Song Of The Day 8/12/2015: Graham Parker – “I Want You Back”

Quarterly Covers Report – Have I ever told you about the gigantic half of Graham Parker’s head that was in my bedroom as a teenager? Those of you who knew me in high school or shortly after and ever went into my bedroom, which was a converted gazebo separated from the rest of the house (which is a whole other psychological profile contribution we could spend lots of Medicare on), I’ll bet you remember this thing. It overlooked my waterbed. I had a waterbed too, suckers.

There was this music chain called Record Factory. They were eventually bought up by another chain called The Wherehouse, who in turn were sucked up by Trans World Entertainment. But when I was a kid we still had the Record Factory on Sunrise Boulevard in Citrus Heights. Record Factory had these displays of the newish records that they wanted to promote. We’re talking huge pieces of thick poster board, maybe 25 square feet or even more, that had cut-out elements of the artwork from the original album pasted on them – they weren’t straight reproductions of the album cover.

For example, let’s say someone wanted to do a display based on the cover of Sufjan Stevens’ Illinois. They’d take a giant piece of poster board. They’d do a cut-out of Stevens’ name and paste it on. They’d probably do the same for the title. The original cover of Illinois has pictures of Superman, a cartoonish Al Capone, a goat and the Chicago skyline. The artist might cut out the Superman and the skyline and paste them on. Or the Capone and the goat. Or any combination. Or if he or she was feeling really ambitious, small segments of each one. Since it was thick poster board on thick poster board it would have a neat 3-D effect. I don’t know if record labels provided these things; I would think they were outside the labels’ budgets (and I never saw the same one twice). I’m guessing it was some lucky person in his own loft paid for by Record Factory who got to execute this kind of whimsey 24/7. If anybody has an answer for this question I’d love to hear about it.

Anyway, Record Factory would always give these displays away when they were through with them, and I never could quite get there when they were handing out the ones I wanted. Couldn’t get Elvis Costello’s Trust, or Bruce Springsteen’s The River, or anything by the big groups I could stand at the time like The Police or U2. I believe this Record Factory had a dibs system: You could go in there at any time and say, “Hey, when you’re done with that display, could I have it?” Then the clerk would say, “Oh, sorry man, someone’s already claimed that fresco treatment of Culture Club’s Colour By Numbers. You want that Thompson Twins thing instead? It’ll do wonders for your manhood.”

But the one I did get was the treatment they made for Graham Parker’s Another Grey Area. A very simple cover to recreate, as you can see below. The base board, however, was red, not grey. (I think.) Grey might be a great way to depict the hues of emotional ambiguity, but it don’t move no product, so they went with red. And it was huge. I’m guessing the whole display was about 30 square feet, all told. On the side of this poster board, just like the cover, was Graham’s half-portrait flush right.

So I grabbed it and hung it up in my room. This giant slab of monochrome red with a humongous half-head of Graham Parker, looking over my waterbed with either profound disinterest or restrained amusement. Which, let's face it, were the only proper reactions to a high school kid with a waterbed in his room.

My friends were impressed, after I answered their initial question “Who’s Graham Parker?” Although I had a couple of Parker albums in high school (definitely Heat Treatment, and I think Howlin’ Wind), I never had a copy of Another Grey Area until years later. But I was a proud member of Graham’s street team. Except the street was closer to a cul-de-sac. And you had to go into a converted gazebo. Those were the days. Ice cream was sold on trucks and you could spray aerosol cans to your heart’s content.

Popular Recent Posts