The Upshot: The Rev at the front lines interviewing everyone from the Georgia Satellites, Webb Wilder, and Charlie Daniels, to the Ramones, Jello Biafra, and the Screamin’ Sirens —and living to tell the tales.
BY FRED MILLS
The good Reverend Keith thumbs once again through his back pages, having not long ago published the final volume of his reviews (albums, DVDs, books, etc.) archives and now turning his attention to some of the interviews he’s published over the years. Dating back to his ‘80s journo days when he was music critic at Nashville’s The Metro publication (he currently calls Batavia, NY, his home), The Rock ‘n’ Roll Archives offers some choice snapshots of artists both big and small, and the results are both engaging and, at times, revealing. Never forget that musicians often toe the party line when being interviewed, donning their promotion ‘n’ publicity hats and dutifully plugging their latest record, their current tour, and of course their eternally cool selves.
Volume One covers a subset of artists clearly very dear to Gordon’s heart, the southern rockers who began emerging within the post-punk college scene of the ’80s. Having previously devoted an entire book to Jason & the Scorchers, his inclusion of an out-of-print interview from ’86 with Jason Ringenberg and guitarist Warner Hodges is a no-brainer. The 1990 story on the Georgia Satellites is, likewise, a logical choice, for both of those bands were hugely influential across the Southeast back in the day; I should know, I was on the scene myself as a Charlotte-based music critic. Some may raise an eyebrow over a Charlie Daniels piece, I suspect, given Daniels’ reactionary image among liberal-leaning sorts. But at this point Daniels wasn’t particularly interested in pushing a conservative agenda, and his insights on country music (“It’s become so static”) are as applicable now as they were at the time. And speaking personally, revisiting Texas’ Slobberbone and Nashville’s Webb Wilder were treats; Gordon rightly pegs the former as having built-in appeal to rednecks and punks alike, while the latter opens up candidly on a number of subjects instead of dipping into his well-documented oddball persona.
Volume Two is no less close to home for Gordon, who has been a lifelong champion of punk rock, something that no doubt made him stand out as a music writer in Nashville. Kicking the book off with a 1990 conversation with Jello Biafra, at the time under scrutiny once by various moral majority types in the wake of the 2 Live Crew dust-up, things quickly devolve —er, kick into high gear! — from there. Prior to reading about them here, I was not familiar with hardcore outfits Blanks 77 and Choreboy, and I’m always up for a piece on the Descendents, DOA, the Meat Puppets, and the Ramones. The ’93 interview with Billy Idol on the occasion of his prescient album Cyberpunk was also an unexpected treat, the rocker coming across as extremely thoughtful and curious rather that interested in polishing his rebel-yell image. And any writer who will cover the Screamin’ Sirens is tops in my book. Having hung out with the distaff twang-punks one raucous, debauched, memorable evening in the mid ‘80s myself, and knowing the Rev as well as I do, I think I can safely say that his summit with lead vocalist Pleasant Gehman was a writer/musician pairing destined to be.
Gordon has a knack for drawing people out, and while this can be attributed either to an empathetic bedside manner in which the profile subject realizes Gordon coming from the same place as they are, or to the fact that he’s a biker-sized dude who could easily beat the ass of pretty much any musician aside from Glenn Danzig, the results are a win-win-win for readers, subjects, and author.