Graham Parker on the Origins of Graham Parker & the Rumour

Photo: Kevin Mazur

Hive Five: Our Daily Listicle of Musical Musings

In the second half of the ‘70s, Graham Parker & the Rumour provided the crucial connection between the disparate realms of blue-eyed soul, singer/songwriterdom, pub rock, and punk, while maintaining a sound that was always utterly sui generis. They inspired the likes of Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson along the way, but the ride ended when Parker and his comrades parted ways after 1980’s The Up Escalator. After 32 years, longtime solo troubadour Parker and his erstwhile bandmates have finally reconvened for an excellent new album, Three Chords Good, a reunion tour, and even an appearance in GP fan Judd Apatow’s upcoming film, This Is 40. What better time to get the band’s backstory straight from the proverbial horse’s mouth?

1. Birth of a Soul Boy

I used to be into American soul music when I was a teenager; it was sort of popular in England in an underground way. Around ‘65, ‘66, and ‘67, I used to go to clubs and dance to Motown and Stax. I think one of the records that had the most powerful effect on me was Otis Blue. The Four Tops album, the one with “Baby I Need Your Loving,” before they got their “Reach Out I’ll Be There” sound — it had this song “Ask The Lonely” on it, really lush, with strings. I just played those two albums continually, I was probably about 14 or 15 and they just killed me.
2. Becoming a Songwriter

Somewhere in the ‘70s, [Bob Dylan’s] Blood on the Tracks kind of kicked in for me, so I sort of had this very mixed-up kind of perspective going on, of thinking that I had some profound lyrics coming out of me all of a sudden. This was around ’73, ’74. So I’d gotten over this psychedelic period of writing songs in five different keys named ‘spring,’ ‘autumn,’ ‘winter’ [Laughs], I’d gone through that bit and I was listening to Gladys Knight & the Pips, “Midnight Train to Georgia.” She just killed me. And the Staple Singers, and also Dylan. And then I was listening to the Stones again; driving around in the suburbs of England, they’d always play “Brown Sugar,” and at the time it came out I liked it, but it did more to me later on, when I was between 22 and 24. Somewhere in there I started to write songs that had these influences and I thought, “Well, no one else is doing this, maybe this is the way I become a musician.”

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