Graham Parker’s past inspires the present
BY DAVE HOEKSTRA Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org December 13, 2012 5:36PM
Graham Parker (far left) with The Rumour — Martin Belmont, Andrew Bodnar, Steve Goulding, Brinsley Schwarz and Bob Andrews — headline the Park West on Dec. 18. | KEVIN MAZUR PHOTO
An evening with Graham Parker and the Rumour
CONCERT FOR THE KIDS
♦ 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18
♦ Park West, 322 W. Armitage
♦ Tickets, $36 (18+over)
♦ Visit www.etix.com
♦ Note: Patrons are encouraged to bring a new toy or book for donation.
Updated: January 15, 2013 6:13AM
Graham Parker is in a good mood.
That wasn’t always the case for the introspective soul-rocker from London.
From the mid-1970s through the early 1990s Parker may have been angrier than Joe Strummer or Elvis Costello. Parker channeled cynicism through his hit ballad “Temporary Beauty,” myopia in the rare 1991 track “Museum of Stupidity,” (where he included himself) and pure passion in hits like “Heat Treatment” and “Passion Is No Ordinary Word.”
These days, Parker is brilliant in his bit role as a jaded legacy rocker in the new Judd Apatow comedy “This Is 40,” in theaters Dec. 21. He has reunited with his band the Rumour, and their new album “Three Chords Good” (Primary Wave Records), has them looking like Air Supply, complete with blue skies and a rainbow. With a nod to serendipity, in “This Is 40” Pete (Paul Rudd) looks to save his failing Unfiltered Records label with a Parker-Rumour reunion.
Closer to home, Parker and the Rumour — Bob Andrews, Brinsley Schwarz, Martin Belmont, Andrew Bodnar and Stephen Goulding — headline the Park Weston Dec. 18. No support act, so get there early. It’s the band’s first tour in 31 years and could be memorable as it is the next-to-last date of the itinerary. Maybe Parker will even pull out a ringer from his 1994 Christmas EP, “Graham Parker’s Christmas Cracker.”
Parker, 62, was chipper during a recent hour-long conversation from his hotel in Los Angeles. He was preparing to head out to a press junket and screening with Rudd and Megan Fox (who plays the sexed-up younger friend of Pete and his wife).
“This is so much easier than music,” Parker chortled. “Acting is work, but if I could do that for a living, I would put my guitars in a closet, lock it and never open it again. Music is brutal. You have to get the sound right, just singing alone, I have to work at it all day long, I’m saying that tongue-in-cheek, but for the panel tonight, ‘I don’t have to bring my guitar?’ I don’t have to worry about my voice?’ This is f----g great! I could be this phony celebrity. Tonight, suddenly everybody knows me. And as soon as I walk out of there, I’m nobody. It’s hilarious, actually. It makes me laugh.”
In May, 2011, Apatow’s music supervisor contacted Parker’s Private Wave label. “It couldn’t have been a week or two before that where everyone in the Rumour agreed we would do a new album,” Parker said. The new “Three Chords Good” album is excitingly far-reaching, ranging from the reggae-tinged anti-American anthem “Snake Oil Capital of the World” (the intro is lifted from his 1976 reggae tune “Don’t Ask Me Questions”) to the tender “That Moon Was Love,” which Parker frames in classic doo-wop and soul.
Parker met with Apatow in New York City in the spring of 2011, just after Parker had fininished writing the new album. Parker recalled, “He gave me the angle of Pete wanting to sign acts for his indy label that were ‘real music’ Because in ‘Knocked Up’ [the predecessor of ‘This Is 40’]. There was a small part that eluded to the fact Pete worked for a major record label and wasn’t happy. Judd turned that into a subplot. He wanted to see how I would feel about this and whether I would be the kind of act he would sign. As he talked I started to get into it. I get the fact records don’t sell.”
Parker was indeed a perfect choice. He is a long-time “critic’s favorite” who never translated to mass appeal. (In the movie, Pete pleads with his Lady Gaga-loving wife on behalf of Parker, “Can’t you love him as a hobby?’”)
Parker is to record labels what Lindsay Lohan is to handcuffs. He has recorded for (in chronological order): Mercury (he skewered them in the rave-up anthem “Mercury Poisoning”), Arista, Elektra, RCA, Capitol, Dakota Arts (the Christmas EP), Rhino, Razor & Tie and most recently Chicago’s Bloodshot).
“It’s ridiculous to sign Graham Parker to save your record label,” Parker said with a laugh. “Paradoxically, I do quite well for Bloodshot. For this record I moved to Primary Wave, who has been getting investment deal money. For this album I need to pay for a publicist. I told Bloodshot I had this album and if I got a lot of money thrown at me I’d do it with Primary Wave. I got substantially more than most indie labels. Bloodshoot totally understood. They said they would advertise the record on their website and put up tour dates.”
Parker’s “This Is 40” live performances were shot at the Belasco theater in downtown Los Angeles. The theater dates back to the early 1900s. “I think it’s been closed as long as the Rumour’s been split up,” Parker said. “It’s back in action, a beautiful Art Deco place.”
The Rumour were flown in to L.A. from various points across the world, including Rumour guitarist Brinsley Schwarz who in 1969 formed his own pub-rock band with Nick Lowe and the most underrated Ian Gomm.
“The band was put up in the Sunset Marquis, a hotel I used to inhabit in the old days and couldn’t afford now,” Parker said. Parker and the Rumour rehearsed old songs and five from new album. Most of the material was picked by Apatow with Parker’s approval. Apatow filmed the sessions along with indie filmmaker Michael Garamaglia who has spent the last 12 years filming the Parker documentary “Don’t Ask Me Questions.”
“Michael was thrilled,” Parker said. “He wanted me and the Rumour to come back for this marvelous finale for his documentary. So we filmed everything. Michael worked with Judd and they shared the footage.”
Parker said he reflected deeply on playing with his old mates.
“I thought about, ‘Why didn’t we reform 10 years after we split up?’.Or 20 years? None of it had been right. It’s only now that people are interested. It’s just incredible to play again. We fitted right back together. In the studio it was infintely easier than the early albums. Without a producer, some strange guy that no one knows. You don’t need a svengalie figure who has had hits and made drum sounds (that would be Jimmy Iovine, producer of Parker’s 1980 “The Up Esclalator”) You don’t need it.
“It’s not a mystery anymore.”
For more on Grham Parker, acting and the Rumour reunion, please visit http://blogs.suntimes.com/hoekstra/.