Graham Parker

Live Alone! Discovering Japan

(Gadfly 238)

Available for the first time in North America -- this live acoustic set recorded in the early '90s during a tour of Japan is the companion CD to GP's "Live! Alone in America" (no duplicate cuts). The 14-song set includes classic solo versions of songs spanning almost 20 years and also includes one otherwise unreleased GP original and a cover of Billy Idol's "Sweet 16".

Track List:
1. That's What They All Say
2. Platinum Blonde
3. Mercury Poisoning
4. Sweet 16
5. No Woman No Cry
6. Lunatic Fringe
7. Long Stem Rose
8. Discovering Japan
9. Don't Ask Me Questions
10. Watch The Moon Come Down (Revisited)
11. Just Like Herman Hesse
12. Too Many Knots To Untangle
13. Chopsticks
14. Short Memories

A few moments with Graham Parker (a short interview)

Q. What's the story behind the making of this CD?

The four ounces of blood, extracted with a hypodermic needle from the rubbery neck of a living soft shelled turtle that had been whisked from a tank that sat on the pavement outside Tokyo's "Seafood Rounge" restaurant, was fetid and pungent, salty to the max and altogether a bad move after over an hour of serious imbibing. But I had to go on, and when Yaffe, my promoter and meal ticket, ordered a bowl of something slimy, viscous and apparently cephalopodic, I casually reached over with greedy, clacking chopsticks, and plucked a goodly portion which found my mouth and slithered there momentarily before advancing toward my near-gagging gullet. This, my friends, was a mistake.

"What is it, Yaffe?" I asked, grasping my wife's arm for support as the memory of the wicked turtle blood was instantly eradicated by tastes, smells, and a cluster-bomb of sensations previously off the scale of Western experience.

"Squid guts," stated Yaffe inscrutably. "I like guts," he elucidated, dipping into the ornately decorated porcelain vessel for another heaping mouthful.

The creatures' funky bits, Yaffe explained with a severely deadpan Orientalism, are left at room temperature for three weeks -- a window ledge, an outhouse, any convenient location will do, just as long as that ganglia of entrails cannot possibly remain fresh -- and then served in gourmet establishments like the salubrious "Marble Rounge" to discerning Epicureans for hefty wads of yen; basically, it's up there with live turtle blood (for "vitality," nudge nudge), the occasionally deadly fugu, and a slew of other noisome culinary monstrosities we can only guess at.

Al, my tour manager, chortled happily as my face erupted in an array of Colors No One Knows The Names Of as I dealt with the decidedly long finish the vintage squid had imparted. Once a semblance of post-trauma equilibrium had returned, however, the "vitality" promised from the squid guts/turtle blood cocktail kicked in with a vengeance, not, unfortunately in my crotch (that would, thankfully, come later, nudge nudge), but straight to my previously jet-lagged brain.

"Let's," I bellowed across the table at my still-chuckleheaded tour manager, "let's record tomorrow's show!"

Al's laughter ceased abruptly, my wife's pleas to call an ambulance were momentarily halted, and Yaffe coughed delicately as his slit-like, almost lipless mouth negotiated yet another portion of guts, this time from an unidentified eel-like fish that I had earlier skinned and de-fleshed and left eviscerated in the netherworlds of the table, convinced that what remained was meant to remain inedible and thus go out with the trash.

"Guts," confirmed Yaffe, noticing that our eyes resting upon him and the sudden silence formed three invisible question marks in the air above our table. "I like guts."

At soundcheck the next day, a chap with zero command of the English language turned up at Club Quatro with a vintage 8-track reel-to-reel which in this DAT age I found comforting. Two nights were recorded. All seemed well.

Back in the States, however, after the engineer assigned to mix the stuff had listened to everything, all, apparently, was not well. It seems our 8-track enthusiast back in Tokyo had recorded my vocal on track # 1, known in studio parlance as "the edge track." Because of the very real chance that the edge of the tape might not always be tight against the recording heads, this is not, my worried American engineer informed me, where you put the lead vocal. This is where you put the bongos, the nose flute, the triangle, the keyboards (tiny joke), the Jew's harp, the sleigh bells, etc. The lead vocal, for this obvious reason, should be recorded somewhere near the bloody middle!

Our Japanese recording engineer's little mistake had left me with a vocal track that displayed a dangerous wobble on many of the songs, and in some cases, rendered entire performances useless due to cut-outs and slippage that made my voice appear to be coming from another club, further down the street (check "Lunatic Fringe" through headphones).

My mix engineer was doubtful and suggested prudence: perhaps I should re-record the songs in the studio and add an audience track; maybe I should scrap the whole thing and wait till the next tour. "Fuck it," I said. "Mix it -- they'll never know the difference."

Perhaps a residue from the squid/turtle blood mix still tickled my synapses, but I doubt it was anything as exotic. More likely, a profound lassitude had gripped me and my inherent laziness came to my rescue and saved the day. "If in doubt, blunder ahead," might well be my motto, and it has kept me out of a day job for 22 years, so why change anything now?

Q. Why wasn't it released before in North America?

Quality of the vocal tracks notwithstanding, I had some vague idea at the time that another live solo album so close on the heels of "Live! Alone In America" might bludgeon the empty and threadbare pockets of my "fan base" unnecessarily, and so, thinking a rare and obscure gem from overseas might tempt said fan base to reach for their wallets (a sneaky round-a-bout way of getting their dosh), I relegated the album (in the US) to the more ethereal and sought-after import status. This strategy, I'm afraid, only works if the artist has some kudos with the press, other than perennial critics favorite. The artist who can shift large amounts of substandard imports (or any release, basically) must be the sort of rotter who regularly admits (or fakes) heroin addiction, bulimia, the wanton destruction of television sets, the insertion of live sharks (caught from the window of a Seattle hotel room) into the genitalia of "groupies," impotence, sexual addiction, a permanent couch in the shrinks office, regular and highly publicized re-hab, and preferably lives in a building where something really gruesome happened in the sixties. Otherwise, the "rare import" nonsense doesn't amount to a hill of beans and nobody in the territories where it is not released will discover its existence.

Talking of "interesting personalities," my manager at that time decided that none of the "interesting qualities" in the above paragraph applied to me, and so he, in a blinding flash of promotional genius, "leaked" a story to the press that "Live Alone! Discovering Japan" (or whatever it's called) started life as a bootleg and I somehow caught the bootlegger in the act and confiscated the tapes. After checking them out, I decided that they were of such sterling quality, that I should release them officially. Well, what marvelous ruse!

Unfortunately, this confection can only work if the artist is, in fact, an "interesting personality" who regularly admits (without prompting) heroin addiction, bulimia, the wanton destruction...etc., etc. Otherwise, you only have half a story, the shaft of the hook without the barb, the mill without the grist, etc. And when I came up with the idea of providing the barb or the grist, I came up strangely barbless and gristless. The sharks that I caught from the window in my room in Seattle's infamous Edgewater Inn were returned alive and unharmed and had not, in all honesty, been inserted into anything.

Q. Why now? And why Gadfly?

I have consented to the release of "Live Alone Discovering! Japan" (the ! works anywhere ) after being relentlessly pestered by some young upstart in Gadfly's newly created department, the Creative Unit for New Talent. This organ is an exciting development for Gadfly and, I'm convinced, it's staff will surely one day actually sign a genuinely new artist when the label can afford to. (Perhaps, I'm thinking, the proceeds derived from "Live/Japan!" will afford Gadfly this exciting opportunity.)

Q. What other releases are you planning for '98 and beyond?

I have no plans to write songs or release records '98.

Q. What's your middle name?

If you must know, my middle name is Thomas. Before my first album was released in 1976, I did in fact entertain the idea of using my middle name as a marketing device. I deeply considered calling myself Colonel Tom Parker, and dropping the rather bland "Graham" altogether. Where this would have left anyone wishing to use the name of Colonel Tom's famous charge is anyone's guess. Feel free to think about it.

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