Oct 06

DAVE EDMUNDS – “I Hear You Knocking”

FT + Popular35 comments • 5,713 views

#294, 28th November 1970


Dave Edmunds -- I Hear You Knockin“I Hear You Knocking” is a 50s R&B cover, and more than just a cover – the enthused “Smiley Lewis! Chuck Berry! Huey Smith!” yells mark it as a celebration, and the tightly-packed, trebly arrangement seems designed to capture the feel of listening to rock n roll on a crackly transistor. The result, though, is a strangely pinched-sounding record – almost everything in it sounds sharpened, clipped and thin. The exception, and the main reason to listen, is the ever-gorgeous slide guitar, which pushes particularly well against a strutting rhythm. In fact I’d love an instrumental of this, but I can’t get along with Dave Edmunds’ nasal, echo-sodden voice – with every cawed “I hear you KNAWW-kin” I like the record less. .




  1. 1
    Marcello Carlin on 31 Oct 2006 #

    Also 1970’s seldom heralded Xmas #1!

    My view: rock’s Valhalla/apocalypse (Voodoo Chile) followed by the crackling static of the sole survivor clambering out of the wreckage; the record seems ‘phoned in from that next world, or the remnants of this one.

  2. 2
    Tom on 31 Oct 2006 #

    It does actually work quite well listened to consecutively, though I don’t hear much of the post-apocalypse in there.

  3. 3
    Jack Fear on 31 Oct 2006 #

    This was 1970? Egad. I’d had it pegged as much later, mostly because of the production—the stiff machine rhythm, the reverb and the treated vocals (which were more about ripping off the Beatles than paying homage to the 50s).

    Also, 1970 seems awfully early to be cannibalizing the 50s already. Then again, Sha Na Na played at Woodstock, so what do I know?

  4. 4
    Rosie on 31 Oct 2006 #

    Every so often there was a wave of ‘rock and roll revival’ and there was one about here, I think. You could probably tell by examining the rest of the charts for ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ medleys.

    Like Sugar Sugar at about the same time a year earlier, this seemed to be number one for ever. Perhaps it’s something to do with the low sales in the weeks leading up to Christmas, but the momentum carried it right through Christmas. I don’t think there was quite the hoo-hah about the Chrtistmas Number One at that time – that was something that came with the decline of the single in the 1970s, which we aren’t really at yet in cultural terms.

    If Edmunds comes, can Slade be far behind?

    Five is about right – a good, enjoyable, workmanlike single with nothing to get terribly excited about.

  5. 5
    Dadaismus on 31 Oct 2006 #

    There was an almost permanent rock ‘n’ roll revival all thru the 70s and into the 80s – Showaddywaddy to Mud to Darts to Shakin’ Stevens and so on.

  6. 6
    Erithian on 31 Oct 2006 #

    Yes, didn’t the Dave Clark Five have a rock’n’roll medley hit circa ’69? Although 50s R&B ploughed a slightly different furrow.

    An odd kind of Christmas Number 1, although you’re right, the Christmas No 1 title wasn’t quite the big deal it became a few years later. It must have tapped into something, though, to hold on throughout December. (Number 2 Watch – the song it held off was McGuinness Flint’s “When I’m Dead and Gone”.)

    Dave Edmunds had further top ten hits (IIRC) with covers of “Born To Be With You” and “Baby I Love You”, and in neither case did the voice really suit the Spector-type arrangement – I much prefer his Rockpile work with Nick Lowe later on. Mind you, if you want a Dave Edmunds instrumental, try Love Sculpture’s version of “Sabre Dance” for guitar wizardry (or you might call it “showing off”). One of the first singles I ever owned, and an air-guitar favourite.

  7. 7
    Marcello Carlin on 31 Oct 2006 #

    And also speeded up by the record company.

    Interestingly Edmunds’ “Born To Be With You” appeared two years before the Dion/Spector one (though Edmunds does it uptempo).

  8. 8
    Marcello Carlin on 31 Oct 2006 #

    Re. the Dave Clark Five: “Good Old Rock ‘N’ Roll” (complete with fake crowd noises), top ten over Xmas ’69; “More Good Old Rock ‘N’ Roll” a year later didn’t do nearly as well.

  9. 9
    Erithian on 31 Oct 2006 #

    “speeded up by the record company”

    Was it really??! No wonder Edmunds recently said he couldn’t play it now!

  10. 10
    Kat on 31 Oct 2006 #

    Is everyone aware of this yet? Not a bad selection I think (blurb sez “from the NOW years” so no older stuff), and the 3CD format (1 per decade) is an interesting turn for the NOW series… Fighting back against downloads, ladies & gentlemen – the compilation album!

  11. 11
    wwolfe on 31 Oct 2006 #

    Heard in the context of 1970 (way too may sensitive singer-songwriters with acoustic guitars) by an 11-year old me who’d heard essentially no pre-Beatles rock and roll or R&B, this single sounded thrilling. Hearing it now, when singer-songwriters with Martin guitars are a niche market, not a dominant species, and after I’ve had three decades to become familiar with many of the pre-Beatles musical genres, Edmunds’ record has lost some of its spark. What once seemed defiant now feels persnickety. If I compare this record with the music John Fogerty was creating with Creedence Clearwater Revival at the exact same moment, the differences are clear: while basing their sounds on very similar influences, Edmunds’ work sounds hermetically sealed, while Fogerty’s feels alive and electric with the energy of its moment. (It doesn’t hurt that Fogerty’s records have a better rhythm section, singer, and songwriter in the bargain.) There’s an underlying (and sometimes overlying) grouchy mood of “These kids with their music these days” to much of Edmunds’ pre-Nick Lowe music that leaves a sour aftertaste.

    Cool guitar, though.

  12. 12
    bramble on 31 Oct 2006 #

    The rhythm section of Creedence Clearwater probably sounds better as I think Dave Edmunds multi-tracked all of I Hear You Knocking himself. As others have pointd out, 1969/70 saw one of the mini-rock n roll revivals that sporadically appeared -1974 was another time with Bill Haley charting again alongside Wizzard and Alvin Stardust.Mungo Jerry had covered some ‘I Hear you Knocking’-era songs on their first album shortly before this record and a year or so earlier Zappa had brought out his early rock and roll/doo-wop pastiche Cruising with Reuben and the Jets. Maybe it was all a reaction to the more overblown excesses of pyschedelia -or maybe just a marketing of nostalgia that reached its pinnacle of cynicism with Showaddywaddy

  13. 13
    blount on 1 Nov 2006 #

    72 (i think) had chuck berry-elvis-ricky nelson back-to-back-to-back on the charts (stateside) right?

  14. 14
    Marcello Carlin on 1 Nov 2006 #

    Yes – My Ding-A-Ling, Burning Love and Garden Party.

  15. 15
    Erithian on 1 Nov 2006 #

    I’d never associated this song with rock’n’roll revivalism – as I said earlier, this was a cover of 50s R&B, which, although one of the main influences of rock’n’roll, wasn’t quite the type of music the DC5, Wizzard and Showaddywaddy would revive. I think this was more of a piece with Fleetwood Mac’s early blues incarnation, and the strain of British music inspired by Muddy and Wolf which ran from the Stones through the Animals and Clapton, and was a formative element of heavy metal.

    I first became interested in pop history through the part-work magazine “Story of Pop”, circa 1974, which included in its first issue a diagram of how pop music forms evolved and influenced each other. Anyone else remember it?

  16. 16
    Lena on 1 Nov 2006 #

    The US #1 at this time was I Think I Love You, followed by Tears of a Clown, with the Christmas #1 being My Sweet Lord. All well and good, but I’m sorry the Jackson 5 didn’t have any transatlantic #1 hits, though I’m sure MJ did…(in Popstrology 1970 is “The Year of the Jackson 5”)…

  17. 17
    Marcello Carlin on 1 Nov 2006 #

    Actually it was more of a piece with the DiY indie ethic; it’s White Town’s funny uncle.

  18. 18
    Marcello Carlin on 1 Nov 2006 #

    I have the complete Story Of Pop in binders obtained in FREE BINDER OFFER at home!

  19. 19
    Pete Baran on 1 Nov 2006 #

    I can see some scanning and comentary being commissioned soon then… Sounds fascinating.

  20. 20
    Erithian on 1 Nov 2006 #

    Wow MC – I still have the mags but not the binders or the diagram – yes, any chance of scanning the latter?

    Remember the TV adverts? Emperor Rosko (I think) intoning lines like “The horrible Who!! Why did they smash their instruments? Check it out in The Story Of Pop”…

  21. 21
    Tom on 1 Nov 2006 #

    re White Town – great spot!

  22. 22
    Marcello Carlin on 1 Nov 2006 #

    I remember the ads but I can’t remember who did them. Rosko (the Westwood of his day) would sound about right though.

    There was a lot of this sort of stuff around at the (’73-4) time; Charlie Gillett’s Rock File books (still got those as well), the NME Book of Rock (free pullout, then actual book) and first Top 100 Albums list, obviously all with a view to The Story Has Ended It’s All Over.

  23. 23
    Erithian on 1 Nov 2006 #

    Interesting thought MC – it was about 20 years since rock’n’roll, so perhaps you’re right. I got Tony Jasper’s “20 Years of British Record Charts” which oddly enough started with 1955 and finished with Rollermania – as if to say, where can it go from here?

    Rosko was way less ludicrous than Westwood!

  24. 24
    Doctor Mod on 1 Nov 2006 #

    I actually liked it–“loved” it would be pushing matters–but I liked it much more than most of what was being played on US radio at the time. By late 1970/early 1971, we were undergoing the infantilization of pop music at the hands of child rock stars and stars of television shows aimed at the barely pubescent. What I liked about “I Hear You Knocking” was its sardonic value. It was a cover of a song I remembered from early childhood (the version I knew was sung, as I recall, by one Gail Storm, later remembered for her slightly grotesque commercials for alcohol addiction treatment). But this cover wasn’t sentimental in the slightest–the electronically pinched voice, the weird evocation of 50s bluesmen, and the oddly cheerful mood of it all struck me as quite sardonic and thus madly subverting the mainstream of pop at the moment.

    It retrospect, it’s a mildly oddball thing, not that great, but, from my point of view, something of a bright point amidst the dreck of early 70s commercial pop–and the slide guitar is priceless.

  25. 25
    Doctor Mod on 1 Nov 2006 #

    Yes, yes–the generic connection to White Town is truly there. “Your Woman” is, for a variety of reasons, one of my all-time best of the last fifty years.

  26. 26
    intothefireuk on 3 Nov 2006 #

    Having never heard of Smiley Lewis (at the time or indeed even now) it always felt like a Dave Edmunds original produced to recreate the sound of 50s recordings (although I’m not sure why he opted to phone in his vocals unless he overdid the EQ trying to replicate early Sun Studios sound). An odd record but extremely catchy and not unattractive. I would go 6/7 for the extra effort of actually playing all the instruments as well. Well done Dave.

  27. 27
    vinylhabit on 28 Jan 2008 #

    OK, so the song bounced around in the American Top 40 charts for 9 weeks up until it peaked at the No. 4 spot. It is a great recording of a great song by a great artist. It surely out-rocked the 3 songs that edged it out of the number 1 spot in February of 1971. Are you ready? NO. 1 One Bad Apple – The Osmonds, NO. 2 Knock Three Times – Tony Orlando & Dawn, No. 3 Rose Garden – Lynn Anderson. And yes, the idea of recording his lead vocals over a telephone right through the London carrier office and back out the reciever held in front of a microphone in the studio was as unique sounding as it was ingenious. It was supposed to sound like one of those speakers outside an apartment building’s access doors. “You Can’t Come In” get it?? Nim-com-poops! His music will surely outlive any of the commentaries I have seen here today! vinylhabit

  28. 28
    Marcello Carlin on 28 Jan 2008 #

    Shame you had to spoil your otherwise excellent post with that arsey last sentence, but some fascinating info about the recording nonetheless.

  29. 29
    Waldo on 5 Oct 2009 #

    I didn’t realise that this was the “Sabre Dance” man until a little later. Edmunds’ interpretation of Khachaturian’s dramatic piece I consider one or rock’s masterpieces. Showing off, yes, but gravy all the same and the end is breathtaking.

    IHYK is tame fare by comparison but is still a stonking good ride. The telephone effect certainly works in its favour. I was a bit surprised to learn that it was “speeded up” but this does not alter my opinion of it, although I probably liked it more back in the day than I do now.

  30. 31
    Lena on 22 May 2012 #

    Death isn’t the end: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/dont-remember-me-mcguinness-flint-when.html Thanks for reading, everyone!

  31. 32
    lonepilgrim on 17 Jul 2018 #

    I’m surprised that this was a hit so early – I associate Dave Edmunds with the Stiff records crew so assumed this was from the mid to late 70s. I struggle to get excited by it. It’s a bit anonymous and mannered for my tastes.

  32. 33
    chrisew71 on 10 Aug 2018 #

    One of the handful of songs the oldies station used to play that would cause me to change the station. Something about the production and the pacing always made this feel twice as long as it really is. And whatever they’re doing with his voice is just the rancid cherry on top.

  33. 34
    Ashleigh Matthews on 25 Apr 2021 #

    I don’t much like this and I much prefer ‘When I’m Dead and Gone’ (at #2 when this was at the top). 3/10 for Edmunds.

  34. 35
    Gareth Parker on 5 May 2021 #

    I would agree with Chrisew71 (#33). I don’t think this is a great record at all. It all seems rather plodding to me. 3/10 would be my mark.

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