Record Review: Graham Parker – I Want You Back [Alive]

Arista | US | blue 7" | 1979 | AS-0439

Arista | US | blue 7″ | 1979 | AS-0439

Graham Parker + The Rumour: I Want You Back [Alive] US 7″ [1979]

  1. I Want You Back [Alive]
  2. Mercury Poisoning

When record shopping recently, I came across a Graham Parker + The Rumour record with two songs on it that dated from the “Squeeing Out Sparks” period, but to date, have still never been issued on CD in their studio form, making this a must purchase for me. Back in 1979, I remember hearing “Mercury Poisoning” …once, on the FM Rock I was listening to at the time. I suspect, that some DJ had a copy of “Live Sparks” album to spin the track, since it was most certainly the live version of the song that I had previously heard. The A-side of this strange US 7″ disc was an unknown quantity to me. I say strange, because not only was the vinyl blue, but the spindle hole was a small, UK style one. That might happen on a US EP, with 3-4 tracks on a 7″, but a straight 45? Unusual.

“I Want You Back [Alive]” had the addition of one more word in parenthesis in its title, but as soon as the needle hit the groove, it was immediately apparent that this was GP + The Rumour covering the sturdy Jackson Five hit better known to me simply as “I Want You Back.” Research revealed that this was the B-side of the single “Protection” in the UK and the US promo 12″ of “Local Girls” here in The States. It’s a cracking cover version of a solid bit of pop soul, that in Parker’s hands gained a little more grit and heft. The song is one thing, but when one hears teenagers and younger performing a song about regrets, jealousy and possessiveness, it generally fails to convince. It helps to have an adult singing the tune this time, and the support by The Rumour shows that they still had their soul shoes in their wardrobe. Parker’s production captured the performance with a minimum of fuss.

Has their ever been a more bitter kiss-off to an ex-label than when Parker cut “Mercury Poisoning” following his ship-jump from Mercury/Polygram to Arista in 1979? The release in question, was seemingly the only commercial release of the song in studio form. The infamous grey vinyl US promo 12″ [etched, single sided, to boot!] is lacking in my Record Cell, and I wouldn’t say no to a copy, if it crossed my path, so until then, this copy will have to do. The vitriolic number was a typically Parker screed back when he was still an “Angry Young Man Of New Wave.” The number didn’t forget to make its point while still being a beefy chunk of power pop with a pop-soul chaser, courtesy of the Rumor’s brass section, soon to find themselves deemed superfluous when the time came to record the “Sparks” album afterward.

The song’s 300 lb. hook had managed to remain embedded in my skull for 38 years before the evening, a few nights ago ,when I digitized my copy of this record, and heard it for the second time! It must be said, that the song documents the evidence of the venn diagram where GP + The Rumour were almost fully congruent with The Joe Jackson Band. This could have been a B-side from the “I’m The Man” period and no one would have batted an eyelash. Of course, it remains to be seen if Joe Jackson as we know him could have ever existed without the heavy lifting done first by Graham Parker in the ’76-’78 period. Both tunes should have been a feature of every pressing of “Squeezing Out Sparks” on CD from day one as the killer bonus tracks they were meant to be. That they are still vinyl only, in this world of dozens of GP compilations and even the DLX RM of “Squeezing Out Sparks” is one for the head-scratchers among us.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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8 Responses to Record Review: Graham Parker – I Want You Back [Alive]

  1. SimonH says:

    I’m sure they’ve appeared on CD somewhere, maybe an earlier reissue of Squeezing, will check.
    Great tracks.


  2. JT says:

    If I had to guess, I’d say that the licensing fees to the publishers for using the Jackson 5 tune is what kept this one off of later comps.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      JT – Hmm. This comment got caught in the spam filter. Good thing I checked! Yes, I’d say you were about 150% correct in your assumption, sir. Why do things happen? Money. Why don’t things happen? Money.


  3. SimonH says:

    Ah, they are on the Rhino anthology, Passion is No Ordinary Word. A really good anthology as well, great sound.


  4. MJ Conroy says:

    – “I Want You Back (Alive)” is also available on the Universal reissue of “Squeezing Out Sparks,” the Razor & Tie reissue of “The Real Macaw” and many compilations. And despite the name this is the studio version. The only issued live version I know is on “Live Sparks.”

    Mercury Poisoning is on several cds.


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