Thursday, February 11, 2010

Parker, Dylan and the Weight of History

"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."
Graham Parker

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

Support the man:


  1. Excellent post! I look forward to a continuation on this theme... kind of like how I love it when Yes fills an entire album side with one, ahem, piece.

  2. That live track Dylan spun sounds like it may have come from GP & the Rumour's '77 stand at the Palladium in NYC. Their only tour with the full horn section, and they totally rocked like few have before or since. There's a high quality boot floating around out there, if you should ever come across it and want to post a link (hint hint!) ;)

  3. Parker flipped my lid in 1979 with Squeezing Out Sparks, produced, nb, by Jack Nitzsche, producer of classic rock freak outs like Expecting to Fly and Words (Between the Lines of Age). Nitzsche caught the rhythmically nimble attack of the Rumour with minimal overdubs and a delicious crunch.

  4. Great post!
    FYI - I found it through the Dylan site "Expecting Rain" and posted a link to it on the Graham Parker Yahoo group

  5. CPB
    There you go bringing Yes into it again. I'm gonna have to post some Greta Big Sea to get back atcha!

    It's an intense version. I'll keep looking for the full concert but initial tries were unsuccessful. If you know a title or anything that might help let me know...

    I wish every artist could claim that their best album was produced by Nietzsche (sic).

    Mike D.
    I love Expecting Rain, there's always something worth reading there. Thanks for the link, I appreciate it.

  6. The track Dylan played on his radio show is not live. It's a demo recorded before he got together with the Rumour.

  7. I'm not going to lie to you, that comment freaked me out until you referred to GP in the third person. Out of curiosity, why do you use the name Graham Parker when posting? Is it a tribute or are you connected to him in some way?
    Either way, thanks for the clarification.

  8. "Squeezing Out Sparks" is a perfect album.

  9. I am jerilo from the gp website. I have seen GP live acoustic many times. When Dylan played GP song on his radio show, a rightfully proud GP said at a show that Dylan announced it wrong and that it was a demo. Only a handful of people know that(most would think it was from a show). Therefore I believe you were graced by a comment from the real GP, who, as his alter ego and hillbilly best friend Tex Skerball can attest to, is quite computer literate.

  10. Jerilo
    Thanks for your original link on the GP board and your estimation that it might be the Real Macaw. Part of me suspects it too. I may never know, but just in case:
    GP thanks for all the music and let me know if any of these posts contain stuff you'd rather have taken down.

  11. Nazz
    No argument from me but that entire five album run with the Rumour is dynamite.

  12. Thanks again, and I'm most eager for part two.

    Meanwhile -- do you mind if I nab your Dylan/Parker photo for a post on my (brand-new!) music blog? I'll send a link when the post is up, and I'll credit MRML as where I found the pic.

  13. Oh yeah -- by the way, this is "Jeff" from the above post... forgot the handle changed when I made up an alias for the new bloggage.

  14. OK, I used the pic but will gladly take it down if you prefer. I also put your blog on my blogroll. Thanks!

  15. Hey Jeffen, I found that Palladium show at Wolfgang's Vault:

    Amazing sound + show. Also cool that GP himself may been around to witness your awesome tribute to him. And I'll echo your statement of gratitude to the man - there isn't much music out there that came close to meaning as much to me.

  16. Roy
    I threw up a link to WV stuff, hopefully the artists get a cut of the money. I was great to have GP (I think...) drop by, it's been a fun set of posts.


Thanks for clicking the COMMENTS link.
Now that you're here,I should mentions that
without reader feedback blogs slowly wither and die