Rockpile - Biography



Anyone who ever saw Rockpile in concert knew they were in the presence of a supergroup. Not that the UK quartet was made up of super names – many would describe its members as journeymen, and its co-founder Nick Lowe later described the group, with tongue not entirely in cheek, as “a posh bar band” – but they approached their music with a rare and infectious power, humor, and jubilation.


Sadly, the group’s time together was limited, though they worked together frequently for years on one another’s projects before assuming true partnership status. They managed to put together just one album in their own name before calling it quits. But they were a force to be reckoned with during their brief run in the early ‘80s, and they had the chops to get many a headlining act shaking in their collective boots from the thought of following them onstage.


The bandmates were all well traveled by the time they convened as a unit. Wales-born singer-songwriter-guitarist Dave Edmunds had been a British star of no little magnitude since the late ‘60s, when he fronted the potent Love Sculpture; a late incarnation of the band included Terry Williams, a fellow Welshman, on drums. Williams, who went on to join Welsh rockers Man, was along for the ride when Edmunds established a solo career; his 1972 album, prophetically titled Rockpile, spawned a cover of New Orleans R&B singer Smiley Lewis’ “I Hear You Knockin’” that became a hit on both sides of the Atlantic.


The album was recorded at Rockfield, a modest but great-sounding studio co-owned by Edmunds that was built on the grounds of a Welsh dairy farm. One of the facility’s clients was the English pub-rock band Brinsley Schwarz, whose personnel included the droll, gifted singer-bassist-songwriter-producer Nick Lowe. Brinsley Schwarz was secured as the backup band on some tracks for Edmunds’ second album, the heavily Phil Spector-influenced Subtle As a Flying Mallet (1975).


Lowe and Williams appeared on Edmunds’ Get It (1977). On Tracks On Wax 4 (1978), they were joined by Billy Bremner, a merry Scottish session guitarist noted for his work behind The Walker Brothers. Lowe, Williams, and Bremner would reappear as Edmunds’ support band on Repeat When Necessary (1979) and Twangin’ (1981); Lowe employed his colleagues on his solo sets Jesus of Cool (a/k/a in the US as Pure Pop For Now People, 1978) and Labour of Lust (1979). (The foursome also backed Lowe’s missus Carlene Carter on her 1980 album Musical Shapes.) However, for a minute in 1980, they appeared under the collective billing Rockpile, with all hands collaborating on much of the songwriting.


Their lone album Seconds of Pleasure (1980) showed off a combo able to essay old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, and those bedrock styles’ tributaries with roof-raising vigor and insouciant ease. Few groups of that era sported a two-man guitar attack that could equal the light-fingered flash of Edmunds and Bremner, and few acts boasted a pair of vocalists who melded as fluently as Lowe and Edmunds (with Bremner pitching in with the occasional solo shot).


Seconds of Pleasure delivered everything that is joyous and exhilarating about rootsy rock ‘n’ roll. Besides covers of tunes originated by rocker Chuck Berry, soul man Joe Tex, and zydeco king Rockin’ Sidney, the group punched through a solid selection of originals that included Lowe’s convulsive “Play That Fast Thing (One More Time),” the Bremner feature “Heart,” and the vivacious “When I Write the Book.” The album also included a bonus EP of Lowe and Edmunds’ performances of four Everly Brothers songs.


“Teacher Teacher,” a cover of a song penned by Kenny Pickett and Eddie Phillips of The Creation, became a minor US pop hit, just missing the top 50. But the formidable reputations of Rockpile’s membership and the zest of their live shows pushed the album to No. 27 on the American charts.


The unit scarcely outlived its one-shot tour, as tensions between Lowe and Edmunds -- who both sustained solo careers thereafter, as did Bremner -- forced the group apart in 1981. But it was fun while it lasted; Seconds of Pleasure and a bountiful selection of delectable YouTube videos are a good measure of the fun that was had.

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