He was never a punk rocker and was already around too long to be part of the “New Wave,” but marketing is marketing and that’s how much of the world came to discover Graham Parker. By his 1979 breakthrough album, “Squeezing Out Sparks,” Parker had been recording with his trusted band The Rumour featuring Martin Belmont, Brinsley Schwarz, Andrew Bodnar, Bob Andrews and Steve Goulding for several years, and had classic albums like “Howlin’ Wind” (1976), “Heat Treatment” (1976) and “Stick To Me (1977) under his belt. But like fellow journeymen Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds and Elvis Costello, the music machine had to put them somewhere, so new wave, punk rockers they became. “Sparks” was Parker’s most consistent album and it benefitted by the promotion that accompanied a label change in America from Mercury to Clive Davis’ Arista imprint. By the recording of Parker’s second album for Arista, “The Up Escalator” from 1980, Bob Andrews was out of the band and members of the E Street Band (including Bruce Springsteen) participated in the recording sessions which were helmed by producer Jimmy Iovine. “Escalator” would also be the first album credited to just Graham Parker. The record was his highest charting album, but was not as well received as his previous release. Here’s a live version of the album’s signature track from the now-defunct TV show “Fridays.” Throughout the 1980s and to the present, numerous albums on numerous record labels including Elektra, RCA, Atlantic, Capitol, Razor & Tie and Chicago’s own Bloodshot Records (where he’s recorded his last several albums) have been met with declining sales, but no decline in quality of performance and songwriting. In fact, Parker’s releases over the last ten years have been his best yet.
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