Martin Gordon

Martin Gordon (born 3 May 1954, Ipswich, Suffolk) is an English musician, who plays bass guitar, double bass and piano.

Biography

Martin Gordon was born in Ipswich, and grew up Hitchin, Hertfordshire. He studied piano and classical guitar as a child, attended summer schools hosted by the British National Jazz Youth Orchestra, where he took lessons from Nucleus bassist Jeff Clyne and later studied harmony and counterpoint.

Gordon began his musical career in the 1970s with the Californian pop brothers Ron Mael and Russell Mael in Sparks, who were seeking a bassist after their relocation to the UK. Gordon played with Sparks on the album Kimono My House, which featured his trademark Rickenbacker 4001 bass. “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us” and “Amateur Hour” were UK hits from that album. “This Town…” made No. 2 in the UK Singles Chart but, after one album, Gordon and Sparks parted company.

He then formed Jet (described by Allmusic as “the first supergroup of glam”) and then Radio Stars. Both bands featured singer Andy Ellison, drummer Chris Townson, and guitarist Ian Macleod. Jet’s eponymous album was produced by Queen producer Roy Thomas Baker. Between the demise of Jet and its reincarnation as Radio Stars in 1976, he performed briefly with pioneer of American punk Ian North; along with drummer Paul Simon, Gordon played a handful of dates with Ian’s Radio before rejoining members of Jet to form Radio Stars.

Radio Stars achieved a modicum of success with a single ‘Nervous Wreck’ (which charted at #38) and two critically well-received albums Songs for Swinging Lovers and Holiday Album. The band has been anthologised with Two Minutes Mr Smith (Moonlight Records) and Somewhere There’s a Place For Us (Ace Records). Ace Records re-released the Radio Stars catalogue on CD in 2003. In 2008, Radio Stars reformed for a gig at London’s Blow Up Metro Club, to promote the release of live recordings from the 1970s entitled ‘Something for the Weekend’. The performance featured original members Martin Gordon, Andy Ellison and Ian Macleod accompanied by drummer Steve Budney who performed on Gordon’s 2007 solo debut in Boston, USA. The band also performed one-off gigs at the Rebellion festival in London (13 December 2008) and at London’s 100 Club (22 January 2010).

Session musician

Following the end of Radio Stars in 1979, he moved to Paris, France, where he worked as house producer for Barclay Records, and played bass with the Rolling Stones during the recording of ‘Emotional Rescue’.[2] He returned to the UK at the beginning of the 80s, and worked as producer and in other capacities with such musicians as George Michael, Boy George, Blur, Primal Scream, Kylie Minogue, S’Express, Tiger Lillies and Robert Palmer, as well as a host of minor talents.

World music

At the beginning of the 1990s, world music took Gordon initially to Bombay with Asha Bhosle and Boy George, and subsequently to Pakistan, Morocco, Egypt, Ghana and The Gambia. After studying gamelan in Bali on a Darmasiswa scholarship, he formed the Mira ensemble with journalist Peter Culshaw in 1995, releasing an album ‘New Hope For the Dead’. They created an elaborate theatrical presentation, which was discontinued after two performances at the Place Theatre, in London and an appearance at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1997. He was a member of the SOAS-based (Balinese) Gamelan Kembang Kirang between 1996–1997. Gordon performs with Berlin-based (Indonesian gamelan group) Lindhu Raras.

Solo

Following the recording of an album in Istanbul with Turkish diva Sezen Aksu, Gordon played bass on Aksu’s subsequent European tour (2002). This prompted his return to his pop music roots in 2003, via his own label Radiant Future Records.

He has seven solo albums to his credit, most recorded in collaboration with Swedish vocalist Pelle Almgren. The first three solo releases were collected in a box-set titled The Mammal Trilogy (2006). Allmusic noted that ‘any release that reminds the world of the brilliance of Gordon’s first three 21st century solo albums can only be applauded’. His solo albums also feature a selection of Lennon–McCartney and Gilbert & Sullivan tunes alongside Gordon originals. In 2007 Gordon made his live debut as a solo performer in Boston, United States.

The fourth album God is on His Lunchbreak was accompanied by a book detailing the origins of the material, lyrics and assorted musing entitled The Illustrated and Annotated ‘God’s on His Lunchbreak, Please Call Back’ Companion Volume, with illustrations by drummer Chris Townson.[5] The fifth album Time Gentlemen Please was accompanied by the album Time Gentlemen Please – Demos, featuring Gordon’s original demos of the material (available only via his website).

Gordon and vocalist Almgren made appearances in 2011 and 2012 as part of the Swedish garage-punk outfit 70-5, and various performances are to be found on YouTube. The sixth and final installment of the Mammal Trilogy was entitled ‘Include Me Out’;[6] released in August 2013, it was recorded in Berlin, Germany and Gnesta, Sweden and was accompanied by ‘Words in Your Shell-Like‘, a book of Gordon’s lyrics from Jet to the Mammal Trilogy. This brought the Trilogy to completion.

An album of Gilbert and Sullivan compositions ‘Gilbert Gordon & Sullivan‘ was released by Radiant Future Records in April 2016, as well as a single entitled Dump the Trump in October 2016.

Equipment

Gordon is known for using the Rickenbacker 4001 bass guitar, most notably on the Sparks album Kimono My House and the later album Jet by the British group of the same name. He has stated in the Rickenbacker Forum that he used H&H amplification for this recording, specifically a H&H bass combo. He used Rotosound round-wound strings to produce his benchmark sound. Such was his identification with the 4001 that he stated that he preferred to be sacked (from the group Sparks) rather than accommodate the request for him to use a different instrument. In Radio Stars, he used a Rickenbacker 3001 and a Fender Precision bass. In more recent times he has used Yamaha 5-string basses and Stagg upright e-basses, before returning to the Rickenbacker 4003 in 2014

Discography

Sparks

  • 1974 Kimono My House – Island Records

Jet

  • 1975 Jet – CBS Records
  • 2003 Jet – Radiant Future Records reissue of original album, withdrawn 2004.
  • 2003 More Light than Shade – Radiant Future Records demos for second album, withdrawn 2011.
  • 2010 Some Flotsam – Live in 75 – Radiant Future Records live on the Hunter-Ronson tour 1975, download only, withdrawn 2011.
  • 2010 Jet & Even More Light Than Shade – RPM Records (UK) – reissue of original album, expanded double album set, withdrawn 2011.

Radio Stars

  • 1977 Songs for Swinging Lovers – Chiswick Records (re-released 2006 by Ace Records )
  • 1978 Holiday Album – Chiswick Records (re-released 2006 by Ace Records )
  • 1992 Somewhere There’s A Place For Us – Ace Records (compilation of the above releases)
  • 2008 Something for the Weekend – Radiant Future Records (live in 1977/78)

Mira

  • 1995 New Hope for the Dead – JVC Records
  • 2008 New Hope for the Dead – Radiant Future Records re-issued version with extra material including live tracks, remixes and unreleased content – (download only)

Blue Meanies

  • 2006 Pop Sensibility – Radiant Future Records (download only)

John’s Children

  • 2011 : Black & White – Acid Jazz AJXCD 234

Solo

  • 2003 The Baboon in the Basement – Radiant Future Records
  • 2003 The Baboon in the Basement Radio EP (promo-only) – Radiant Future Records
  • 2004 The Joy of More Hogwash – Radiant Future Records
  • 2005 God’s on His Lunchbreak (Please Call Back) – Radiant Future Records
  • 2006 The Mammal Trilogy (3-disc box set compilation of the above three releases) – Radiant Future Records
  • 2006 How am I Doing So Far? (single disc compilation of the first three solo releases w/bonus tracks) – Radiant Future Records
  • 2007 The World is Your Lobster – Radiant Future Records
  • 2008 Hello Boston! – (free with first 1000 copies of Radio Stars’ Something for the Weekend, then download-only) – Radiant Future Records
  • 2009 Time Gentlemen Please – Radiant Future Records
  • 2009 Time Gentlemen Please – Demos (limited edition CD, then download-only) – Radiant Future Records
  • 2013 Include Me Out (limited edition CD, then download-only) – Radiant Future Records
  • 2013 Exclude Me In – Demos (limited edition CD, then download-only) – Radiant Future Records
  • 2016 Gilbert Gordon & Sullivan – Radiant Future Records
  • 2016 Modern Major General (single from GG&S) – Radiant Future Records
  • 2016 Dump the Trump! (single) – Radiant Future Records
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