Every UK Number One Song: I Hear You Knockin’


“I Hear You Knockin” by Dave Edmunds was number one on 28th November 1970 and stayed there for six weeks and was the Christmas number one of that year.

I love the guitar intro on this and it’s such a “get out my face” type of tune. It has a sort of childlike quality around it as I remember singing it when I was young when I didn’t want people to come in.


“I Hear You Knocking” (or “I Hear You Knockin'”) is a rhythm and blues song written by Dave Bartholomew and Earl King (using the pseudonym “Pearl King”). It was first recorded by New Orleans rhythm and blues artist Smiley Lewis in 1955. The song tells of the return of a former lover who is rebuffed and features prominent piano accompaniment. “I Hear You Knocking” reached number two in the BillboardR&B singles chart in 1955, making it Lewis’ most popular and best-known song. Subsequently, it has been recorded by numerous artists, including Welsh singer/guitarist Dave Edmunds, who had a number one hit with the song in the UK in 1970 and in the Top 10 in several other countries.

Several earlier blues and R&B songs used lyrics similar to “I Hear You Knocking”.[2] James “Boodle It” Wiggins recorded an upbeat piano blues in 1928 titled “Keep A Knockin’ An You Can’t Get In” (Paramount 12662), which repeated the signature line. It was followed by songs that used similar phrases, including “You Can’t Come In” by Bert M. Mays (1928, Vocalion 1223), “Keep On Knocking” by Lil Johnson (1935), “Keep a Knocking” Milton Brown & His Brownies (1936), and “Keep Knocking (But You Can’t Come In)” by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys (1938, Columbia 20228). None of these early singles listed a songwriter or composer.

However, when popular jump blues bandleader Louis Jordan with the Tympany Five recorded the song as “Keep A-Knockin'” in 1939 (Decca 7609), the single’s credits listed “Mays-Bradford” (Bert Mays and Perry Bradford). Later, in 1957, Little Richard recorded it with “R. Penniman”, Richard’s legal name, listed as the writer, although “credit was later given to Bert Mays and J. Mayo Williams”. Beginning with his signing by 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.

In the 1950s, it was a common record industry practice for popular R&B songs to be re-recorded or “covered” by pop artists. Well-known early examples include Big Joe Turner’s “Shake, Rattle and Roll” which was re-recorded by Bill Haley & His Comets and Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame” by Pat Boone. In some cases, cover versions “[took] the dominant share of the record market” and prevented the original songs from entering the pop charts or “crossing over”. Such was the case with “I Hear You Knocking”. Actress/pop singer Gale Storm’s recording of the song (Dot 15412) in 1956 reached number two in Billboard’s pop chart and number three in the Cash Box Best-Selling Record chart. It became a gold record. One writer noted “Storm swiped his [Lewis’] thunder for any crossover possibilities with her ludicrous whitewashed cover of the plaintive ballad”. Writer/producer Dave Bartholomew expressed his disappointment, reportedly leading him 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 himself produced Fats Domino’s successful remake of Lewis’ song, also for Imperial.

Welsh singer and guitarist Dave Edmunds recorded “I Hear You Knocking” in 1970. Whereas Lewis’ original song is a piano-driven R&B piece, Edmunds’ version features prominent guitar lines using a stripped down 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) and, according to one writer, the song “has a mechanical rhythm and a weird, out-of-phase vocal that qualifies as an original interpretation”.[15]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, including “Fats Domino, Smiley Lewis, Chuck Berry, Huey Smith and the Clowns!”.

In December 1970, “I Hear You Knocking” reached number one in the UK, including the Christmas number one slot and topped the UK singles chart for six weeks. It also placed in the Top 10 in several other countries, including number four in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1971.

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