45: “Fire” b/w “If This Is Wrong” by Robert Gordon w/ Link Wray. Private Stock 45203. Recorded in New York City, 1978.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Born in 1947, Robert Gordon spent his Bethesda, Maryland childhood devoted to Elvis Presley, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, and other rock and roll pioneers. The sixties were spent ignoring the British Invasion bands and focusing on soul singers like James Brown and Otis Redding. After his stint in the National Guard, Robert moved to New York City.

By the mid-70’s, Robert was singing in the Tuff Darts, a punk band that, like the Ramones and Johnny Thunders, had a deep love for 50’s rock. Here’s “All For the Love of Rock and Roll.”

Producer Richard Gotterher was impressed with Robert’s voice and invited him to do a solo recording, suggesting that he work with Link Wray. Robert was probably thrilled at the idea of working with an early rock hero like Link.

You don’t know Link Wray? Sure, you do. You’ve heard his music. Listen to this.

Right? One of the most famous rock instrumentals ever.  Jimmy Page is a big fan.

Private Stock Records released Robert Gordon with Link Wray in 1977. It featured some Wray originals and some well-chosen covers, like this faithful take on Billy Lee Riley’s 1958 hit “Red Hot.”

“Fire” was the lead single from their 1978 album Fresh Fish Special. Bruce Springsteen had written the song for Elvis Presley, but the demo supposedly arrived just after Presley’s demise. It was almost included on Darkness on the Edge of Town but didn’t make the cut because it didn’t fit in with the album’s class-conscious theme. He offered it to Robert and Link after seeing them perform live, and he even played piano on the track. The song would be recorded by the Pointer Sisters a year later.

The B side, “If This Is Wrong,” is a Link Wray original. Gordon sounds especially Presleyan here. Having Elvis’s backing vocalists, The Jordanaires, on the track certainly doesn’t hurt.

Gordon parted ways with Link when he moved to RCA for his next three records. Wray was replaced by British session great Chris Spedding, who had not only produced the Sex Pistols’ first demos but would go on to play with everyone from Harry Nilsson to Tom Waits to Roxy Music. Gordon’s voice really soars on “It’s Only Make a Believe,” a Conway Twitty cover from 1979’s Rock Billy Boogie.

The Buddy Hollyesque “Someday Someway” was released in 1981. It was written by Marshall Crenshaw, who would record his own version a year later.

Gordon stopped recording after that third RCA album, in spite of it being his biggest seller. He and Spedding re-connected in the mid-90’s to record a collection of Elvis covers, once again working with The Jordanaires. They still tour together occasionally.

Link Wray, alas, died in 2005 at the age of 76. Here’s a tune from his final album, 2000’s  Barbed Wire. Fittingly, it’s an Elvis cover: “Tiger Man.”

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