Contrary to the revisionist history we are often fed, 1977 was not merely some kind of NME/Sounds battleground with ‘punks and hippies’ slugging it out via two falls and a mellotron.
Going back an astonishing 42 years, making some of us who were, if not ‘angry young men’ at the time then at least ‘mildly irritated teenagers’, feel very old, it’s worth reminding ourselves that, contrary to the revisionist history we are often fed, 1977 was not merely some kind of NME/Sounds battleground with ‘punks and hippies’ slugging it out via two falls and a mellotron. No indeed, in actual fact there was a healthy middle ground of no-nonsense high-octane rock as defined by the definitely-not-punk-but-thanks-for-asking likes of Dr Feelgood, Eddie And The Hot Rods, Steve Gibbons Band and the mob we are looking at here, Graham Parker and his backing band The Rumour.
Plucked from the UK pub-rock circuit in 1977, and including Brinsley Schwarz from the band of the same name on guitar, The Rumour’s rough-around-the-edges grit fitted perfectly with Parker’s slightly snarling, full-tilt rocking R&B voice and songs to create perhaps the nearest thing to a ramshackle UK variant of Little Feat, with a strong twist of Van Morrison squeezed in there by Parker, in whom the old Belfast Cowboy’s influence was unmistakeable. This album, recorded and broadcast by Radio Trent in 1977, provides a pretty good window into the Rumour’s tempestuous live show, accompanied as they often were by the ‘Rumour Horns’ horn section.
overall it’s a great sounding and well worthwhile document of a band at their live peak
Of course, there is already a live document of this period, three albums into Parker’s career, with the official three-sided live album The Parkerilla a definitive document which was never going to be replaced by this, but we do have here a very worthy accompaniment. Recorded some months before The Parkerilla (which also included the studio reworking of live favourite Don’t Ask Me Questions, retitled Hey Lord, Don’t Ask Me Questions and amped-up into a hit), the setlist here is drawn mainly from the first two albums (Howlin’ Wind and Heat Treatment) with the odd dip into the third album Stick To It and the Pink Parker EP, so it’s just too early for the landmark Squeezing Out Sparks album, but still a great early selection for the hardcore Parker enthusiast. Classics like Fools Gold, Gypsy Blood, Pouring It All Out, Silly Thing and Soul Shoes are all present, as are the aforementioned Don’t Ask Me Questions and the unlikely yet definitive reworking of The Trammps’ Hold Back The Night.
The sound is as good as you would expect from a Radio broadcast, though being seemingly a soundboard recording it is a little short on audience noise and live atmosphere. One or two songs, such as Gypsy Blood and Heat Treatment, are also a little restrained compared to the classic Parkerilla versions, but overall it’s a great sounding and well worthwhile document of a band at their live peak. There are also six tracks not on Parkerilla so (despite the unfortunate omission here of the peerless Heat In Harlem) there’s more than value for money on this one.
If you’re of that generation, like me, then go Back To School Days and grab this one. Don’t Ask Me Questions – just do it!