|Robert Gordon, Rockabilly Bad Boy
Robert Gordon grew up in Washington, D.C. to the rockabilly rock & roll sounds of Billy Lee Riley, Sanford Clark, Gene Vincent, Carl Perkins, Warren Smith and Eddie Cochran. He was affected by their vocal energy - and by the way they lived and looked like they sounded. Link Wray was another of Roberts early heros. "The first time I saw Link was on a rock & roll show at Glen Echo Amusement Park outside of Washington in 1961. He was great. When we started to record I told Richard Gottehrer, my producer, about Linkís guitar style. Richard got in touch with him. Link agreed to come to New York. Not only did he play on several of my albums, but he also played with me live on stage. Linkís from the Washington area too. We have a lot in common." I once asked Robert, "How did you relate to the 1960ís?" "I didnít," he said.
He relates to rock & roll songs sung great. Thatís what he does; he sings about the basic rock & roll emotions, like love, and hurt, with absolute conviction.
His first big hit is, as the song says, "red hot". Itís about kissiní in the dark, being loved just right, and missing you. Itís also about Robert Gordon being exactly what he is. He told me, "Iím not trying to recreate something. This is how I feel." Iím glad he feels that way because when I listen to him sing I feel that way too.
I saw Robert for the first time in the mid 70's when late one night I wandered into Maxís for a beer. I was immediately taken with the surly intensity with which he delivered his vocals, and with his lean, short-haired look. Onstage, he created a mood that came as much from his neo-rock & roll attitude as it did from the songs he sang. Offstage, he was the same person as he was onstage. Robert has believed in rock & roll since he started singing it when he was fifteen. Today he still shows that rock & roll can see us all through and that when rock & roll is great it makes you feel real good.
Richard Robinson, 1977
Robert's best shot came in 1978 when he released "Fire". Not only was it a great song, but it was written by artiste du jour, Bruce Springsteen. God knows why Springsteen didn't cut it himself, but he didn't. He gave it to Robert, and even showed up to play piano on the date. With that kind of pedigree and buzz, you'd think that "Fire" wouldn't stop short of the Top 10. It didn't disappoint, it got all the way up to #2 - but by The Pointer Sisters, who released the song in 1979. - Colin Escott -
Cover scans from The BlackCat's private collection:
The Fool/Endless Sleep (78 rpm, Private Stock 1977)
More Robert Gordon: