Monday, March 7, 2011

Teacher Teacher, Teach Me About Rockpile

I've written before about the 1980-82 ABC television show Fridays, which was kind of a pathetic attempt to rip off Saturday Night Live, except that the musical guests they got were almost uniformly excellent. Let's face it, SNL's musical guests tended to be pretty hit-or-miss: You'd never know if you'd get Elvis Costello or Chuck Berry or Leo Sayer or Libby Titus. In the premier episode, Lorne Michaels supposedly wanted Stevie Wonder and Carole King, but had to settle for Billy Preston and Janis Ian. I think that sums things up pretty well.

Now, Fridays had the occasional Franke and the Knockouts as well, but they also had the Clash's first American TV appearance, and the Blasters and the Jam and the Pretenders, et cetera. Today, let us take a look at the excellent but short-lived pub-rock outfit Rockpile (I almost said "British pub-rock outfit," but that would be redundant) performing their totally boss "Teacher Teacher" on a Fridays from December 1980.

The guy who isn't Nick Lowe or Dave Edmunds makes a valiant but ultimately futile try at his harmony vocals. Lowe, insouciant devil that he is, chews gum throughout, putting him on a list with John Lennon, Dave Grohl and MCA as rock stars who are willing to indulge in a little Wrigley's onstage.

OK, are you done with that? Now let's see Nick Lowe's solo hit "Cruel to Be Kind," which should be thoroughly familiar to anyone who bought into MTV in the very early days:

Hey, it's the same four guys as in Rockpile! It turns out that Rockpile really wasn't all that short-lived after all. The band that recorded Seconds of Pleasure, the only official Rockpile album, also recorded Nick Lowe's nominally solo album Labour of Lust and Dave Edmunds' nominally solo albums Tracks on Wax 4 and Repeat When Necessary. So that's really four Rockpile albums, for a catalogue that's about the same heft as those of the Shins or the Lovin' Spoonful.

I wonder if they even bothered to tell the guys who weren't Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds when they showed up for work in the morning whether they were cutting a band album or a solo project.


  1. Am I insane, or does the wedding in "Cruel to Be Kind" look sort of real? The frumpy relatives far in the background, the wedding-type awkwardness. Is that possible? (Obviously with the exception of many cutaway shots.)

  2. When I was first watching this video as a high schooler, I assumed they used some actual footage from Nick Lowe's marriage to Carlene Carter. I'll see if I can find out for sure, although I bet someone out there knows.

  3. Okay, I'm gonna double down and assert that there is in fact actual wedding footage in this video. Attack me if you will with your usual charges of speculation, ignorance, and just a scoche of pedophilia, but I shall not back down.

  4. I've never known you to settle for just a scoche of anything.

  5. With pedophilia, less is more.

  6. Other guitarist is Billy Bremner, a great picker whose post-Rockpile work was with the Pretenders on "Back on the Chain Gang" and "My City Was Gone" aka the Rush Limbaugh theme. Wonder if he gets royalties for that.

    There's a multi-part youtube posting of the UK documentary "Born Fighter" that shows Rockpile in the studio CIRCA 1978 cutting Labour of Lust. They were a great band.

    Also Marshall Crenshaw kept his gum chewing habit after playing Lennon in Beatlemania.

  7. Yes, it IS actual footage from Nick and Carlene's wedding.