gordon and spedding
gordon & spedding: career highlights
“… A fucking brilliant player”.
– Robert Gordon about Chris Spedding
“What people thus far have seemed to overlook is that the guy is simply a great singer. Period. You see, in the same way that it falls short of the mark to dub, say Hank Williams as a great writer of country and western songs-because he was, of course, simply a great songwriter – Robert Gordon has pipes that make any stylistic qualification redundant”.
– Chris Spedding about Robert Gordon
So what is it that makes Robert Gordon such a remarkable talent? There are many good singers, so what is it that sets him apart from the rest? The answer to that goes beyond the brilliance of his powerful baritone voice; it’s also the fact that he’s an exceptional interpreter of song, a unique stylist who can take almost any song and make it his own. “The man’s like a huge melting pot with a knack of being able to stamp his own style on a song regardless of what style it’s in”, writes Trevor Cajiao in his review of ‘Greetings From New York City’ (‘Now Dig This’ no. 116, November 1992).
Bruce Springsteen is one of Gordon’s admirers, and in late 1977, he gave Gordon the song ‘Fire’, and even played piano during the recording session for that song. At the time, the music that he was making with Link Wray was like a breath of fresh air right in the middle of the disco craze, and they did quite well in the charts with ‘Red Hot’, a vibrant and exhilerating rock ‘n’ roll blast that sounded like nothing else in the charts.
These days, Robert Gordon has the status of a cultfigure, and is still highly revered by many, especially in the rockabilly circuit. After all, it was Gordon that almost singlehandedly kick-started the second rockabilly wave, and thus opened the door for acts like the Stray Cats and Shakin’ Stevens. He’s admired for his defiant rock ‘n’ roll attude, as well as his unwillingness to compromise when it comes to his music, characteristics that can also be seen in the character ‘Davis’ that he plays in the cult-movie ‘The Loveless’ (1982). In the movie, ‘Davis’ is the leader of a group of violent bikers (see also ‘The Movies’), and some have observed that Gordon was in essence playing himself. It’s therefore perhaps not so surprising that ‘The Way I Walk’ is probably the song that he is most closely identified with, and that his version of this song is still being used in motion pictures like Oliver Stone’s ‘Natural Born Killers’.
One of Robert Gordon’s characteristics is his ability to surround himself with some of the world’s most outstanding guitarists. Link Wray obviously, but also Duke Robillard and Danny Gatton (be sure to check out the Robert Gordon & Danny Gatton CD ‘The Humbler’ – a truly sensational live release). The guitarist that stands out most for him though is Chris Spedding. It was producer Richard Gottehrer who brought Gordon and Spedding together in the fall of ‘78, starting a musical collaboration that would last 15 years. Gottehrer describes Spedding as a “a real guitar genius”, and adds that he’s very a structured guitarist who has “a real sense of time and sound”. Much like Gordon, Spedding is a unique stylist with an instantly recognizable sound, and therefore it’s perhaps not so surprising that they had such a special chemistry both on stage and in the studio.
Spedding is probably best known for his work with Brian Ferry and Roxy Music, and you can hear him on hits like ‘Let’s Stick Together’. He has recently toured with both Roxy Music (2001 and ’05) and Brian Ferry solo (’04). He’s also a much in-demand session player who has worked with artists like Roger Daltrey, Jack Bruce, John Cale, Nina Hagen, Nick Cave, Willie DeVille, Elton John and Bono. Spedding plays on Paul McCartney’s ‘Give My Regards To Broad Street’, and can also be seen in the movie of the same name. McCartney said that he chose players like Chris, because, “George Martin and I thought, why not get the best, the people I love to listen to and have always wanted to work with?”.
Chris Spedding has released 15 solo albums so far, and is probably best known for ‘Motorbikin’’, which charted in ’75. That same year, Mick Jagger called him and asked whether he wanted to be a part of the Rolling Stones, but Chris turned down the offer.
Three years later, he said ‘yes’ to Robert Gordon, and their collaboration between 1978 and 1993 offers ample proof for the thesis that the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. During those fifteen years, Robert Gordon and Chris Spedding were one of the most electrifying rock ‘n’ roll acts around. The unique combination of Gordon’s powerful baritone voice and Spedding’s inventive guitarwork resulted in a lot of terrific music, and albums like ‘RockBilly Boogie’, ‘Bad Boy’ and ‘Greetings from New York City’ are a testament to their abilities and their special chemistry.