In an earlier edition of this blog I had told you that one of my favorite bands ever was Rockpile. You know, the pub rock band and original supergroup from the late ’70’s containing Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe, Billy Bremner and Terry Williams. I also told you that eventually I would get around to going more indepth and profiling every band member.
Well, here’s the first installment in this loose series of Rockpile rememberances. In this blog, I am going to talk about guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Billy Bremner. Why Bremner first? Well, he’s got a new CD out right now on the Gadfly label entitled No If’s, Buts, Maybes and it’s a killer!
Now, Rockpile had a gimmick of switching between two leaders, Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds. Besides backing each of these two artists on their solo records, the band would function as the backup band to whoever had a solo album out at the time. If Lowe had an album fresh out, he would lead the band and give Edmunds and Bremner short showcases and if Edmunds had one out, the situation would reverse and Lowe would get a short set.
That worked out well until the band’s fans started clamoring for a true band album. Thinking it a good time to consolidate their careers around the band and put their solo doings on hold, Lowe and Edmunds acquiesced and a Rockpile album was born. Their lone CD, Seconds of Pleasure is a great disc, and, true to form, features Lowe and Edmunds trading off on songs except for two lead vocal spots given to Bremner. But, despite working together so well before, egos started to emerge once the band was formed and Lowe and Edmunds decided they didn’t want to be in a band together any more. Each has said that in hindsight Bremner should have been leader as he was just as good of a frontman as either of them and it would have kept all the egos in check as Bremner was more stable of a personality.
After Rockpile broke up, Bremner drifted around musically until Chrissie Hynde called him to help with the Pretenders’ album Learning To Crawl in ’83. The Pretenders’ guitarist James Honeyman-Scott had just passed away and the band was in a quandry as to give up and split or soldier on. Once Bremner decided to help out the answer was easy – keep going. Though Bremner was a Pretender for only one CD, he was a part of their biggest hit Back On The Chain Gang and helped get the band back on track again.
Shortly after, Bremner emerged with a solo album under his own name entitled Bash. With songs written by Bremner with Elvis Costello and John Wicks of the Records, the album was destined to be great and it was. Too bad the public didn’t notice and it died a quick death on the charts. Needless to say, search this album out. It should be a lot easier to find as it was reissued on the Gadfly label in the late ’90’s.
Deciding to put his floundering solo career on hold, Bremner moved to first LA and then Nashville to become a studio musician. During the next decade (’85 to ’95) Bremner was one of the most popular studio guitarists and played on tons of albums and more than a few country hits. Occasionally a solo song would appear on a comp or two but generally Bremner was doing his guitar thing for others.
Eventually, Bremner grew tired of the studio scene and decided to move to Sweden with his future wife. There, he fired up his solo career once again by releasing the fine disc A Good Week’s Work (so named because it took him a week to record the album) which was released in the US by Gadfly Records to much acclaim. With the re-release of Bash soon after and Bremner’s work helping Swedish band The Refreshments (five albums with them) he was firing on all cylinders again, guitar work smoking and fine songs just pouring out of him.
All of this has culminated with his best work yet, No Ifs, Buts, Maybes which has some of his best guitar playing ever – he plays like John Fogerty on crack on this one, but still tastefully and tight – and his catchiest songwriting to date. This is a must have for pub rock fans who love their roots rock and still pine away for Rockpile.
Please buy this and encourage Bremner to put out more of this great stuff. Rockpile may be gone but Bremner’s still piling on the RAWK – and it just keeps getting better and better all the time.
Billy, you are a hero.
The Music Nerd knows……