which included the Smiley Lewis oldie "I Hear You Knocking". Dave decided that this was a song he wanted to record himself. It was the ultimate do-it-yourself job : Edmunds recorded and overdubbed everything himself : vocals, guitars, drums, backings, the whole shebang. Drenched in echo, it was a record totally out of its time, but it topped the UK charts for six weeks in late 1970/early 1971, made # 4 in the States and went on to sell three million copies worldwide.
However, the first album under his own name ("Rockpile", 1972) failed to sell and Edmunds elected to spend much of the early 70s as something of a near-recluse, closeted down at Rockfield. The second solo LP, "Subtle As A Flying Mallet" (1975) focused on soundalike remakes of hits from the 1956-64 period and included two earlier (1973) Top 10 hits, "Baby I Love You" and "Born To Be With You", both originally recorded by girl groups (the Ronettes and Chordettes respectively).
In 1974 Dave had an acting and musical directing role in the film "Stardust", directed by Michael Apted. In the movie (which also stars David Essex, Adam Faith, Marty Wilde and Keith Moon) he portrays a member of a group called The Stray Cats, several years before that group actually existed. When Edmunds signed a deal with Led Zeppelin's Swan Song label, he reached his zenith : "Get It" (1977), "Tracks On Wax 4" (1978) and "Repeat When Necessary" (1979) were delights. "Get It" is still the quintessential Dave Edmunds album, getting off to an exceptionally powerful start with the first four tracks on Side 1 : Bob Seger's "Get Out Of Denver", Nick Lowe's "I Knew the Bride" (also a # 26 hit as a single), Graham Parker's "Back To School Days" and the Edmunds-Lowe song "Here Comes the Weekend". "Repeat When Necessary" spawned three UK hits : Elvis Costello's "Girl Talk" (# 4, # 65 US), "Queen Of Hearts" (# 11) and "Crawling From the Wreckage" (# 59), written by Graham Parker.
The next LP, "Seconds Of Pleasure" (1980), was not credited to Edmunds, but to Rockpile, which was basically the same group that had recorded the first three Swan Song LP's : Dave himself on guitar and vocals, Nick Lowe on bass/vocals, Billy Bremner on guitar/vocals and Terry Williams on bass. The group split up in early 1981.
The 1981 "Twangin'" LP (still on Swan Song) again produced three hits in the UK : "Singin' the Blues" (# 28), "Almost Saturday Night" (# 58, # 54 US) and "The Race Is On" (with backing by the Stray Cats, # 34). The next year Dave joined Arista Records and came up with one of his finest albums, "D.E. 7". The single drawn from the album, a bluegrass arrangement of Brian Hyland's "Warmed Over Kisses", failed to chart, but the standout track on the LP was generally reckoned to be "From Small Things Big Things Come", written by Bruce Springsteen especially for Edmunds.
Up to that point, Dave had produced all of his own recordings, but the next two albums, "Information" (1983) and "Riff Raff" (1984) were produced by ELO's Jeff Lynne. Certainly no improvement (too many synthesizers), in spite of chart success for the single "Slipping Away" (# 60 UK, # 39 US). The last two completely new studio albums were again produced by Edmunds himself : "Closer To the Flame" (Capitol, 1990) and "Plugged In" (Sony, 1994). On the latter Dave returns to the "one man band" approach of his early recordings, playing all instruments himself. Live albums came out in 1987, 1999, 2001 and 2005. Dave's lofty status as a performer also led to a prolific production career. His portfolio includes albums by the Fabulous Thunderbirds, the Stray Cats (their first LP, with "Rock This Town" and "Runaway Boys"), the Flamin' Groovies, Del Shannon, the Everly Brothers (their comeback albums from 1984 and 1986), Brinsley Schwarz, Dion, k.d. lang and many others. He has also worked with Carl Perkins, masterminding Carl's TV special in 1985, and Jerry Lee Lewis (he happily took a supporting role alongside James Burton et al on the Killer's 1989 TV special).
After two decades of semi-retirement in Wales and Los Angeles, Edmunds went on a lengthy tour of the UK in 2007, alongside Joe Brown. Though he continues to perform occasionally, his current health doesn't seem too good.
Acknowledgements : Phil Davies (special thanks), Shaun Mather, Roger Dopson.
Dik, June 2012
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