294. Dave Edmunds – I Hear You Knocking (1970)

As 1970 drew to a close, November’s number 1s seemed to symbolically bid farewell to the 60s. So, what next? Glam was around the corner, but in the meantime, the Christmas number 1 looked back to pop’s past, as Welsh singer-songwriter spent six weeks at the top with a cover of a 50s R’n’B tune.

David William Edwards was born in Cardiff on 15 April 1944. Musically gifted as a child on the piano, at the age of 10 he formed The Edmund Bros Duo with his elder brother Geoff. They both formed The Stompers around 1957, with Dave on lead guitar and Geoff on rhythm. From there the younger Edmunds had brief stints in several groups before becoming lead singer of rockabilly trio The Raiders, who formed in 1961.

In 1966 Edmunds, following a brief spell in The Image, shifted to a blues-rock sound and formed a short-lived outfit called Human Beans, who mutated into the trio Love Sculpture. Their second single, a novelty high-speed reworking of Sabre Dance, which climbed to number five after getting the attention of DJ John Peel. After two albums Love Sculpture split in 1970.

Edmunds returned to Wales and learned how to recreate the sounds of the R’n’B and blues songs of the 50s by himself, and made plans to record a cover of blues classic Let’s Work Together by Wilbert Harrison, until he heard Canned Heat’s version. Around this time he worked with Shakin’ Stevens and the Sunsets, helping the 80s hitmaker score his first recording contract.

Fortunately, Edmunds heard Smiley Lewis’s I Hear You Knocking while driving, and noted he could use the backing track he’d already recorded for Let’s Work Together and make a cover of Lewis’s song. It was also a track he knew from Shakin’ Stevens and the Sunsets’ repertoire.

The original, written by New Orleans bandleader Dave Bartholomew (who had co-written the 1959 Elvis Presley number 1 One Night) and released by Lewis in 1955, is a straightforward slice of piano-driven 50s R’n’B, but Edmunds went full on blues-rock. He played every part on his version, using heavy compression to create an unusual, direct sound.

Edmunds’ I Hear You Knocking is a quirky choice for Christmas number 1, but of course, being at the top of the charts on 25 December wasn’t an ‘event’ back then. The weird production is attention-grabbing to begin with. Most unusual of all is the vocal track, which sounds like it’s being sung down a bad phone line, or is coming out of a damaged transistor radio. I’m not sure if Edmunds was aiming for a dated 50s sound, but if so, it doesn’t quite come out like that. It gets a bit annoying after a while, whatever the intention.

The chorus is memorable, and the slide guitar is effective, and I enjoy Edmunds’ shouting out ‘Smiley Lewis!’ and other rock’n’roll star names from the 50s in the instrumental break. I can see why listeners would have enjoyed a bit of basic blues-rock for a while. Not sure how it stayed at number 1 for six weeks, though.

Despite the success of I Hear You Knocking, it took Edmunds two years to release his debut album, Rockpile, which was mostly a collection of more oldies. He had left it too late to capitalise. Or maybe he wasn’t bothered about doing so anyway. He spent the next few years producing rock and blues acts like Brinsley Schwarz, Foghat and The Flamin’ Groovies. However, his two singles Baby I Love You and Born to Be With You reached the top 10 in 1973.

In 1974 Edmunds had a brief role in the David Essex film Stardust, and helped with the soundtrack. A year later came his second solo LP, Subtle as a Flying Mallet. Then his friendship with Nick Lowe from Brinsley Schwarz resulted in their new group Rockpile. Due to being on different labels they were unable to record until 1980 but would guest on each other’s solo material for the next few years.

In 1979 Edmunds scored his last top 10 hit with Girls Talk, written by Elvis Costello. Rockpile only recorded one album, 1980’s Seconds of Pleasure, before splitting up due to arguments between Edmunds and Lowe. Edmunds went back to mainly producing, and worked with big names including Paul McCartney, Status Quo, Stray Cats, The Everly Brothers and kd Lang. He had a US hit with Slipping Away in 1983 though, written and produced by ELO’s Jeff Lynne.

Edmunds went into semi-retirement in the mid-80s, but he did tour with Ringo Starr & His All-Star Band in 1992 and 2000. After a couple of albums released online, he began touring in his own right again in 2007. Edmunds performed I Hear You Knocking on Jools’ Annual Hootenanny in 2008 and then Sabre Dance in 2009. His last album was On Guitar… Dave Edmunds: Rags & Classics in 2015, featuring instrumental covers. After a final show in July 2017, Edmunds retired from music.

1970 was an interesting, eclectic year for number 1s, with several well-remembered chart-toppers. Lots were in thrall to the past, though, with the departure of The Beatles leaving the music world wondering what to do. Fortunately, T. Rex were now on the scene, having scored a number two hit with Ride a White Swan. Marc Bolan would soon have his first number 1.

Written by: Dave Bartholomew

Producer: Dave Edmunds

Weeks at number 1: 6 (28 November 1970-8 January 1971)

Births:

Singer Aled Jones – 29 December 
Welsh rugby union player Louise Rickard – 31 December
Football referee Andre Marriner – 1 January
BBC newsreader Suzanne Virdee – 1 January
TV presenter Jayne Middlemiss – 5 January
TV presenter Joanne Malin – 7 January

Deaths:

Olympic athlete Lillian Board – 26 December (see below)
Composer Cyril Scott – 31 December

Meanwhile…

Boxing Day: Olympian athlete Lillian Board, died in Munich, West Germany, after a three-month battle against cancer. She was 22.

New Year’s Eve 1970: Although Paul McCartney had announced his departure from The Beatles earlier in 1970, it was made official when he filed a lawsuit against the other three on this day to dissolve their partnership.

New Year’s Day 1971: The Divorce Reform Act 1969 came into effect, which allowed couples to divorce after a separation of two years (five if only one agrees). This ruling resulted in a sharp rise in divorces over the next two years.

2 January: The new year got off to a shocking start for football fans when a stairway crush at Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow during a match between Rangers and Celtic killed 66 and left many more injured.

3 January: BBC Open University broadcasts began.

8 January: Uruguayan left-wing urban guerrilla group Tupamaros kidnapped Geoffrey Jackson, the British ambassador to Uruguay, in Montevideo. He was held captive until September.

80. Elvis Presley – I Got Stung/One Night (1959)

Elvis Presley was drafted into the US army on 24 March 1958. He became a private at Fort Chafee, Arkansas. Back then, all men under 26 were required to register for the draft, and Elvis had done so in 1953, a few months before he first recorded for Sun Records. As the press gathered, Presley told them ‘the Army can do anything it wants with me’, and his trademark quiff was subsequently shorn, giving birth to the famous headline pun ‘Hair today, gone tomorrow’ being used for the first time.

While training, his mother died. She was only 46, and she and Elvis were very close. Nevertheless, the training continued and he joined the 3rd Armored Division in Friedberg, Germany that October. While there he was introduced to amphetamines, which he took to using often, and also learned karate, which he would later become fond of showcasing at live shows.

Fans were obviously concerned about his career. What would happen to his music for the next two years? Luckily for them, RCA producer Steve Sholes and publisher Freddy Bienstock had it all mapped out. They had gathered plenty of material to be released during his hiatus. People would hardly notice his absence.

I Got Stung had been written for Presley by Aaron Schroeder and David Hill. Hill had released his version of All Shook Up before Elvis did, but had more success writing for ‘The King’ than releasing the same material as him. Elvis had recorded I Got Stung at his final Nashville session before leaving for Germany. It’s a slight but fun rock’n’roll track. Beginning with the cry of ”Holy smokes land sakes alive I never thought this would happen to me’, Elvis likens falling in love to being stung by a bee.

The lyrics are fairly cheesy and pedestrian, but Elvis’s vocal transforms it. He performs with rapid-fire delivery, and uses all his trademark mannerisms to lift the song. His backing band also do an admirable job, too.

One Night had been written by Dave Bartholomew (a collaborator with Fats Domino; together they had written Ain’t That a Shame) and Pearl King, and had first been a hit for Smiley Lewis in 1956. Originally concerning a night of sin, Presley recorded a version in 1957, but RCA and Colonel Tom Parker had reservations due to the lyric, ‘One night of sin is what I’m now paying for’. Elvis was keen on the song, though, and with Anita Steinman he reworked it to become ‘One night with you is what I’m now praying for’. Blander, but more palatable for conservative audiences.

Fortunately, it doesn’t really matter, as Elvis’s performance is raunchy enough to suggest he’s planning on sinning anyway. It’s another great vocal, and once more he lifts the whole song. I’m beginning to get why he’s considered such a legend. Neither I Got Stung or One Night are up there with Jailhouse Rock, but they’re pretty good and certainly better than some of the star’s future number 1s.

Upon what would have been Elvis’s 70th birthday, a glut of his most famous singles were re-released in January 2005. I Got Stung/One Night was among them, and knocked the re-release of Jailhouse Rock from the top, earning it the honour of being the 1000th UK number 1. It also became the fourth track ever to be number 1 twice, and it was the third time that an artist has replaced themselves at the top of the charts.

Written by:
I Got Stung: Aaron Schroeder & David Hill/One Night: Dave Bartholomew, Pearl King & Anita Steinman

Producer: Steve Sholes

Weeks at number 1: 3 (30 January-19 February)

Births:

The Cure keyboardist/drummer Lol Tolhurst – 3 February

Deaths:

Physicist Owen Willand Richardson – 15 February