The Dave Edmunds cover of Elvis Costello’s “Girls Talk” is an object lesson of “the singer not the song.” I mean, Elvis Costello’s version is a nice-enough outtake from the Get Happy!!! sessions, but the Dave Edmunds version is one of the great singles of the 1970s.
Why? Rockpile, that magical confluence of Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe, Billy Bremner and Terry Williams.
In 1979, Rockpile wasn’t the greatest band in the world — not while The Clash still drew breath — but they were pretty damn close, recording two absolutely stellar albums at basically the same time: Nick Lowe’s Labour of Lust and Dave Edmunds’ Repeat When Necessary. And while I prefer the former to the latter — Nick Lowe was at the very top of his songwriting game — the latter has my favorite song by either artist, Edmunds’ absolutely crushing cover of “Girls Talk”
It explodes in a hail of acoustic guitars and percussion, and before you know it, Edmunds is singing:
There are some things you can’t cover up
With lipstick and powder
But I heard you mention my name
Can’t you talk any louder?
Don’t come any closer
Don’t come any nearer
My vision of you can’t
Get any clearer
Oh i just wanna hear girls talk
Meanwhile, Rockpile are charging forward without even stopping for breath, with Bremner & Lowe repeating backing vocals when necessary while Williams mimics a perpetual-motion machine. It’s a deceptively tricky arrangement, which you don’t really notice because it’s so relentless: verse after verse after verse that eventually finds the chorus, sometimes with a tricky stop-time part just preceding it, and sometimes not.
Girls talk, and they want to know how
Girls talk, and they say it’s not allowed
Girls talk, if they say that it’s so
Don’t they think that I know by now
And then, because they know they’re making a classic single, Billy Bremner does one of those guitar solos where the guitar just plays the melody of the verse instead of a “deedly-deedly” conventional solo. You know, like “A Hard Days Night” or “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” I love that shit.
At the fade, they toss one last bit of magic in:
Yeah yeah yeah yeah
Yeah yeah yeah yeah
Oh, and Edmunds sings the fuck out of this, especially any time he gets to “Right here and noww-owwww-owwww”
In England, at least, “Girls Talk,” was a huge hit single, making #4, as it damn well should have in this country, as well. There were a lot of great songs in 1979, and this is at the very top of the list.
Official video for “Girls Talk” (not the best quality)
“Girls Talk” performed live in 1980