Unequaled excitement hits the windy city as Derv Gordon of cult UK band the Equals plays a rare gig | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Unequaled excitement hits the windy city as Derv Gordon of cult UK band the Equals plays a rare gig 

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click to enlarge Derv Gordon with the Equals

Derv Gordon with the Equals

courtesy the artist

Very few bands can claim to be equally revered by lovers of psych, mod, ska, punk, funk, R&B, disco, glam, and bubblegum pop, and had a racially integrated lineup in the turbulent 60s—and had hits. The Equals were such a band, though sadly in the States they were known mostly as a footnote to Eddy “Electric Avenue” Grant’s career. My gateway to their music was their monstrously mod-fuzzed “I Can See but You Don’t Know,” which I heard on a psych comp in the 90s, and there was no going back. The band dipped their toes in a plethora of genres, but all of the music that came out—characterized by uber-catchy choruses, punky handclaps, Afrocentric grooves, and unparalleled energy and urgency—was undeniably their own. Formed in a council flat in the UK in 1965, the Equals featured Grant, twin brothers Derv and Lincoln Gordon, and Caucasian musicians John Hall and Pat Lloyd. Their 1968 breakout single, “Baby Come Back,” with its pop-ska rhythm, reached number one in Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK—and an impressive #32 on the U.S. charts (it was later covered by Bonnie Raitt in 1982). More hits followed, including the pure pop “I Get So Excited,” the blistering proto-funk “Black Skinned Blue Eyed Boys” and “Stand Up and Be Counted,” and the poppy “Michael and the Slipper Tree.” The sleek 1976 disco single “Funky Like a Train” has been reissued multiple times, and the Clash covered the punky “Police on My Back.” Four years ago, SF native and megafan Jason Duncan took on the task of writing a book on the Equals, and when he tracked down Derv Gordon in London for an interview, he mentioned his band So What would be honored to back him for a special one-off show. That gig happened in May of this year, and in July So What joined Gordon for a full west-coast tour. Now Chicago is lucky enough to have this living legend perform nearly all the crucial tunes mentioned above—miss this once-in- a-lifetime event at your own peril.   v

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