Everything feels a little shaky these days in the music business, but one thing rock ’n’ roll fans can rely on is that when smart, soulful singer/songwriter Graham Parker puts out a new album, it’s going to be good. Parker takes his inspiration wherever he finds it, and the genesis of his latest was a recent request for some TV theme music on spec:
“Last spring, my recently acquired publishing administrators sent me an e-mail from the music supervisors of an upcoming TV sitcom. They needed a ‘main title,’ otherwise known as a theme tune,” Parker says. “I’d never tried anything like this before but found myself intrigued by the idea of writing within a set of confines. Half-an-hour later, I had the tune and right away booked a nearby studio to record it. Foolishly, they turned it down, even though I’d nailed that sucker.
“Two weeks later, another request came along, and the same scenario repeated itself, this time with the added nuisance that the ‘Folks At The Top’ chose the most lame piece of work for the show you could possibly imagine. Enough of this, I thought, and went off to write treatments to my own imaginary TV shows.”
The liner notes to Imaginary Television include, in place of the typical lyric sheet, Parker’s invented TV plots and scenarios. This might sound a bit too cute, but cute doesn’t enter into it. It’s Graham Parker, after all, he of the arresting voice, the acerbic wit—the guy whose song “Soul Corruption” (on Live! Alone in America, 1989) includes the magnificently disproven lines “You think you’ll pull the trigger but you’re only a target/They’ll never let any nigger in/Why do you think it’s called the white house?” These well-crafted tunes stand on their own just fine, from the moving “Broken Skin” to the clever, catchy love song “1st Responder.”
Parker plays acoustic and lap steel guitars, banjo (and kazoo!) on this record, and is backed by a nice rock ’n’ roll combo that includes his producer/engineer, Professor “Louie” Hurwitz, on keyboards and accordion; and on drums/backing vocals, Mike Gent of The Figgs, who have often backed Parker in the studio and on the road.
Parker’s been around the block; his first album hit in 1976. It’s so great that he’s still making albums that satisfy his own creativity.
Producers: Graham Parker, Professor “Louie” Hurwitz. Recording Engineer: Hurwitz. Mixing Engineer: Seth Powell. Recording Studio: LRS (West Hurley, N.Y.). Mixing Studio: Soundcheck Republic (Chatham, N.Y.). Mastering: Toby Mountain/Northeastern Digital (Southboro, Mass.).