Thursday, May 14, 2015

"Lady Doctor" /
Graham Parker & The Rumour

Ah, the earworm gods have a logic all their own.  Why this song?  Why now?  There's no rhyme or reason -- but I am not complaining.

It's remarkable, really, that Graham Parker's sound was already so well-forged on Howlin' Wind, his 1976 debut album with The Rumour.  They still do this song in concert, and it sounds as fresh as ever -- that strolling bluesy beat, the loungey soul-infused syncopation, and Graham's trademark bit o' sass. It's not a message song, not a searing autobiographical statement, not a tender love song. It's just a swinging song that hits its mark, over and over again, and I wouldn't change a note of it.  

I'd like to believe there's a feminist note here -- in 1976, women physicians were still more the exception than the rule, and I'm sure back then there were people who refused to be treated by a female doctor. But the lady doctor that Graham's going to isn't entirely valued for her, er, medical ability. (After all, the refrain reminds us that "there ain't nothing wrong with me.") 

She's clearly a babe in a white coat, and his crush on her could so easily seem creepy. But that's one of the things I love about Graham Parker -- his unerring light touch, never crossing the line between cheekiness and bad taste.  The wink-wink puns are there  ("I went in with a heart burn," "be a patient patient") along with the euphemisms ("stretch right out on that couch," "get under the stethoscope") but his playful vocals make it clear he's just having fun. 

And the fun is infectious.

All the vintage soul signifiers are there -- the horn section, the sax solo, the sneaky guitar riffs, the lead singer's testifying drawl.  In 1976, no less, when the music scene was mostly folk rock and punk squaring off at each other, while heavy metal and prog rock hunkered in their caves.  But here's Graham Parker, on his very first album, mapping a new road, with The Rumour oh so ably driving the bus. What's not to love?

Thank you, earworm gods.


Richard Goldman said...

fun to hear this again - his vocal IS excellent -

Ton said...

Very happy to see (and hear) Graham releasing a new album with the Rumour - the same guys as here on Howlin' Wind - today. Nothing like old skool Parkerism.