Picture sleeve for Rockpile's "Teacher Teacher" single.
In 1972, Dave Edmunds released a solo album called “Rockpile”; drummer Terry Williams was part of the backing band for that album. After the supporting tour ended, they disbanded. After the breakup of Brinsley Schwarz in 1974, Edmunds and Nick Lowe began recording together; Lowe and Williams provided backing on some of the tracks on Edmunds’ second solo album, “Subtle as a Flying Mallet” (1975). In 1976, Lowe began his association with Stiff Records as both a solo artist and in-house producer. Edmunds’ dislike for Jake Rivera precluded him from signing with Stiff and instead he signed with Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song Records. In spite of being signed to different record labels, Edmunds, Lowe and Williams toured as Rockpile in 1976-77 as the opening act for Edmunds’ label mate Bad Company. This early version of Rockpile also provided backing on Edmunds’ next album, “Get It” (1977). In 1977, Rockpile added Billy Bremner to the lineup as rhythm guitarist and third vocalist. This version of Rockpile provided backing on Edmunds’ “Tracks on Wax 4” (1978). In June 1979, Edmunds and Lowe released solo albums on the same day (“Repeat When Necessary” and “Labour of Lust”, respectively), both with Rockpile as the backing band. The following year, Edmunds submitted “Twangin'” (1981) to Swan Song (with Rockpile providing backing on 9 of the 11 tracks), completing his obligation to Swan Song. In the meantime, Lowe had defected to Columbia in 1978 as part of Jake Rivera’s buy-out deal upon departing Stiff Records. For the first time in four years, label politics would not stand in the way of releasing an “official” Rockpile album, and Rockpile released “Seconds of Pleasure” on Columbia in October 1980, preceded by the single “Teacher, Teacher” b/w “Fool Too Long”, released on September 22, 1980. This is today’s featured single.
“Teacher Teacher” is the first song off the album, and a worthy opening track it is. The lyrics and music are evocative of early bubblegum, yet I would rather listen to this music than anything released by The Backstreet Boys (actually, root canal surgery sounds more fun than listening to those gender-indeterminate fools). The song opens rather abruptly with a Billy Bremner/Dave Edmunds twin guitar attack, and as the lyrics start, Nick Lowe’s bass fills out the sound: “Young love, teacher`s pet/Cheeks flushed, apple red/Ringing you every day/Begging for a word of praise”. Nick Lowe sings lead vocals on this song, with Edmunds and Bremner providing the backup vocals (in the chorus). The echo effect on Lowe’s vocals was a nice touch, suggesting that Lowe the producer (production is credited to “Nick Lowe and Rockpile”, but I assume that Lowe handled the bulk of production duties) knew how to get the most out of even a throwaway rocker like this. Terry Williams, by the way, complimented the track well with his insistent drum rhythm. True to form for Rockpile, the song clocks in at a mere 2 minutes and 36 seconds.
Label for flipside of "Teacher Teacher" single.
But if “Teacher Teacher” was a very good song, “Fool Too Long” was even better. This time Edmunds provides the lead vocals (although Lowe and Bremner are on hand to back him up). This time, the subject of the song is a man scorned – the singer’s significant other has been cheating on him, and he’s pretty ticked off: “I should’ve realized it/A long time ago/When you told me that you loved me/But you didn’t anymore/You ran around with anyone/All behind my back/When you asked me to forgive you/I went and took you back”. The rhythm guitar on this track sounds like an acoustic guitar, which gives the track a unique sound. But for me what makes this track most memorable is that even though the subject of a man/woman who’s been wronged has been covered extensively in rock music, the song includes this great couplet: “If I’m the one who pays the rent/I gotta have a hundred percent”. True to form, Rockpile delivers a sharp, succinct tune, and this track runs 2 minutes and 51 seconds.
By the way, the label for this single is the orange and yellow Columbia label commonly used on Columbia singles in this time period (early 1980’s). The single was originally released with a picture sleeve (the booklet accompanying my “Seconds Of Pleasure” CD shows a “Teacher Teacher” picture sleeve, shown above), but subsequent pressings were issued with a plain company sleeve, also shown above. The single was a minor hit, reaching #51 on the Billboard Hot 100. Tensions between Edmunds and Lowe led to the dissolution of Rockpile in 1981. Bremner and Williams appeared on several Nick Lowe albums throughout the 1980s, but Lowe and Edmunds did not work together again until Lowe’s 1988 album “Pinker and Prouder Than Previous”.
Picture sleeve for Marshall Crenshaw's "Whenever You're on My Mind" single
Marshall Crenshaw was born on November 11, 1953 in Detroit, Michigan and was raised in the northern suburb of Berkley. He began learning guitar when he was ten; in 1968 he began fronting the band Astigfa (an acronym for “a splendid time is guaranteed for all”). In 1971, he graduated from Berkley High School. He continued his tenure with Astigfa for a time, but eventually moved to New York, where he got his first break playing John Lennon in an off-Broadway touring production of “Beatlemania” (he was an understudy). After purchasing a four-track recorder, Crenshaw began making demos whenever he was home, and he was soon armed with a set of demos he gave out to his show business connections. By the late 1970s, he was fronting a trio that consisted of himself on guitar, Chris Donato on bass and his younger brother Robert on drums. The band made an impact on the burgeoning New York City club scene. One fan was Alan Betrock, who had just founded Shake Records, and released Crenshaw’s debut single, “Something’s Gonna Happen”, in 1981. Retro rocker Robert Gordon recorded Crenshaw’s “Someday, Someway”; it reached #76 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1981. Soon Crenshaw was signed to Warner Bros. Records, which released his debut self-titled album in 1982. The first single, Crenshaw’s version of “Someday, Someway” was an even bigger hit than Gordon’s version, peaking at #36. To some popular music observers, Crenshaw appeared to be the next big thing, and his second album, “Field Day” (1983), was eagerly anticipated by fans. The album’s first single was “Whenever You’re on My Mind” b/w “Jungle Rock”. This is today’s featured single.
“Whenever You’re on My Mind” is an elegant piece of power pop about how the song’s protagonist can’t get the girl of his dreams out of his mind. It is built around an intriguing ascending guitar riff (A/G/D/F#/D/A) which just enough of an ethereal sound to provide appropriate backing for Crenshaw’s lyrics: “I think about you and forget what I’ve tried to be/Everything is foggy and hard to see/It seems to be, but can it be, a fantasy?” It is hardly an original idea for a song, but Crenshaw is enough of a craftsman to turn the song into a mini masterpiece, and one of the better songs of 1983. Although it was not the hit that “Someday, Someway” was, this likely had more to do with a few high-profile bad reviews of “Field Day” rather than the actual merits of the song, because the song is a gem.
The B-side of the single, “Jungle Rock”, is a non-album track; “Someday, Someway” also had a non-album track as the flip (“You’re My Favorite Waste of Time”). While most of the time Crenshaw sounds like Buddy Holly filtered through Elvis Costello and updated for the 1980s, here Crenshaw indulges in creating a slab of rockabilly retro-rock. The song opens with an insistent drum beat, soon joined by a bass guitar, and Crenshaw’s vocals: “Well I was walking through the jungle just the other night/Well I heard a big rumble and I thought it was a fight/But then I started listening and began to move my feet/It was a jungle drummer doing a knocked-out beat”. The drums on the track provide such a thunderous beat, with a synthesizer barely audible above the din (until the end, when it finally rips through the musical tapestry). Although this is not essential Crenshaw listening, fans of the genre will find it more than worthwhile.
The single was released on Warner Bros. Records in 1983. A picture sleeve was issued with the single (shown above). “Field Day” was a commercial disappointment after the relative success of the first album, although it did reach #52 on the Billboard album chart. “Downtown” (1985) was Crenshaw’s first album without his backing band of Chris Donato and Robert Crenshaw; it received generally favorable reviews, but sales were down from the first two albums. “Mary Jean and 9 Others” (1987) followed, with a more stripped-down sound than the previous albums. While Crenshaw’s audience has waned considerably since his salad days in the 1980s, he retains a strong core following, and his albums still score high marks for their power pop craftsmanship.
Picture sleeve for Dwight Twilley's "Girls" single.
Dwight Twilley was born in 1951 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He met Phil Seymour (1952-1993) at a movie theater in Tulsa in 1967, where they had gone to see The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night”. The two soon began writing songs and recording together. Twilley played guitar and piano, while Seymour played bass and drums and sang lead vocals and harmonies. Bill Pitcock IV (1952-2011) played lead guitar on most of their early recordings. Their partnership continued under the name Oister. Twilley and Seymour eventually decided to leave Tulsa and try to be discovered in Memphis. They wandered into the Sun Studio, and they met Jerry Phillips, who referred them to the Tupelo, Mississippi studio of former Sun artist Ray Harris. The two went to Los Angeles and ended up signing with Shelter Records, co-owned by Denny Cordell and Tulsa’s Leon Russell in 1974. Russell changed the group’s name from Oister to The Dwight Twilley Band. Their first single, “I’m on Fire”, was released in April 1975 and reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with relatively little promotion; the band was in England recording their first album. The unexpected success of the self-produced “I’m on Fire” caused Shelter to shelf the English tracks, and Russell permitted the band to record tracks at his 40-track home studio. Unfortunately, a legal dispute between Cordell and Russell resulted in the loss of their distribution deal with MCA Records, and Shelter was essentially out of business for about a year. The resulting delay in releasing their debut album dissipated any momentum from the success of “I’m on Fire”, and the group’s first album, “Sincerely” (1976), peaked at only #138. Their second album, “Twilley Don’t Mind” (1977), in which Bill Pitcock IV become a full-fledged band member, fared better but was also a commercial disappointment. This effectively ended The Dwight Twilley Band, but Twilley continued as a solo artist, with Bill Pitcock IV still on lead guitar (and adding Susan Cowsill on backing vocals), releasing “Twilley” (1979) on Arista. His subsequent project, “Blue Print”, which had Jack Nitzsche as producer, was rejected by Arista. Twilley signed with EMI America when his contract with Shelter expired, and eventually released “Scuba Divers” (1982). While “Scuba Divers” was a commercial flop, the follow-up album, “Jungle” (1984), was more successful, buoyed by the Top 20 single “Girls”. This is today’s featured single.
“Girls” is a good example of the Twilley updating his sound for the 1980s, which is evident throughout “Jungle”. It begins with a brief synthesizer intro, before the guitars chime in, and Twilley singing: “Well, I’ve seen so many things/I’ve been all over the world/Well, I’ve had ups and downs/I’ve been over for a while”. The synthesizer is conspicuous throughout the track, as is Tom Petty singing vocals during the chorus (Petty was a fellow label-mate of Twilley during the Shelter Records days, and the two continued to collaborate on occasion). Overall, this is an enjoyable track with a memorable guitar riff, and Twilley made a well-deserved return to the charts with this song.
"Girls" single without the picture sleeve.
The B-side of the single, “To Get to You”, features synthesizers even more prominently than “Girls”, making it sound somewhat dated, though it is also a good track. More so than on “Girls” Twilley achieves a Beatles-esque feel to the music, especially with the vocals, which are mellifluous even without the benefit of Tom Petty. The song acquires almost an ethereal sense with the synthesizer and the soaring chorus of “Ah-ah-ah/To get to you”. If “Girls” announced that Twilley was on the rebound after the relative disappointment of “Scuba Divers”, “To Get to You” proved that it was no fluke.
The single (catalog #: B-8196) was released on EMI America, and had a picture sleeve (shown above). Twilley once again switched labels after the release of “Jungle”, signing with Joe Isgro’s Private I label. When Isgro was implicated in a radio promotion scandal, Private I collapsed, and Twilley’s next album, “Wild Dogs” (1986) was released on Epic’s CBS Associated label, and the album went largely unnoticed. Twilley found himself without a label and without a guitarist, as Bill Pitcock IV had quit. In the meantime, DCC Compact Classics reissued the two Dwight Twilley Band albums in 1989 and 1990. In 1993, DCC released “The Great Lost Twilley Album”, which contained 25 tracks from the ill-fated Shelter Records era. Shortly afterwards, Phil Seymour died of lymphoma. Twilley resumed his solo career, although he was unable to get a distribution deal for his next album, titled “The Luck”. EMI did release a 21-track greatest hits collection, “XXI”, in 1996, followed by reissues of the two Dwight Twilley Band albums the following year. All three albums went out of print in 1998 when EMI shut down the label. That same year, Pitcock rejoined Twilley, and he released “Between the Cracks, Vol. 1” (1999) on Not Lame Records, his first album of new material in 13 years. He finally released “The Luck” in 2001, although with some changes to the version he completed in 1994. This was followed by the “Have a Twilley Christmas” EP (2004), “47 Moons” (2005), the live album “Live: All Access” (2006), eight volumes of rarities released from 2007 to 2009, “Out of the Box” (2009), “The Beatles” (2009), and “Green Blimp” (2010). Bill Pitcock IV died of cancer in April 2011.
Cover of Sloan's "One Chord to Another" abum
Sloan was formed in 1991 when Chris Murphy (bass, vocals) and Andrew Scott (drums) met at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) in Halifax. Patrick Pentland (guitar) and Jay Ferguson (guitar) joined soon afterwards. In 1992, the band formed their own record label, Murderecords, and released their debut EP, “Peppermint”. The band signed with Geffen Records, who released “Smeared” later that year. Geffen did not promote their second album, “Twice Removed” (1994), due to concerns that it was too melodic in the era of grunge. In spite of the lack of promotion, the album did well in Canada. The band split with Geffen, and rumors surfaced that Sloan had disbanded. Instead, they resurfaced with “One Chord to Another” (1996), released on their Murderecords imprint. The first single from this album was “The Good in Everyone” b/w “Everything You’ve Done Wrong”. This is today’s featured single. “The Good in Everyone” is a good example of the tour de force of hooks and melodies found on “One Chord to Another”. Beginning and ending with a fake live setting, the song is driven by a punk-inspired riff that makes the song sound like British Invasion pop filtered through a grunge-era prism. In fact the distortion makes it sound like a quintessentially 1990s track, even as the song has the general feel of a classic power pop song. There are only two verses, sung by Patrick Pentland, and it would probably be futile to look for multiple layers of meaning here: “First off/Here’s what you do to me/You get rough/Attack my self-esteem”. Nevertheless, the song delivers a powerful punch in a short time, clocking in at just over two minutes. As one fan observed, they out-Beatled Oasis on this track. The second track on this single, “Everything You’ve Done Wrong”, is one of the better tracks from “One Chord to Another”, and was good enough to justify release as the second single from the album. Anchored by a catchy melody and fluid lyrics (“Do your time, to pay the price/For every thing you’ve done wrong, baby/In your life, you get so high/There’s nowhere left to go but down”), the song is also accentuated by a horn section that suggests that Sloan was moving away from their punk/grunge roots and towards melodic pop. In any case, “Everything You’ve Done Wrong” is one of the band’s more memorable songs, and also one of their most successful ones, reaching #6 on Canada’s RPM Singles Chart. This single was released on Murderecords in early 1997. Subsequently, Sloan would release their fourth studio album, “Navy Blues” (1998), in which they further refined their sound, and the live album “4 Nights at the Palais Royale” (1999). The studio albums “Between the Bridges” (1999) and “Pretty Together” (2001) followed. Sloan made a concerted effort to break into the U.S. market on their next studio album, “Action Pact” (2003); the album failed to raise the group’s profile in the U.S., though the band remained popular in Canada. The band signed with Yep Roc Records for “Never Hear the End of It” (2006); their next album, “Parallel Play” (2008) was released on their own Murderecords imprint. When Sloan added a digital music store to their website in 2009, they released “Hit & Run”, an EP released through their website, to promote it. The band signed with Outside Music for their tenth studio album, “The Double Cross” (2011).