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Rockpile: Seconds of Pleasure

When it was re-issued by Columbia/Legacy in 2004, a new generation of music critics rightly came to realize that Rockpile's one-and-only album Seconds of Pleasure (1980) was, to quote Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds from the album, "nothing but fine, fine, fine." Even so, it's good every now and then to remind people of that fact, especially with Lowe taking to the road in October to support his new release, At My Age.

Of course, the central fact about the retro-rockabilly masterpiece Seconds of Pleasure was that it marked the break-up of a band that only put out one record. Edmunds (guitar, piano, vocals), Lowe (bass, vocals), guitarist Billy Bremner, and drummer Terry Williams had all played together on Lowe's and Edmunds' solo records in the 1978-80 period, which includes such seminal power-pop efforts as Edmunds' Repeat When Necessary and Lowe's Jesus of Cool (known as Pure Pop for Now People in the U.S.).

Legend has it that Lowe and Edmunds' partnership by this point had become pretty strained. I can believe that, since Edmunds was above all a rockabilly purist, sharing a worship of Carl Perkins with Beatle George Harrison, while Lowe was much more of an experimenter who saw power pop and rockabilly as nothing more than a way station in a journey that has included jazz, hardcore country, lounge, soul and other genres. Indeed, in the years since, Lowe has dismissed Rockpile as a "posh bar band" that played '50s-style rock 'n' roll at amazingly breakneck speeds.

And that's just why I love them. I think one of the things that makes Seconds of Pleasure so great is that the songs do seem only seconds long. These guys were so tight, it was like the Everly Brothers had come along in 1980 instead of 1960 and had had 20 more years to practice. I'm a sucker for instrumental virtuosity and they had it. Lowe's and Edmunds' harmonies and vocal styles were so spotless and clean, you could eat your lunch off of them. And yet, they never come off as mechanical. Probably thanks to Edmunds' reverence for all things '50s, they capture the yearning angst of early teenage rock 'n' roll in a thrilling way. Six of the songs were originals penned by Lowe and Edmunds.

Its highlights include:

"Teacher, Teacher." The lead-off track was written by Kenny Pickett and Eddie Phillips of The Creation. It accounted for the album's only chart appearance, peaking at No. 51 on the Billboard list in 1981. It sets the album's standards with its tight harmonies and speedy delivery.

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"If Sugar Was as Sweet as You." It has the classic line, "If sugar was as sweet as you, honey, sugar just couldn't be bought/Because you're so sweet, you make sugar taste just like salt." This is a Joe Tex R&B song, amped up with Lowe's plucky bass laying down an irresistible groove.

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"Now and Always." An awesome creation of a modern-day Everly Brothers song. It's got to be the best song they never wrote.

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"Play That Fast Thing (One More Time)." Which kind of sums up Rockpile's philosophy. It starts off with a fine solo drum riff by and is highlighted with an uptempo boogie-woogie arrangement.

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"Wrong Again (Let's Face It)." By the Squeeze duo of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook. "The journalist writes down the things he remembers/The things he forgets are the things that you feel." Hmmm. Not sure how I feel about that. Are they saying journalism drains the feeling from depictions of "reality"? That aside, it rocks.

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"Oh What a Thrill." Chuck Berry's obscure number sounds a lot like "Back In the U.S.A.." But that's a good thing. It also has a tremendous, reverb-drenched Edmunds guitar solo.

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"When I Write the Book." The best original song on the album. Lowe's vocals are thrillingly backed by Edmunds on organ. It's a song of regret and heartbreak, but delivered in an optimistic way.

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"Fool Too Long." Another loving recreation of mid-'60s R&B-based pop. "If I'm the one who pays the rent, I've got to have 100 percent." Killer riff, killer echoey solo. Indeed, all killer, no filler, just like the whole album.

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"You Ain't Nothing But Fine." The speediest, most off-the-tracks rockabilly you have ever heard, with Lowe leading the way on a smoking bass. It sends Seconds Of Pleasure off at a fever pitch.

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From Chad Everett to Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Swaggart to Prince, the Beachwood Bins are teeming with great and not-so-great moments in rock history.



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Posted on September 8, 2008


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