It was one of the great events of rock in 2012, the reunion of Graham Parker & The Rumour (“G.P. and the R,” as Parker called them at their sold-out show Dec. 1 at the Ethical Culture Center), and at the recent Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) conference at the New York Hilton, talent buyers were excited to see new dates posted following their brief November/December Northeast tour coinciding with the release of their acclaimed reunion album Three Chords Good and appearance in big fan Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up spin-off This Is 40.
GP&R, who bridged English pub rock and new wave with such landmark 1970s albums as Howlin’ Wind and Heat Treatment, will head out again on April 5 for another round of dates starting in Bethlehem, Pa., at the Musikfest Theater, and ending April 21at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Va. They’re back in New York on April 14, this time at the Grammercy Theatre.
As he noted on his website’s “The Thoughts of Chairman Parker” page, the first reunion tour was not “about touring for touring’s sake, or about making money (a six piece band with three crew members…staying in hotels? This costs money!), but we felt we had to get out there for a short while at least and be a part of the This Is 40 entourage.”
It went so well that he and the band (keyboardist Bob Andrews, guitarists Brinsley Schwarz and Martin Belmont, bassist Andrew Bodnar and drummer Stephen Goulding) have responded in the positive to heavy concertgoer—and agency–desire for more.
Were you always planning on doing more dates with GP&R?
I don’t enjoy the word “plans” much. I have vague feelings about things, then foolishly mention them to my booking agent! Never mention vague ideas about maybe doing a few more gigs with your band in front of your agent, or the next thing you know he’ll send a list of interested venues. Still, it gets me out of the house I suppose.
You hadn’t played with The Rumour in three decades. How did those first gigs last year go?
We really did have a good time on stage. It was quite something to be playing with these guys again, especially in the theater environment. We had plenty of room and most of the time could hear each other. It’s the audience reactions that really gives you the kick, though, and they were all great.
The reaction at the Ethical Culture Center in New York was incredible, for sure. Did anything surprise you?
I was impressed with our discipline: We kept the tempos in the realms of the musical instead of panicking and rushing things and turning it into an assault. Even on the first gig, we kept control and concentrated on bringing out the swing and the soul of the songs. That’s a major achievement after the butchery of our early days.
Butchery? There’s a word never heard in these parts when considering GP&R! But was it difficult picking up where you guys left off?
Right away, in the studio recording the new album, we had the same interactive symbiosis that we had in the beginning! It’s just one of those combinations of musicians that works very well. Same goes for [performing] live, I guess.
Was it difficult writing the new material for the reunion album?
I just wrote a batch of songs in the same way as I always do without thinking much about a backing band. Then when the Rumour thing popped into my head and everyone agreed to it, I had a few jolts of panic, wondering if the tunes were right for the band–but of course we recorded 13 songs in 9 days so any doubts were groundless.
What about performing them live?
Bringing the new songs on to the stage was a breeze! They’re all good so what could the problem be?
Ha! Indeed! But what about teaching the guys some of your non-Rumour songs?
Well, that was a little odd. There was one that I picked, “Brand New Book,” that we played maybe twice on the tour–but I don’t think it really suited us, so we quietly let it slip. Others were fine, like “Start A Fire.” I think it’s something that is really hit-or-miss because they didn’t play them in the first place, and unlike the new songs, which in demo form were just me and a guitar, they didn’t build them from the ground up.
Understood that you don’t like the word “plans,” but do you have any future plans with The Rumour?
My agent is working on some more gigs in April, about three weeks to coincide with the release of the This Is 40 DVD. I can’t look any further than that because already I’m looking at the usual logistics problems of doing a tour. It keeps one occupied completely! Working out a touring schedule and the travel arrangements and rehearsal time and place, etc., is so tiresome it’s not funny. Still, I’ll try and relax and dump as much as possible on the tour manager!
What about This Is 40, the movie? Did you like it? Would all this have happened without it?
Well, the movie offer came after the band was committed to making a record, so it had nothing to do with that. But it did affect the release date and the tour. The movie was being held till December, 2012, because it was deemed a bad idea to put it out in the summer with all those superhero films coming out. So even though we recorded the album in July, 2011, we had to hold it till November, 2012, in order to maximize the connection.
And this affected the tour.
And so the tour had to happen just as the album was coming out and just before the movie came out. I mean, we all wanted to be in L.A. for the premiere, too, so we based the routing around that and it worked.
And your thoughts on the movie?
I thought Judd made a great leap forward with this movie. I can’t tell you how lucky I feel to be part of it. And to have it coincide with a Rumour reunion? Priceless.
What else is happening for GP?
The Gramaglia Brothers [producers of the documentary End Of The Century—The Story Of The Ramones] have basically finished the Graham Parker documentary Don’t Ask Me Questions, bar a few edits here and there.
It’s about time, but surely well worth the wait!
It’s only taken 14 years! It has lots of new footage added of us in the studio making Three Chords Good and also interviews with the likes of Judd Apatow and Paul Rudd. The Bruce Springsteen interview alone is worth the price of admission: He says some very profound things about my work that I’ve never even thought about before! He is one great artist, and more importantly, one great fellow.
Any new releases?
The soundtrack for This Is 40 is out containing some great music and artists, including a song I wrote called “What Do You Like?” with Punch Brothers backing me.
What about your prose?
My short story collection Carp Fishing On Valium has been reissued on both E-book and hard copy. Grahamparker.net is the place to find the links.
[The Examiner wrote the CD liner notes to Graham Parker–Ultimate Collection (2001).]
Subscribe to my snaptwig.com pages and follow me on Twitter @JimBessman!