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Pub rock pioneer Graham Parker reunites with the Rumour

Jeff Fasano

As a Graham Parker fan, Mike Gent was happy to hear that Parker was reuniting with his old band, the Rumour. After all, that original mid-’70s pairing of the clever writer and pub-bred band yielded a smart, catchy, and rambunctious musical blend.

“But I know I’m out of a job for a couple of years,” says Gent, whose band the Figgs has backed Parker on and off since 1996.

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Parker still has a string of dates with the Figgs — including a show Sunday at the Bull Run in Shirley — and will tackle a few other projects before lifting the curtain on the Rumour reunion in September or October.

“It’s been the most remarkable turn of events, to have this reunion after 31 years. It all happened by accident, there was no great plan,” says Parker.

In fact, Parker says, he swore he’d never do it.

But in putting together a new album, he sought out the Rumour rhythm section. Then came rounds of phone calls, and all five members of the Rumour were on board, recording with Parker for the first time since 1980.

“This ended up costing me a lot of money between booking the studio and getting everyone here,” says Parker who makes his home in New York. “But we’re all excited.”

In a fortunate twist, not long after Parker and the Rumour recorded 13 songs, filmmaker Judd Apatow called Parker about being in the forthcoming sequel to the comedy “Knocked Up.” The film features actor Paul Rudd’s character attempting to launch an indie record label.

“When Judd called to ask if I’d be interested, I said, ‘How about a reunion of the Rumour?’ and he was thrilled,” says Parker. “And the movie features the trials of an indie label. You can’t write this stuff.”

Parker is close to the topic at hand, having spent the past several years working with small imprints and self-releasing material.

At 61, Parker is in a perpetual mode of creation, writing and recording new material, curating archival releases, and crafting interesting live shows that run the gamut from solo outings to duo concerts with Rumour keyboard player Bob Andrews, to full band blowouts with the Figgs, to interesting co-bills such as he has with David Johansen and Garland Jeffreys at various points this spring.

“Whatever gets you sitting upright on the couch with a guitar, writing, you just have to pursue,” says Parker.

His last studio CD, “Imaginary Television,” for instance, sprung from the concept of writing themes for TV shows that don’t exist.

“I tossed off quick notes of ideas for shows. With a fake show, a fake song writes itself,” Parker cracks.

Yet there’s nothing empty to those “Imaginary Television” songs, as Parker toyed with styles ranging from reggae to show tunes to capture real emotional heft.

Parker emerged as a musician in England around the time punk was morphing into new wave, and his edgy lyrics and vocal sneer made him fit right in. Yet Parker and the Rumour played songs steeped in vintage rock and soul, which has given his back catalog a nice staying power; “Soul Shoes,” from the 1976 album “Howlin’ Wind,” will never go out of style.

Parker’s ability to bridge the vintage and the modern is why Boston record producer Ed Valauskas turned to Parker when he needed a new song for original Crystals singer LaLa Brooks. Parker supplied “That Moon Was Low,” a lovely, slow-burning R&B number perfect for updating the 1960s girl-group vocalist.

When the Brooks project petered out, Parker told Valauskas to record the song himself with Jenny Dee and the Deelinquents, in which Valauskas plays bass and his wife sings. Parker praises the Jenny Dee version, which actually arrives before a rendition he’s recorded with the Rumour (Valauskas says he had no idea Parker also cut the track until the songwriter he reveres told him midway through the Jenny Dee sessions).

Parker’s Boston connection wends through the Figgs. Like the Rumour, the Figgs were a working band before Parker called. The only difference was that the Figgs already had benefited from Parker’s work.

“He certainly had an influence on the band’s sound, and for me personally, he is an influence on the way I write and sing,” says Gent.

The Figgs back Parker on one studio album, “Songs of No Consequence,” and really shine on the more recent “Live at the FTC” CD and DVD.

“Live at the FTC” is not even Parker’s newest live record; that would be the solo acoustic “Live Alone at the Freight and Salvage.” And not too old themselves are numerous “official” bootlegs, available though his website, www.grahamparker.net.

The idea of multiple record releases interfering with sales is antiquated, according to Parker.

“I’m on this never-ending, extended tour because CDs stopped selling in general,” he says.

But the quip comes from a guy who doesn’t stop writing and recording new material that is largely on par with the songs that established his reputation.

“I really don’t think about things in advance,” he says. “Thinking can be dangerous.”

Scott McLennan can be reached at smclennan1010@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @Scott McLennan 1.
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