Thursday, April 21, 2016

"Life Gets Better" by Graham Parker

Song#:  1618
Date:  09/24/1983
Debut:  96
Peak:  94
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Despite a long and successful career as a performer and songwriter, Englishman Parker was never fully able to break through to the masses in the way that some of his contemporaries had. After spending years gigging around various places and honing his skills, he finally got a record deal and in 1976 recorded Howlin' Wind with his new backing band, The Rumour. The critically acclaimed album was a commercial failure. Two more LPs and an EP did better, but were still largely ignored. Unhappy with his label, he moved over to Arista in hopes of gaining some commercial ground. He issued Squeezing Out Sparks in 1979 and once again, the critics were raving. Yet despite being touted as the LP that would make him a star, it did marginal business peaking at #18 in the UK and #40 in the US. His next album did about the same business with subsequent follow-ups trending downward. In 1983, he released his LP The Real Macaw. Again, it didn't light up the charts, but it did at least generate this single that got on the Pop chart for two short weeks.

ReduxReview:  If you are hearing this song for the first time, what may pop in your mind is - "hey, isn't this Elvis Costello?" Parker has been plagued by comparisons to Costello for years, yet Parker's first album pre-dates Costello's by a year. Whether or not Costello took notes from Parker is unknown, but their styles, music, and voices were undeniably similar. I've seen commentary where the fault of Parker not breaking wider was blamed on the emergence of Costello. As Parker's audience grew, they then got attracted by the shiny new guy and migrated there. But in reality, no one knows why Parker didn't become a star while others of the "angry young man" ilk, like Costello and Joe Jackson, did. Regardless, Parker had a solid career and produced some classic material. While this song and others from The Real Macaw may not rank among his best, it is still pretty darn good. I don't think this song really had much of a chance becoming a hit, but it's a solid pop tune.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is not Parker's first single on the US Pop chart. In 1977, a remake of The Trammps' 1975 hit "Hold Back the Night" (#35 Pop/#10 R&B) reached #58. It was taken from an EP titled The Pink Parker. The single would get to #24 in the UK.  2) Parker's album Squeezing Out Sparks is considered one of his best works. It topped the Village Voice list of best albums of 1979 and it was highly praised by many critics. In 2003, Rolling Stone include the album on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.  It was ranked #334.


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