November 18, 1950 in London, England
Along with younger contemporary British artists Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson, singer-songwriter Graham Parker skillfully navigated the chaotic musical landscape spanning pub rock, punk rock and new wave. Perfecting a visceral, organic approach to guitar rock through roots rock-inspired versatility, Parker created album after album of thoughtful, immediate rock songs both with his initial band The Rumour and as a solo artist throughout the '80s. Here's a look at one of England's most respected musicians, who remains a relevant musical contributor more than four decades after his debut.
Drawn to pop music as a teenager following the rise of The Beatles, Parker immediately exhibited a desire for eclectic influences, spending equal amounts of time as a young man playing in bands, exploring soul music, and working at various blue collar jobs around Europe. This troubadour lifestyle served him well as his interest and aptitude in music grew. Armed with a variety of life experience, Parker returned to England in his early twenties and began to explore the developing pub rock circuit around London, soon selecting the musicians that would serve as his backing band, The Rumour.
Pub Rock Pioneer:
By 1975, Parker had networked enough with players in the London pub rock scene to attract the attention of genre godfather Nick Lowe, with whom he recorded some early music. Soon after, he formed The Rumour with several veterans of the scene, and the new band quickly set out to hone its energetic, raw live sound. As a result of the group's working-class fixation and bare-bones approach, Parker helped shape the early days of punk rock in England. Unfortunately, he remained enough of a cult figure to not always receive due credit for his contributions.
Toward a Classic Album:
Parker hoped to generate stronger sales in America but felt hampered by Mercury, his record label there. Therefore, another genuinely solid band LP would not emerge until 1979's Squeezing Out Sparks, Parker's first release on Arista. The album immediately drew heavy critical acclaim and has retained a consistent position among music observers as one of the seminal rock releases of the era. Chock full of standout tracks including "Local Girls," "Nobody Hurts You" and "Saturday Nite Is Dead," the record established Parker as a premier rock artist.
Post-Rumour '80s Solo Success:
Parker's top-notch band began to splinter even before 1980's The Up Escalator was released, and yet the artist prepared to enter the most commercially successful period of his career. As it turned out, the new wave era and the college rock phase of the early alternative music scene were ideal playgrounds for Parker's guitar-based songwriting and his gruff, rootsy vocal style. Three more albums kept Parker on the pop music radar into the mid '80s, as working associations with ex-Rumour mate Brinsley Schwarz helped generate modestly popular singles like "Temporary Beauty" and the striking, lovely "Wake Up (Next to You)."
Parker bounced around on major labels as the '80s became the '90s, never quite finding a consistent niche for his thoughtful but iconoclastic efforts. Nevertheless, his reputation as a no-nonsense performer and uncompromising songwriter helped sustain lasting interest among music fans looking beyond the mainstream for their rock music inspiration. Such a code has continued to inform Parker's still-developing legacy. In 2012, he followed up years of steady solo releases by releasing a critically acclaimed album, Three Chords Good, featuring the original Rumour lineup playing together for the first time in more than 30 years.