They found each other as pub rock waned. Then tunnel vision forced a sudden wedge.
It was love when their eyes met through the Players No.6 smoke in pub-rocking 1975 London. But then? Graham Parker remembers The Rumour.
HELLO SUMMER 1975
I’d been travelling down from my parents’ place [in Deepcut, Surrey] to London. I wanted to find musicians who understood what I was doing. In the suburbs they did not – because it didn’t sound like Uriah Heep. I’d put an ad in Melody Maker, and I was introduced to Dave Robinson by Paul ‘Bassman’ Riley, who’d been in Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers – I’d seen that name in the papers and thought, Wow, somebody famous! – and Dave was very excited about what I was doing, and he knew I needed a band. He had an 8-track studio at the Hope & Anchor in Islington, and we started recording my songs straight away, doing demos, just me on guitar. Dave was obviously a mover and a shaker and he seemed to know people – Charlie Gillett was one, he played Nothin’s Gonna Pull Us Apart [on his Honky Tonk Radio London show], which Nigel Grainge from Phonogram heard. In no time I had a major record deal. Dave, who knew the whole London scene that I knew nothing about, put The Rumour around me. These guys had been in Ducks Deluxe and Brinsley Schwarz, bands that had split up. They were already formed but didn’t have a name. I found them all OK. We rehearsed at the Newlands Tavern in Peckham – I think they knew the landlord. I remember there was beer, which appeared to be free, the ubiquitous cigarettes, underarm sweat… the songs were disjointed, I didn’t have arrangements. So The Rumour were figuring out how to play them. I’d never played with people playing licks and stuff, and Bob Andrews [keys] really helped knock the songs into shape. It was a learning curve, but they seemed to intrinsically understand the music. One day [guitarist] Martin Belmont took me aside and said, “Sorry we weren’t very good today.” I said, “No this is gonna be fine.” The band just fell in around me. It was very natural. No problem, you know. And it came together at speed – from the summer of ’75 to the first album [Howlin’ Wind] in April ’76. Boom! We were off pretty quickly. Dave was like, “Woah, what happened?” But I was like, I expected this.
GOODBYE OCTOBER 1980
The final gig was Rockpalast in Essen, Germany. The Police were on and The Jack Bruce Band, and we stormed it. I’m sure I’d already said we were parting ways. In those four years of being with The Rumour, we did three-, four-month tours, in Britain, America, Japan, Australia… it seemed like a very long time. I thought it was a bit creatively redundant of me to continue. There wasn’t any grumbling or arguments. It was very simple – I wanted to hear something else behind the songs, for better or for worse. So, I brought the hammer down, I suppose unexpectedly. It was in an office somewhere in London. I just said, “Look guys, I want to try something else so I’m going to move on and get different musicians.” There was a bit of a stunned silence, now I look back on it. They didn’t see it coming. But my mind was made up. At the time I felt, Ah, they’re all big boys, they can take care of themselves. Come on, you know? When you’re writing songs and you want to keep going it’s hard to think of other people’s feelings. I just walked away and continued. I don’t remember feeling any nerves. I probably thought it was exciting. In those days, remember, there was tremendous amounts of money in this game. Their feelings came up on the documentary [Don’t Ask Me Questions, 2013]. I think Steve [Goulding, drums] put it as, “He didn’t say, ‘I want to see other people’, it was just… gone.” It was tough. That’s what made me think, Oh, I was a bit cold in those days. Tunnel vision, I guess, which is brutal, but useful. Any act will tell you that their first band, the band that clicked, is a very special thing. Reforming [in 2011] was as natural as can be. It’s basically through friendship. I’ve always been what I call a lone wolf, but I love those guys very much. We got along. We could communicate. And we had a blast, in my opinion. Will we do it again? Touring is brutality on a stick and we’ve done that. But I haven’t discounted an album. When the songs tell me what to do, I obey. As told to Ian Harrison
Graham Parker’s Cloud Symbols is out on 100% Records on September 21. He tours the UK in October.
“I brought the hammer down, I suppose unexpectedly.” GRAHAM PARKER
Don’t ask them questions: Graham Parker And The Rumour (back row, from left) Steve Goulding, Brinsley Schwarz, Bob Andrews, Martin Belmont; (front, from left) Parker, Andrew Bodnar; (below) Graham today.
“Touring is brutality on a stick”: towards the end in Aberdeen, 1979.