ARTIST: Graham Parker
TITLE: Squeezing Out Sparks
YEAR RELEASED: 1979
CHART ACTION: #40 US, #18 UK
SINGLES: Protection, Local Girls, Nobody Hurts You
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: You Can’t Be Too Strong
LINEUP: Graham Parker, Brinsley Schwarz, Martin Belmont, Bob Andrews, Steve Goulding, Andrew Bodnar
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Free from his first record contract, Parker releases his master stroke, full of bile, and surprising tenderness.
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After three good-to-great studio albums, followed by a mess of a live record for a contractual obligation (The Parkerilla, not available now and don’t bother), Graham Parker and his backing band The Rumour come out swinging with the best, most complete record of his career.
Parker’s songs have their typical bite, and his energy pulls the band along so that they’re equally urgent on most of the cuts. Only on the tender “You Can’t Be Too Strong”, which many thought of as an anti-abortion song (when Parker said it’s more of a questioning song than anything, and is from the point of view of the man who isn’t strong to face his responsibilities), does Parker let his guard down.
Else, Parker’s still the angry young (ish) man of the UK scene at this time, even madder than Elvis Costello. This is the record to have by him; it’s a great time piece and stands up now.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: National Review named “You Can’t Be Too Strong” as one of its top Conservative songs – which Parker roundly disputed and showed that the NR is horrible at understanding pop culture.
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Oh, yes. Live Sparks is the album played live (which makes me sad that I didn’t see him at this time), with a cover of “I Want You Back”, and his all-time bilious single “Mercury Poisoning”
GRADE: A: It smokes, to this day.