I Hear You Knocking

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Albert Flores

"I Hear You Knocking" (or "I Hear You Knockin'") is a rhythm and blues song written by Dave Bartholomew. New Orleans rhythm and blues singer Smiley Lewis first recorded the song in 1955. The lyrics tell of the return of a former lover who is rebuffed.

"I Hear You Knocking" reached number two on the Billboard R&B singles chart in 1955, making it Lewis's most popular and best-known song. Subsequently, numerous artists have recorded it, including Welsh singer and guitarist Dave Edmunds, whose version reached number one in the UK Singles Chart for six weeks in 1970 and was in the top 10 in several other countries.

Background

Several earlier blues and R&B songs use lyrics similar to "I Hear You Knocking". James "Boodle It" Wiggins recorded an upbeat piano blues in 1928 titled "Keep A Knockin' An You Can't Get In" which repeated the title in the lyrics. +more It was followed by songs that used similar phrases, including "You Can't Come In", by Bert M. Mays (1928); "Keep On Knocking", by Lil Johnson (1935); "Keep a Knocking", by Milton Brown & His Brownies (1936); and "Keep Knocking (But You Can't Come In)", by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys (1938). None of these early singles listed a songwriter or composer.

However, when popular jump blues bandleader Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five recorded the song as "Keep A-Knockin'" in 1939, the single's credits listed "Mays-Bradford" (Bert Mays and Perry Bradford). In 1957, Little Richard recorded it with the songwriter listed as "R. +more Penniman", Richard's legal name, although Bert Mays and J. Mayo Williams were later credited as songwriters.

Beginning with his signing by the Los Angeles-based Imperial Records in 1950, Smiley Lewis was one of the main proponents of the emerging New Orleans rhythm and blues style, along with Fats Domino, Lloyd Price, Dave Bartholomew, and Professor Longhair.

Original song

Smiley Lewis recorded "I Hear You Knocking" with Dave Bartholomew's band at J&M Studios in New Orleans, owned by Cosimo Matassa. Bartholomew is listed as the producer and songwriter, along with Pearl King (a Bartholomew pseudonym; the maiden name of his wife). +more He claims that he wrote it "in the backseat of a car coming out of San Francisco". "I Hear You Knocking" uses a modified twelve-bar blues arrangement, in which the progression to the IV chord is repeated:

%|I%|I%|I%|I7%|IV%|IV%|I%|I7%|IV%|IV%|V%|V
It has been notated in 4/4 time in the key of C with a moderate tempo. Instrumentally, the song is dominated by piano triplets in the style of Fats Domino, played by Huey "Piano" Smith. The lyrics echo some of the lines from the earlier songs:.

"I Hear You Knocking" was released as a single by Imperial Records in 1955. It entered Billboard's R&B charts on September 3, where it spent eighteen weeks and reached number two.

First cover versions

Also in 1955, actress and pop singer Gale Storm recorded "I Hear You Knockin'" for Dot Records. Her cover version reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, number three on the Cash Box Best-Selling Record chart and became a gold record. +more Bartholomew believed her version "killed his [Lewis's] record"; blues researcher Bill Dahl added, "Storm swiped his [Lewis's] thunder for any crossover possibilities with her ludicrous whitewashed cover of the plaintive ballad. " The experience reportedly led Bartholomew to refer to Lewis as a "'bad luck singer', because he never sold more than 100,000 copies of his Imperial singles". English singer Jill Day also recorded the song in 1956, as did Connie Francis in 1959. In 1961, Bartholomew produced Fats Domino's remake of the song.

Dave Edmunds version

Welsh singer and guitarist Dave Edmunds recorded "I Hear You Knocking" in 1970 at Rockfield Studios in Monmouthshire. It was released on the MAM label. +more Whereas Lewis's original recording is a piano-driven R&B piece with a 12/8 shuffle feel, Edmunds' version features prominent guitar lines and a stripped-down, straight-quaver rock-and-roll approach. In an interview, John Lennon commented, "Well, I always liked simple rock. There's a great one in England now, 'I Hear You Knocking'".

Edmunds plays all the instruments (except possibly bass guitar) and AllMusic writer Stephen Thomas Erlewine suggests that the song "has a mechanical rhythm and a weird, out-of-phase vocal that qualifies as an original interpretation". Edmunds uses fills and a solo played on slide guitar, and during the instrumental break he shouts out the names of several 1950s recording artists: "Fats Domino, Smiley Lewis, Chuck Berry, Huey Smith!"

In December 1970, "I Hear You Knocking" reached number one in the UK, was also the Christmas number one and topped the UK Singles Chart for six weeks. It also placed in the top 10 in several other countries, including number four on the U. +moreS. Billboard Hot 100 in 1971. It sold over three million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. In 1972 the song was included on Edmunds' first solo album Rockpile.

Edmunds had originally planned to record a cover of "Let's Work Together" by Wilbert Harrison, but had to reconsider when he heard a version that had been recorded by Canned Heat. He later recalled: [wiki_quote=0923bc1a]

Chart performance

Weekly charts

Chart (1970-71)Peak position
Australia Go-Set5
Germany3
New Zealand (Listener)3
South Africa (Springbok Radio)1
UK Singles Chart1
U. S. +more Billboard Hot 1004
U. S. Cash Box Top 1004
.

Year-end charts

Chart (1971)Rank
Australia Go-Set24
Canada RPM46
Germany20
South Africa11
UK36
U. S. +more Billboard81
U. S. Cash Box35
.

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