Gordy Gale, “And now we rock” The Gordy Gale tale. Part 1.
Sneakers, faded blue jeans and the obligatory black T-Shirt. This was standard apparel for “Gordy” Gale, another iconic figure of the Angeles bar scene. It seemed like everybody knew Gordy and likewise Gordy knew them. His was one of the regular faces of Angeles, he was a ‘go to man’, who knew where everything and everybody was. Gordy was someone you would invariably meet when bar hopping, he was part and parcel of the Angeles bar scene, and in my opinion, the town is a lesser place without him.
In early August of 2014 Gordy quietly left town and traveled to Manila. Supposedly he was returning to America where he was going to catch up with family, find a job, earn some money and start life again. He never made the flight, and 38 hours later his lifeless body was found in a cheap hotel room, after shooting himself with a recently purchased 45.
An inconspicuous, and in some ways contradictory end, for a man who many saw as the ultimate survivor.
“And now we rock” this was shouted by Gordy as he pierced the air with two hang ten signs and bobbed his head to Mountains song, Mississippi Queen. He was playing guest DJ in Shipwrecked bar, the music was blaring, the customers were rocking, and I was loving every second. This was a far cry from High Society and the hip hop dance scene, and this was an even further cry from the bubble gum girlie music, played in most bars. The girls were as usual bewildered, and couldn’t understand why all these old fart customers were getting so enthused. But Gordy didn’t care, he was in his element rocking the night away, and this is how I will forever remember him.
The subject of what music to play in a bar was a discussion I would often have with Gordy. He always maintained “the girls don’t dance anyway, so why not play music for the customers”. My counter argument would be, play a mix of music, some that the girls like and will dance to, and some for the customers. For me that intangible thing called atmosphere is very important in a bar, and over the years I have found that girls dancing and having fun is key to creating a good atmosphere. Gordy would strongly disagree, for him the customers made the atmosphere, and he was convinced the customers would party if put in the mood by the right music.
The generation gap became blatantly obvious when people like Gordy were in the bar. He would insist the DJ played rock and roll which was hardly conducive to Filipinas dancing up a storm. But Gordy hardly noticed, he figured the girls wouldn’t dance anyway so he was going to play the music he knew and loved. Gordy lived and breathed rock music. He was zealously passionate about sixties seventies, and sometimes eighties, rock. Indeed, his complete image, and most aspects of his life, related to rock and roll music.
Gordy was a true musician, and as his nickname on the boards (Drummer) suggested, he played the drums and was an ardent rock fan. I think he yearned for the rock and roll lifestyle but it always alluded him. His was always a case of so close and yet so far. He had a brief glimpse of fame when in the eighties he landed a session gig with Joe Cocker and they made a video, but this was a close as he ever came. Ironically this video will be part of Gordy’s legacy. I say ironically because Gordy hated that video and used to cringe whenever it was played in the bars.
On several occasions he came close to landing gigs with bands that went onto fame and fortune but for one reason or another he never seemed to get that elusive big break. On one occasion he was trying out for a band and the test song was Simple Minds, “don’t you forget about me”. Gordy did a good job but lost the gig to a guy who played a double base drum. Reportedly the producer acknowledged Gordy as the better Drummer but said the other guy looked better. Once again it was a case of so close and yet so far. Gordy came to hate the song “don’t you forget about me”, and a sorrowful look of missed opportunity would cross his features whenever it was played in the bars.
Gordy used to think of himself as a walking encyclopedia of music. Indeed when it came to sixties and seventies rock, his knowledge was truly impressive. I will always remember the many nights we spent in the bars playing music for each other, long after the bar had officially closed. We would invariably compare notes, test each others musical knowledge, listen to pounding rock, and revel in the fond memories of our youth.
For us this was an escape to when the world was a lot simpler, and listening to the music bought back so many memories At the same time we felt as if we were making a stand against the invasion of rap, hip hop, and modern day music in general. To most this will sound archaically inane, but for Gordy and myself it was tremendously important. We enjoyed harking back to a time when the musicians actually played their instruments, the singers sang, the drummers drummed and the rock stars wrote new tunes, along with intelligible lyrics.
I think Gordy was most happy when listening to music or banging the drums. I still remember going to see him play with a local band in the short lived Garage behind Number 1 Diner. After the gig Gordy complained for the next two days how his arms were sore. For Gordy the aches and pains were very much a realization that he was getting old, and what he had so easily done in his youth, was now a taxing endeavor. Having said that, I don’t think I ever saw Gordy as happy as he was when banging the pig skins. This was his passion, his love, and an essential part of how he saw himself, the quintessential “Drummer” man
My friendship with Gordy never really progressed beyond a common love of 70’s rock music. But for us this was enough, and upon reflection I realize the long nights we spent listening to, and discussing music, were some of my happiest times in Angeles. These were times when we could both be ourselves, and relive fading memories through the music. These were indeed happy times, and I shall forever associate them with the “Drummer” man, Gordy Gale.
Gordy originally hailed from Michigan, but like so many wanna be young hopefuls, he made his way to LA in the late seventies, early eighties. He knew opportunities in Michigan were somewhat limited, and if he was ever going to make it, living in LA was a necessity. Upon his arrival in LA he immediately became immersed in the music scene albeit only on the fringes, and was a regular in many of the recording studios. I never talked with him in great depth about his time in LA but from what I can gather he was like so many young men before him, scrounging around the scene, waiting to be discovered and given his big break.
I first met Gordy in 2002 when he walked into my bar in Makati. He was sporting his soon to become standard issue sneakers, blue jeans, and a black t/shirt. At that time he wore his hair long, (which I was always kind of envious of), and he had an air of aloofness that many would misinterpret as arrogance, when in fact it was shyness. At the time I had no idea of Gordy’s fascination with music, but I soon cottoned on when he requested the DJ play some Led Zepplin, Grand Funk, and Joe Walsh.
I got on well with Gordy that first night and even though he was in mongering mode we soon found out we had a common interest in music, and it became obvious to each, that we would have similar discussions for many years to come.