The Story Behind “Girls Talk” by Dave Edmunds and How He Took Liberties with the Elvis Costello Song 

Stiff Records started with the release of “So It Goes,” backed with “Heart of the City” by Nick Lowe. The label embraced the DIY ethic as they gathered a roster of artists, including pub rockers, punks, and new wavers. With slogans like “Undertakers to the Industry” and “If They’re Dead, We’ll Sign ‘Em,” Stiff Records released what is widely considered the first punk single, “New Rose” by The Damned.

Videos by American Songwriter

Early on, distribution was not a strength of the label. Customers often had to visit the main office to purchase a new release. This was how Declan MacManus arrived on the scene. The singer visited the label to purchase a Nick Lowe single and looked to share some of his lyrics. Eventually, he would change his name to Elvis Costello and be included on the Stiff roster.

Dave Edmunds had achieved his own chart success, both as part of a band and as a solo act. His biggest success came in 1971 with the reworking of an old Smiley Lewis song, “I Hear You Knocking.” The Welsh guitar wizard also found success as a producer, working with Ducks Deluxe, Flamin’ Groovies, Foghat, and Brinsley Schwarz, which included Nick Lowe. Costello, Edmunds, and Lowe were moving in the same circles, and they would inevitably come together. Let’s take a look at the story behind “Girls Talk” by Dave Edmunds.

There are some things you can’t cover up with lipstick and powder
Thought 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 come any clearer
Oh, I just want to hear girls talk

“Subtle as a Flying Mallet”

Dave Edmunds formed his first group, The Raiders, in 1961. Inspired by guitarists like Scotty Moore and James Burton, he began tracing the roots of rock’ n’ roll and learning blues and country licks. In the mid-60s, he formed a trio called Love Sculpture and hit the charts with a cover of Aram Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance.” Edmunds would spend long amounts of time in Rockfield Studios in Wales, experimenting with recording techniques and perfecting different vocal layering and overdubbed instrument combinations.

Nick Lowe watched in awe as Edmunds worked. In Cruel to Be Kind: The Life and Music of Nick Lowe, he said, “There was nothing subtle about it. He had little respect for the equipment and taught me lots of stuff, including a refusal to be intimidated by the technology. After all, it’s just a bloody tape recorder! Simply use it to record the noise you want to make. His influence was very hard for me to shake off, but eventually, I managed to win his confidence.”

Got a loaded imagination, bein’ fired by girls talk
It’s a more or less situation inspired by girls talk


As the young rockers saw other bands, they imagined pulling in other musicians. Terry Williams, who later was in Dire Straits, had played drums in Love Sculpture but was currently in the Welsh rock band Man. If Lowe played bass, they would need another guitarist. Said Lowe, “Dave and I used to talk about getting this fantastic group together. We would meet at the Churchill and have these conversations, ‘Wouldn’t it be fabulous if we had …?’ Then we’d sober up and go off the idea. Then, Dave would get the horrors and say, ‘No, no, no, I’m giving it all up.’ Then the next night, it would be, ‘But, supposing we did get a group together, we’d need Terry Williams on drums.’ No one else would do—he had that powerhouse style—but then we’d say, ‘No, no, no, we can’t get him, he’s still with Man. It’s ludicrous even talking about it. But then, of course, we’d need another guitar player. There’s this Scottish bloke in Fatso who’s good—Billy Bremner—but supposing he’d be the bloke, there’s no use talking to him if we can’t get Terry Williams.’ We went to see Billy Bremner with Fatso at the Nashville. He was very funny, and we soon became inseparable. … Then we actually started to rehearse, and it sounded fantastic.”

But I can’t say the words you want to hear
I suppose you’re gonna have to play it by ear right here
And now, girls talk
But they want to know how girls talk
They say it’s not allowed, girls talk
If they say that it’s so
Don’t they think that I’d know by now?


Edmunds was in the studio when Costello brought him a cassette tape with a rough version of “Girls Talk.” The song was much faster, and the verses weren’t symmetrical. One had four lines, and one had three lines. Edmunds slowed it down, added a line to one of the verses, and adapted the arrangement with some acoustic guitar punctuation in the style of the early Everly Brothers records.

When Costello recorded his own version on the 1980 album Taking Liberties, it included the original lyrics. “I’m not sure Elvis liked it,” Edmunds told “He’s quite an intense person, and he’s quick to point out things that he doesn’t like. (Laughs) I remember playing it to him on the tour bus in America, and he didn’t say much. It sounded great to me, and it got him a Top-5 record, so I’m sure he’s not that upset about it, but I would have been delighted if someone had done a turnaround on a song I’d quickly jotted out and came up with a hit single.”

Got the word up on everyone’s lipstick that you’re dedicated
You may not be an old-fashioned girl, but you’re gonna get dated
Was it really murder?
Were you just pretending?
Lately, I have heard
You are the living end

Their Own Album

Rockpile was the band on albums credited to Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe. They released an album under their own name in 1980 called Seconds of Pleasure. They also appeared on albums by Mickey Jupp and Carlene Carter.

But they want to know how girls talk
They say it’s not allowed, girls talk
They think they know how girls talk
If they say that it’s so
Don’t they think that I’d know by now?

When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Leave a Reply

How Kraftwerk Pioneered Synth Pop with the 1970s Hit “Autobahn”

Remember When: Syd Barrett Popped Up Unannounced at the Pink Floyd Sessions Dedicated to His Tribute Song