Desert Island Discs: “Heat Treatment” by Graham Parker and the Rumour (1976)

As the name implies, the pub-rock movement of the early to mid-’70s was made up of what can only be called bar bands: gangs of ordinary, dressed-down dudes who looked like they worked at the local foundry or factory (and probably did), yet happened to moonlight as rock ’n’ roll revivalists. Unabashedly reactionary, pub-rock was a spontaneous knee-jerk against the rising tides of glam and prog, extravagant forms of rock that some people felt no longer spoke to the common, working-class bloke. In America, that same populist groundswell helped propel the likes of Bob Seger and Bachman-Turner Overdrive to the top of the charts; in Britain, it resulted in a loose network of retro-minded, dumpy-looking groups that sought to perpetuate the rootsy authenticity of the likes of Van Morrison, Gram Parsons, and the upstart Bruce Springsteen. – A.V. Club “Gateways To Geekery”

Graham Parker and The Rumour are, like, the best bar band you ever were lucky enough to stumble in on and hear; and the great thing is, it sounds good when you’re sober too.- R. Whitlock

Pub rock never really caught fire in the US; it barely got a start in the UK before it became engulfed by punk. But its influence and impetus are undeniable even thirty-five years later. And one of the finest examples is today’s Desert Island Disc from 1976, “Heat Treatment” by Graham Parker and the Rumour.

Image from

Graham Parker’s manager Dave Robinson hooked him up with The Rumour, an all-star band made up of pub rock stalwarts from legendary bands Brinsley Schwartz and Ducks Deluxe. The Rumour turned out to be an amazingly tight back-up band, second in talent only to Springsteen’s E Street Band.

But this album, along with most of pub rock, flew under the radar here in the US. I first heard it at a party in ’78 and didn’t think much of it. About five years later I heard “That’s What They All Say” in a bar, playing on Cities 97. To quote Paul Westerberg: “I’m in love! What’s that song? I’m in love with that song!” In those pre-Internet days the only way to find which album a song was on was to go to a record shop (remember them?) and leaf through their Phonolog catalog. “Heat Treatment” was the album, and I promptly bought the cassette (remember them?).

“Heat Treatment” became one of my favorite albums and the soundtrack for my weekends at the family cabin. I’ll always associate this album with days on the lake, fishing off the dock, and drinking beer by a campfire. But this isn’t just “good times” Beach Boys fun-in-the-sun music. As my girlfriend at the time pronounced it: “It’s testosterone-y.”

MUSIC NERD ALERT! Eventually I wore out the cassette and bought the CD version. That’s when I noticed an interesting thing: the cassette’s track sequence differed significantly from that on the CD, which I assume was the one on the original LP. (I never paid attention during my first cursory listening back in ’78.)

Cassette LP/CD
Side One: Side One:
1. Heat Treatment 1. Heat Treatment
2. That’s What They All Say 2. That’s What They All Say
3. Something You’re Going Through 3. Turned Up Too Late
4. Black Honey 4. Black Honey
5. Hotel Chambermaid 5. Hotel Chambermaid
Side Two: Side Two:
1. Fools’ Gold 1. Pourin’ It All Out
2. Pourin’ It All Out 2. Back Door Love
3. Back Door Love 3. Something You’re Going Through
4. Turned Up Too Late 4. Help Me Shake It
5. Help Me Shake It 5. Fools’ Gold

After years of repeated listening the cassette’s track sequence is the one that sounds “right” to me. So forgive me, Graham, but I’ve programmed the tracks in the cassette order on my mp3 player.

I know the following statement is obligatory in any discussion of Desert Island Discs, but: there isn’t a bad song on this whole album. My favorites: “Turned Up Too Late,” a song that would have been great for Warren Zevon or Lou Reed.

“Pourin’ It All Out,” which would have been right at home on the Stones’ “Black And Blue” or “Some Girls.”

And the showcase of the album, “That’s What They All Say.” Someone once compared it to Dylan, and I think that’s right. It could be a sequel to “Like A Rolling Stone” or “Positively 4th Street.”

An awesome album. If you’ve never heard Graham Parker before, this is the place to start.

4 Comments on “Desert Island Discs: “Heat Treatment” by Graham Parker and the Rumour (1976)”

  1. […] comparison for both, I think more apt comparisons are to Squeeze (for clever songwriting) and Graham Parker (for vocal style and […]

  2. […] by 10,000 Maniacs (1987) 11/23/11: “Cheap Trick At Budokan” by Cheap Trick (1979) 10/25/11: “Heat Treatment” by Graham Parker and The Rumour (1976) 8/31/11: “Phoebe Snow” by Phoebe Snow (1974) 8/10/11: “Beat And Torn” by The Spongetones […]

  3. […] on the arrangement front that is bolstered by solid musicianship. In short, the Kings were pub rock. And when new wave came along, and was embraced by top forty radio at the end of the 1970s, the […]

  4. I saw Brinsley-Schwartz live at Oxpens, Oxford, England, 1973. It would have been good to know they were a reaction to glamrock. I, for one, was totally mystified what the were about.

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