Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Graham Parker - Heat Treatment (1976)

That's what they all say....


Released October 1976

Before Elvis Costello, before Joe Jackson, before The Jags there was Graham Parker and his bluesy, Americana-influenced style of pub rock that was "new wave" long before the phrase had been coined.  This was his second album and one that furthered his respected, but still cult, reputation, something he never managed to shake off. Many say that punk, in 1976, blew the cobwebs off the self-satisfied, often pretentious old guard of rock musicians. Many, including me, felt that change was kicked off by artists such as Dr. Feelgood and Graham Parker in 1975 and Brinsley Schwarz before them. The brief pub rock boom sowed the seeds of punk. While there was a post-punk genre, there was a good case for a pre-punk one too. Look at the rear cover too - Parker in a grimy urban black and white setting, short hair, jacket, dark shades. A pre-punk anti-hero pose if ever there was one.


1. Heat Treatment
2. That's What They All Say
3. Turned Up Too Late
4. Black Honey
5. Hotel Chambermaid
6. Pourin' It All Out
7. Back Door Love
8. Something You're Going Through
9. Help Me Shake It
10. Fool's Gold                                        

Heat Treatment is a Southside Johnny-esque horn-powered piece of rock/soul with Parker's voice showing just how he influenced Elvis Costello on his first album a year later. That's What They All Say has a Tom Petty-style guitar intro, an American country rock feel to it with a hard proto-punk edge. At times he sounds just like Springsteen would do on Darkness On The Edge Of Town and The River. Not surprising, actually, The Boss was a big Parker fan. Turned Up Too Late is in the same vein, but slower in pace. Black Honey is a big, soulful ballad full of Americana vibes.

Hotel Chambermaid will be familiar to Rod Stewart fans as a song he covered on When We Were The New Boys in 1998. Parker's voice on this one is at its most cod-American and this is continued on the Warren Zevon-esque Pourin' It All Out. The organ backing is positively E. St Band and there are later era Velvet Underground influences here and there, for me. Back Door Love is so like much of the material from 1977-78 that Bruce Springsteen rejected from his albums and released on the Tracks box set. Obviously he had been listening to this album. Maybe he rejected them for sounding too-Parker?

Something You're Going Through has a slight white-reggae rhythm, the like of which had only be used by GT Moore & The Reggae Guitars and occasionally, Eric Clapton. a year or two later and white reggae beats would be all over the place. There are slight hints of Steve Harley in Parker's delivery too, although they really are slight. Help Me Shake It is a piano and guitar-driven bar-room boogie with some Stones swagger to it. Fool's Gold is Spectoresque Springsteen rock at its finest. The piano and organ could be Roy Bittan and Danny Federici. The horns could be from The Asbury Jukes. There is even a brief saxophone in there.

A bonus track is the hit single from late 1975, the Northern Soul hit Hold Back The Night, originally done by The Trammps. The other bonus track is the catchy (Let Me Get) Sweet On You. This is a highly recommended album for those who wish to dip into the roots of new wave.