This was an instance of me buying a later, DLX RM of an album for the upgrade of the bonus material. I somehow managed to get the first Arista US copy of “Squeezing Out Sparks” on CD, probably at a CD Warehouse, if memory serves, in the late 90s. Any of the first half of Parker’s career is surprisingly scarce on CD format, while the used LP bins are rife with the material. This CD had the promo LP “Live Sparks” appended to it so when it was in front on my eyes for a modest price, I went with the flow. After all, I was getting so many Parker CDs I needed in L.A., why not “upgrade” his best selling opus?
#19 • Graham Parker + The Rumour: Squeezing Out Sparks + Live Sparks US CD 
- Discovering Japan
- Local Girls
- Nobody Hurts You
- You Can’t Be Too Strong
- Passion Is No Ordinary Word
- Saturday Nite Is Dead
- Love Gets You Twisted
- Waiting For The UFO’s
- Don’t Get Excited
- Discovering Japan [live]
- Local Girls [live]
- Nobody Hurts You [live]
- You Can’t Be Too Strong [live]
- Passion Is No Ordinary Word [live]
- Saturday Nite Is Dead [live]
- Love Gets You Twisted [live]
- Protection [live]
- Waiting For The UFO’s [live]
- Don’t Get Excited [live]
- I Want You Back (Alive)[live]
- Mercury Poisoning [live]
We have a new record for most tracks per disc in this thread since Parker here bested his former producer Nick Lowe, who previously held the record for most songs on one album with the 21 tracks on “Jesus Of Cool.” Parker gets the count up a notch. “Discovering Japan” was a energetic start to this classic album with the pub rock of The Rumour getting tweaked up to New Wave levels of vigor. It all started back in 1979 for me with one song: the US single “Local Girls” was a track that the local FM Rock I was listening to then played more than once, so it was my entrée to Parker… and possibly the reason why I paid little attention to him for so long. Against the spectrum of 1979 the tune was nice, but nothing to write home about.
The compassion and power of “You Can’t Be Too Strong” would have passed me by completely at the age of 16. I would not have been mature or empathetic enough to relate to the lyric; which was everything here. The liner notes by Parker were most revealing when he admitted to initially burying the tune in a fast, busy arrangement until producer Jack Nitzsche called him out on his ability to put the song forth in as direct, uncompromising way.
I love the relentless pace of the chorus in “Passion Is No Ordinary Word.” The way the syllables of the chorus hammer home the gist of the lyric is very memorable. “Protection” shows only a toe dipped [barely] into ska while his earlier albums featured reggae tracks. The arrangement of “Waiting for the UFO’s” was like nothing else in the Parker canon I’ve heard before or after. The odd arrangement was fairly busy over a near-disco rhythm section and the harmonized backing vocals of the repeated title used every member of The Rumour save for the non-singing Andrew Bodnar on bass. Every band usually has one vocal holdout, it seems! Being British, they use the Brit pronunciation of “U-Foes” that anyone who saw the early 70s sci-fi series of the same name will remember. “Don’t Get Excited” ended the album on an upbeat note following the quirky preceding track.
And then you got to hear the same album all over again, albeit in live form. And with a non-LP single added as a bonus. As a live album, “Live Sparks” captured The Rumour in full flight. The backing vocals were pretty high in the mix, so that lends a difference to the sound. Which is good, since Parker, at this early stage of his career, tends towards the monochromatic. “Protection” and “Excited” were particularly fiery here, and I can certainly see why the senior who sat next to me in my 11th grade physics class was so big on Graham Parker + The Rumour; whom he’d seen in concert. He called him the only New Waver he really liked.
But if I may take a controversial stand, let me admit that “Squeezing Out Sparks,” while being a fine example of the early Graham Parker oeuvre, does not press the “classic album!” button for me. It’s a solidly good album; I don’t think Parker has a dud in him. But is it my go-to GP album? Naaaw. That would be “Deepcut To Nowhere” for me! I did appreciate the upgrade to this version. The live version was good to hear, and this kind of tough pub rock can benefit from a live setting. My biggest appreciation was for the great GP liner notes as well as Ira Robbins’ [Trouser Press] additional essay on the album and it’s position in the GP canon. My original Arista CD was ultra skimpy on that front.
CONCLUSION: enjoy…just not as much as everyone else seems to think that I should