Masochist that I am, I had to tune into the broadcast, last month, of the recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. I don’t care how fond you are of this crop of inductees; even the staunchest backer would secretly concede that the air is getting rather thin in Cleveland. OK, OK, no names.
My disenchantment deepened when I recalled that Graham Parker & The Rumour, one of the great, great rock and roll bands of all-time, was still perched on the outside looking in: Parker & The Rumour occupy a sacred place in rock and roll history, you see. They preceded the Sex Pistols, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, and Talking Heads, among others. The Clash hadn’t quite hit yet, either, when Parker’s first two sensational albums, Howling Wind and Heat Treatment, came into the waiting world in 1976.
The albums — and the flock that followed, through 1980 — had it all: poetry, great singing, fabulous backing musicians and a hard-rocking sound. This was not the typical 1970s warbling that you heard so often on the radio — this was the spirit of men who loved to rock and had something to say…a rare and inspiring combination.
Alas, the band succumbed to the iron-clad rule of rock and roll that goes: “Great Bands Must Break Up Well Before Their Time.” So, Parker parted company with The Rumour, following a 1980 album. Then, magically, they re-formed in 2012, in time to make it into Judd Apatow’s film, “This Is 40.”
Voila! They cut a new record and did a nifty tour.
They played again at the Highline in Manhattan, on June 13. I was there, and I am filing this report:
There was a definite health danger on view at the Highline Ballroom on June 13. Hundreds of baby boomers were notably in danger of suffering pulled muscles (or worse) as Graham Parker & The Rumour rocked the hall.
They were in terrific form on stage, prompting many of the follicle-challenged members of the audience to try to pogo like it was 1979. Who could blame them? GP & The Rumour were — and are today — one of the most exciting bands around, boasting two excellent guitars — Martin Belmont and Brinsley Scharz; pounding keyboardist, Bob Andrews; and a rock-steady rhythm in Andrew Bodnar on bass and Steve Goulding on drums. Parker played guitar, too, but I liked it better when he didn’t and did what he does better than almost anyone: sing rock and roll songs. He sounded as great as ever and so did the band… a remarkable achievement.
While it is fun to see your favorite rock and roll stars back on stage, what separates this from a reunion tour by the Eagles or Fleetwood Mac is that the band still rocks and it still “plays for the punters,” as a disc jockey on WNEW-FM put it during a radio concert on May 11, 1979 from the Palladium in New York.
I doubt that this band’s members got rich from playing at the Highline, which seems to accommodate about 700 people. But the joy in their faces as they tore through “Stick to Me,” “Nobody Hurts You,” “Love Gets You Twisted,” Howling Wind,” and “Soul Shoes,” to name a few — as well as terrific songs from their new album, Mystery Glue — made for a special show.
That they are appearing on stage at all is pretty improbable. This was a well-recognized band that took, oh, a three-decade hiatus from playing together.
But, just as they showed during their 2012 comeback tour, the guys have still got It. They sounded fine. Parker’s powerful voice had not suffered any wear and tear. Topping it off, the fellows seemed to be having a ball together on stage. It was nice to see.
All of which begs the question: Why aren’t Graham Parker & The Rumour in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame yet?
Yes, yes, the Hall of Fame is a silly, bizarre concept — to build a glitzy house to celebrate rock and roll, a form of popular music that used to get practitioners arrested.
And I understand all of the sober arguments about Parker’s exclusion. He came a year too early! He never had that one spectacular radio song. He sneered at everyone. He was not always the nicest bloke in the room. They played something the critics decided to call “pub-rock,” whatever that was.
It doesn’t matter anymore. Just induct GP & The Rumour already. Right a wrong.
They deserve it. It’s no rumor.