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POP : Dave Edmunds Plugs In to His Musical Influences

October 13, 1994|MIKE BOEHM | Mike Boehm covers pop music for The Times Orange County Edition.

In a wonderful, semi-autobiographical novel called "A Fan's Notes," the late Frederick Exley wrote about a man who finds respite from his own considerable flaws and troubles by following the storybook career of football great Frank Gifford with obsessive fervor.

If you wanted to sum up the career of Welsh rocker Dave Edmunds, who plays the Coach House on Wednesday, "A Fan's Notes" would be as apt a title as any. While Exley's alter ego could only fantasize about Gifford's life and root from afar, Edmunds has been able to spend 25 years or so walking in his musical idols' shoes--and sometimes helping them to take creative steps of their own.

An ace guitarist, a strong, fluent singer and a studio rat well-versed in the art of rock record-making, Edmunds, 50, has used his wide-ranging skills to pay frequent homage to the music that inspires him.

He first captured American ears in 1970 with a boisterous hit cover of the Smiley Lewis R&B song "I Hear You Knockin.' " Since then, partly because he isn't a prolific songwriter, Edmunds has often culled choice nuggets from the roots-rock and R&B traditions and given them his own treatment.

The range of his interests comes across in "The Dave Edmunds Anthology (1968-1990)," a two-disc compilation issued last year by Rhino Records. Some of the earliest cuts, with the band Love Sculpture, find him immersed in the psychedelic pop of the "Magical Mystery Tour"-era Beatles, or doing guitar rave-ups on classical sources in a way inspired by keyboard whiz Keith Emerson's first band, the Nice. But Edmunds' first full album was straight blues--a style he chose not out of any particular affection for it, according to the Rhino compilation's liner notes, but because his record company viewed blues as a hot commodity in Britain. From the recorded evidence on the Edmunds anthology, he was an amazingly quick study.

For the most part, a blend of country music, rockabilly and Chuck Berry-inspired rock 'n' roll has been at the core of Edmunds' craft. Some of his best work came in the late '70s and early '80s, when he partnered with Rockpile, the roots-loving band that also included Nick Lowe.

Edmunds has often been able to pass on his musical affections in a way helpful to others. His ear for harmony was clearly shaped by the Everly Brothers--and Edmunds the fan was able to repay his mentors by producing the Everlys' much-lauded, mid-'80s comeback albums "EB '84" and "Born Yesterday." As a fan of rockabilly music, he helped revive interest in the form during the early 1980s, producing the Stray Cats' signature hits. Edmunds' production credits also include the Fabulous Thunderbirds' commercial breakthrough album, "Tuff Enuff"; "Party of One," a likable but overlooked 1990 effort by his old buddy, Lowe; and k.d. lang's 1987 major label debut, "Angel With a Lariat."

On his new album, "Plugged In," Edmunds continues to dash off his fan's notes, paying tribute to rockin' and twangin' country music with a cover of "The Claw," by Jerry Reed, and putting his own layered-guitar spin on Otis Redding's soul music chestnut, "I Got the Will." The novelty song "Beach Boy Blood (In My Veins)" finds him multitracking his own voice until it's possible to believe that Edmunds has Wilsonian vocal cords.

"Plugged In" is a do-it-yourself effort that he worked up at his home studio in Los Angeles, using digital drums and playing all the other instruments. On stage, Edmunds will have the help of guitarist Bobby Bandier, bassist John Regan and drummer Jamie Oldacker.

* Who: Dave Edmunds.

* When: Wednesday, Oct. 19, at 8 p.m. With Kevin Gilbert.

* Where: Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano.

* Whereabouts: Take the San Diego (5) Freeway to the San Juan Creek Road exit and turn left onto Camino Capistrano. The Coach House is in the Esplanade Plaza.

* Wherewithal: $19.50.

* Where to call: (714) 496-8930.

MORE POP:

Doug Sahm isn't along for the ride this time, but the three other members of the Texas Tornados have the wherewithal to throw a good party without him. Freddy Fender is a master of '50s-style R&B balladry, Flaco Jimenez a Tex-Mex accordion player of intoxicating playfulness, and look for Augie Meyers to fire up his sprightly roller-rinky organ for some old Sir Douglas Quintet faves. Billed as "The Three Amigos," they play at the Coach House tonight, Oct. 13. (714) 496-8930.

The story of Thelonious Monster is a checkered saga to say the least, but the band's erratic leader, Huntington Beach product Bob Forrest, is one of the most soulful songwriters and performers to have emerged from the '80s alternative rock movement. One Hit Wonder's catchy but blasting punk-pop makes it one of the local scene's most deserving contenders to reap the rewards of that now lucrative style. Opening the show at the Foothill Tavern in Signal Hill today, Oct. 13, is Choclaty, fronted by Mike Martt. Taped information: (310) 984-8359.

Long-running, much-traveled Orange County band Big Drill Car winds up its touring campaign for '94 with a show at the Ice House in Fullerton on Monday, Oct. 17, giving its own energetic take on that locally ubiquitous punk-pop style. The Goops, Bottom 12 and Lidsville round out the bill. Taped information: (714) 740-3052.

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