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One track that stands out as a searing example of exactly what Edmunds' fingers are capable of doing to a guitar is "Sabre Dance 94." The same tune minus the "94"--written by some classical guy named Khachaturian, by the way--was a Top 5 hit in England in 1968 for Edmunds' band Love Sculpture. It's hard to imagine topping the sheer raw power of that version. Unless you're Dave Edmunds.
"We used to do it much better onstage [than in the single version], and [in 1968] it was the first time I'd been in a recording studio, and I didn't know the rules," says Edmunds of the one-take session that produced the hit. "It was kind of weird. There was an engineer with a suit, an old guy like my uncle or something, all very straight and proper, like a government recording studio. And I didn't know you could do it twice! I thought, however it came out, that's it! So I just thought, 'Why not record it again?'"
Edmunds has a 30-year-old career filled with highlights both in and out of the spotlight, but he is perhaps best known for his collaborations with the Jesus of Cool himself, Nick Lowe. Rockpile was born in 1976 (with guitarist Billy Bremner and drummer Terry Williams), and survived for four booze-drenched years that included a handful of notorious tours and one album of the most glorious, driving music ever, Seconds of Pleasure.
"You know we never rehearsed? We got together once, maybe twice, in a rehearsal studio in London and learned the endings and the intros to the songs and then wrote a running order," Edmunds admits. "Then we'd meet in the bar at the airport and go on tour. It was a good time, a great four years."
As with most great breakups--from bands to marriages--the coming apart is as big a deal as the union. The Edmunds-Lowe partnership has been up and down over the years; according to the guitarist, the forecast is bleak. "There were specific things we broke up over--and I've got to be careful I don't get a defamation suit against me or something. We had a record on the charts and no contract," he says. "And that worried me, and it didn't worry the others, and when I tried to do something about it, it all blew up in my face. But I left the door open for 12 years, and Billy Bremner brought it up; he said, 'Why not do it again?' And when I tried to go back in the door, it slammed in my face. We had the exact same problems that broke us up in the first place, so I decided to lock the door and throw away the key."
So much for analogies; what's the real dirt on Dave and Nick? Edmunds seems genuinely puzzled. "Well, I don't know now. He's a funny guy; he doesn't return calls. I produced his last album, and we had a great time doing that. Rockpile was never mentioned once, and it was good. He's a very engaging character--never a dull moment with Nick--but I don't know where it stands at the moment. He has certain loyalties that I don't. That's as far as I can go into it."
One thing that he will go into is his career. You might think that after so many years in the business, Edmunds would have excised any survival worries long ago. But you would be wrong. "I read an interview with Kirk Douglas once, and he was convinced that every film he made would be his last," offers Edmunds. "It's a bit like that, but what can you do?" And then he laughs, a frequent, pub-ready chuckle that punctuates his conversation. "I don't like to be one of those people saying, 'Oh, I just live for music!' But I have to admit that it is basic to my existence, you know?