Parker had been kicking around the dying U.K. pub scene since the early-'70s, doing Stones and Beatles covers by night and working a day job where he bred mice for lab experiments. After a demo tape made it to David Robinson, the president of the new indie label, Stiff Records, Parker got signed primarily on the strength of his songwriting. Stiff moved him up to Mercury Records and helped him assemble an ace backing band made up of top session players and former members of Ducks Deluxe and the Brinsley Schwarz Band (both leading pub acts at the time).
Parker had emerged from the thriving London pub scene with 1976's Howlin' Wind album. The record was critically acclaimed globally, but especially by the same American critics who had just recently been saying that Bruce Springsteen was the future of rock 'n' roll. Having secured the Rumour, a shit-hot R&B flavored club band as his back-up group, and with an instrumental line-up that was similar to the E Street Band, the comparisons to Springsteen were inevitable.
Having a melodic blend of Stax-style soul music, '60s-flavored Stones-influenced rock 'n' roll, and Brit-punk vocals, Graham Parker made some of his most infectious and tasteful records between 1976 and 1978. He wrote, recorded, and toured for four albums in two years on Mercury Records, who clearly had no idea how to cross Parker into mainstream success. The early records were all produced by Nick Lowe, who brought a ragged edge to the production. Despite the fact that he was clearly a critics' darling, Parker only cracked the U.S. Top 40 a couple of times and never sold more than 250,000 copies of any of his albums. Mercury would continue to let his career languish after each record received better reviews than the one prior.
By 1980, Parker had moved to Arista, where he issued the biting recording, "Mercury Poisoning," an indictment of his former label. For the next 25 years, he released more than a dozen albums on four of the five major labels, and three indies. By the mid-1980s he had settled into a steady career that catered to a very loyal cult following. He continues to record and tour today.
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