Angry old man
"The one thing I wish I'd known when I'd first started out?" said former Rumour frontman Graham Parker, laughing. "Well, maybe, that I'd be around for 30 years. I'd have stopped myself right then. It's bloody tiring! I can't believe I'm still doing this, tearing around the country, doing gigs! Why am I still doing this? I must be out of my mind!
"That's a bit of a flippant answer, but sometimes it is true," he quickly added. "Really, I think if I'd know how to sing when I'd first started, I could have enjoyed myself a lot more. When my professional career started, in 1975, I hadn't had years of legwork playing clubs. I basically came from nowhere, from the suburbs, and boom! I had a record deal. I just met the right people who knew I was good, and it all came together, and suddenly, I'm on stages playing in front of hip London audiences and stuff, who had never heard of me, and I didn't know how to sing, really. So I was like, screaming, and I'd lose my voice so many times and be on tour when I was a much more important act-you know, when I was ascending. And it was very depressing to be backstage going, 'Agh! I can't talk, I'm sorry, I have no voice now!' and then go on stage and sing! It was all throat - it was all screeching. Now that, funnily enough, dovetailed into what became punk, a year later, that whole extremely aggressive vocal style, which you'll hear on my early albums. And now, over the years, especially due to playing solo, I've learned to sing, and it's just something that's developed, and it's developed through doing it a lot."
Ironically, it was his scratchy, raspy voice that set him apart from the rest of the crooners the '70s. Perhaps, if he had known how to "sing," he would have disappeared in the annals of history as many pub rockers of his day did. It's kind of like when I talked to legendary guitarist Dave Alvin, formerly of the Blasters, a while ago, and all Alvin could talk about was how he wished he'd taken to time to get some guitar lessons before pursuing his career professionally. Would anyone know who Alvin was today if he hadn't just made winging it his trademark style? Who knows?
The wonderfully acerbic new album, "Songs of No Consequence" (Bloodshot Records), show that even with age, Parker's still not ready to pull any punches. On "Songs," he attacks just about all mainstream media venues as being tools of the government, big business, suburban living and popular culture in general. Perhaps the funniest song of all is the plaintive "Did Everybody Just Get Old?" where he accuses just about everybody in the world of selling out and "growing up," with the chorus of, "Play a little softer, will ya?/Those amplifiers'll kill ya." This upcoming free solo concert on Bastille Day will be one you do not want to miss.
Su July 17, 6 p.m. Brit's Pub, 1110 Nicollet Mall Free. 332-3908, www.britspub.com.
Hey, on a side note: First Avenue's Steve McClellan will be joining my father, Tom Day, as an instructor at St. Paul's McNally Smith College of Music. Good luck, Steve - you and my dad should get along just fine, so long as you don't drink, smoke, swear or drive a noisy Harley. Yeah, I'm predicting some awesome food fights in the cafeteria next semester.