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Does Robert Gordon have a satisfied mind?

By Ken Burke, July 2005

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Indeed, reissues of his early work have proven popular enough to keep Gordon working long after the neo-rockabilly revolution died down.

However, most of the singer's offers come from overseas. "Last week, I was in Helsinki for two shows then I came home, and this last weekend I was in Canada," Gordon reports. "Now tomorrow, I've got to go back to the U.K. for just one show. I'll go wherever I have to go."

Some local dates are on the books, but he notes, "It's just really difficult to play in the states these days. It's sad, but a lot of the venues I used to play are gone. There just isn't the money out there, believe it or not. I don't even carry my own band when I'm on the road now."

As a precaution, Gordon sends his music out to all the pickup bands he's scheduled to perform with, but adds, "It's tough. I've had to do these four-hour crash courses before a show in Helsinki or something like that. But now, I've worked with enough groups in Europe to be able to give 'em a call."

In the past, Gordon felt that his rockabilly image and genre purists have kept him from branching out stylistically.

"I think it's because of the vocal style," he chuckles. "The vocal makes them automatically think of you-know-who, (Elvis Presley), which I try to stay away from as much as possible. Although recently I did the B.B. King's here in town for his 70th birthday, and it was the perfect excuse to do Presley tunes. So, I had a good time. But for the most part, I don't do a lot of that these days. I think this new record will reach out to a whole new audience, and that's what I'm really looking for - to broaden that base."

Produced by Gordon, "Satisfied Mind," which was released in Europe last year, is musically different from any of his other albums.

Fats Kaplan's pedal steel and fiddle are used to good effect. Rockabilly guitarist Eddie Angel often takes a backseat to a special guest keyboard player. Was the stylistic switch intentional?

"The album was recorded in Nashville," he comments. "Originally I was slated for another studio, but we ended up doing it at Straight Up Sound which Johnny Neel owns. He was the keyboard player for the Allman Brothers, and he just happened to come down while he was doing some tracks, and I'll tell you, he just wanted very much to sit in. That's how it turned out to be more keyboard oriented."

Picking his own songs, Gordon took some creative risks, particularly with the recasting of Larry Finnegan's 1962 hit "Dear One," a novelty rocker. "It was," the singer/producer admits. "But I had always liked the song. We went into the studio with that original vibe in mind, and it just did not work. So, my idea was to camp it up like a Presley 'It's Now or Never' type of thing. The way it's done, it sounds like a tune that got away from him."

When asked about his sexy remakes of such pop fare as Bobby Darin's "Queen of the Hop" (1958) and Fabian's "Turn Me Loose" (1959), Gordon answers with tongue-in-cheek.

"Well, I think I've matured a bit. To be 58 and sing a teen idol song might have something to do with it. Although, you do have to have a certain kind of head to get into that sort of tune."

A cover of The Hollies "Long Cool Woman" is redrafted as Creedence Clearwater Revival swamp rock. Nancy Sinatra's "The Boots Are Made for Walking" and Brenda Lee's "Sweet Nothin's" are transformed into bass slappin' rockabilly. Is Gordon worried that by taking on so many famous tunes he will invite unfair comparisons to the originals?

"You know. It doesn't occur to me. It never ha,s and for some reason, I just feel like I'm putting my own stamp on 'em. People say that I've got some balls trying to cover some of these huge hits, but if it's a song that I grew up with and have always loved, I'll give it a try, man."

Amid the strong country flavors and puckish song choices, spirited takes of Jerry Reed's "When I Found You" and Sleepy LaBeef's "Ain't Gonna Take it No More" show that Gordon hasn't abandoned his original fan base. Does he fear his fiery knack for that type of material will once again reinforce his rockabilly image?

"Well, it's really a Catch-22, isn't it? I love to do it, and there's a lot of people who expect me to do it, but I have to try and broaden my horizons at the same time. So, I try to mix it up as well as I can without offending anybody. So, it all works out because I do a lot of other stuff in the live show. I don't just do a rockabilly set, by any means."

Along with much better distribution than he has come to expect in recent years, Gordon feels that a respected label like Koch has given him "a little breathing room," and he has begun to make plans for the future. He'd like to parlay an 8-show European reunion tour with Chris Spedding - their first in 15 years - into something that could play in the States.

Moreover, he'd like to record more of his original material and definitely do more producing. "I just really love producing a lot and doing this new album was a labor of love. It took from start to finish, eight days. So, it was very, very intense."

That intensity seems to be a key component of Gordon's life and career and doesn't show any signs of waning soon. That said, he is no longer the young rebel sporting the Fresh Fish Special haircut.After three plus decades in the business, can he possible still get a kick out of all this? "Performing the music is just as joyful as it ever was," he proudly states. "But I think more so now because I'm not as crazy as I once was, and I finally know what the hell I'm doing."

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