ROBERT GORDON (By Kevin Carey)
Born 29th March, 1947, Washington, D.C.
Given the apparent apathy that surrounded the rockabilly "revival" in the land of its birth, the emergence of Robert Gordon (and The Stray Cats) in the late 70's and 80's, may have influenced a number of contempories without them always receiving due credit for their respective roles.
Growing up in Washington, DC, Gordon's musical tastes were channelled into early rockabilly and the sounds of Elvis, Gene Vincent and Billy Lee Riley. However, as a late starter, it wasn't until 1970 that he took the big step, moving to New York in 1970 where he found a new direction in the growing punk scene as lead singer with 'The Tuff Darts'.
By 1977, with punk taking on a more sanitised sound, Robert went back to his roots, assembling a band of young - and not so young - rockabilly musicians to record mostly covers, but with original material provided by Link Wray, with whom he teamed up on the debut albums and hit version of 'Red Hot', and Bruce Springsteen who wrote 'Fire' - a song many tipped as a hit when released, but it took the tame Pointer Sisters to take it to the charts in 1979.
A co-starring role in the 1982 William Defoe film 'The Loveless' further enhanced Gordon's reputation as the modern bad boy of rockabilly, if indeed it needed enhancing. Gordon was also responsible recording the soundtrack to this movie, which pays homage to the 50's biker genre of 'The Wild One.' Definitely worth viewing when you get the chance.
Following Link Wray's departure in 1978, Gordon teamed up with Chris Spedding (who had enjoyed minor stardom in the UK, recording such forgettable gems as 'Motorbikin'), for the 1979 release 'Rockabilly Boogie' which included his own tribute to Gene Vincent, 'The Catman' -
THE CATMAN (Gordon - Turner - Lampert) ROBERT GORDON & THE WILDCATS (RCA, 1979)
Hey man, I can hear you And it's not a radio Your voice still echoes through me I can hear you dady-o (Rock, rock, rockabilly rebel)
Well, cruisin' down bopstreet in a pink thunderbird Be-bop-a-lula was the Catman's work He had a teenage partner, she was seventeen Rockabilly rebel, Gene, Gene, Gene Well, crazy legs jumping to a brand new beat The're the cats and the kittens of ol' bopstreet His double talking baby called him turtle dove Pretty pretty baby gave him woman love (Rock, rock, rockabilly rebel)
He sang five feet of lovin', wear my ring Lotta lotta lovin', sing Gene sing He was a jumpin' Jackson, go man go Be bi bickey bi go bo go
Gonna back up baby, blue jean bop Be-bop-a-lula, you couldn't stop Racing with the devil, you were born to do Gene, Gene Vincent, I sure miss you
Gordon's popularity as a live performer continued throughout the 80's/90's, although his performances were often marred by his erratic "superstar" behaviour and uncompromising views on the ability of the bands backing him. Certainly, the effects of drug and alcohol abuse are all too evident and too often seemed to affect his performances, although recent appearances in the UK have, thankfully, been praised.
Recommended listening - Robert Gordon with Link Wray/The Fresh Fish Special (Raven); Rockabilly Boogie (One Way Records); Robert Gordon Is Red Hot (Bear Family); Robert Gordon & Danny Gatton - The Humbler (NRG 98).
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