Graham Parker and the Rumour ‘Three Chords Good’

Posted 28 Nov 2012 in Albums of 2012, Albums of the 10s, Bubby Lewis


Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#816 in the Series) is Graham Parker and the Rumor, Three Chords Good

From the minute Graham Parker and The Rumor came out of the gates with the phenomenal 1976, Nick Lowe produced album Howlin’ Wind, they have been a bit of a musical conundrum and have stayed so since Parker disbanded the group in 1980. He remained so throughout his long and confusing solo career, being that he, nor the band, ever had any real chart hits to speak of, could never be tied down to a specific genre and relied mostly on the reputation of boisterous live shows and critical acclaim.

With the band, his closest thing to chart hits was a fine 1977 cover of the Trammps‘ 1976 hit, “Hold Back the Night” and as a solo artist it was 8 years later with the soulful 1985 single, “Wake Up (Next to You)” from the brilliant and underrated Steady Nerves album. Radio and MTV had problems programming Parker’s style, not knowing if they should promote him as a soul, punk, folk, new wave or reggae artist. The fact was that he was a hybrid of them all.

Although Parker has continued to play perpetually with various members of The Rumor throughout his solo career, the entire band has not been together on a recording or tour since 1980’s The Up Escalator. Graham Parker and The Rumor fans now have a reason to cheer, after a 32 year break, with their new release, Three Chords Good, and the composition of that musical hybrid is still strong with the band!

A stiff, quick reggae number, “Snake Oil Capital of the World,” shoots out at the top of the cd and gives us the overture of what is to come; Parker’s eclectic musical world with lyrics that are iconically acerbic and, at the same time, sweet and enlightening. It is quickly followed by the soulful and retrospective “Long Emotional Ride” and flows into the strummy, acoustic pop of both “Stop Crying About the Rain” and “She Rocks Me.”

From the get-go we get the strength of this band but it really kicks in with the title track, “Three Chords Good,” and the low twangs of Brinsley Schwarz’ guitar, slick musical breaks, tags and rave-ups and Parker’s still strong vocal growl telling us that, no matter how weird things get, it can always be cured by Rock and Roll! “Old Soul” is another highlight where the band channels their R&B/Jazz/Swing roots, ala Van Morrison, and features some very nice twinkling piano and Jimmy Smith type, pulsing Hammond B-3 organ work by Bob Andrews. The classy ballad “That Moon Was Low” harkens back to the Squeezin’ Out Sparks classic, “You Can’t Be Too Strong.”

The album ends strong with the final three songs, beginning with the folksy, pop, protest song, “Arlington’s Busy”, and its beautiful lyric of modern war apathy. This song also serves as homage to former NFL player, Pat Tillman, who left a promising football career to join the U.S. Army Rangers and was tragically killed by friendly fire in the mountains of Afghanistan. Parker tells this story with the same skill and lyrical beauty as Guthrie or Dylan ever did in their time.

The gutsiest number here is perhaps the snarling, “Coathangers,” with its graphic lyrics and a sound that is somewhere between old, Atlantic label R&B and British, 70’s punk. It tells a tale of the hypocrisy over women’s reproductive rights that have never been so danceable or fun. The piece ends, appropriately, with a song of the takeover of technology and the information age and its ability to be grandly misinterpreted in “The Last Bookstore In Town.” Rightly so for an artist who has been so misinterpreted by the music industry for so long.

Even though the production by Parker and Dave Cook is very slight and many will yearn for a bit of the old 70’s era punch the band had with earlier producers such as Lowe, Mutt Lange and Jack Nitzche, this band still has great chops and Parker’s voice and lyrics still hit you to the marrow. This band still manages to have a reflective anger that channels that old punk, nerdy swagger and has developed it into a cool wisdom. Three Chords Good shows they are as wonderful as ever and, like most of their old fans, have gained something more along the way. Let’s hope this is the long hit they so well deserve.

Bubby Lewis, Frostburg, Maryland USA

Track Listing

  1. Snake Oil Capital Of The World
  2. Long Emotional Ride
  3. Stop Cryin’ About The Rain
  4. She Rocks Me
  5. Three Chords Good
  6. Old Soul
  7. A Lie Gets Halfway ‘Round The World…
  8. That Moon Was Low
  9. Live In Shadows
  10. Arlington’s Busy
  11. Coathangers
  12. Last Bookstore In Town


  • Graham Parker – Claves, Guitar, Kazoo, Vocals
  • Bob Andrews –  Keyboards, Vocals
  • Martin Belmont –  Guitar
  • Andrew Bodnar – Bass
  • Steve Goulding – Drums, Percussion
  • Brinsley Schwarz – Guitar, Vocals

Related Links

Here’s a great video on the process of putting it all together


Here are some highlights from Three Chords Good

Posted by Larry Carta

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