"When I first started out ... the first thing written in the paper is, ‘Could this be the new Bob Dylan?' It's like, I'm getting away with it. They don't know. They haven't spotted it yet, how bad I really am. There's that feeling. On the other hand, there's this huge ego thing that--Hey, maybe I AM the new Bob Dylan! I think I AM! Which drives you onwards. You need this kind of drive because it's hard work, this. It's really brutal."
Critically, Graham Parker is never allowed to stand alone. He's always either lumped in with the Angry Young Men of seventies new wave, Joe Jackson and Elvis Costello, or he's labeled an acolyte of sixties rockers like Van Morrison and, mais d'accord, Bob Dylan. Trouser Press, Rolling Stone, Popmatters and even Wikipedia all can't resist connecting Dylan to Parker as angry skinny white guys in shades pilfering from African-American musical traditions.
But it's just not that simple.
Parker's earned his own place in history. To begin with GP and his near-perfect backing band, The Rumour, broke-out well before Costello and Jackson or even the dated term, new wave. As to Parker's resemblance to his precursors, it's overstated. Sure Parker learned from a grab-bag of soul singers, Van Morrison chief among them but his razor-sharp voice is all his own. And, while Parker's debt to Dylan is clear in his taut song-writing, his lyrical acidity and his fierce delivery, twenty-some albums later it's clear that Parker's not only borne the brutal weight of history he's added his own heft to it.
Here's Dylan spinnin' GP's "Back to Schooldays" on his Theme Time Radio Hour show
And here's GP doing "I Threw It All Away" from Dylan's Nashville Skyline
Next: That's When You Know
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