Monday, January 2, 2017

A Conversation With Derv Gordon of The Equals

I'm excited to be back to blogging again after a long hiatus!  As such, I want to make the blogging experience more interactive and immediate, so I'm going to do a lot more podcast interviews.  To that end, my first live interview is with Derv Gordon, who was the lead singer of The Equals!  While Eddy Grant tends to get the lion share of attention about The Equals,  Derv deserves more credit for the band's sound and for his contribution to their success.  I recently connected with Derv and interviewed him about what it was like to move to England from Jamaica as part of the Windrush Generation and his experiences and stories about being in The Equals, who as the very first multi-racial band, went on to change British music, society and culture.  The best news is that after a long break, Derv is back to performing the music of The Equals and will be playing his American debut at The Elbo Room in San Francisco on Friday January 27, 2017.  Its hard to believe that for all their success in the U.K. and Europe, The Equals never performed in the U.S.

As a young ska music fan, I was first introduced to The Equals when I picked up a copy of "Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys" at a record convention where I was scouring for hard to find ska and reggae records.  I had never heard of the band, but the sticker on the sleeve said "The Very First 2-Tone Band!"  Of course, I was intrigued and bought it.  When I got home and put it on my turntable, what I heard blew my mind.  The song wasn't ska and it certainly wasn't reggae.  But it was mesmerizing! Derv belted liked James Brown and the band (Eddy Grant, Derv's brother Lincoln, John Hall and Pat Lloyd) mixed fuzzy garage rock and funky R'n B that combined a bi-racial is beautiful message to an anti-Vietnam war call to action ("Black skin blue eyed boys/Ain't gonna fight no wars").  I was smitten. As I did my homework, I learned that Eddy Grant (who at the time was stepping off his sofa into a pool of water in the 'Electric Avenue' video on MTV) was the band's guitarist.

The Equals didn't play ska, but as the very first band featuring both black and white members and native and immigrant musicians, they brought a Caribbean flavor, courtesy of Derv, Lincoln and Eddy to British music of the 60's, adding hints of rocksteady bass lines, upbeat ska guitar and occasional shouts of "Rude Boy!" to their bubble gum pop meets garage punk meets skinhead soul.  Best known for the original versions of "Baby Come Back" and "Police On My Back" they were huge across the U.K. Europe and later Africa. The riff for "Baby Come Back" is Hall of Fame worthy in my book (check out the video below of the band performing the song live -  its a musical explosion!). And if that's not impressive enough, the band also penned "Rough Rider" (as The Four Gee's) which was famously covered by both Prince Buster and The Beat!


William said...

Excellent post! Good to see I wasn't the only Equals fan in the Garden State.

Marco On The Bass said...

Thanks William! I did petition Derv to play NYC at some point so hopefully that will happen soon!

biopunk said...

Thanks for this Marco!

I had one of the Rub A Dub Dub 7"s as a little kid way back in the mid-70s and it didn't click that it was by the same EQUALS as the 'Police On My Back' & 'Baby Come Back' EQUALS until about a decade ago. Such a great band & criminally underappreciated.

Fantastic to hear Derv is going to be performing again.

Looking forward to that book.

(Glad you're back to blogging, too!)