Graham Parker and the Rumor Co-Founder Revisits Pub Rock Roots

Since moving to New Orleans two decades ago, Leeds, U.K.-born Bob Andrews has been visible as a solo piano “professor,” journeyman keyboardist, and band member (for John Mooney, Alex McMurray and others) — but not as a legend of English pub rock. Others might want to brag about having been in Brinsley Schwarz and Graham Parker’s Rumour, played on the original versions of “Cruel to Be Kind” and “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love & Understanding,” and done mixing work on the La’s power pop classic “There She Goes Again.” But Andrews has preferred to keep his musical history more of a Rumour.

“I know, I should have been out there promoting myself, and I didn’t do it,” Andrews said recently. “I took a backseat a little bit, but I got gigs and played anyway, not because of my reputation. I guess I wanted to be taken for what I was instead of what I used to do; I needed that proving ground.”

Nobody who’s familiar with the Brinsley/Rumour catalogue should be surprised that the New Orleans influence, especially via Allen Toussaint, has been there all along. “It goes back to the ’60s when I heard Lee Dorsey’s ‘Ride Your Pony,’” Andrews explained. “Then I found out that Toussaint was behind it, so he of course became my hero. Then I saw Dr. John and the Meters in the early ’70s and was completely bowled over by it. I started learning those licks and trying to copy them — which I’m not very good at, so I wound up taking the feel and putting it into my own stuff.” Andrews was also the main writer on the Rumour’s first two “solo” albums (the college radio hit “Emotional Traffic” was his), and is now wrapping his latest solo disc, a second collaboration with the writer/photographer RKR. “I think it brings some of my Englishness back, and mixes that with the sound of the New Orleans guys,” he said.

Andrews was the first to leave Graham Parker and the Rumour in 1980 (missing the final album, The Up Escalator), and they hadn’t played together since. Then came a surprise call from Parker last year: he’d written a batch of band-style songs and called up Rumour/Mekons drummer Steve Goulding, who proposed reuniting the old gang. The result is Two Chords Good which sounds like what it is: A long overdue follow-up to ’78s Squeezing Out Sparks, the last album made by the full lineup.

The disc appears to have been well-fated from the start: the band clicked in rehearsals and laid the whole album down in first and second takes. Then director Judd Apatow proposed writing them into his new comedy, This Is 40. “He was looking for a singer that never quite made it,” Andrews explained.