Billy Bremner is fondly remembered today for his time in Rockpile alongside Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, and Terry Williams, but the estimable singer-guitarist has also brought his talents to recordings by The Pretenders, Carlene Carter, and Shakin’ Stevens, and had his own successful solo career. It’s the latter aspect of Bremner’s discography that Cherry Red’s RPM Records imprint has just chronicled on Singled Out. This new, 21-track anthology compiles many of Bremner’s singles for labels including Polydor, State, Stiff, Demon, Arista, Rock City, and others, originally released between 1977 and 2005. Additionally, a number of previously unreleased tracks are included. Bremner’s straightforward rock-and-roll/rockabilly sensibility shines through on all of these recordings.
Bremner first rose to fame as a teenager when he joined Lulu’s backing band, The Luvvers, but the affiliation was short-lived, and Bremner never got to play on a recording from the “Shout!” sensation. When the group disbanded as Lulu went on to pursue a solo career, Bremner joined The Quotations and backed such stars as Brenda Lee, Duane Eddy, and The Walker Brothers, with whom he toured for almost two years. The 1970s then saw Bremner ply his trade in variety of bands and with such artists as Colin Hare and Neil Innes. In 1977, he released his first solo 45 on Polydor as Bill Murray, to avoid confusion with the famed Scottish football player. (Murray is his middle name.) The A-side of that single, “Downtown Hoedown,” is included on Singled Out, as is the A-side of the 1978 follow-up single by “Billy Murray” for the State label, “Heart and the Stone.”
But there wasn’t much time for solo recording as Bremner was drafted into Rockpile, with whom he played until 1980. (The band split in 1981, only having released one album: 1980’s landmark Seconds of Pleasure.) Billy continued to work with his friends Lowe and Edmunds on their own albums and returned to his own music with a pair of singles for Stiff Records. Both sides of “Loud Music in Cars” and “The Price Is Right” can be found here, as well as the B-side “Tired and Emotional.” (Its A-side, “Laughter Turns to Tears,” hasn’t made the cut.) A 1982 Demon single introduced “Meek Power” b/w “Yes, Please,” both of which are collected on this set.
As an in-demand session player, Bremner contributed to records by Elvis Costello, Phil Everly, The Pretenders, and Carlene Carter, and in 1984, released his first full-length LP, Bash! The Elvis Costello-penned “Shatterproof” and its flipside, Bremner and producer/co-writer Will Birch’s “Look at That Car,” can be heard here along with Bash!‘s “Fire in My Pocket.” In 1985, he recorded a one-off single as Billy Bremner and Fastbuck for Rock City; the B-side “Mona-Lott” has been selected for inclusion here.
Bremner continued to work with The Pretenders, and a move to the United States found him on a variety of projects from both Nashville and Los Angeles. More surprisingly, he traveled to Sweden and worked with the band The Refreshments. Still in Sweden, he reunited with Elvis Costello on a collaborative project with soprano Anne Sofie Von Otter, For the Stars. He recorded two more solo albums there, and resides in Sweden today.
Singled Out, sequenced in reverse chronological order, opens with Bremner’s new 2018 single “I’m Dying (To See You Again)” and “Shoot Myself.” It also premieres five previously unreleased tracks, including four demos (including a pair of songs later recorded by Dave Edmunds) and one outtake from the Billy Murray days, the mariachi-flecked “54’40’ or Fight.” Simon Murphy has remastered all tracks. With liner notes by Nicholas John and an introduction from Will Birch, Singled Out paints an enjoyable if incomplete portrait of a musical renaissance man. This collection is available now from Cherry Red/RPM Records at the links below!
- I’m Dying (To See You Again)
- Shoot Myself
- No If, But, Maybe
- I See It In Your Eyes
- I Get Enough
- Mona-Lott – Billy Bremner & Fastbuck
- Look at That Car
- Fire In My Pocket
- Meek Power
- Yes Please!
- Tired and Emotional (And Probably Drunk)
- Loud Music in Cars
- The Price Is Right
- Loud Music in Cars (Demo) (*)
- The Creature from the Black Lagoon (Demo) (*)
- Trouble Boys (Demo) (*)
- Stuck in the Fog (Demo) (*)
- Heart and the Stone – Billy Murray
- Downtown Hoedown – Bill Murray
- 54″40′ or Fight – Billy Murray (*)
(*) denotes previously unreleased track
Tracks 1-2 previously unreleased on CD
Track 3 from WEA single 5050467-8366-5-9, 2005
Tracks 4-5 from Pool Sounds EP POOLS053, 1998
Track 6 from Rock City single RCR 6, 1985
Tracks 7-8 from Arista single ARIST 557, 1984
Track 9 from Arista single ARIST 566, 1984
Tracks 10-11 from Demon single D1014. 1982
Track 12 from Stiff single BUY 143, 1982
Tracks 13-14 from Stiff single BUY 125, 1981
Tracks 15-18, 21 previously unreleased
Track 19 from State single STAT 72, 1978
Track 20 from Polydor single 2058 881, 1977