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Baker's Dozen

Three Chords Good: Graham Parker's Favourite Albums
Ben Graham , October 8th, 2015 09:36

As Graham Parker & The Rumour prepare to play their final ever shows later this month, the prolific singer-songwriter talks Ben Graham through the 13 albums that have had the biggest impact on him as a musician


Amy Winehouse - Back To Black
I was actually driving up to Vermont just at the time 'Rehab' came out. I heard that on a triple-A station, the stations that play the more alternative stuff. And I thought, wow, that sounds like some old soul song, like an old soul B-side, I wonder who that is? And I thought it was probably old, but then I listened to the lyrics and thought no, that's not old, what are the lyrics about? And then amazingly, driving back from Vermont to New York state I heard it on a commercial station, and I thought, whoever this is, they're going to have a fucking hit. I heard her name, Amy Winehouse, and I looked her up and I found out that she was a 23-year-old Jewish girl from London. And I was like, what? She is singing like she's heard a '60s B-side of some obscure soul artist like Mitty Collier, and she has absorbed it, and she's singing like that. I mean some of the words she's singing, oh my goodness, some of the inflections; I had to buy the record, and it's an astonishing album.

She got the right producer. I think most producers ruin music, that's my usual stance these days. If you know what you want to do, do it yourself, but with her she obviously needed someone to rope it all together. He [Mark Ronson] did a good job, and the band, oh my goodness, when they're playing reggae they sound like a bunch of jazz musicians trying to play reggae. It's not quite right, but it's brilliant. It's got an innocence to it. But none of that matters that much, that's not what made it a great record and made it successful; it's her. It's the songwriting. And it's the same thing of, what is going on with this person? It's a bit like Astral Weeks - what is she going through? When you see her perform something she's like grabbing at her skin, she's trying to pull her skin off. It's this thing of being alive, it doesn't feel right, and she's transcending it.