The 67-year-old musician, whose new album hits stores
Interviewed by Cal Fussman in Esquire
've tried to have a regular haircut, but it just pops back up again, so this is the way it's going to be.
The lesson me mum taught me was "Eat all the food on your plate or your brothers are going to take it." She was always mindful of food, because the rationing continued even after the war years. I was the youngest. So it was: Make sure the little sparrow got his food.
I used to be embarrassed to sing "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" but people love it. So it's in the show.
It's true. I had all of my wives over one Christmas. I think all the children were here and they all asked for their mum, and it's hard to say no to your kids. And they probably all said to their mother, "Come up and see Dad." And how could their mothers say no? They all arrived around eleven o'clock on Christmas Day, and they all decided to stay. It was great. But it surely won't happen again, trust me.
There's a place on the Left Bank, in Paris, where I busked outside when I was younger and had absolutely nothing. I remember singing "Cocaine Blues" there. I went back with my wife a few years ago and there was a guy busking in the very same spot. He was playing guitar and had a hat in front of him, and he was singing "Tonight's the Night." He didn't know I was there. He didn't see me in the back. And I thought, How remarkable. Those are the wonderful I-really-have-made-it moments, you know?
Lyrics are coming to you all the time. I get inspiration in the middle of the night. You wake up and you think, Oh, I gotta write that down. You go back to bed and it happens again. Blimey! I gotta go write that down. So you're in and out of bed all the time. My wife must think I've got a prostate problem.
My father, being a Scotsman, taught me to look after finances. I'm shrewd. Some people may call me tight. My pal Ronnie Wood loves making jokes about it. "Tight as two coats of paint," he calls me. Tight as two coats of paint!
Unfortunately, the pubs are closing up. I think we're losing eight or nine a week all over the British Isles. Pubs will be nonexistent, I think, in about twenty years, apart from the ones that are part of the British heritage. But in the old days, there used to be a pub on every street corner. Some villages would have a church, a school, and twelve pubs. Times have changed, and it's very sad. Some of my happiest moments have been in pubs. Some of my most boisterous moments have been in public houses. Trousers 'round your ankles...ah, you can't beat it.
I've been working my ass off today just so I can get two and a half hours upstairs with my trains. Silly as it may be to other people, that's what's important to me. Have you got a hobby? Then you'll understand. It clears my mind. It's three-dimensional because the trains work, so there's the electrical, there's painting, and there's carpentry involved. I can go upstairs and work on my layout and the whole world can go fuck itself, you know? Every man needs that.
What I've learned over the years from my children, and improved on, is to become a better listener. I don't have to jump in and interrupt. I can sit back and listen to them -- which apparently I didn't used to do.
We don't want to use the word aging, do we? Better to say maturing.
I wasn't amused when I found out I had thyroid cancer. But if you're going to have a cancer, so they say, that's the one to have, because it's the easiest one to detect and the easiest one to operate on. It just took me forever to get the voice back, though, because they cut through the muscles, so therefore they cut through my memory. i was literally voiceless. It's like you've forgotten how to speak and sing.
Actually, the operation served me well. I know it sounds strange, but this operation took my voice a half step down. I couldn't sing as high, which is probably unnoticeable to most people. But it gave me depth. There's a warmth in my voice that wasn't there twenty-five years ago. When I listen to my Christmas album, I realize I gained when I nearly lost.
Is there anything that I'd like to do that I can't do? No. I can't think of anything.
After decades of cult adoration but scant commercial success, the British
By Melissa Maerz in Entertainment Weekly
t's a good thing that Graham Parker can take a joke. When the 62-year-old Brit agreed to appear in This Is 40, he knew he would be playing a semifictionalized version of himself, an aging rocker who's signed to an indie label run by Paul Rudd's character and who can't sell records anymore. But "aging rocker" is hardly the sum of Parker's résumé: He and his band the Rumour first emerged with 1976's Howlin' Wind, which captured punk's energy before the Sex Pistols and new wave's sharp lyricism before Elvis Costello. Since then, he's recorded with Bruce Springsteen, toured arenas with Blue Öyster Cult and Journey, and secured two spots on Rolling Stone's Greatest Albums of All Time list. Cut to a scene in 40,: Leslie Mann and Rudd are driving home from Parker's underattended "comeback" show when an ambulance speeds by. "The last of Graham Parker's fans just died!" Man exclaims.
Parker is the first to laugh. "I told Judd, Make me the mark!" he insists, picking at his calamari in a New York bar. Looking the part of a rock legend with his spiky white hair and aviator sunglasses, he says he relished an outtake where he worries about getting gout, then displays a photo of his aunt Queenie's swollen foot. "Making jokes about aged rock stars," he says, grinning wryly. "That's good." It helps that Apatow came to Parker as a fan. Having grown up in the record industry -- his grandfather's label, Mainstream Records, released Janis Joplin's first album -- Apatow calls himself a "music obsessive," and notes that he used Parker's 1979 single "Love Gets You Twisted" in the finale of his TV show Undeclared. For this role, he was considering Joe Jackson until a friend pointed him to Parker's blog, which mentioned that the rocker was hoping to place his music in more movies. "It said, 'Are you listening, Judd Apatow?'" the director tells Entertainment Weekly. "I took it as a sign."
By coincidence, two weeks before Apatow called, Parker asked if the Rumour might consider reuniting. (The band broke up in 1980, when Parker says they'd plateaued: "I didn't want to sit around desperately thinking of how to make it big.") They had just booked a studio when Apatow asked if they'd perform their first show in more than 30 years on the set of This Is 40. "All of their children came," remembers Apatow. "Most of them had never seen the band perform, so it was a very emotional thing for them to witness. For Parker, it was the perfect gig: "The extras clapped for everything. They're extras -- they've got to like it!" When the band talked about old times, Apatow stuck around. "I wanted to know who took drugs, and who went crazy," he admits. "I heard someone say, 'He pushed me out of a moving car!' It was the '70s."
These days, real life might be even better. Last month, Graham Parker & the Rumour released Three Chords Good and kicked off a reunion tour. "What's funny is that he's playing a guy who's not doing very well, but he has a highly acclaimed record and sold-out shows," says Apatow. "It's the inverse of the movie." Parker claims that young people think "Graham Parker" is just a movie character. But that's okay; he's got a new dream now: "That I get so many acting parts, I can lock up my guitars forever." He smiles. "I'm exaggerating slightly. I'm not giving up my day job."
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