NOTE TO SHELF: Seconds of Pleasure (and Live At Montreux) by Rockpile

I recently started a brand new feature here on The Pulmyears Music Blog which I call Note To Shelf. In this space, I recommend, or just blather on about, a recording from my shelf that I feel you should know about. I won’t do this everyday but when I do, it will be about recordings that “glow” or scream “play me” when I walk by the shelf (or the virtual iTunes shelf).
I recently went to the shelf to retrieve Seconds Of Pleasure (1980) by Rockpile.

Considered Pub Rock’s first Supergroup, and a rock force only rivaled by Dr. Feelgood, Rockpile was comprised of bassist/singer Nick Lowe, guitarist/singer Dave Edmunds, lead guitarist/singer Billy Bremner and drummer Terry Williams. The reason I took their ONLY official studio album, Seconds of Pleasure off the shelf this week was because I had been listening to an advance of the upcoming live album, Rockpile Live At Montreux 1980, recorded around the same time.  Williams is an undisputed master of the back-beat, shuffle and swinging R&B, walloping and galloping and driving the machine. Basher Lowe’s bass is right there with him, elegantly directing that rhythm toward the melodic instruments. Bremner is a fire cracker of lightning lead breaks unrivaled by anyone except perhaps his counterpart Edmunds, who not only plays a mean guitar, but sings with an authentic drawl and twang that belies his Welsh ancestry. And the set list for the Montreux show draws on the strengths of all four men.

Opening with “Sweet Little Liza” followed quickly (maybe via editing) into “So It Goes”,I Knew The Bride”, “Queen Of Hearts” and “Switchboard Susan,” you’re left as breathless as Nick and Dave seem by the time they hand off lead vocals to Bremner for “Trouble Boys”, with Williams sounding like a dog let of a leash. This band actually had hits, together and apart, and their biggest collective single, “Teacher Teacher” is here too, along Dave’s hit “Girls Talk” (written by Elvis Costello), and “I Hear You Knockin'”. But there are literally NO dull moments here, “Crawling From The Wreckage”, “3 Time Loser” and “You Ain’t Nothin’ But Fine” also stand out. While the recording is a bit squashed sounding, I suspect it was done for a radio broadcast, and the mix has a few errors (Nick’s voice is awfully quiet on “So It Goes” and elsewhere, lead guitars seem buried and under-mixed), but by the time you’re done with closing song “Let’s Talk About Us”, there is little doubt that this is a strong testament to the sheer performance energy of a seasoned, and well-oiled, rock and roll band.

But let’s talk about the studio album, Seconds of Pleasure.

Formed around a 1970 Edmunds solo album and tour, back when Nick was still with Brinsley Schwarz, for whom Edmunds produced an album in 1974. At the time, Edmunds was still signed to Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song label and it took a few years of negotiating solo band members contracts for Rockpile to get the chance to legally record as a group. By 1980, they were free and clear, to enter Eden Studios, in Chiswick, with Lowe acting as titular producer as he had, by then. made his reputation as Elvis Costello’s producer and as a solo artist in his own right with Jesus Of Cool a/k/a Pure Pop For Now People and other albums.  Incidentally, I just read that the distinctive jacket artwork, credited to “Dag” is in fact who I always thought it was, the late great Barney Bubbles, who also did Costello’s Imperial Bedroom and other great sleeves of the day.

Seconds of Pleasure opens with a song even the casual listener should know,  “Teacher Teacher”, a fairly big hit (Billboard #51 single) that I only recently realized was not written by the group but by Kenny Pickett and Eddie Phillips, from the 60s UK act, The Creation.

Then they lay into a great Joe Tex song, “If Sugar Was As Sweet As You”

Next Billy Bremner sings Nick’s “Heart”

After “Now And Always” they move into  the Kip Anderson’s comical blues tune “A Knife And A Fork”

And Nick’s “Play That Fast Thing One More Time” before “Wrong Again (Let’s Face It) (by Squeeze’s mainstays, Difford & Tilbrook):

Then a Rockpile original that actually sounds like another Squeeze song, “Pet You And Hold You” (oh, and forgive the LONG intro on this clip, I obviously didn’t make this):

http://youtu.be/1RT2-JdxV6I

And it wouldn’t be a party without a Chuck Berry cover,  “Oh What A Thrill, followed by one of my all time favourite Nick Lowe songs, “When I Write The Book” (WARNING: Whoever loaded this to YouTube kind of gave up before the song was over (??!?!?!?))

After Nick’s “Fool Too Long“, they close the album (proper) with a cover of Rockin’ Sidney’s  “You Ain’t Nothin’ But Fine”

Back when the vinyl album was released, some people got a bonus 4-song EP Nick Lowe & Dave Edmunds Sing The Everly Brothers.

When I picked up the Canadian CD, a long time back, they had added in the Everly EP at the end. The set was “Take A Message to Mary”, “Crying In The Rain”, “Poor Jenny” and “When Will I Be Loved”.  I found this audio only clip of Nick and Dave doing an Everly set at Capital Radio;

NOTE; A subsequent 2004 CD reissue of Seconds of Pleasure added in three more live tracks, including “Back To Schooldays” and “They Called It Rock” from a 1977 BBC session, and “Crawling From The Wreckage” from the  Concerts For The People Of Kampuchea (produced by Chris Thomas). 

Rockpile. Now THAT was a rock ‘n’roll group.

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2 Responses to “NOTE TO SHELF: Seconds of Pleasure (and Live At Montreux) by Rockpile”

  1. Bryan Williston Says:

    Thanks, as ever, Paul! It was great to revisit these tunes. A
    lot of the background was familiar, but certain details (ie. Dave’s contractual obligations to Swansong) I had forgotten. Bremner’s work certainly shines. When I was a kid, I thought that Bremner played rhythm and that Edmunds (the star, IMHO) did all of the lead guitar work. Absolutely love the killer solo in “Switchbox Susan”! Thanks again. man.

  2. Phil Gordon Says:

    As I was lucky enough to see Rockpile over the course of a few tours I’d have to say they were one of the best live bands I’d ever seen. Truly bursting with talent from each member. It’s a shame that Nick and Dave don’t want to do any more playing in that style.

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