by Mark R. Elsis
"I started to work up in my old bedroom, playing, writing songs, and it somehow came to me that I could introduce soul music. Nobody seemed to be doing that."
Who is the most underrated rock and roll singer-songwriter the last forty plus years? With his wondrously wide variety of musical styles, thought-provoking lyrics and heartfelt, soulful, punk-rock raspy voice, its Graham Parker. For more than forty years, Graham Parker has delivered musical and lyrical masterpieces time and time again. There isn't a singer-songwriter more deserving than Graham Parker to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. If you agree, email and tell them: firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also reach them by snail mail or phone, see bottom for address and number.
It started for me one day in late December 1976, when I picked up the Village Voice and looked at their top 100 albums of the year. I started at number 100 and read it back to number 1. I knew music very well back then, but when I finally got to the number 4 album of the year, it was from this guy, Graham Parker and The Rumour. I heard a few songs from him on WLIR 92.7 and WNEW 102.7, but for the most part, he was underneath my radar. I wondered how that could happen to me living in New York City.
Then I noticed the number 2 album for the year of 1976, I couldn't believe it, yet again it was, Graham Parker and The Rumour. How could this be, both the number 4 and the number 2 album by this same artist, Graham Parker and The Rumour, and I didn't really know about his music.
I went out and bought both Howlin' Wind and Heat Treatment and got blown away. They were both great albums and still are. With songs like Between You And Me and Not if it Pleases Me from Howlin' Wind, and That's What They All Say, Something You're Going Through, Hotel Chambermaid and Pourin' It All Out from Heat Treatment.
I instantly became an enormous fan of Graham Parker, and always bought his new albums as soon as they were released. It started with the October 1977 release, Stick To Me, produced by Nick Lowe. Here's the great title track Stick To Me live from 1978. Then in 1978, a live double album was released, The Parkerilla.
The next release was the March 1979 studio album that should have made Graham Parker a big star, Squeezing Out Sparks. It was ranked as the number 1 album of the year by the Village Voice, and is considered by many the best Graham Parker album.
For me Squeezing Out Sparks is one of the greatest rock albums of all-time, from the opening song Discovering Japan, to You Can't Be Too Strong, Love Gets You Twisted, Local Girls and Passion Is No Ordinary Word. It is Rock and Roll. If Graham Parker only released Squeezing Out Sparks he should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
On May 23, 1980, to start off the magical Summer of 1980, came yet another wonderful album by Graham Parker and The Rumour, The Up Escalator. It was produced by Jimmy Iovine, who worked as a recording engineer on John Lennon's Rock 'n' Roll sessions, produced by my friend the legendary Wall of Sound originator, Phil Spector. Jimmy Iovine went on and produced many great albums for different artists.
Graham Parker and The Rumour
Graham Parker - lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Brinsley Schwarz - guitar, backing vocals
Martin Belmont - rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Bob Andrews - keyboards, backing vocals
Steve Goulding - drums, backing vocals
Andrew Bodnar - bass
The Up Escalator was to be the last with his band, The Rumour, for many years. On the song, Endless Night, background vocals were sung by Bruce Springsteen. I always found it most interesting that Endless Night would be the best two words to describe what I was doing almost every night, and the song was written by Graham and sung by two of my favorite musicians. Three other songs from The Up Escalator I always loved, The Beating Of Another Heart, No Holding Back and Stupefaction.
John Lennon and The Beatles were always my favorite solo artist and rock group. After the assassination of John Lennon on December 8, 1980, (I was at The Dakota for nine hours that night) my favorite living musical group became, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. My second favorite was Graham Parker and The Rumour.
In the Autumn of 1980, I moved into the downstairs apartment in my families home. It was a wonderful apartment with a large master bedroom. I painted my master bedroom the color, grey mist. On the far wall, across from my bed, I put up a wallpaper of Earthrise across the 8-foot by 16-foot wall. Earthrise is a photograph of the Earth and parts of the Moon's surface taken by astronaut William Anders on December 24, 1968, during the Apollo 8 mission. I never forgot being a boy two weeks shy of his 11th birthday that Christmas Eve of 1968, when Apollo 8 reached and circled the moon, and William Anders took what is perhaps the most important photograph in human history.
I started calling my master bedroom, another grey area.
I would ask my friends, do you want to come over, hang out and listen to some music in another grey area? Well, then something very peculiar happened. Without me knowing, Graham Parker split with his band, the Rumour and left England and moved to New York. He got Jack Douglas, who produced Double Fantasy with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, to produce his new solo album, that was being recorded at the renowned Record Plant in Manhattan.
The album was released on March 15, 1982, and was called, Another Grey Area.
When I first heard this, I couldn't believe it. My second favorite musician, without me knowing leaves England and moves to New York, where I lived, and releases an album with the exact same name as I was calling my bedroom for over a year. What are the odds of something like that occurring? My friends were stupefied when they found out. Somehow these very unusual and seemingly impossible occurrences have happened throughout my life.
Once again with the single with video Temporary Beauty, and the other superb songs Crying for Attention, No More Excuses and Another Grey Area, I thought Graham would finally break through big time. Once again he didn't.
Graham Parker released three excellent albums during the mid 1980s. This first was The Real Macaw in 1983. This album starts by jumping off the turntable with the song, Just Like A Man, You Can't Take Love For Granted and one of my favorite songs by Graham, Life Gets Better. The next Graham Parker album was Steady Nerves in 1985 with Wake Up and Break Them Down. In 1988 Graham released The Mona Lisa's Sister with Success, Don't let Them Break You Down and Get Started, Start A Fire.
For me, these first nine studio albums that Graham Parker created are all rock classics. His 14 studio albums since have also been quite good, especially his 2001 release, Deepcut to Nowhere.
Over the years I went to many Graham Parker concerts, from the Stone Pont in Asbury Park, New Jersey (I was hoping that Bruce Springsteen would show up, he didn't, but it was a terrific show anyway), to the Ritz in Manhattan on May 3, 1982, the night I crossed paths with Andy Warhol.
I also went to see Graham at The Bottom Line on June 3, 1995. It was the first of two shows to be recorded and released as, Graham Parker & the Episodes, Live from New York. (June 3rd was always my favorite day of the year when I was growing up. In front of my families home in Elmhurst was a lime tree, and on June 3rd the exquisite sweet-scented flowers were in full bloom.) Graham put on a long and wonderful show. I watched from the bar and after the show, I waited for Graham with a handful of people.
About ten minutes after the show finished Graham came out and greeted us. I found him to be genuine and gracious. He answered all of our questions and looked you in the eye when he talked with you. After everyone had chatted with Graham, I told him a succinct version of the naming my bedroom another grey area more than a year before he moved to New York and released Another Grey Area. He was amazed by the unlikely precognition I had.
I also had a wonderful one-hour phone conversation with Graham back in 2000. We talked about many topics, including about the domain name that I had registered on March 4, 1999, GrahamParker.com. I also remember telling Graham that he, Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson should do a tour together.
I have been asking people for almost forty years if they know of Elvis Costello, they almost always say yes. Then I ask them if they know of Joe Jackson, most say yes they do. I then ask them if they know of Graham Parker, and most don't know of him.
I always found this perplexing, since Graham Parker was the first and most influential of the three musicians, and not only that, he's also had the most prolific career, releasing 23 studio albums.
For me, there isn't a singer-songwriter more deserving than Graham Parker to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
If you agree, let your voice be heard, and contact them by email, snail mail or phone to politely tell them so:
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
1100 Rock and Roll Boulevard
Cleveland, Ohio 44114
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Graham Parker | Facebook
Graham Parker |Twitter
Should be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
by Mark R. Elsis
If you enjoyed this article, I am writing a book, Meetings and Stories, about my scores of meetings with prominent people, mostly artists, and my lifetime of fascinating and wondrous stories.
A few of my Meetings and Stories are online, they include, Michael Jackson, The Genesis Of Beat It; John Denver, Love Is Why I Came Here In The First Place; and Robin Williams, My Two Meetings With Robin.
Meetings and Stories
by Mark R. Elsis