Rockabilly music was shocking when it came out in the 1950s. But Robert Gordon says it’s “shocking” that he’s still doing it 30 years after his fi rst single, “Red Hot.”
“I’m just happy to still be able to get out there and entertain people,” says Gordon, 49, who embraced rockabilly in 1976 after a tenure in the punk rock band Tuff Darts and drew considerable attention with his version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Fire” two years later.
“I’ve done most of my work in Europe as of late because it’s just impossible to tour in the States without a record company supporting it — plus most of the clubs I used to play are gone, anyway. But aside from me being a little grayer and about twice as big as I used to be, the voice, I’m happy to say, is better than ever, so hopefully
that’ll compensate for the difference in age.”
The Washington, D.C.-born Gordon once again has a record deal — with Rykodisc, which will be releasing “It’s Now or Never,” a collection of Elvis Presley songs recorded in Nashville, this summer. Despite Presley’s acknowledged infl uence (Gordon credits “Heartbreak Hotel” for turning him on to rock ’n’ roll), it’s the kind of concept Gordon has long avoided, but he says he’s more comfortable with paying tribute to The King nowadays.
“I’ve sort of stayed away from doing to much Elvis stuff because I didn’t ever want to get pegged as an imitator or whatever,” explains Gordon, who sang with Presley’s old backing vocalists the Jordanaires on several tracks. “I just happened to sing in that style. But I have definitely been infl uenced by him, as well as a lot of black artists and country artists.
“It just seemed to work this time because of where we’re coming from. There are some obvious things, like ‘Don’t Be Cruel,’ but we do a lot of more obscure stuff, ‘Mess of Blues,’ and some of the movie stuff that people don’t usually over. It came out really good, I think.”
Gordon’s other major career development of late has been reuniting with Chris Spedding his guitarist from 1978-93. The two parted ways amicably — “It was just time to do different things,” Gordon says — and they’ve fallen back together as if no time has passed.
“Chris and I have a defi nite sort of rapport on stage, and I think it comes across to the audience,” Gordon says of Spedding, who’s also worked with Paul McCartney, Bryan Ferry, Roxy Music, Elton John and others. “He brings a more modern aspect to it. He’s got the knowledge, the basics to do the roots thing, but he takes it to a different place. That’s what’s always appealed to me about him from day one, and it’s still there.”
Robert Gordon and Chris Spedding perform Friday (January 12th) at the Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. Call (248) 544-3030 or visit www.themagicbag.com.
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