40 Years Ago: Graham Parker Unleashes a ‘Howlin’ Wind’
As rock continued segmenting in the mid-'70s, one of the sub-genres that popped up in the U.K. was pub-rock, a back-to-basics mixture of folk-rock and R&B, performed with the youthful energy that would soon find a home in punk. Out of that scene came the first "angry young man" of the era, Graham Parker, whose debut, Howlin' Wind, came out in July 1976, predating the likes of Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson.
Howlin' Wind, was, and still is, a landmark of rock and soul. Produced by the legendary Nick Lowe, Parker's 1976 debut is a perfectly formed statement of pure rock and roll. Comparisons to both Van Morrison and Bob Dylan were tossed around at the time, and while applicable, Parker was no copyist, but rather a new voice for a new era.
"White Honey," "Back to Schooldays," and "Nothin's Gonna Pull Us Apart" are all first-rate songs, expertly executed by Parker and his band, the Rumour. Unlike some pub-era contemporaries, Parker and crew focus on the songs at hand, and not simply the style. The music is sharp, the lyrics even sharper.
There is an underlying drama at times, not unlike Bruce Springsteen at his earthy best, and a pop sense that, mixed with the soul leanings, make up Parker's go-to recipe throughout. The album's closer, "Don't Ask Me Questions," is nothing short of a tour de force, and is to this day, still one of his finest moments.
Howlin' Wind was only the start of a long career that lasts strongly to this day, including a reunion with the Rumour a few years ago. Many great albums like Heat Treatment and Squeezing Out Sparks would follow, but Howlin' Wind always crops up as a go-to example of Parker's style. "Nobody bought it, but it's most people's favourite," Parker told the NME back in 1979.
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