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As featured in my upcoming autobiography

On any list of the all-time top o’ the heap purveyors of Brit-style power-pop, rockabilly, and R&B would have to be Rockpile, featuring Welshman Dave Edmunds on vocals and lead guitar and his PiMC© Nick Lowe on bass/vocals. My verymost favorite Rockpile tune will give y’all a li’l taste of what I’m talkin’ ‘bout here.

“Didn’t see a thing until it came…” WHOA, that’s good squishy!

Edmunds, as well as co-conspirator Lowe, has several other non-Rockpile feathers in his not-inconsiderable cap, among them this YUUUGE one:

The band first appeared in the New York Area in the middle of 1979 performing under a number of names including the Tomcats, the Teds, and Bryan and the Tom Cats. According to Brian Setzer (singer/songwriter and guitarist), they changed names to fool club owners (who would not hire the same band for consecutive nights), but kept the “Cats” moniker in their various names so the audience would know they were the same band.

Setzer joined up with Slim Jim Phantom (drums) and they soon added Phantom’s schoolmate and friend Lee Rocker (stand-up bass); all three of them came from the same neighborhood and were interested in punk and rockabilly music.Since 1983, they have used only “Stray Cats” as their name. The band name “Stray Cats” had appeared in the 1973 rock ‘n’ roll film That’ll Be the Day and its 1974 sequel Stardust. They also went to many concerts and enjoyed the punk scene. They met the Clash and they used to see Siouxsie and the Banshees, Charlie Harper and the UK Subs.

The group, whose style was based upon the sounds of Sun Records artists and other artists from the 1950s, was heavily influenced by Eddie Cochran, Carl Perkins, Gene Vincent, and Bill Haley & His Comets. The Stray Cats quickly developed a large following in the New York music scene playing at CBGB and Max’s Kansas City as well as venues on Long Island. When the Cats heard a rumor that there was a revival of the 1950s Teddy Boy youth subculture in England, the band moved to the UK. They spearheaded the nascent rockabilly revival, blending the 1950s Sun Studio sound with modern punk musical elements. In terms of visual style, the Stray Cats also blended elements of 1950 rockabilly clothes, such as wearing drape jackets, brothel creepers, and western shirts, with punk clothes, such as tight black zipper trousers and modern versions of 1950s hair styles.

In the middle of 1980, the band found themselves being courted by record labels including Virgin Records, Stiff Records, and Arista Records. Word quickly spread and soon members of The Rolling Stones, The Who, and Led Zeppelin were at their shows.

After a gig in London, Stray Cats met musician and producer Dave Edmunds, well known as a roots rock enthusiast for his work with Rockpile and as a solo artist. Edmunds offered to work with the group, and they entered the studio to record their self-titled debut album, Stray Cats, released in Britain in 1981 on Arista Records. In addition to having three hits that year with “Runaway Boys”, “Rock This Town”, and “Stray Cat Strut”, they also performed on the eighth day of the Montreux Jazz Festival. The UK follow-up to Stray Cats, Gonna Ball, was not as well-received, providing no hits. Yet the combined sales of their first two albums were enough to convince EMI America to compile the best tracks from the two UK albums and issue an album (Built for Speed) in the U.S. in 1982. The record went on to sell a million copies (Platinum) in the US and Canada and was the no. 2 record on the Billboard album charts for 15 weeks.

Bold mine, and ‘nuff said about that.

As fate would have it, I’ve been good friends with Setzer for decades, first meeting him and his gracious spouse at the invite-only afterparty I played with my NYC side-band cohorts Tom Hopkins and Jeff Dilena celebrating (drowning in an ocean of open-bar liquor, more like) Brian’s little brother Kenny and his stunning wife Ariel’s nuptials down in Miami. I also worked a side gig during my NYC tenure with senior Setzer sibling Gary, a somewhat lackluster RaB trio that also boasted Hopkins slapping that doghouse bass.

An extremely talented drummer, Jeff went on to lay down the beat for the late Robert Gordon’s backing band, a fairly plum gig despite Robert’s well-earned rep as an insufferable prick. After many years as a semi-high mucky-muck in the midtown Manhattan offices of Columbia Records, the Gordon gig paid handsomely enough to permit Jeff to quit his cushy sinecure at Columbia to drum full-time for Gordon. Me, I went on to have numerous run-ins with the douchebag Gordon before Jeff took the job with him, sordid tales which will also be revealed in my aforementioned tell-all autobiography.

Never did get to meet Dave Edmunds, alas, although I certainly wish I had.

Ahhh, the good ole days…

Update! Okay, okay, kwitcherbitchin’ folks, here’s a couple of archival snaps, below the fold so as not to annoy anybody.

BPs RobtGordon2.

This one I seem to recall running before here, taken by BPs manager Mike Evans down in the Tramps basement green room after the first time the BPs opened for Gordon. That’s Robert squinting at extreme right; myself at his elbow; the incredible Chris Spedding in the middle wearing glasses; Gordon’s bassist Rob-something next to/in front of Chris; BP’s drummer Mark over Spedding’s right shoulder; Gordon’s drummer, whose name also escapes me, to Mark’s left; BPs bassist Jeff at Mark’s right; and sweat-soaked rhythm guitarist/vocalist extraordinaire Chipps at extreme left gripping a bottle of sudsy tissue-restorative.

Me and Chipps kicking out the impromptu jams with Stray Cats drummer Slim Jim Phantom at the Green Bay Rockin’ 50s Fest.

Another I’m sure I’ve run here before, of me with rock legend Lemmy Kilmister outside our adjacent hotel rooms, re-posted for no real reason other than 1) it was captured for historical posterity by my dear departed mother-in-law Xenia, B) on the night after the unexpected Slim Jim whoopjamboreehoo took place. Lemmy and Slim Jim were that evening’s headline attraction with their rockabilly supergroup The Head Cat.

The photo was taken entirely at Xenia’s insistence. She had seen me hanging out chit-chatting, laughing, and drinking with Lemmy in one of the casino’s small bars earlier that evening, so when the Great Man emerged from his room while my little crew was waiting to catch an elevator down to the ground-floor main room, she asked his consent for a pic, to which he readily agreed. Never having been anyone’s idea of a picture-taking sort myself, it never even occurred to me to get one.

Xenia, bless her heart, knew all about my not-camera-conscious nature and determined to just git ‘er done on her own hook, for which thoughtful initiative I will never cease being grateful. After this one, I then snapped one of Xenia and her lovely daughter flanking Lemmy, whose soft-spoken patience and hearty good cheer made a refreshing change from the usual chip-on-the-shoulder brusqueness more usual with showbiz icons. You can’t even begin to imagine how precious this picture is to me, there aren’t words for it.


1 thought on “As featured in my upcoming autobiography

  1. Rockpile had a contractual problem in that Edmunds and Lowe were signed to two different record labels. So they had to go into the studio and either make an Edmunds “solo” album with Lowe and the Boys as the ‘backing band’ or a Lowe “solo” album with Edmund and the Boys as the ‘backing band’.

    One day they went in and made TWO “solo” albums. The legendary Repeat When Necessary and Labour of Lust.

    Best. “Double Album”. EVER.

    Standout tracks were Crawling from the Wreckage, Girls Talk, Queen Of Hearts (later a Juice Newton hit), Bad is Bad (a Huey Lewis penned and later hit), Cruel to be Kind, and Switchboard Susan.

    But all of the songs were great on both “solo” albums.

    Rockpile and Stray Cats RULE!

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