Musician, Producer and Singer Dave Edmunds’ cover version of I Hear You Edmunds’ had been a huge hit with the public, staying at number one for six weeks in 1970. Edmunds had become known for replicating the production, style and feel of early Rock ‘n’ Roll and Pop records, even playing most of the instrumentation himself on some recordings. By 1979, Dave had developed a sound still drenched in his influences but with a slightly more contemporary vibe. Repeat When Necessary was his fifth studio album, but was the first to chart in the UK, reaching a peak position of 39.
Edmunds is assisted by a group of musicians he played with at the time. The band, known as Rockpile, consisted of Edmunds, Nick Lowe, Billy Bremner and Terry Williams. They had formed in the mid-70s and began playing live gigs. During these sessions, which were documented in a 1979 documentary entitled Born Fighters, the band recorded two albums; Repeat When Necessary and Lowe’s Labour of Lust (1979).
The album begins with the lead single from the album, “Girls Talk”, which was written by Elvis Costello. Now a staple of classic hits stations, this catchy song demonstrates Edmunds’ soaring vocals perfectly. The combination of clean arrangement, catchy hooks and complex changes make this a winner. Totally commercial, yet credible. The song reached number 4 in the UK singles chart. “Crawling From The Wreckage” follows next, and is something of an Edmunds staple. Written by Graham Parker (of The Rumour), it features Edmunds’ signature Chuck Berry style rhythm guitar. Sometimes known as the “racka rack”, the clean rhythm emphasis sounds basic yet takes practice to get right. Some lyrical phrases in this song perhaps haven’t aged well, but there is no denying this is a classic of the genre. It was the second song from the album released as a single but stalled at 59. In 2000, the song was covered by British Rock Band Status Quo on their Famous in the Last Century album.
“The Creature From The Black Lagoon”, written by Guitarist Billy Bremner, takes a moodier approach to the established formula. The song features a memorable chorus, and some impeccably varied drumming from Williams. It could have been single but is somewhat overshadowed by stronger songs in this track listing. “Sweet Little Lisa” is another underrated track which deserved much more. Written by Donivan Cowart, Martin Cowart and pedal steel guitarist Hank DeVito, it (understandably) has a strong Country flavour. The recording features revered guitarist Albert Lee, formerly of Heads Hands and Feet, who plays lead guitar throughout. Purposely high in the mix to showcase his ability, it elevates the track to stratospheric heights. Although a favourite by all concerned in the live arena, the recorded version of this track is incredibly underrated.
“Dynamite”, originally a song sung by early British rocker Cliff Richard, is perhaps the most unusual addition. A track from the British wave of Rock ‘n’ Roll, it doesn’t have much of a prescience outside of the UK. Edmunds’ playful use of reverb is a highlight of this track, along with trying to decipher what the lyrics are actually about! Its lack of familiarity coupled with stronger tracks means this song is another possible skip, which is a shame. “Queen of Hearts” (later a US hit for Juice Newton) is another DeVito composition which injects a high amount of Country into proceedings. The call-and-response type action in the chorus between the vocal and guitar really hooks the listener in, along with the throwback licks of the Rockabilly guitar and its distinctive tone. Edmunds would release the song as a single, reaching a peak position of number 11 in the UK chart.
The second half of the album continues to mix up the styles. “Home in My Hand” initially verges on throwaway, but gets better with each airing. It was previously recorded by Lowe’s band Brinsley Schwarz in 1972 and featured on their Nervous on the Road album. Edmunds firmly puts his influences onto the Ronnie Self composition, infusing Country and Rockabilly flavour; The variation in drum patterns and some pretty neat (Almost Carl Perkins style) lead guitar lines drive the track along nicely. Comparing the two versions side by side, this reviewer has a preference for the rockier, bassy and rootsy styling of the Schwarz version. “Goodbye Mr Good Guy” is a pure piece of vintage rockabilly that doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it isn’t supposed to; It’s just good fun that demonstrates Edmunds’ feel for the genre, as later showcased in his production work with The Stray Cats.
“Take Me For a Little While” was written by Trade Martin and first recorded by Evie Sands in 1965, and has been performed by such legendary artists as Dusty Springfield and Cher. Given the era the song was written in, Edmunds’ version veers toward one of his regular musical haunts, the production work of Phil Spector. No stranger to trying to recreate that wall of sound, (as evidenced in his 1972 recording of Baby I Love You) the reverb-tinged sound topped with large-sounding instrumentation evokes the vibe of some of the best of Spector’s work. Dave’s vocals on this recording may not compare to the aforementioned artists, but then it has to be judged differently. Dave’s involvement with the whole process, and his attention to detail, are impressive.
The album ends with two tracks that demonstrate two ends of the same spectrum. “We Were Both Wrong”, a Bremner song, is a classic style Rock ‘n’ Roll ballad with a bit of bite which could have been performed by an artist like Elvis Presley. Bad is Bad, featuring Huey Lewis on harmonica, is a fast Blues number with a killer groove. Lewis would later reinvent the track with Huey Lewis & The News, but it has nothing on this gutsy rendition; That wailing distorted harmonica, infectious rhythm and pleasing rhyming lyrics make this a memorable tune that makes you move. It could have been released as a single and probably should have been.
This is arguably Dave Edmunds’ best studio album. It finds a way to pay tribute to Edmunds’ influences while still sounding commercial and current. Assisted by Rockpile and others, the sound offers the clean possibilities of 1970s production mixed with a musical sensibility that originates a decade or two earlier. The first six tracks are utter “Dynamite”, and rank among some of Edmunds’ greatest recordings. The second half is less consistent in its style, but there are some excellent highlights. Overall, this is a great album for car journeys and general rocking!
- Girls Talk
- Crawling From The Wreckage
- Creature From The Black Lagoon
- Sweet Little Lisa
- Queen of Hearts
- Home in My Hand
- Goodbye Mr Good Guy
- Take Me for a Little While
- We Were Both Wrong
- Bad Is Bad