Saturday, May 08, 2010

"Don't Ask Me Questions" / Graham Parker

The full Graham Parker Marathon isn't starting until next week, but I couldn't resist throwing this little teaser your way. It's an early track, from GP's first album Howlin' Wind -- which just happened to be produced by a fellow named Nick Lowe, whose former bandmates Brinsley Schwarz and Bob Andrews were part of the line-up of Parker's new band The Rumour. (It kills me how everybody seems to have known everybody else in those days when the pub rock scene was morphing into New Wave.)

Forget that stately intro -- once this song switches to its brisk reggae-soaked tempo it clips smartly along, as GP fires off a no-holds-barred diatribe at God. This is Graham Parker's other face, political and angry in a way that no other British New Wavers could match (even with Elvis Costello, it always seemed to stem more from personal grudge than from moral outrage). I think back to 1976, when this song first came out, and remember the super-charged politics of that era, with the Vietnam War barely over and the anti-war movement still revved up. Though Parker wasn't a punk rocker, as an East Londoner he must have been fueled by some of that same class resentment.

What a tight band this was, to keep this roller coaster rattling along. (Love those quivering guitar notes, dropped like bombs.) And talk about a cathartic song for a live performance -- those repeated "Hey Lord"'s just cry out for audience participation, preferably with a fist pumped in the air. This is where this guy started, for chrissake. I can't wait to see where he went from here.


wendy said...

How is it that I know all about Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson but nothing about Graham Parker? I've got a lot of poking around to do. I think I'll start a Graham Parker station on Pandora for starters.

Holly A Hughes said...

Good idea! I had the same reaction. At least I did know Squeezing Out Sparks, but how did the rest of his vast output escape my attention? And it is sooooooo good. I may start a Pandora station too -- I'll be interested to see what other bands they throw into the mix. (Probably Elvis and Joe Jackson!)

Alex said...

There's just so much great stuff in his back catalog.... and some of his more recent work has been completely amazing (if not as well-known).

This also reminds me that I need to actually get around to posting the Graham Parker post I've been sitting on for months... :)

Anonymous said...

Enjoy your discovery of GP - the best kept secret in the west.
The moral outrage in this song is strong and has been carried over in a great cover of this song by the DILI ALLSTARS (youtube it).
BTW GP not an east Londoner, but is from a village in Surrey 50 miles south west from London.

redinKC said...

You should try lastFM instead of Pandora. It seems to have a broader selection and more options, (you can skip any song, not just four and hour).

Holly A Hughes said...

Thanks for the lastFM tip. I hadn't done a comparative analysis. Pandora threw a few gems in my path I'd never have found otherwise, so if lastFM does even better, I'm eager to try it out.

Yeah, it makes sense to me he'd be from a Surrey village instead of East London. Of course, my East London references are mostly taken from Ian Dury -- I don't know how reliable a portrait that is! -- but GP does not seem like a hardcore urbanite. I do like the image of him working as a petrol station attendant before he got his first band going.