Thursday, May 13, 2010

Imagination Working: Graham Parker's Imaginary Television

Graham Parker’s emergence on the late 70s music scene was perfect timing, except for the arrival of Elvis Costello. While all the attention went, and deservedly so to Costello, Parker worked twice as hard to find his way into the so-called, New Wave music generation. He formed one of the finest bands anywhere called The Rumour and proceeded to release a series of albums full of angst, humour and social consciousness. One of the best albums of the 70s was Parker's debut Howlin' Wind (1976), helmed by Nick Lowe just prior to his producing Costello’s My Aim Is True. Whether Lowe was trying to get a similar sound for Costello I’ll leave to your ears. To me, he was, but that has more to do with Lowe’s style as opposed to a “Nick Lowe Sound” per se. Nevertheless Graham Parker & The Rumour earned the love and respect of fans looking for rock ‘n roll music with a difference.

I’m happy to report that Imaginary Television, while light-years away from Howlin' Wind, is everything a fan of Graham Parker would like: great lyrics; great musical hooks and the sound of an older, yet vibrant, singer with still something significant to say. Imaginary Television is a collection of songs dedicated to telling stories based on TV show descriptions. Naturally all of these descriptions are fiction, but full of Parker’s carefully articulated wit. My favourite is “Always Greener” which is the story of a couple whose marriage of 10 years is coming to an end because Muffy needs to travel the world to find herself, as Parker relents, the “grass is always greener” no matter what you believe about yourself. His cover of Johnny Nash’s song shows a lot of wisdom. It’s called, “More Questions Than Answers.” As you read the description and listen to the accompanying song you realize than Parker is playing a bit of a joke on us. Rather than reveal anything about himself, he writes songs about fictional people. Perhaps that’s why Parker is still making solid music today. His world is as imaginary as the television world itself and that’s always a treat.

-- John Corcelli is an actor, musician, writer, broadcaster and theatre director.

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