Friday, August 6, 2010

Using Graham Parker for Evil, Not For Good

Sometimes, it's impossible to look at a record objectively.

It's only now that people are starting to be able to evaluate John Lennon's Double Fantasy without the enormous sadness they felt at his death.

If you associate a certain album (or even a certain song) with a strong enough event than you might never be able to hear it without thinking of that event.

And so I confess (looking back after many years), that I used Graham Parker (or more specifically the album Another Grey Area) for evil, not good. I'm not particularly proud of this fact... but it is what it is.

So although Parker has made better albums, this one will always hold a special place in my heart.

To add a bit of context, Another Grey Area appeared long after Parker established himself as a legendary pub rocker (albeit with twitchy punk/new wave leanings), released an absolute masterpiece, jumped labels (with the nastiest kiss-off ever to a record company), and pumped out a slick attempt at superstardom.

Eventually, Parker would pass through all the major record labels, none of whom could make him a superstar. Eventually people would realize superstardom wasn't in the cards for Parker (which alone should prove to you we live in an unjust world). But back in 1982, Arista still believed they could do what Mercury couldn't (or wouldn't) -- and it seemed like Parker was mere months (or maybe even weeks) away from being a household name. So Parker jettisoned the Rumour (his longtime backing band) and enlisted the help of producer Jack Douglas (Double Fantasy) and studio vets including Nicky Hopkins and Hugh McCracken.

And the songs? You tell me.

To this day, I still can't listen objectively... and I'll tell you why after this video where ice sculptures get decimated.

It ended badly. I won't give you details, but it ended badly.

She was working as a waitress and I'd think of the opening of Warren Zevon's "Lawyers, Guns, and Money" whenever I'd go see her. I'd overtip her on small checks, thinking to myself "I went home with the waitress, the way I always do." And how was I to know she was with the Russians too?

Anyway, she was sneaking around with her ex-boyfriend while she was stringing me along. I found out. And was heartbroken.

Because I somehow got it in my head that we were meant to be together.

And she moved on. Quickly. Because that's what she did.

And I moped around. For months. Because that's what I did.

I could tell you we were both very young. I could give you all sorts of proof why we were a bad match, citing psychological factors from our childhoods. But I won't. I'll just say it ended badly.

And that should have been it.

Except for the dream.

I was at a Graham Parker concert. Just in front of the stage. The show was amazing. Rock and roll that scorched your heart. And then, mid-song, he waved off the band, stopped the music, stepped forward, tipped his ever-present sunglasses down on his nose.

And looking right at me, the Dream Graham Parker said: "Stop moping about. If you want her back, get her back."

Smart man, that Dream Graham Parker.

The next day, I was in a used record store. And there between the Dolly Parton and a Ray Parker, Jr. albums was a Graham Parker record I'd never heard before called Another Grey Area. Remembering the dream, I bought the album. Took it back to my dorm room and forgot about it for a week.

When I finally listened to it, I was hooked. Every song reminded me of her. "Temporary Beauty" made me think of a conversation we had where I argued that she didn't need to wear a lot of makeup or look like everyone else and she got mad and said she did because she didn't think she was beautiful.

"Another Grey Area" reminded me of how stubbornly she refused to label relationships (and how desperately I wanted our relationship labeled).

And on and on. The entire record just spoke to me.

I need to tell you that I never thought the songs were about her. Or that they were written for me.

I knew that wasn't the case. That would have been crazy.

But every song spoke to me. That was just obsessive. (Yeah, it's a fine line, but one I insist on drawing.)

And I overlayed my emotions onto the songs. And gradually, I developed a plan.

Remembering the album, I bought the dream.

And Dream Graham Parker was right. I was going to stop moping around. And get her back. And I'll tell you how that went tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Cliffhanger... or trainwreck-in-action? Enquiring minds, etc!

Sean said...

Sometimes you feel like pouring it all out, huh?

Holly A Hughes said...

Funny how that GP can tap into your heart like that. He's still doing it to me.

BTW these filmmakers have made a film (duh -- that's what filmmakers make, is film) about Graham Parker, and they're trying to raise money to finish it. Only a few thou left to go! Check it out here:

asiangrrl said...

Oooooh, cliffhanger! Good thing I didn't see this yesterday and only clicked on the link from part two so now I don't have to wait. I have to say, in Temporary Beauty, Parker reminds me strongly of Elvis Costello.

And, as I have told you many times, I love your stories about your past relationships.

Holly A Hughes said...

FYI the filmmakers reached their donation target -- so this Graham Parker film is actually going ahead. Yahoo!! Can't wait to see it.

Alex said...

That is great news, Holly!

(And thanks again for originally bringing this movie to my attention.)