A Six-pack of Graham Parker

I don’t usually do two of any given category of post in a row but I got so jazzed by some GP music recently that I wanted to do this post. Plus I need to send CB down a music listening rabbit hole for a week. 

A little bio from Graham Parker’s site: “In the spring of 1975, Graham Parker, a 24-year-old petrol pump attendant from Surrey, England, began to drive up to London to meet like-minded musicians and get a backing band behind his songs, which he now considered to be stronger and more interesting than anything he was hearing on the radio.

By placing an advert in the Melody Maker he met Noel Brown, a guitarist, and Paul “Bassman” Riley, a bass player who had featured in Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers, a so-called “pub rock” band that had recently split up.

Before they had played a note together, however, Parker had secured a major record deal with Phonogram records after Brinsley Schwarz manager Dave Robinson got a tape of a Parker demo to Charlie Gillett who hosted an eclectic Radio London show named Honky Tonk. As soon as the song had had its airing, Nigel Grainge from Phonogram called Gillett insisting he wanted to sign Parker right away.

Until then, Parker had had exactly zero professional, or even semi-professional, experience in the music business. During those first rehearsals, Robinson brought a “tall, bird-nosed fellow,” as Parker described him, to the sessions and said that he would produce their first LP. His name was Nick Lowe, the aforementioned bass player in “the German heavy metal band.” (That’s what Parker thought Brinsley Schwarz was.)

Parker and the Rumour’s first album Howlin’ Wind was recorded in London in late 1975 and released in April 1976 to widespread critical acclaim. (See Mr. Babyhead’s take on that album here.) This was followed in the same year by Heat Treatment. Ok, let’s roll:

“Hold Back the Night” is the tune I heard on the radio that made me want to do this post. Unlike a lot of his contemporaries, not only did Parker not reject music that came before him, he embraced it. Wikipedia describes his styles as rock, new wave, pub-rock, soul, rhythm and blues and that sounds just about right;

Spotify link

Parker and the Rumour had done the song “Don’t Ask Me Questions” on Howlin’ Wind in 1976. But then in 1978, they released a live double album called The Parkerilla on which they tacked a faster version now called “Hey Lord, Don’t Ask Me Question.” I love both versions but let’s slam the re-record and see how that works out:

Spotify link

Now, which punker has the balls in the late ’70s to record a version of the Jackson Five’s great “I Want You Back” and not worry about losing their street cred? Here it is live from San Francisco, 1979:

Spotify link

Parker did a lot of great stuff in his heyday but was never quite the (more or less) household name that his peers Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson were (and are.)

In late 1979, Parker released Squeezing Out Sparks which was voted album of the year in the (now sadly defunct) Village Voices year-end Pazz & Jop critics’ poll and later ranked number 334 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

In this tune, Parker cautions against hanging with the “Local Girls.”

Without a doubt I got to intercept, must be time someone ran and shouted in their ear
You look all right in the cheap print dress, but every time you swish it round you make me disappear
Yes, I’m aware of exactly what I’m doing, making everything a mystery
Don’t bother with it, it don’t bother me

Don’t bother with the local girls
Don’t bother with the local girls
Don’t bother with the local girls
Don’t bother with them, they don’t bother me

Spotify link

Let’s rock it up with “New York Shuffle” right out of the Gospel according to Chuck Berry:

Spotify link

Before we circle back to soulville with “Heat Treatment,” just a note here that Parker is doing what appears to be a very limited US solo tour. I missed him when he was playing in these parts a while back. I confess I’d much rather go see him with a band and maybe that will happen one day.

Spotify link

14 thoughts on “A Six-pack of Graham Parker

  1. The only record I really know well is Squeezing Out Sparks. That one is great – You Can’t Be Too Strong is pretty amazing, and it includes the bonus track of I Want You Back. It’s interesting how the new wave era threw up some acts that weren’t really new wave, like Parker and Dire Straits.

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    1. I mentioned in another comment that while punk and New Wave were the thing at that time, there were plenty of new bands who did not necessarily want that label hung on them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Fantastic selections, Jim. I’ve been a GP fan for about 40 years and own just about everything he’s released. I will often go a long time without listening to him and then when I go back to his catalog I’m instantly captivated again. My introduction to his music came via 1980’s “Stupefaction,” which remains my favorite GP song because of the smile I get on my face every time I hear it. For some reason it took me a while to fully appreciate his earlier, pre-Squeezing Our Sparks material, even though I love horn-driven soul, but now I love it as much as the ’80s stuff I heard first. Those early records sound like the English Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes. I was underwhelmed by the reunion albums he did recently with The Rumour but I was still thrilled that those guys played together again. It’s hard to recapture the magic all those years later.

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    1. If you haven’t already, you should crank up the speakers and blast the Spotify list. I think it may be my favorite of all the six-packs I’ve done. I was literally dancing. I never do that! “Stupefaction” was on my short list. And yes, I thought of Southside as well. He was totally unique for an era where the punks called 1976 Year Zero. But I think there were a lot of bands that never really bought into that. Sting couldn’t possibly have cared less and there is no bigger musicologist than Elvis Costello.

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    2. I saw you liked my LA post. I had to post that from my phone and for some reason, no comment section. Hang on, trying to fix it. Phones are inferior garbage

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  3. I’m still stuck at Yes-stock. Not complaining.
    I’ve been listening to GP since i was knee high to a grasshopper and you just enlightened me on new stuff. What a way to open you set ‘Hold Back The Night’. What a great tune. I forgot how cheesy good the Local Girls video was. And the Jackson tune? When CB heard that I couldn’t even pretend I didnt like it. They put a spin on that one huh. Your whole set is killer. ‘New York Shuffle’. Are you kidding me? Capped off with ‘Heat Treatment’. Tag on ‘Soul Shoes’ and you will never sit down. Good job on one of my all time favorites. You are officially in the GP & Rumour Roadie Club.
    Here’s a note that I learned from Immortal Jukebox. The Rumour took their name from The Band song. Hows that for keeping it in CB’s music family.
    Maybe your fave 6 pk? Man that’s saying something.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I didn’t realize how well the set played together till I cranked it up and listened to if. If I heard Rumour (or any band) pound out that set, I’d be dancing up a storm. How could you sit down? Thanks for the tip on the band name. You mean a Band Six? Hmmm. Don’t tempt me. That’s too juicy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Doc, here’s to all those great “Bar Bands” everywhere. When you play those joints the people aren’t there to sit still. What do all these great bands have in common? The Chuck Berry, Elvis, Jerry Lee, Little Richard etc rock n roll fever.

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        1. Now those bar bands have been replaced by disk jockeys! And when you go see many of today’s stars, they cover up their feeble singing and music by having 37 people dance on stage.

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