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The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 2

March 13th, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments


In the first post for The Jim Gordon Collection we followed the great Wrecking Crew drummer’s path from California drumming prodigy to his tour with the Everly Brothers and breakthrough on the Beach Boys” Pet Sounds to his great contribution to Clapton”s “Layla” via the piano coda.

By the early 1970s, Jim Gordon was a sought-after drummer. His exceptional talent aside, he was a reliable professional. He was also very likable and popular, to all appearances straight-laced and eternally sunny. The facade disguised an imbalanced psyche. Since childhood Gordon had heard voices. They tended to be benign, but in flashes they began to exhibit a dark side, especially when Gordon was drinking heavily and taking drugs, which he began to do at an increasing rate.

But few knew about the darkness. Everybody was puzzled when, during the recording of Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen LP, Gordon punched his girlfriend, Rita Coolidge, leaving her with a black eye. She dumped Gordon immediately.

But that was an aberration. Gordon continued to contribute to great albums: Harry Nilsson’s Nilsson Schmilsson, Lennon’s Imagine, Traffic’s The Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys, Steely Dan’s Pretzel Logic, Jackson Browne’s The Pretender, and so on.


But things were changing. As the 1970s hit their home stretch, session drummers were beginning to be displaced by new-fangled electronic devices. And Gordon’s inner demons started to manifest themselves more loudly, especially in concert with LSD and heroin, both of which were steady companions of Gordon’s journey through the ’70s, and speedballs, a nasty mixture of heroin and cocaine.

His behaviour became, as one might expect, increasingly erratic. The combination of mental illness and crazy drug abuse had already cost him two marriages. Now it began to kill his career. An invitation to join Bob Dylan on tour fizzled out, jobs became rare, and his impulse to drum dissipated. Gordon knew he had a problem. He repeatedly sought psychiatric help and intervention for his abuse of drugs and alcohol. It didn’t help. The voices had taken over and were destroying his life. Apparently the loudest of these voices in the head was that of his mother, Osa Gordon.

On 3 June 1983 a psychotic Jim Gordon drove to his 72-year-old-mother’s home, rang the doorbell, pushed her inside the house, and bludgeoned her to death with a hammer and a knife. The next day, when police came to Gordon’s home to inform him of the killing, he tearfully confessed.

Jim_GordonThe 1984 trial accepted the diagnosis that Gordon had acute schizophrenia, but due to a California law his lawyers could not enter an insanity plea. Gordon was found guilty of second-degree murder.

In 1994 Gordon told the Philadelphia Inquirer about his memories of the killing: “When I remember the crime, it’s kind of like a dream. I can remember going through what happened in that space and time, and it seems kind of detached, like I was going through it on some other plane. It didn’t seem real.”

Jim Gordon was denied parole in 2013 and remains interred at a psychiatric prison in California as “a danger to society if released from prison”, owing to what the court papers described as his resistance to court-ordered medication and counselling. His next chance for freedom is in 2018.

As I said in part 1, this a profoundly tragic story: for Jim Gordon, certainly for Mrs Gordon, for their family and friends, and for music.

Read Kent Hartmann’s excellent The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Best-kept Secret (2012) for more about Jim Gordon and other greats from the session musician collective.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes coverts. PW in comments.

1. Albert Hammond – The Free Electric Band (1973)
2. B.W. Stevenson – Shambala (1973)
3. Gordon Lightfoot – Carefree Highway (1974)
4. Jackson Browne – Here Come Those Tears (1976)
5. Carly Simon – We Have No Secrets (1972)
6. Roger McGuinn – Lost My Driving Wheel (1973)
7. Derek and the Dominos – Bell Bottom Blues (1970)
8. Hall & Oates – Sara Smile (1975)
9. Marlena Shaw – Rose Marie (Mon Cherie) (1975)
10. Maria Muldaur – Midnight At The Oasis (1973)
11. Stephen Bishop – Never Letting Go (1976)
12. José Feliciano – Hitchcock Railway (1968)
13. The Incredible Bongo Band – Apache (1973)
14. Alice Cooper – I’m The Coolest (1976)
15. Phil Ochs – Kansas City Bomber (1972)
16. Sammy Johns – Chevy Van (1975)
17. Donovan – Life Goes On (1973)
18. The Sunshine Company – Look, Here Comes The Sun (1968)
19. Seals & Crofts – See My Life (1969)
20. Johnny Rivers – Rockin’ Pneumonia (1972)
21. Mary McCreary – Soothe Me (1974)
22. Barbra Streisand – Beautiful (1971)


Previous drummer collection:
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 1
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 2
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 1
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 2
The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 1

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  1. halfhearteddude
    March 13th, 2014 at 06:30 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. March 13th, 2014 at 13:33 | #2

    This is such valuable history, and an impressive list of tunes. Thank you sir.

  3. J. Loslo
    March 13th, 2014 at 15:50 | #3

    Thanks for these. I’ve always been amazed to hear about those individuals who are probably all over my music collection whether I’m aware of them or not, like the Three Jims: Jim Gordon, Jim Keltner, and Jim Horn.

  4. dogbreath
    March 14th, 2014 at 11:33 | #4

    Tragic history to the guy aside, the collected songs are excellent: another fine job, sir. Thanks!

  5. Guy
    March 20th, 2014 at 14:04 | #5

    Almost “missed”this one, but I’m glad i saw it. Thank you once again

  6. Lordy
    April 23rd, 2014 at 04:17 | #6

    Loved the book (which I read on your recommendation) and these two mixes! Thanks!

  7. halfhearteddude
    April 24th, 2014 at 19:36 | #7

    Well, I think you’ll love the new Hal Blaine post.

  8. fordfreud
    November 25th, 2014 at 00:40 | #8

    Sorry to eliminate one of your tracks, but ‘Sara Smile’ by Hall and Oates featured Ed Greene on drums, not Jim Gordon. Jim did play on several tracks from that album, though. See the following link:


  9. Sergej
    May 23rd, 2015 at 14:09 | #9
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