35 Years Ago: Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe Release ‘Repeat When Necessary’ and ‘Labour Of Lust’
The formation of Rockpile in the mid-’70s came with one major problem: their leaders, Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe, were signed as solo acts to different labels. They temporarily solved that problem in June 1979 by releasing two albums — Edmunds’ ‘Repeat When Necessary’ and Lowe’s ‘Labour of Lust’ — that were, for all intents and purposes, Rockpile records.
The professional musical adventures of Edmunds and Lowe date back to the mid-’60s. Their paths frequently crossed when Edmunds was with the blues-based Love Sculpture. Lowe was in Kippington Lodge, and followed that up with a stint with pub-rockers Brinsley Schwarz. Edmunds had found chart success with Love Sculpture in 1968 with a rock version of Aram Khachaturian’s ’Sabre Dance,’ and again as a solo artist in 1970 when his single ‘I Hear You Knocking‘ hit No.1 in England, and Top Five around the globe, including America.
In 1974, Edmunds was hired to produce ‘The New Favorites of…Brinsley Schwarz,’ which featured the original recording of ‘(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love And Understanding,’ later a signature song for Elvis Costello. But even though it turned out to be their finest effort — thanks in part to Edmunds’ work behind the board — the Brinsleys fell apart shortly after its release.
Lowe went solo, issuing the infamous ‘Bay City Rollers We Love You‘ single in order to get dumped by his label (United Artists). He would become involved with the upstart Stiff Records, a label started up by former Brinsley producer and associate Dave Robinson. Here, Lowe found a home as both artist and producer. Meanwhile, Edmunds had been signed by Led Zeppelin‘s Swan Song label.
In 1977, often remembered as Year Zero for punk rock, Edmunds released ‘Get It,’ a pure blast of inspired rock and roll that was a perfect nod to rock’s past souped with punk energy. Lowe would not only play bass on that album, but wrote or co-wrote a handful of the songs. Another musician on the sessions, drummer Terry Williams, would soon team up with Lowe and Edmunds in Rockpile. The following year, Edmunds followed that up with the even more emphatic ‘Tracks on Wax 4,’ which would include guitarist Billy Bremner, and the foursome began touring as Rockpile.
Meanwhile, Columbia had snapped up part of the Stiff stable, including Costello and Lowe, whose first solo album, ‘Jesus Of Cool,’ was released in slightly altered track listing in the States as ‘Pure Pop For Now People.’ It, too, counted Edmunds, Williams and Bremner among its musicians.
So, when 1979 rolled around, Lowe and Edmunds had the tricky task of establishing themselves both as vital solo acts and as members of Rockpile, They felt this could be accomplished by producing the other’s next albums, with Rockpile credited as the band on both.
On the two albums, Lowe’s pop merges perfectly with Edmunds’ straight-laced rock n’ roll. ‘Repeat When Necessary’ kicks off with the Costello-penned, ‘Girls Talk,’ which hit No. 4 in the U.K. ’Crawling From The Wreckage’, written by another contemporary genius, Graham Parker, follows.
Other highlights include ‘Sweet Little Lisa,’ which gives noted guitarist Albert Lee a moment in the spotlight. “I put Albert right up in the mix, I thought ‘Albert, this is your track, you own it’,” Edmunds recalled in an upcoming documentary on Lee. Penned by ’50s rocker Ronnie Self, ‘Home In My Hand’ had been previously covered by Schwarz on their 1973 album, ‘Please Don’t Ever Change.’ ‘Queen Of Hearts’ — later a hit for country singer Juice Newton — ‘Creature From The Black Lagoon’ and ‘Take Me For A Little While’ are among the other high points here.
Lowe’s work, ‘Labour Of Lust,’ has a bit more of an edge than his debut, thanks in no small part to the fact that Rockpile had now become a full-time band. The rock n’ roll spirit is in full force here, especially on tracks like ‘Born Fighter,’ ‘Switchboard Susan,’ and ‘Cracking Up.’ Elsewhere, Lowe wasn’t about to let his pure pop go unheard by all the now people out there, as evidenced by ‘Without Love’ and ‘Skin Deep.’
Between the two albums, only Lowe’s ‘American Squirm’ doesn’t feature Rockpile. Here we find Lowe backed by Costello and two members of the Attractions. The song was released as a single in the U.K., with Costello’s version of ‘(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love And Understanding’ as the b-side.
Then of course, we have his big breakthrough hit, ‘Cruel to Be Kind’ which leads off the album. Co-written by Ian Gomm, also a former member of Brinsley Schwarz, ‘Cruel’ became Lowe’s biggest hit as a recording artist, making it up just shy of the Top 10 in both England and America. Gomm would have his own hit with ‘Hold On’ later in 1979.
‘Repeat When Necessary’ was Edmunds first charting album in the States, but only made it to No. 54 on Billboard. ‘Labour Of Lust’ slid up to No. 31, but didn’t stay long. It would be Lowe’s best showing on the U.S. charts. Rockpile would serve as the touring band for both Edmunds and Lowe, with both taking center stage on their songs, with Bremner stepping forward when necessary.
Edmunds released one more record for Swan Song to fulfill his contract, which allowed Rockpile to sign as a band with Columbia. They would make their own album, ‘Seconds Of Pleasure,’ in 1980. That album, despite having no real hits, had a better showing than either Lowe’s or Edmunds’, checking in at No. 27. Sadly, internal problems between the two frontmen caused the band to splinter a year later.
Watch Nick Lowe’s ‘Cruel to Be Kind’
Watch Dave Edmunds’ ‘Girls Talk’