Monday, May 21, 2012


Read the whole interview at

In the mid-'70s, there was a mini musical movement termed (probably by music critics) the Angry Young Man Period. The great Elvis Costello was head of that imaginary class, while Joe Jackson was also a student - albeit briefly. Surprising – probably even to him – was Graham Parker's inclusion in this loosely assembled collective. Although he started his career as more of a soul singer, his 1979 album Squeezing Out Sparks had a more stripped-down, punk feel to it, which made it fit right in with a lot of the punk rock that was beginning to break out right around that time. This album was truly a spark of imagination, as it stands up well to this day, packed from start to finish with so many fantastic songs.

Parker has always remained a critic's darling (especially in his native England) even though he never achieved the commercial success that guys like Jackson and Costello attained. Undaunted, Parker continues to record and tour these days with a huge catalogue of wonderful songs. He can be antagonistic and blunt with songs like "Protection" (off of Squeezing Out Sparks), yet surprisingly sensitive, exemplified by the description of flawed males in "Just Like A Man," from his 1993 The Real Macaw album.

The singer/songwriter recently reunited with the Rumour, his backing group in the '70s and '80s that featured guitarists Brinsley Schwarz and Martin Belmont, keyboard/sax man Bob Andrews, bass player Andrew Bodnar, and drummer Steve Goulding. In a stroke of serendipity, Judd Apatow asked Parker to appear in the sequel to his movie Knocked Up, which depending on how generously the film is edited, will also feature The Rumour and introduce a new generation to Parker's music.

Read the whole interview at

Songfacts: Well, let's start by talking about this movie that you make an appearance in. Tell me the story behind how that happened.

Graham: Well, that's going to be probably misinterpreted many, many times. But the truth is that in early May, on a whim I contacted Steve Goulding, the Rumour drummer, and Andrew Bodnar, the bass player - Andrew, by the way, lives in Yorkshire in England, and Steve is in New York - because I had 13 songs together and as usual at that stage of the game, was trying to figure out the recording concept, trying to figure out the sound. And for some reason I just thought maybe I should do it with those two guys as a rhythm section. I haven't had those guys playing together for years. I had Andrew on quite a few post-Rumour records in the '80s, and worked with Steve in 2001 on my record Deep Cuts and Nowhere. But I hadn't put them together in a studio since the Rumour days.

And I just basically thought what a great thing. We'll record this in three-piece and then I'll do what I usually do, which is I'll do the guitar parts and I'll get the keyboard player to do the keys and build it up. Which is the way I've been doing records lately, although usually I've been doing them with just me and the drummer, and then building it up from there. And Steve made a joke about the rest of the Rumour: wouldn't it be great if we got Martin, Bob, and Brinsley. That would be a proper band, exclamation mark. And then, "Just kidding!" you know.

So it was a joke from Steve that somehow put me in a kind of somnambulistic mode. What would the mode be like in automaton? I stopped thinking and immediately went to the e-mail machine, and got hold of Martin, one of the guitarists, and Bob the keyboard player, and said, "How about making a record together? Has anybody got Brinsley's phone number?" His e-mail never seems to work, because he's always building his house and the electric is out or some bloody thing.

So they both said, basically, "Hell, yes" - to my astonishment. I called Brinsley, who said, "Yeah, okay," to my astonishment equally. I'd now put my foot in it. And I had a Rumour reunion on my hands without thinking about it. And right then I got the dates for the studio very quickly and the engineer, a guy named Dave Cook who worked with me on Deepcut to Nowhere and Struck By Lightning and a few other records as engineer, co-producer. So I have that studio time scheduled.

And then about a week after I'd solidified that, my publishing company, Point Man, dropped me an e-mail and said Judd Apatow wants to talk to me. So I said, "Give me his e-mail address." So I got in contact and Judd said, "I'm going to be in New York City next week, Tuesday or Wednesday. Have you got any time?" And I said, "Well, I live Upstate New York, but give me a time and a place and I'll drive there." And he said, "No, we can do it on the phone." I said, "No, I'm driving. I'm meeting you."

And so I went and met him and he gave me a vague outline of this movie that he was about to go into production with. He mentioned a part of the plot, the star, Paul Rudd, who basically is playing Pete, who was in Knocked Up, if you remember that film. There was Pete and Debbie, which was Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann. And they were part of it, but of course much of it was about Seth Rogen and what's that blonde lady who was in Grey's Anatomy (Katherine Heigl) I never remember her name. Anyway, the film really revolved around them and he'd got her knocked up, of course.

But they touched on the lives of Pete and Debbie. So without going into it too much, it was about Pete starting a record label and signing the kind of bands he always loved. Because in the movie Knocked Up, there was a little bit about how he worked for a big record company and didn't like the kind of acts he had to deal with. And now he's starting his own record label, and one of his acts he wants to sign is Graham Parker. You know, he wants acts from the '70s, real music as he would call it.

And so Judd is talking about this possibility and I said, "Well, guess what? I've just re-formed the fucking Rumour." [laughs] So he had no idea about this. And I said, "They're coming over here in July, we're making a record." So this kind of piques his interest. So the next thing I know, I'm back and forth with Judd, and he's flying me into LA to be in the movie, acting in a whole scene, basically took three weeks to film. It was going to be compressed into a very short time in the movie, I'm sure. And then after that, me and the Rumour were flown in to Los Angeles to do a 2-day shoot where we're in a big club, a fantastic room called Belasco Theatre. They rented it, and we went there in August and did this whole thing there. We played for two days. We played some of the new songs that are on the new album and a bunch of old stuff, and they filmed the two days with all different angles. I did a bit of an acting skit. And then I went back again after that to do another acting stint in September.

And I've just been back recently to record some songs I wrote especially for the movie. Judd threw a whole bunch of ideas at me on an e-mail. So this has nothing to do with the Rumour. This is specifically written based on some of the ideas that Judd threw at me. Sometimes there'd be a phrase, there'd be a concept for a song, and I would just pick something out of that and go for it. I wrote about nine songs, and I've just been in L.A. recording four of them. So that's entirely separate from the Rumour, possible soundtrack stuff.

Everything is a work in progress. It's about getting Judd's story across about these two people and their lives. I'm a small part in it, but the script suggested quite a big part. But now they're editing and goodness knows what will happen. But we seem to be still in it so far. [laughing] So we're hoping for the best.

So very interesting period. And now, of course, the obvious has to happen. What are me and the Rumour doing about this?

Songfacts: Are you excited about him introducing you to a newer, younger audience?

Graham: Well, it's so hard to tell what will come of it. I look at it as a nice bump at this time in my career. Because I'm in the trenches, you know. What I do is play solo, basically, for a living. I get in a car for four hours, do a gig, drive two hours the next day, do another one on the way back, do weekenders, and play with a band when I have a new album out. And really, it's a slog. I've got a publishing company who've got me a few placements on TV shows and they've actually done something. They expressed interest in spreading my catalogue. So it seemed to me a few good things were happening in that sense, because I've got a catalogue where there's an awful lot of wasted songs that only a handful of fans know that I think are really good. You're always battling with trend and commerce, as I call it, which is the superstars get used and so does the Japanese girl with one leg who lives in a trailer and plays a ukulele, that's pretty much the business we're dealing with now.

So this to me is just a great little bump. I'm happy to get whatever I can out of it.

Read the whole interview at

Songfacts: Well, I have my personal favorites of yours, but do you have any songs that when you look back over your catalog that you're particularly proud of?

Graham: I think, as the old, old story, that I like what I'm doing now. The Rumour album won't come out until September, because it's a no-brainer to try and tie it in with this movie, which is coming out in December. So I've got to wait all this time which is extremely frustrating, because there're all these great songs by what I consider one of the best bands that ever played together. So that's the kind of stuff that I love, that I can't really go into too much detail about, because I don't like to preempt things and say, "Oh, it's like this or it's like that." That's what I'm most excited about, always. And that, when I'm doing touring or gigs just solo, even, what kind of gets me excited about it is often throwing a brand new song into the mix. It's like I have that to look forward to. I think my old songs hold up great, and doing them solo is fantastic, because I can take all kinds of liberties with the arrangements. As I go along I can throw something in when I think the crowd needs to hear something. Howling Wind I think is a great first album. I think that stands the test of time, the songs really do.

I think it's easier to look at the stuff which is weaker, and I think that was a lot of the '80s period stuff. But other people don't agree with me. Other fans do not think that Steady Nerves is a weak album. I do. I don't like it. Basically, as much as anything, it's because in the '80s we all got into this kind of sound above song thing. We all argued: I want you to sound like a massive drum sound and lots of reverb and lots of chorus. I wanted to do that, so it's all my fault. But looking back on it, it was like when I got to Mona Lisa's Sister, I suddenly figured it out again.

Songfacts: I love that album.

Graham: Yeah, that's a good album. I figured it out. But the only thing that counts is the singer and the song. It's not the drum sound. Why is the drum sound the most important thing on everyone's record now? It just suddenly seemed like that is over to me now. That's finished. I can't do that anymore. And that's how I made Mona Lisa's Sister. I'm going to be the producer, I will not get talked into trying to sound like anybody else. And so since then it's been much more enjoyable making records, quite frankly. And I've been the producer and I have a vision for each album. It's a lot of work to get there, because I can't relax and say okay, let this guy take it now. I've got to take the weight of it and try and come up with something conceptual every time I make a record.

Songfacts: Is that important to you to have a concept, to have something that helps this album hang together as a whole?

Graham: Yeah. I might want a really dense sound, because dense sounds are my favorite thing. I want a lot of acoustic on every track. And it could be like the last album, Imaginary Television, where I actually wrote a brief synopsis of "Imaginary Television Shows" and I got those ideas and then wrote the songs around them, so that all the songs would be theme songs for TV shows that don't exist. And that was very inspiring. So the concept of the album was to make a very strong pop sounding album.

Songfacts: Have you ever written a TV show theme song for a real show?

Graham: No, I haven't. I did Imaginary Television because my publishing company forwarded some block emails from TV shows that wanted theme songs. And for some reason I launched myself into it and wrote songs for these shows. But they got rejected, of course. But they were so good and so catchy that then I said, Well, why don't I make up my own TV shows and write the songs, and therefore I cannot get rejected? Because it's all mine, baby, and it's all imaginary. So that inspired me to make that album, actually. And I integrated those songs into it. So basically the concept really snowballed from there.

Read the whole interview at

Songfacts: Is writing songs something that comes easily to you, or is that something that requires a lot of work?

Graham: It's never been easy. It's never easy until the easy one pops out of the mix, and that's really a joy. For me it's like you've got a blank slate in front of you and it's the most terrifying and humbling thing in the world. I get this thing every year or so and think, Wow, my last album was out six months ago. That's really old and tired to me. I start to think about writing, and I'll do anything to put it off. It's just a horrible, horrible, thought. I'll start off on rhythm guitar, and it's like this is no good. You're working with the same three and a half chords, generally speaking. And how do you get something original and fresh out of that again? When I start, I usually do not get something original and fresh. I'll spend months battling with something not good enough, and it's only the battle that leads me to something better.

At some point I'll pick up a guitar and I'll go away from that old dog that I'd been trying to write and suddenly I'll get something new that probably will have nothing to do with that piece of rubbish. Or maybe it will. Maybe that thing I've been working on and getting nowhere with will have something in it that will spark the real song. And I never know when this is going to happen. It's an arduous process for me. But then I suddenly find myself with a page of lyrics in front of me and a pretty good melody, which has a freshness to it which tells me, okay, even though it's the same old thing that we're all doing, pop music, there is something in there that is new.

Then I'll start to tie other bits of songs together, and in the midst of that I will find myself writing a complete song that has nothing to do with any of the others I'm writing. It's like it's fully grown and pops out of this inspiration. It's a kind of a mental plane that I'm on that is not my normal state of mind. So it's generally a cluster of a couple of months that I go into this strange state, an almost an out-of-body state. I know a lot of writers say this - it's very pretentious, because it becomes a little mystical to talk about this - but when you find a page of lyrics in front of you where there was nothing for months, then you're in this kind of spell. And then I've got the songs, and I spend six months tinkering with them and agonizing over them and trying to find the concepts and all the riffs are coming to me, the guitar lines and the keyboards, some of which come to me as I write the songs. Sometimes they actually start the song on a riff or a groove. So it's the same mysterious process that it's been since I wrote all the songs that became my first two albums. It's the same thing.

Songfacts: Are lyrics easier than music?

Graham: None of it's easier than the other thing for me. Maybe I come up with a lot of good riffs that don't become songs because I can't find the words for them. So it may be for me that riffs and grooves are easy or melodic structures, but that doesn't mean they're the right ones for me. I have a certain kind of net that I cast as Graham Parker, as an entity. And when I got outside of that, it's like, well, that's not good enough. It's like I will try to write a commercial song and it's like, this just isn't good. I don't like it. So I've got that kind of perimeter around me. And that brings out the solid stuff that I think is credible.

Read the whole interview at

Saturday, May 19, 2012



2012 has seen too many passings in the music world. Most recently, disco queen Donna Summer lost her struggle with cancer Thursday at age 63.

When I was in high school in the seventies, you were either rock or disco, and the two camps were like the Jets and the Sharks-the worlds were segregated.

However, "Love To Love You Baby" had a way of connecting with teenage boys.

I'd say it was due to a catchy hook, but who would I be kidding-it was the sexy moans and suggestive lyrics that triggered adoloescent fantasies.

Heck, if I were to listen to it now, it could probably trigger a daydream or two!

When I was old enough for the clubs, her music was inescapable, as well. She continued to release songs that charted on Billboard's dance charts into the new millenium, as recently as October 2010.

If you ventured onto dance floors over the last thirty-five years, you probably danced to the music of Donna Summer. It's a shame she is no longer with us.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

R.I.P. Donald "Duck" Dunn

R.I.P. Donald "Duck" Dunn

Donald "Duck" Dunn, the bassist who helped create the gritty Memphis soul sound at Stax Records in the 1960s as part of the legendary group Booker T. and the MGs and contributed to such classics as "In the Midnight Hour," ''Hold On, I'm Coming" and "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay," died Sunday at 70.

Dunn, whose legacy as one of the most respected session musicians in the business also included work with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd's Blues Brothers as well as with Levon Helm, Eric Clapton, Neil Young and Bob Dylan, died while on tour in Tokyo.

News of his death was posted on the Facebook site of his friend and fellow musician Steve Cropper, who was on the same tour. Cropper said Dunn died in his sleep.

Dunn was born in Memphis, Tenn., in 1941, and according to the biography on his official website, was nicknamed for the cartoon character by his father. His father, a candy maker, did not want him to be a musician.

"He thought I would become a drug addict and die. Most parents in those days thought music was a pastime, something you did as a hobby, not a profession," Dunn said.

But by the time Dunn was in high school, he was in a band with Cropper.

Cropper left to become a session player at Stax, the Memphis record company that would become known for its soul recordings and artists such as Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Isaac Hayes and the Staples Singers.

Dunn soon followed Cropper and joined the Stax house band, also known as Booker T. and the MGs.
It was one of the first racially integrated soul groups, with two whites (Dunn on bass and Cropper on guitar) and two blacks (Booker T. Jones on organ and Al Jackson on drums), and was later inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The group had its heyday in the 1960s as backup for various Stax artists. Dunn played on Redding's "Respect" and "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay," Sam and Dave's "Hold On, I'm Coming" and Wilson Pickett's "In the Midnight Hour."

Booker T. and the MGs had its own hits as well, including "Hang 'Em High," ''Soul-Limbo" and, before Dunn joined the band, the cool 1962 instrumental "Green Onions."

"I would have liked to have been on the road more, but the record company wanted us in the studio. Man, we were recording almost a hit a day for a while there," Dunn said.

In the 1970s, the group's members drifted apart.  Cropper and Dunn reunited when they joined Aykroyd and Belushi's Blues Brothers band. "How could anybody not want to work with John and Dan? I was really kind of hesitant to do that show, but my wife talked me into it," Dunn said in a 2007 interview with Vintage Guitar magazine, "and other than Booker's band, that's the most fun band I've ever been in."

Dunn also did session work on recordings by Clapton, Young, Dylan, Rod Stewart, Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty, according to his discography.

Dunn received a lifetime achievement Grammy in 2007.

He is survived by his wife, June; a son, Jeff; and a grandchild, Michael, said Michael Leahy, Dunn's agent.