Tag Archives: The Rumour

T.G.I.F. – Back To Schooldays

I don’t have to anymore, thankfully…

But September, and especially this weekend, brings the official end to summer and the start of the school year. (Feel free to substitute the word “football season” if you are a childless male past the age of eighteen.)

Music has always captured the essence of every emotion and occurence in our lives, and there certainly are many anthems that document the drudgery and celebrate the rebellion and pinpoint the pain. Many of these are obvious, although “School’s Out” will have to wait for June! And I didn’t want to go to hardcore teenage angst like Big Star‘s “Thirteen” and Ultimate Fakebook‘s “A Million Hearts” (an under-known classic!).

So as you hopefully are preparing for a safe and happy holiday, here are Ten Tunes to take you Back To Schooldays!

01 – “Schooldays” (The Kinks)

02 – “Be True To Your School” (The Beach Boys)

03 – “Back To Schooldays” (Graham Parker)

04 – “Hot For Teacher” (Van Halen)

05 – “My Old School” (Steely Dan)

06 – “School Days” (Chuck Berry)

07 – “School Days” (The Good Rats)

08 – “Teacher Teacher” (Rockpile)

09 – “High School Confidential” (Jerry Lee Lewis)

10 – “Rock and Roll High School” (The Ramones)

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Happy Birthday, Elvis Costello

Miracle Man.

Today we celebrate the birthday of one Declan MacManus, better known to the world as Elvis Costello, among other aliases over the years. Bursting onto the scene with what is arguably the best ever 1-2-3 punch of albums (My Aim Is True, This Year’s Model and Armed Forces), Elvis quickly grabbed your attention with short catchy songs, a rapier wit and his secret weapon, The Attractions.

For as good as this sneering, scrawny Buddy Holly caricature was – and he was great – Steve Nieve on keys, Bruce Thomas on bass and Pete Thomas (no relation) on drums were as formidable a rock band as you could hope for. They weren’t as spacial as The Police would become, nor were they thunderous like the then-still powerful Who, but they were so tight you couldn’t slip an ant’s ass hair through them.

But before Elvis Costello and The Attractions became one, it all started with an iconic debut; tracks laid down with session musicians who weren’t initially credited, total recording time adding up to less than one day.

People listen to records differently these days, especially if they are digital downloads. No tactile sensation of an album cover, liner notes, lyric sheets. Earbuds instead of walls of speakers. Sigh.

I remember the day my friend Phil showed up at my house with My Aim Is True; import version, of course. My roommate Larry and another friend were already hanging in the living room, music on as always. We had heard about the album coming out that day and planned to go grab it in a couple of hours. Phil was no procrastinator; he snagged it and came over where he knew there would be other willing participants to share the magic with. (Yet another earbud problem – isolation instead of the communal experience).

It was astonishing.

Two of the songs didn’t even hit the two-minute mark. The opening rocker “Welcome To The Working Week” somehow jammed a boatload of hooks, wry lyrics and choruses into a minute in a half; “Mystery Dance” sputtered and tumbled much like the clumsy lover the narrative depicted. There was fury and sarcasm, and there was great wit and wordplay, and the band (preAttractions musicians from Clover and The Rumour, among others) snapped everything to attention.

And maybe it was because it stood out with its winsome melody and broken heart, but “Alison” was an instant classic. The chink in the armor was there for all to see; this snarling wise-ass had feelings after all. When not long after I heard him nail this live it sent chills up my spine.

We were gobsmacked; I can’t tell you how many times we played this album over and over and over that day. It was all we would talk about with friends for days after, and whenever someone came over that album would come out and they would get indoctrinated. Not long afterwards some friends in a band worked up three of his songs so that I could duck out from tending bar and play lead singer for ten minutes. (We were the first Syracuse band to play Elvis Costello songs, and yes, I’m proud of that!)

Of course, Costello continued to floor us with one great album after another, and thanks to him and Rockpile and Graham Parker and Joe Jackson there was a new, fresh volley of literate songwriters serving up an alchemic stew of influences and flushing the distaste of disco and flaccid pop out of our ears. 

The trend wouldn’t last of course – none do – but the music proved timeless. On Friday I’ll celebrate Costello’s career with an Elvis-themed TGIF.

And yes, I know that today is also the birthday of Gene Simmons, Ruby Keeler, Tim Burton, Rob Halford, Wayne Shorter, Walt Kelly (Pogo), Regis Philbin and several others…as well as the tenth anniversary of Jack Nitzsche‘s death and the first for Ted Kennedy. But today, I must honor the Elvis who has been a part of my musical life for over three decades.

No offense, Mr. Presley.

Elvis Costello  wiki page

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Today also marks the 35th anniversary of Born To Run, when a talented performer, a crack band, a savvy manager and an all-too-eager mainstream press joined hands to crown the new King of rock and roll. Bruce Springsteen has since earned every jewel in that crown and then some, but it’s yet another reminder of how fractured the entertainment industry has become. It’s no longer possible to make the stars align on that kind of scale, and with very few exceptions, those things never happened organically.

But that can’t and won’t tarnish the memory of a time when it seemed like a blue-collar bar room rocker grabbed the brass ring and pulled down the whole damned curtain with it. Rock concerts would never be the same.

Could that really have been thirty-five years ago?

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Graham Parker Film – Home Stretch

I was angry too, back then.

Passion is no ordinary word. 

Last month, I wrote about the Kickstarter effort to raise funds for the Graham Parker documentary Don’t Ask Me Questions. The response has been tremendous and the goal is within reach. 

However, the premise of Kickstarter is that if the goal is not attained, none of the pledge money goes through. 

With one week to go, the producer still needs only a small amount – roughly six hundred dollars a day. That’s a dozen fifty dollar bids, twenty people pledging thirty dollars. In other words, it’s right there in front of us

Please consider a donation if you haven’t done so, but more importantly please pass the word along to friends who might be able to join the effort. 

Here’s the direct link to the Kickstarter page – and Michael Gramaglia has posted two new clips from the film for your dining and dancing pleasure. 

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Graham Parker Film!

 

Well, it’s about damned time! 

Don’t Ask Me Questions is a new documentary film about Graham Parker being brought to life by Michael Gramaglia, who co-produced and co-directed the wonderful Ramones film End of the Century

I doubt I have to explain to the regulars here who Graham Parker is…how he burst upon the US scene in 1976 with not one but two five-star albums (Howlin’ Wind and Heat Treatment). Or how three years later Squeezing Out Sparks was lauded by most critics as the best rock album of the year. How thirty-five years after his first splash he continues to write, record and perform some of the most intelligent, passionate, and literate rock’n’roll on the planet. 

But for the sake of convenience, here’s a link to a couple of hundred song clips that should seal the deal for any of you scratching your head. There are enough collections and best-ofs to fill a shelf, but don’t sell yourself short. Start at the beginning if you must, but work your way through his incredible catalogue and hear the albums in their entirety. You’ll find wonderment galore, from classics like  “Soul Shoes“, “Discovering Japan” and “Temporary Beauty” to recent gems like “She Swallows It” and “You’re Not Where You Think You Are“. 

I was angry too, back then.

I’ve seen Graham Parker perform many times over the years and have had the great pleasure of interviewing him for a magazine feature. He’s as powerful a presence with an acoustic guitar and his sardonic wit as he is backed by the fire of The Rumour and The Figgs. Once he was lumped together with Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson (and for some of us, John Hiatt) as one of rock’n’roll’s “Angry Young Men“. Now, older and wiser, he’s aged like fine wine. Here indeed is a man who spent a career putting art before commerce, passion before trend and substance before flavor. 

Now, finally, the Graham Parker story…on film

 

From the website“A modern troubadour, Graham releases new music almost on a yearly basis, while touring small clubs around the country to a die hard fan base…The film documents the history of his independent spirit and defiant optimism, celebrates the sincerity of his music and delights in his self-deprecating wit.” 

Interviewed in the film are Martin Belmont, Steve Goulding, Bob Andrews, Nick Lowe, Joe Jackson, Dave Robinson, Ian Hunter, Pete Thomas, Black Francis, Jesse Malin, The Figgs, Meg Griffin and Alan Pepper, among others. 

The project has been in the works for four years and is available for the general public to financially participate in the production at varying levels through the Kickstarter website. This is the same method that enabled the recent Kinks film Do It Again to get off the ground, and as a proud participant in both efforts I can vouch for the process. 

It’s not cheap to assemble a quality documentary film, especially when you have to secure rights to footage and audio and do it the right way. A project like this really hits home for me; it’s the type of thing I would do if I had the time and the money…and the guts

But someone is doing it. And he needs a hand. The pledge drive continues through the Summer; there’s a long way to go but a very reasonable target to aim for. Contribute if you can, but at least spread the word far and wide

Don’t Ask Me Questions official site . Great promo clip!

Graham Parker official website. Mecca!

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