Nov 302012
 

Press for the reunited Graham Parker & The Rumour tour (and album) focuses much attention and credit on the band’s appearance in Judd Apatow‘s upcoming movie, This Is 40. I’m sure that played a small part, but longtime members of the Halls of Rock know this 2010 interview with Rumour guitarist Martin Belmont is the main reason the band is back together and playing at Philadelphia’s Theater of the Living Arts tonight. OK, our interview is a distant second to the documentary Belmont discusses in the following interview, but let’s give ourselves credit ahead of Apatow. Next thing you know the Farrelly brothers will be taking credit for exposing Jonathan Richman to a mainstream audience. Go Graham! Go Martin! Go Rumour! I will be at tonight’s show with bells on.

This post initially appeared 3/19/10.

The guitar playing of Martin Belmont has graced recordings and concerts by Graham Parker & The Rumour, Ducks Deluxe, Nick Lowe, Carlene Carter, Johnny Cash, Elvis Costello, and many more. He continues to keep a busy schedule, playing the music he loves with a reunited Ducks as well as three other Americana-oriented British artists. In 2009 Belmont released The Guest List, a collection of covers sung by most of the singers he’s backed for a significant time over the years. For someone like myself, who grew up listening to Belmont’s work in the 1970s and 1980s, it’s an intimate, low-key way of catching up with the old gang and getting introduced to some Belmont collaborators who are not as well known in the States.

The first sign that Belmont might get into the spirit of a Rock Town Hall interview is when, as we settle into our trans-Atlantic, webcam chat via Skype, he wants to describe his “top-shelf” CD collection lining the walls behind him. There’s a Beatles box set, a Folkways Anthology of American Folk Music, a couple of Elvis Presley box sets. Then he wants to know how we operate in the Halls of Rock. After I basically run him through our mission statement, in which Rock Town Hall serves as a sort of methadone clinic for rock ‘n roll addicts with increasingly busy lives, he says, “I know exactly what you mean.”

I describe my experiences finding out about Graham Parker & The Rumour as a teenager, trying not to come off too much like Chris Farley’s mouth-breathing Paul McCartney fan from Saturday Night Live. Belmont asks if I’ve seen Parker perform solo in recent years – I have. He raves about his old friend’s abilities as a performer and songwriter, and then we get down to talking.

And talk we did. There are a topics we didn’t have time to cover, but as we chatted, rock lover to rock lover, I hope you get a sense of Belmont’s ultimate sideman’s dedication, warmth, and regard toward his collaborators. At one point he talks about the importance of the guitarist serving the song and being able to weave into whatever situation the song and its musicians requires. It was clear to me that these abilities to weave extend well beyond Belmont’s fretboard.

The patented Rock Town Hall Dugout Chatter segment that concludes this interview is presented in audio form. Through my space-age, retro technology for recording this interview, I hope the audio Chatter gives you an added sense of Martin’s enthusiasm and passion for rock ‘n roll. Take it away, Martin!

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Aug 222012
 

From Rolling Stone:

British rocker Graham Parker has reunited with his original band, the Rumour, for their first album together in more than 30 years, Three Chords Good, out November 20th on Primary Wave Records.

The Rolling Stone piece contains a track from their upcoming album, which delivers the chunky guitar crunch many of us grew up loving. An update on the documentary on the band that Rumour guitarist and Friend of the Hall Martin Belmont first discussed with us as well as Parker’s upcoming appearance in an upcoming Judd Apatow movie are also covered. I’m psyched.

While Rolling Stone fails to credit the Hall for its small but not insignificant role in the reunion, we can allow ourselves a pat on the back.

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Oct 072011
 

For someone who was sooo in love with everything Elvis Costello & The Attractions, it’s amazing I never picked up the solo effort (can it be “solo” with three guys?) by the greatest backup band in the world. A high school buddy of mine had it and we derided it—probably without really listening to it with an open mind.

So, besides The Band, is there a backup outfit that has had any success on their own. Would you buy The Rumour without Graham Parker? The News without Huey? The Heartbreakers without Tom Petty?

And should I give The Attractions’ “solo” album another chance?

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Jan 202011
 

The other day a Townsman recalled my long-held belief that Graham Parker & The Rumour could have done a killer version of Maxine Nightengale‘s “Right Back Where We Started From.” This is one of probably 2 dozen nerdy thoughts, suggestions, or questions for favorite artists that I’ve carried around since my teens. In my ridiculous world, the thinking is, Should I ever run into beloved Artist X, I’m going to have this one potentially interesting thing to say to him or her. I figure, wouldn’t it be cool if I could meet a favorite artist and actually have a sincere conversation starter lined up? Chances are I’d still come off as big a salivating fanboy as if I had nothing ready to say, like the time a friend introduced me to dB’s’ drummer Will Rigby, but a fanboy can dream.

Shortly after being reminded of my One potentially interesting thing to say to Graham Parker, I contacted Friend of the Hall—and friend and dedicated guitarist to Parker—Martin Belmont to make my suggestion. Graham and some other members of The Rumour played a small show at New York’s Lakeside Lounge last October to celebrate a documentary being made on the band. (Martin talked about this in his excellent Rock Town Hall interview!) In case they play together again, I figured my suggested cover might be taken into consideration.

I don’t think Martin will mind my sharing his reply: Continue reading »

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Mar 222010
 

In honor of the recent RTH interview with Martin Belmont I want to have a look at his first band, Ducks Deluxe, and the later careers of its members to see what it tells us about the evolution of British rock in the ’70s and afterwards.

The Ducks

The Ducks

As Martin says in the interview the Ducks specialized in rough and ready rock and worked best when focused on frontman Sean Tyla. Mr. Mod already posted the one good clip of the band playing one of its signature songs live, but here’s the studio version of “Coast to Coast.”

It was the opening track of their eponymously titled first album, and I love the way Tyla welcomes the audience with “All right, kids, are you readuh?” We’re going to talk more about him later, but Tyla was a real character, and he specialized in this kind of straight ahead, almost Springsteenian rock. Here’s “Fireball.”

Tyla also liked to write about imaginary Americana, so there are songs with titles like like “Rio Grande” and “West Texas Trucking Board.” The problem with Ducks Deluxe as a recording band is that you can’t really have a whole album of uptempo rockers like that, and they faltered a bit when it came to ballads. Also, there were two other songwriters in the band, our buddy Martin Belmont and Nick Garvey, and the vocals on those songs are much less distinctive than Tyla’s. Here’s Belmont’s “Something Goin’ On,” with later Ducks bassist Micky Groome on vocals:

The different styles of the songwriters just seem to make it a little hard to get a fix on the identity of the band. Live this probably would not have been so much of a problem, and the excellent covers on their albums (Eddie Cochran’s “Nervous Breakdown,” Bobby Fuller’s “I Fought the Law,” and Bobby Womack’s “It’s All Over Now”) give some other hints of why they were popular on the pub rock circuit. But as usual in this genre their records didn’t sell, and they disbanded in 1975.

They had a decently selected best-of LP named after another of their signature rockers, “Don’t Mind Rockin’ Tonight.”

It was issued in 1978, I assume because the members had achieved some fame in subsequent bands. I don’t think it ever made it out of the vinyl era, but you can probably find a copy. Despite their lack of sales at the time, they are now pretty well-represented on CD. Their two regular albums (the second one is called Taxi to the Terminal Zone) are available as a twofer. And there’s a second twofer with their third record, which was an EP, some stray tracks, and then the first album by the Tyla Gang, Sean’s next band, again about which more in a minute. The Ducks have actually reformed recently for some European dates, and they’ve issued a very nice, newly-recorded EP called Box of Shorts, which, except for being much better recorded, sounds pretty much like the original band. Here’s a clip of them performing a song from the EP, “Diesel Heart,” in Stockholm last year:

Deluxe

Deluxe
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Mar 192010
 

So rock’s other big loss this week, the death of writer/DJ/indie label founder Charlie Gillett, has had me thinking about the title, if nothing else, of his classic early rock history book, The Sound of the City. The reason I stress the title is because I have a terrible memory and what I want to discuss may actually have little to do with Gillett’s book.
Continue reading »

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