TICKETS TORN IN HALF: January 5, 1980-ROBERT GORDON @The Silver Dollar Music Saloon, BAYSHORE,NY
I grew up on all kinds of music; my dad’s big band collection, some Johnny Cash, the radio hits of the 1950’s and early 1960’s which included street corner doo-wop bands, girl groups, a little folk music, some matinee idols, a few Broadway tunes tossed in, and then… February of 1964 changed everything with The BEATLES appearance on Ed Sullivan. After that it was a hop, skip, and jump to WOODSTOCK. I along with everyone else my age experimented by listening to every type of music that was thrown my way. Late night free form FM radio influenced my listening habits and of course my purchasing habits. As the Woodstock Nation scattered away from the meadows of muddy joy and celebration, we moved on to college or gainful employment, and with that our tastes in music changed again. The Beatles broke up and corporate/ arena rock took over. Fortunately, for those of us living in New York City we had the rise of small clubs, where occasionally you could see an up-and-coming band before they hit the big time. Unfortunately, many times bands in these small clubs were expected to play the hits of the day. It was about this time in one of those small clubs that we first heard the uniqueness of The New York Dolls. That moment for me my friends changed everything. At some later date I’ll give you my meandering thoughts on what occurred with the band and of course how the band influenced others. But for now I’ll throw it out there on how the Dolls playing in clubs like Max’s Kansas City and later others in CBGB’s changed the course of music moving away from the drabness and into a new light. The Dolls even though their aspirations were to become huge, while disappointed by the lack of enthusiasm across middle America. However, they soldiered on and in doing so inspired others to form bands. This “newer wave” (sorry) of bands were diametrically opposed to the progressive rock sounds of corporate music. Mostly labeled “garage” bands, these combos consisted of drums, a bass player,a guitar player or two ,and a singer. Sometimes the label of “singer” was a stretch.
The year of the Bicentennial 1976 was a true turning point in music, especially music found in the clubs of New York City and music played on the radio. THE RAMONES first album was released and poor TOM PETTY was labeled “punk rock”, a phrase he hated all because he wore a leather jacket on the cover. The point is everything was changing, quickly. Every Tom, Dick, and Joey Ramone, all we’re looking for that moment in the sun but were looking for it in their own unique way. Bands popped up all over the place. There were duos like Suicide, trios like early Talking Heads, strange acts like the Contortionists and who can forget Wendy Williams and the Plasmatics. Life was grand. On any given night you would go out knowing you would be thoroughly entertained.Patrons of those NYC clubs were rarely if ever shocked.
All this jibber jabber is just a way for me to introduce the TUFF DARTS a band I saw a few times at CBGB’S and their short term lead singer Robert Gordon who broke away from them to concentrate on a rockabilly revival career.Shortly after the split from TUFF DARTS I met Robert Gordon in the New York City club, Hurrah, while we will both there separately to see my friends band, The Werewolves. Robert had a new look with a slicked back, high piled pompadour. He was accompanied by a gentleman in sunglasses a few years older then us whom he introduced to me. I immediately recognized the name, Link Wray, as a guitarist of some renown to say the least. Robert briefly informed me that he was working on a solo album and Link would be playing guitar. A few months later the album was released and gigs announced. For whatever reason our paths did not cross, I missed his performances with Link,and again a few years later with Chris Spedding but did get to see the January 5, 1980 performance with another guitarist of some note Danny Gatton,”the world’s best unknown guitarist”. Robert Gordon and his band did not disappoint. The sparse audience, mostly “dolls and cats” as he called them, followed him from gig to gig, dressed to the nines with men in white shirts with thin bolo ties,dolls in poodle skirts, all wearing mostly anything from the ROCKABILLY era. The show sometimes is the show, meaning the audience is ACT 1.Needless to say, it was a blast. So ROCKABILLY was just one of the niches carved out in the mid seventies and ROBERT GORDON was one of it’s shining stars.
NYT:April 23,1978-Rob’t Palmer
During the late 50’s, the rockabillies ran into trouble. Jerry Lee Lewis was hounded out of England by the press when it was discovered that his wife was only 13 and his cousin. Carl Perkins was disabled by an automobile accident at a critical juncture his career, and never found a suitable follow‐up to “Blue Suede Shoes.” The second‐string wild men—Sonny Burgess, Billy Lee Riley—never really found a mass audience outside the South and Midwest. Elvis Presley, whose early records started it all, fell increasingly under the sway of Nashville and Hollywood. An army of bland young men, the’ Fabians and Frankie Avalons, launched a counter‐attack on cleaned‐up teen television shows like Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand.” By 1960, the rockabilly era was definitely over.
But popular fashion runs in cycles, and rockabilly is back. The smooth, mass‐produced blandness of 70’s pop made a raw, uninhibited new wave inevitable, and when it came along, in the person of the punks, rockabilly came with it. In some cases, the rockabilly influence in punk rock is minimal, a question of dyed hair, black leather jackets, or an occasional song or vocal mannerism. But one prominent new:wave rocker, Robert Gordon, has based his entire repertory and performing persona on rockabilly:. Two of his most popular numbers are Billy Lee Riley evergreens.