November 16, 2011 – 5:39 pm

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New York 1988 [no label, 2CD]

Live at The Ritz, New York; June 27, 1988. Excellent WNEW FM broadcast.

Graham Parker already had hit albums such as Squeezing Out Sparks (1979); The Up Escalator (1980), and The Real Macaw (1983) before he got another shot at the charts with The Mona Lisa’s Sister in 1988.

The second half of the ’80s also saw stripped down, credible releases from John Hiatt (Bring The Family, Slow Turning); John Mellencamp (The Lonesome Jubilee) and even Bruce Springsteen had a “minimalist” Tunnel Of Love. Perhaps leaning on the roots rock sound that was prevalent during the time - R.E.M. had Document and Green; The Replacements had Pleased To Meet Me; there were the self-titled Lone Justice album and follow-up Shelter; and Green On Red with No Free Lunch. That Graham Parker even covered The BoDeans’ She’s A Runaway showed what he was listening to.

This is what Philip Cheah wrote of The Mona Lisa’s Sister in BigO #34 (August 1988):

It’s an album that Graham Parker the songwriter and not the rocker is being pushed forward. You can tell by Parker’s raspy croon, as gentle and earnest as his cigarette-wrecked throat can oblige. It’s also his best set of lyrics since Squeezing Out Sparks.

Most of it is a reflection on the vicissitudes of fame. Back In Time is his version of Springsteen’s Glory Days, more pessimistic than the Boss could possibly be. In Parker’s view, his glory days will be remembering that “all old news is like print stains across the mind”, a direct reference to what it feels like to look at all his old news clippings…

But it’s in Success that offers Parker’s most chilling perspective of what it’s like being made to feel mediocre, the BIG theme of Mona Lisa’s Sister, the painting that was never used because the model didn’t smle. Parker’s struggle to get recorded provided him the insight that ‘You can’t be happy while/Someone else has a fistful/They glow from TV screens/Healthy strong and fiscal/And everybody slaps their/Back while you’re alone’.

Sound-wise, Parker has stepped back from his bar-room rockers. Instead his old pal, Brinsley Schwarz, and himself play tasteful guitar licks, understating rather than grandstanding. And when Parker covers Sam Cooke’s Cupid at the end of the record, he acknowledges what has kept him going all these years, since he left the pub-rock movement to join Elvis Costello in the New Wave back in ‘75, his love for great soulful music. There’s no lack of it here.

Guess old habits die hard and this gig at The Ritz (Parker was promoting the Mona Lisa album) - with its mix of bar-room rockers and crunchy roots rock tunes - is highly entertaining with Parker in jubilant form. And it’s no surprise many fans include this as one of the best Graham Parker shows being shared.

Thanks to 38f who shared the tracks on the net in 2006.

These tracks are no longer available for sharing.

Disc 1
Intro (281k)
Don’t Let It Break You Down (5.2MB)
Glass Jaw (4.6MB)
Thunder And Rain (4.6MB)
Passion Is No Ordinary Word (6.9MB)
Break Them Down (6.1MB)
Durban Poison (4.5MB)
Howlin’ Wind (6.7MB)
DJ/Sinkin’ Low (6.3MB)
Blue Highways (4.0MB)
The Girl Isn’t Ready (6.0MB)
I Don’t Know (4.8MB)

Disc 2
White Honey (4.6MB)
Under The Mask Of Happiness (5.5MB)
OK Hieronymous (6.1MB)
Get Started, Start a Fire (8.9MB)
DJ/ Between You and Me (7.4MB)
She’s A Runaway (BoDeans cover) (5.6MB)
Love Without Greed (5.2MB)
DJ/Cupid/Chain Gang (8.7MB)
Mercury Poisoning (4.7MB)
Band Intro/Local Girls (6.0MB)

Graham Parker - vcals, guitar
Brinsley Schwarz - guitar
Andrew Bodnar - bass
James Hallawell - keyboards
Andy Maxwell - drums

Click here to order Graham Parker releases.

  1. 10 Responses to “GRAHAM PARKER - NEW YORK 1988”

  2. Thanks very much for posting this great show. Another high quality FM broadcast exists from the same week, from The Paradise in Boston. (WBCN-FM)If you could ever acquire and post that show too, it would be sincerely appreciated. I used to own them both on cassette but regretfully, they are both now long gone.

    By Improper Bostonian on Nov 16, 2011

  3. That’s what i call a nice bootleg :)
    Graham parker is never off to date,never has
    been…Thanks bigo for this good find

    By easynow on Nov 16, 2011

  4. Big O Ladies and Gents:

    Thank you very much. GP made some great music, truly worth sharing. Be well,

    By James on Nov 17, 2011

  5. Ah, finally! Many thanks. Awesome sound, awesome tunes. Durban Poison is the best!! Lyrically unbeatable.

    By lanzarishi on Nov 17, 2011

  6. Thanks, Big-O! Can’t wait for disc 2…

    By TDC on Nov 17, 2011

  7. THANKS! I had a beer with Graham Parker in Portland, Maine about 15 years ago. I was in awe. He’s as great as Springsteen Elvis Costello, or Nick Lowe in my book. And this recording is terrific.


    By Eric on Nov 18, 2011

  8. GREAT - so fine Thanx a lot BIGO !!!

    By fruchtas on Nov 18, 2011

  9. I agree with Improper Bostonian … Graham Parker is a genuine original. Always was and always will be, God bless him (though I am not sure he would necessarily appreciate that. Never mind).

    By Canute on Nov 19, 2011

  10. I can honestly say I’ve never registered his existence. But I’m downloading and will enjoy this, I am sure, if only for the lyrics of ‘Durban Poison’.

    The Zulus are rising from their shanty towns,
    The Indians are launching counter attacks.
    The funeral pyre’s burning as I strike a match,
    And everything goes up in smoke again.

    “Durban Poison”, as any Sirthefrikin knows, was the low-grade weed produced in Natal.
    The good stuff was “Swazi Gold”.

    Parker must have done a tour there, or spent some time there in his youth :)

    By tony on Nov 22, 2011

  11. I attended this show and especially liked the stripped down Rumour band. Hallawell did a very nice job filling in for Bob Andrews. A nice set list and a great recording make this one of the best memories from the Ritz. Except, of course, for the Replacements show. Thanks so much for all you do!

    By Johnny Kinkdom on Nov 23, 2011

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