Graham Parker (born Nov. 18, 1950) is an English New Wave/soul-rock singer and songwriter who released the popular 1976–79 albums Howlin’ Wind, Heat Treatment, Stick to Me, and Squeezing Out Sparks. His most popular songs include “Don’t Ask Me Questions,” “Heat Treatment,” “The Heat in Harlem,” “Local Girls,” and “Protection.” Up through his 1980 release The Up Escalator, he was backed by The Rumour, which also recorded as a separate entity. During the 1980s, he issued sporadic titles on Arista, Elektra, and RCA, scoring a hit with “Temporary Beauty” from his 1982 release Another Grey Area.
Parker was born in Hackney, East London, in 1950. At the outset of the beat boom, he formed The Deepcut Three (later The Black Rockers) with classmates from Chobham Secondary Modern School in Surrey. They mimicked the Beatles‘ look, but didn’t actually learn any instruments. By age 15, he was a major enthusiast of American Stax and Motown, attending soul dances in nearby Woking and Camberley, both R&B hotbeds at the time.
From age 16 to 21, he worked a series of jobs (animal virus research, ditch-digging) in England and on Guernsey in the Channel Islands, where he took up guitar and practiced finger picking. In 1971, he hitched through France, Spain, and Morocco, settling for a time on Gibraltar. While there, he gigged with a psych band called Pegasus, which he attempted to steer toward soul-rock under the name Terry Burbot’s Magic Mud.
Back in England, Parker pumped petrol and redoubled his efforts to form a band. Through a late-1974 ad in Melody Maker, he met Paul Riley, recently of Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers. Through Riley, Parker met Dave Robinson, ex-manager of Brinsley Schwarz and owner of a studio above the Hope & Anchor pub in Islington.
At Robinson’s studio, Parker demoed several originals, including “Between You and Me” and “Nothin’s Gonna Pull Us Apart.” The latter got an airing on the Charlie Gillett show “Honky Tonk” on BBC London 94.9, prompting interest from Phonogram. Robinson helped Parker find musicians for his backing band and linked him with musician/producer Nick Lowe, the former frontman of Brinsley Schwarz.
Parker’s backing band, The Rumour, included two ex-Brinsley’s, keyboardist Bob Andrews and namesake guitarist Brinsley Schwarz, plus rhythm guitarist Martin Belmont, bassist Andrew Bodnar, and drummer Steve Goulding. They were augmented at times by The Rumour Horns: trombonist Chris Gower (ex-Iguana), trumpeter Dick Hanson (ex-The Greatest Show on Earth), and saxophonists Ray Beavis and John “Irish” Earle (ex-Gnidrolog, Nine Days Wonder).
- Howlin’ Wind (1976)
- Heat Treatment (1976)
- Stick to Me (1977 • Graham Parker and the Rumour)
- Squeezing Out Sparks (1979)
- The Up Escalator (1980)
- Another Grey Area (1982)
- The Real Macaw (1983)
- Steady Nerves (1985 • Graham Parker and The Shot)
- The Mona Lisa’s Sister (1988)
- Human Soul (1989)
- Struck by Lightning (1991)
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