1-CD with 12-page booklet, 25 tracks. Playing time approx. 63 mns.
Every now and again, there's a rockabilly revival. In 1977 the man of the hour was Robert Gordon. He surrounded himself with great pickers including Link Wray, Danny Gatton, and Chris Spedding and cut a mix of old and new songs that was rockabilly with a punk attitude. The 25 cuts here include The Way I Walk, Catman, Flyin' Saucer Rock'n Roll, and Red Hot. Three tracks were only ever available on a promo LP.
Robert Gordon is a paradoxical artist.
When asked how he related to the '60s, he replied tersely that he did not. However, he also refused to be branded as a '50s revival act, pouring scorn on Sha-Na-Na and others who played music for those who simply wanted to Remember When. Robert Gordon saw himself - perhaps with some jus-tification - as a contemporary performer whose style was rooted in '50s music.
Robert Gordon's reference points from the '50s were not the popular acts from the period but rather the proto-punk rockabillies such as Johnny Burnette, Billy Riley and Gene Vincent. It was the raw, visceral energy of a blind drunk Billy Riley hollering into the Arkansas night that Robert Gordon sought to emulate. Gordon was a product of the thriving Washington, D.C. scene that drew much of its energy from the hills of Virginia. He was born in 1947 and clearly remembers hearing Heartbreak Hotel at the tender age of nine.
By the age of 15 he had formed a group that played in and around D.C. and suburban Maryland. After a stint in the National Guard (that saved him from a stint in Vietnam) Gordon married and went to New York in 1970. From that point the details become fuzzy as they touch on a period that Gordon obviously wants to forget. The upshot was that Gordon found himself in one of New York's first punk outfits, the Tuff Darts. "I had dropped out of music for about four years," he recalled. "I was supporting a family and when that broke up I warn' tin a very good frame of mind. The Tuff Darts were a negative kind of band and reflected the way I felt at that time. I couldn't stay with them because they weren't really play-ing the music I wanted. I didn' t want to scream my brains out. I wanted to play music." Gordon began discussions with Larry Uttal at Private Stock Records in early 1977.
After signing with the label he was paired with Richard Gottehrer whom some will remember as the producer of Blondie, others for his role in the Strangeloves and yet others for having co-written Jerry Lee Lewis's l' m On Fire. Together, Gottehrer and Gordon came up with the idea of bringing Link Wray into the picture. Wray had also made his living playing the D.C. area for years before he struck paydirt with Rumble. Robert Gordon had counted himself among those in the audience more than once. Wray's style was grounded in the essential weirdness of southern music. "My mother was a preacher ," he recalled. "We used to sing on the street corners in Benson, North Carolina. We sang at brush meetings when they'd take trees and brush and make a house out of it. Everybody would come from all around, sing and pray all day, eat dinner on the ground.
Then my brother had a western swing band that went under various names. We played withLash LaRue at drive-in theatres and all over." Wray served in Korea where he lost a lung to tuberculosis. He also underwent a variety of religious experiences including one in which he was hurled fifteen feet across the room by the Holy Ghost. All this before he c utR umble . By the early '70s, Wray had resurfaced in San Francisco, cutting some commendably underproduced music for Polydor and Virgin that demonstrated his continuing evolu-tion and eclec tism. It was Richard Gottehrer who brought Wray and Gordon together. "I was at Richard's house," recalled Gordon "and I was thinking about changing my name to Ray Vernon. Richard and I started talking about Vernon and Link Wray.
He knew that Link was living in San Francisco and contacted him." Armed with Gottehrer's plane ticket, Wray arrived in New York, suspicious that he would be paired with a '50s revival act (to that point - and to this day - he had studious-ly avoided Ralph Nader styled revival shows). However, Wray found that "Robert had the rawness and freshness about him like Elvis on Sun Records. It was a new sparkfor me. I said,' Let' s do it.' " The first album was cut at Plaza Sound, New York during April 1977. It featured a cover shot of Gordon, his mouth agape like a moron time had forgotten. His music too struck a wonderful pose, especially when compared with the relentless dreariness of the then-current pop music scene.
A version of Red Hot, clearly based on Billy Riley's reading of the song, crashed into the Hot 100 and the album went on to sell in excess of 100,000 copies. Gordon, Wray, Gottehrer and Uttal were convinced that they had stumbled upon something. Gordon was brought back into the studio to record a second album, 'Fresh Fish Special' (arcanely named after a line of dialogue in 'Jailhouse Rock'). Bruce Springsteen, who had sat in with the band during a gig at NYU, contributed an atmos-pherically sensual ballad, Fire, on which he made an unbilled guest shot as a pianist. It was released as a single; however, Gordon had the misfortune to see his version scooped by the Pointer Sisters. 'Fresh Fish Special' also featured the Jordanaires to reinforce the hitherto unspoken link to the past greatness of Elvis Presley.
|Robert Gordon Is Red Hot (CD) 1|
|3:||I Sure Miss You|
|4:||Flyin' Saucer Rock & Roll|
|5:||The Way I Walk|
|6:||Lonesome Train (On A Lonesome Track)|
|7:||I Want To Be Free|
|8:||Rock Billy Boogie|
|9:||All By Myself|
|11:||Wheel Of Fortune|
|12:||Love My Baby|
|13:||It's Only Make Believe|
|14:||Crazy Man Crazy|
|15:||The Worrying Kind|
|17:||Sweet Love On My Mind|
|20:||Look Who's Blue|
|22:||Something's Gonna Happen|
|25:||Red Hot (live)|