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Rumour Has It You Can Go Back Home

Graham Parker reunites old back-up band after 31 years apart

The late Thomas Wolfe once wrote that you can’t go home again but apparently Graham Parker wasn’t listening. The English singer-songwriter reunited with his old band The Rumour after 31 years apart and in the process recorded Three Chords Good, a dozen songs that hit on disparate topics ranging from abortion to Afghanistan’s failed foreign policy. Not unlike Elvis Costello’s Attractions, The Rumour are the kind of well-oiled machine that were a hand-in-glove compliment to Parker’s crisp and cutting songwriting and were, not coincidentally, co-conspirators in creating some of his best work. What has become one of this year’s more anticipated reunions initially started out as a joke by Steve Goulding, the band’s drummer, who was brought aboard to work on the new album along with Rumour bassist Andrew Bodnar.

“[I’d mentioned wanting] to do something different and Steve made a joke about [getting together with] the rest of the band,” Parker explained. “I foolishly emailed them and he was just making a joke and that’s all it was. It wasn’t something thought through. There were no mercenary tactics. I didn’t really feel that it was any big deal until I’d done it. Then I realized that it is quite a big deal after 30-plus years actually. So I scrambled and got a studio and got my engineer/co-producer Dave Cook, who I’ve worked with before, and got it all booked because I had to strike while the iron was hot, otherwise I would have started thinking about it and worrying.”

As if getting Goulding, Bodnar, Brinsley Schwarz, Martin Belmont and Bob Andrews together to record for the first time in three plus decades  wasn’t heady enough, filmmaker Judd Apatow came calling. A longtime Graham Parker fan, the Syosset native was working on This Is 40, a quasi Knocked Up sequel starring Paul Rudd and Apatow’s wife Leslie Mann reprising their roles as Paul and Debbie. With Rudd’s character playing a record label owner with an artist stable consisting mostly of acts from the ’70s and ’80s that have been relegated to indie imprints, Apatow decided Graham Parker would perfectly fit that musical role. While Parker was a fan of the filmmaker thanks to the show Undeclared and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, this all wound up being part of a series of events that the normally cynical singer-songwriter found to be an odd set of circumstances.

“That was another strange stroke [of luck] because he contacted me about a week after The Rumour had agreed to do the album. Not after we had done the album, but way before we’d done the album—after I got off the phone with them really,” Parker recalled. “Then Apatow gets a hold of me. So I met with him and [after] he gave me this vague outline about this movie, I told him that I’d just gotten The Rumour back on board and that we were going to be doing an album in July. He said they started filming in August. Judd called me back a week after our meeting and said he wanted me in this movie acting as myself and he wanted The Rumour for a two-day shoot and he would fly them into Hollywood.”

And while the idea of pop stars attempting to act was something of an  anathema to Parker’s beliefs (“pop singers shouldn’t be acting just as much as actors shouldn’t be pop singing unless it’s Jeff Bridges. Jeff Bridges can juggle and that’s okay”), he nonetheless told Apatow that anyone could do it, it would be this cheeky Brit.

“Judd sort of laughed, felt I was insane and [while] I don’t know what he thought, he hired me anyway,” Parker said before adding, “I did a lot of walk-throughs. I was on a set for two weeks, basically just watching great actors working and feeling intimidated, but enjoying the free lunches very, very much. It was awesome and the treatment that I got was fabulous. People treated me as an equal and a friend. It was very, very good.”

Acting is just the latest creative hat Graham Parker has doffed. Along with writing songs, he is the author of Carp Fishing On Valium, a collection of stories originally published by St. Martin’s Press back in 2001. Created during the five-year lull in recording that Parker had in the late ’90s and early 2000s, he recently reacquired the rights to it and is getting reading to reissue it for Kindle with an additional two pieces that didn’t make the original cut. But despite the activity going on in this part of the Graham Parker Empire, he admits his return to being a published author might have to wait.

“To me, if you’ve got a bunch of songs, you’re looking at a year of development and possible release in that year if you’re lucky and everything else that goes with it. I think I’m going to have to take a break from writing songs at some point and look into the fiction thing again. But I may be quite older when I do that because it seems as if my day job is going pretty well at the moment,” he explained with a chuckle. “It may be one shot with me and The Rumour. I don’t know. I have no plans. I don’t plan ahead really. I’m confused enough as it is.”

Graham Parker and The Rumour will be appearing on Saturday, Dec. 1 at the New York Society for Ethical Culture (2 West 64th St. @ Central Park West, New York/212-814-5210/www.nysec.org) and with Ian Hunter on Sunday, Dec. 2 at The Paramount (370 New York Ave., Huntington). For more information, please call 631-673-7300 or visit www.paramountny.com