Watch CBS News

UK soul-rock singer Derv Gordon returns to Bay Area for Oakland show

Though they never registered as much more than a footnote in modern pop history for most American music fans, pioneering London soul-rockers the Equals earned themselves a solid following in Britain and the European continent during their initial flush of mid-to-late '60s chart success.

The Equals – Baby Come Back (1968) [High Quality Stereo Sound, Subtitled] by Орлин Вълчев on YouTube

With a mix of catchy pop hooks, driving mod soul grooves and energetic rock, the Equals came together in a North London housing estate in 1965. Notable for being the first interracial group to have an impact in England -- guitarist and principle songwriter Eddy Grant who was born in Guyana and Jamaican twins Dervin "Derv" Gordon (vocals) and Lincoln Gordon (bass) were black, while guitarist Pat Lloyd and drummer John Hall were white -- the band in many ways prefigured the propulsive stomp of '70s British glam with their hit singles "Baby Come Back" and "I Won't Be There."

"Baby Come Back" from 1966 would be the band's only single to even scrape the charts in the States, but it would become their biggest smash in their native England after first topping the charts in Germany and the Netherlands. The band became a popular touring attraction and put together a string of solid singles including "Viva Bobby Joe" and the island-tinged "Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys" in 1970.

Health problems in 1971 led Grant to leave the group, though he eventually recovered to launch his own successful career as a producer and solo artist, scoring his own hits in the late '70s and early '80s with "Walking on Sunshine" and "Electric Avenue." The Equals would continue to produce new music in a more funk/soul oriented vein while playing to ecstatic audiences in the decades that followed, staying in the public consciousness thanks to covers of their songs like the Clash's version of "Police on My Back" and a U.K. hit version of "Baby Come Back" by Pato Banton. Songs by the band have also been a favorite of more underground acts like the Detroit Cobras ("Green Light") and former Bay Area resident and garage-punk favorite Ty Segall ("Diversion").

Derv Gordon of The Equals with So What - Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys (5-19-17) by rawdetroit on YouTube

While the group still comes together for occasional shows in Europe and England, the legend of the band and their infectious music has also spread in the U.S. thanks to the release of  CDs compiling their classic hits. In 2017, singer "Derv" Gordon came to San Francisco to play a one-off show backed by Oakland "hard bubblegum" punk band So What at the Elbo Room in the Mission for the vocalist's first ever U.S. performance. The success of the sold-out appearance would lead to full-blown tours of both coasts later that year and eventually an appearance at Oakland's Burger Boogaloo in Mosswood Park two years later. 

Gordon returns to the Bay Area with So What for the first time since then for a West Coast tour, headlining Thee Stork Club Friday night after starting the tour at the Side Door in Sacramento Thursday. Anchored by lead guitarist/singer Jason Duncan, So What has been a Bay Area fixture for over a decade. Heavily indebted to the Equals and unsung UK glam rockers the Jook, the group released their first single in 2014 on Grazer Records. Late in 2016, they put out their debut album Hard Gum on Bay Area imprint Just Add Water Records. The band plays its own set before backing Gordon for a headlining set and after SF budget-rock favorites the Okmoniks kick the show off. The Farfisa-fueled garage-punk project of singer/keyboard player Helene Grotans and guitarist Sammy Claiborn, the band put out their debut album on Slovenly Recordings back in 2007 and has long been a fixture of Bay Area punk festivals.   

Derv Gordon with So What and the Okmoniks
Friday, Feb. 23, 8 p.m. $22-$25
Thee Stork Club

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.