Gordon Haskell

Gordon Haskell was born on 27th April 1946 at the same Bear Cross nursing home as Robert Fripp, only nineteen days earlier than his future bandmate. The family home was in the small town of Verwood, a former hub of the pottery industry that lies approximately fifteen miles north of Bournemouth. His father, Professor Harry Hionidies, was an American of Greek extraction, serving with the American Air Force. While he was stationed in Bournemouth, he had a brief liaison with Gordon’s mother Kathleen after the pair met during a dance at the Norfolk Hotel in the centre of town. Kathleen had been widowed in 1943 after her husband Walter had been shot down while flying a Lancaster bomber, leaving her with two small children, Heather and Digby. After the war, Harry studied ancient history at Oxford and would occasionally visit the family home in Verwood, although Gordon was unaware who the dashing American was until his teens, by which time Harry had married and moved back home to New York.

Gordon’s father Harry Hionidies, Gordon Hionidies Haskell in 1955 and Gordon’s mother Kathleen Haskell

Gordon attended the local village school where he passed the eleven plus exam and moved up to Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Wimborne. While he was there, he struck up a friendship with one of his classmates, Robert Fripp, a like-minded music lover who shared a passion for early rock ‘n’ roll, jazz and rhythm and blues. The pair would often catch a Hants & Dorset bus (or Pants & Corset as they were known locally) into Bournemouth, to catch their favourite group The Sands Combo starring local legends Zoot Money and Tony Head at the Pavilion Ballroom. To Gordon’s surprise, he discovered he was natural at outdoor activities, particularly rugby and football where he played in the school teams, and he threw the discus at county level while Robert preferred to beaver away in his bedroom, channelling all his energies into mastering the guitar.

Queen Elizabeth School (4)

Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Wimborne where Gordon Haskell met Robert Fripp in the late fifties. It has since been converted into private apartments. (Photograph John Cherry)

Over time, Robert’s tutor, Don Strike, encouraged him to further his musical experience by forming his own group. Gordon got wind of the impending combo on the sports field, and not wanting to be left out, pestered his friend into showing him the basics of the bass guitar on a cheap instrument he had bought from Strike’s on hire-purchase. The budding schoolboy rock stars put together The Ravens in the spring of 1961 with Graham Whale on drums, later replaced by Chris ‘Fergie’ Ferguson, and former Poole Grammar School pupil Valentino ‘Tino’ Licinio on guitar and vocals. Their debut took place during July 1961 in a field next to the West Moors Youth Club followed by gigs at the Stapehill Youth Club, the Bure Club in Mudeford, Wimborne Youth Club and every Monday evening at the Beacon Royal Hotel in Kerley Road, Bournemouth. The Ravens lasted barely a year as Robert swopped the fret board for the blackboard and hunkered down to swot up for his impending exams.

When Gordon left school, he laboured under the misapprehension that he would make a jolly good bobby and duly enrolled with the Metropolitan Police College in Hendon after passing the entrance exams. Three days into his new career, Gordon realised he would rather pound the beat in a band than pound the streets as a copper and returned home to Verwood. He took a job as an estate agent in Bournemouth, and in 1963, the former Ravens, Gordon, Robert and ‘Tino’, returned to the pub and club circuit with a new group, The League of Gentlemen. A new drummer, Stan Levy, was recruited as Chris ‘Fergie’ Ferguson had formed his own band, The Nite People and on vocals they brought in a muscular Scotsman called Reg ‘Tony’ Matthews, a part-time body builder and junior Mr. Universe for Southern England. Rehearsals took place in a room at the bottom of Reg’s parent’s garden at the Tatnam Hotel in Poole, where the quintet worked up a repertoire of Beatles, Four Seasons, Coasters and Shadows covers. Shortly after their formation, Reg left The Plague of Gentlemen, as they were jokingly known within the group, leaving Tino and Gordon to share the vocal duties between them. In 1964, Robert’s education impeded his musical aspirations once again, as he left to study economics and political history at the Bournemouth Technical College. The remaining trio decided the game was up and went their separate ways.

The League of Gentlemen circa 1964, Left to Right: Stan Levy, Valentino ‘Tino’ Licinio, Reg Mathews, Robert Fripp and Gordon Haskell

It has been widely believed that two singles, “Each Little Falling Tear” on Columbia and “How Can You Tell” on Planet, respectively, were Fripp and Haskell’s recording debuts. But this is erroneous, as the League of Gentlemen in question were an entirely different outfit operating out of south London around the same time.

The League of Gentlemen, Left to Right: Robert Fripp, Gordon Haskell, Stan Levy & ‘Tino’ Licinio

In the spring of 1964, Gordon reformed The League of Gentlemen with original members Valentino ‘Tino’ Licinio on guitar and vocals and drummer Stan Levy, plus Terry Squires on guitar as a replacement for an otherwise engaged Robert Fripp. However, the pièce de résistance was the addition of his hero Tony ‘Dave Anthony’ Head on vocals from the defunct Sands Combo. The band had no trouble finding a receptive audience for their spirited rhythm and blues grooves, while Gordon watched the older and more experienced singer intently picking up invaluable tips on performance and presentation. In the summer of 1965, Tony received a better offer to front a band named after his nom de plume, Dave Anthony’s Moods, leaving The League of Gentlemen to fall apart. Gordon landed a job playing guitar in the Dowland Brother’s backing band, The Soundtracks, helping them fulfill a string of dates around the southern counties and a summer season along the coast in Weymouth. During his time out on the road, he befriended The Meddy Evils drummer Martin ‘Cuddles’ Smith, who told him of a recent vacancy in Southampton’s Le Fleur de Lys. Their bass player, Danny Churchill, had just walked out and Gordon, nursing ambitions of making it in London, reasoned that joining a band based in Southampton would be twenty-five miles closer to achieving his goal than staying in Verwood.

Les Fleur de Lys were conceived in the Dibden Purlieu / Ashurst area of the New Forest in early 1964. They had already released a Jimmy Page produced version of Buddy Holly’s “Moondreams” on the Immediate label which Who guitarist Pete Townshend reviewed in the Melody Maker as being “crap”. After passing an audition in November 1965, Gordon joined original members Frank Smith, the guitarist, vocalist and leader of the group, organist Alex Chamberlain and drummer Keith Guster, initially moving into Frank’s parent’s house on the outskirts of Southampton. A couple of months after joining, the band left for a twenty-six date jaunt around north-west Germany after impressing a booking agent at the Marquee in London. All was going well in the various clubs and bierkellers of Witten and Dortmund until the night Alex Chamberlain’s Hammond organ gave up the ghost. Unable to elicit any sound from the expired instrument, he left the stage to observe the band from the floor, while taking delight in goading the locals about the war in true Basil Fawlty fashion. On the final night and with his organ still out of commission, he had a nasty altercation with an audience member and, in a fit of pique, tendered his resignation. By chance the band had befriended Phil Sawyer, a dynamic guitarist with Johnny Deen and the Deacons, a quartet hailing from the midlands who were also slogging around the same circuit. Sawyer was broke and ready to return home after one too many dust ups with the group’s argumentative leader Johnny, but fate was on hand when Les Fleur de Lys handed him a lifeline. He boarded the ferry back to Southampton as a fully paid-up member of Les Fleur de Lys.

Les Ffleur De Lys Gordon Haskell (2)

Les Fleur De Lys circa 1965, Left to Right: Gordon Haskell, Chris Andrews, Keith Guster, Phil Sawyer & Pete Sears

Back in England, the band released a superb version of The Who’s “Circles” in March 1966, but while promoting the record, an ongoing disagreement over the maintenance costs of the group van erupted and Frank Smith quit. Phil Sawyer drafted in his friend Chris Andrews from The Gremlins as a replacement and in June they expanded to a quintet with the addition of keyboard player Pete Sears from the Sons of Fred. Now ensconced in the capital, they were introduced to their future manager Frank Fenter and his wife Sharon Tandy, a South African born singer who was the first non-American female to be signed to the Atlantic label. Sensing a deal could be done, Frank put forward a proposal that they become his wife’s backing band, and in return, he would use his considerable contacts to get them gigs and an improved recording contract. The band signed on and Frank was as good as his word by brokering a deal with Polydor. He also negotiated a prestigious date supporting Sonny and Cher at the Astoria Finsbury Park, a two-week run at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Club in Park Lane and a series of gigs at the Flamingo, Blaises, Bag O’Nails, Cromwellian, Speakeasy and Scotch of St. James, where their brand of blue eyed-soul was lapped up by the trendy London set.

In the autumn, Gordon and Keith took up an offer to swap their dingy flat in Balham for a spacious three bedroomed ground-floor apartment in Cranley Gardens, South Kensington. Owned by Ringo Starr, but leased to The Animals, the pair had the run of the place while the band were on their final tour of America. A few weeks after moving in, the Animals bassist Chas Chandler returned with a shy, black, American guitarist in tow and moved him into the spare room. He mainly kept himself to himself, though over time he opened up and the three musicians would occasionally spend the day together browsing the guitar shops of Denmark Street. One night he jammed with Fleur de Lys at the Speakeasy and overdubbed guitar parts onto a couple of demos at Kingsway Studios, but, as is often the case, the tapes have gone missing. Two months later, Jimi Hendrix was sitting high in the top ten with his debut single “Hey Joe” and well on the road to international stardom.

Les Fleur De Lys (3)

Le Fleur De Lys 1967 Left to Right: Gordon Haskell, Bryn Haworth & Keith Guster

The band’s first single for Polydor, “Mud in Your Eye” (November 1966), was a corker. Co-written by Chris Andrews and Phil Sawyer, it featured Sawyer in fine fettle as he delivered a barnstorming guitar solo over a relentless bass and drum groove. Unfortunately, the early promise was shattered when he was poached a matter of weeks later by his former band mate from the Cheynes, Peter Bardens, to replace John Moorshead in Shotgun Express. 1967 started brightly enough with the recruitment of Sawyers replacement, Bryn Haworth and a plum slot supporting Cream at Brian Epstein’s Saville Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue. However, Fenter was losing interest in finding them gigs. He wanted to channel their energies into becoming the house band for Atlantic and Polydor Records. Pete Sears, who preferred to be out on the road performing, was not happy with the situation and threw in his lot with Sam Gopal’s Dream, an underground band with serious hippy credentials.

As the year unfolded, psychedelia permeated the charts and with their next single, “Reflections of Charles Brown” (July 1967), they jumped on the paisley, beads and bells bandwagon. Recorded under duress with Rod Lynton on guitar and Howard Condor producing, the disc gained a release under the pseudonym Rupert’s People, becoming a minor hit throughout Europe. Conder, sensing a chance to make a quick buck, tried in vain to persuade Fleur de Lys to go on the road under the guise of the new group but they refused to have anything to do with it, arguing that the record was nothing but a “Whiter Shade of Pale” rip off. Meanwhile, Fleur De Lys concentrated on their ongoing sessions with Sharon Tandy and the American soul man and producer Donnie Elbert. Being stuck in a studio providing back up to a string of solo artists left their vocalist, Chris Andrews, out in the cold and feeling superfluous to requirements. Eventually he tired of the inactivity and threw in his lot with Conder and joined the newly formed Rupert’s People. Months later, he left to pursue a solo career, changing his name to Tim Andrews so as not to be confused with the Chris Andrews of “Yesterday Man” fame.

Gordon, sensing an opportunity to bring in his hero Tony Head as a replacement, contacted the singer in Bournemouth, who accepted the offer and moved up to London immediately. Tony was ushered into the studio with the Fleur’s to record the single “Gimme a Little Sign” (October 1966), which was released under the alias Tony Simon. The single flopped barely two months prior to Brenton Wood taking his own version of the song into the Top Ten. The bad luck continued chart wise with the band’s next single, “I Can See the Light” (September 1967) and the hasty follow up “Tick Tock” (September 1967) released as the pseudonymous Shyster. It didn’t matter what name they used, it was as if the band was jinxed. To compound their dilemma, they backed Sharon Tandy on a string of excellent singles which fared no better and as for the singer songwriter John Bromley, their bad luck condemned his one and only album Sing to shift less than a measly thousand copies.

Just as Tony Head was settling in, Gordon made a shocking discovery. Fenter had been systematically ripping them off by sub-contracting the band out to Polydor for £350 a week and, in return, paying them a paltry £15 each. Gordon was incensed and quit. The remaining members were stunned by his sudden departure, not least Tony, but they elected to soldier on and recruited Tago Byers from the Moquettes. A further four singles followed, but success continued to elude them and they finally called it a day in 1969. Fleur de Lys are now highly regarded by collectors for the string of great records they left behind.

Out of work and desperate for cash, Gordon accepted £45 week to become a member of The Flowerpot Men, purveyors of the Summer of Love cash in “Let’s Go to San Francisco”. Written by John Carter and Ken Lewis from The Ivy League as a one off, their record company wanted a band to exploit its success and pulled together vocalists Tony Burrows, Neil Landon, Pete Nelson and Robin Shaw, guitarist Ged Peck, drummer Carlo Little, organist Jon Lord and bassist Nick Simper. When Simper and Lord left to form the embryonic Deep Purple, Gordon was drafted in. However, after the camaraderie of his last band and the cobbled together nature of this new outfit thrown together purely to make money on the mundane chicken the basket circuit, he soon tired of the treadmill and walked away.

In October 1968, Robert Fripp was still a struggling musician looking for a way to supplement his meagre earnings while trying to assemble what was to become King Crimson. He had heard through the grapevine that Cupid’s Inspiration, a pop group enjoying a period of success on the back of their number four hit “Yesterday Has Gone”, were looking for a guitarist and bassist. Fripp contacted Gordon to see if he would be interested in attending an audition. All went well for Gordon, but Fripp talked himself out of the job by incessantly asking too many searching questions about money. Gordon stayed long enough to record an album, Yesterday Has Gone, contributing one song “I Want to Give It All to You” and completed a package tour with Scott Walker, Gun, The Love Affair, Terry Reid and The Casuals. He left in early 1969 after a promise of more money failed to materialise. One positive to come from the experience was Cupid Inspiration’s producer, Jimmy Duncan, offered to help him record his debut solo album, Sail in My Boat. The orchestra drenched offering slipped out with little fanfare and a review from the Melody Maker commenting, “Mostly well-constructed love songs with a summery feel, supported by sympathetic orchestral arrangements”. Despite its low key birth and subsequent failure, the South African singer Wanda Arletti plucked the track “Zanzibar” from the album, and took it to number two in the South African charts, where it stayed for thirteen weeks. Ironically, it wasn’t the first Haskell composition to bother the South African charts. A couple of years earlier Quentin E. Klopjaeger, a nom de plume for Billy Forrest lead singer of Durban pop group The Gonks, scored a number one with one of his early songs “Lazy Life”. Gordon failed to receive royalties from both songs.

Lizard 1970

Lizard 1970

Gordon’s next term of employment in King Crimson turned out to be a miserable experience. He should have gone with his gut instinct and not taken the job in the first place, as he believed Crimson was far too negative and not his bag musically at all. However, after much persuasion from his wife, who liked a steady income and firm persistence from Fripp, the reluctant bassist caved in and signed on. The pairing of Haskell and Bournemouth drummer Andrew McCulloch immediately set about learning the arrangements for Crimson’s third album, Lizard. From the off, McCulloch struggled to grasp what was needed and had to be coached through the process by the patient, but sceptical Haskell. The pair spent almost three months in isolation painstakingly working through numerous rhythm and time changes slotted together mathematically by Fripp, with no idea how the finished pieces would sound, a procedure Gordon described as torturous. The time spent in the recording studio didn’t improve matters as Fripp and Sinfield spent hours laboriously faffing around trying to find a suitable drum sound, a process that drove McCulloch and Haskell to distraction. Being a fan of soul and R&B, Gordon believed music should come organically and cut live in one or two takes, the complete antithesis of the King Crimson modus operandi, which involved much layering and overdubbing. His other gripe was the lyrics. Being the singer, he found Sinfield’s songs meaningless and to cap it all, when it came to recording, he found the keys to be wrong for his voice. To remedy the problem on “Prince Rupert Awakes”, Fripp brought in Jon Anderson from Yes to sing what he described as “the unsingable.”

Photo King Crimson 1970

King Crimson 1970, Left to Right: Mel Collins, Pete Sinfield, Robert Fripp, Andrew McCulloch & Gordon Haskell

After the album’s release, the band shifted into rehearsal mode for a pre-arranged American tour, but. Gordon couldn’t get enthused. As far as he was concerned, the past few months had been hell and things became progressively worse when he came to the realisation that any chance of contributing new material wouldn’t be an option. As they set about learning the back catalogue, “21st Century Schizoid Man” proved to be difficult, as the song was way out of his vocal range. Fripp told him not to worry, as they would put his voice through an effects machine. That was the final straw. Gordon snapped and quit. The fallout and recriminations between the school friends would rumble on for years, with Haskell calling the guitarist a bully and complaining that he didn’t receive the royalties owed him, while Fripp retaliated by stating that Gordon, being a hired hand, breached his contract by walking out. Gordon departed the King Crimson camp, battered, bruised, but unbowed. Over the years, he and Fripp had grown to be complete musical opposites. On the one hand, Fripp admitted to being tone deaf with no sense of rhythm and built his formidable technique on sheer hard work and persistence, whereas Gordon took his inspiration from the old blues and soul guys and approached his playing intuitively. Crimson constructed their compositions on unusual time signatures, complex arrangements and mathematical chord progressions, whereas Gordon’s method of song writing came from the heart with an emphasis on melody and meaningful lyrics. Their opposing styles were not compatible, and the parting of the ways was inevitable.

Putting the difficult nine months behind him, Gordon followed his muse and set about writing a batch of new songs dealing with environmental concerns and the devious workings of the music industry. Through John Wetton and record producer John Miller, he met with Ahmet Ertegun, the head of Atlantic Records, at an informal audition held at the Dorchester Hotel in London. Ahmet liked what he heard and planned for Gordon to enter Pye Studios in London with the much sought after Arif Mardin, producer of Carly Simon, Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross. A core band was assembled consisting of Wetton on bass and organ, Mogul Thrash’s Bill Atkinson on drums, Bournemouth’s Alan Barry on guitar and on piano, Rare Bird’s Dave Kaffinetti (Kaffinetti went on to appear in Spinal Tap as the ill-feted Viv Savage who died of a methane gas explosion while visiting the grave of one of Tap’s many drummers Mick Shrimpton). The ensuing album, It Is and It Isn’t, slipped out virtually unnoticed, apart from an endorsement from the DJ Kid Jensen on Radio Luxembourg. To aid promotion, his agent John Sherry, former drummer from Bournemouth band The Bunch, arranged a support slot with Mountain and Wishbone Ash at the Rainbow in Finsbury Park, followed by a tour throughout February 1972 with Audience and Stackridge. Despite the exposure nobody was buying, and the record died a death. To ease money issues, Gordon fell back into the mundane life of a jobbing musician playing bass in a lounge jazz trio at a hotel in Euston, London.

Over the next couple of years, he worked with the American singer songwriter Tim Hardin after a chance meeting at the Edinburgh Festival and joined Pete Sills and Mike Allison in a Crosby Stills and Nash style harmony trio. He also hooked up with drummer Jim Russell and guitarist Hiroshi Kato, formerly of one-hit wonders Stretch, in the short-lived Joe. A one-off single written by Gordon, “How Can I Resist”, mirrored Stretch’s top twenty entry “Why Did You Do It” with its similar slow funk groove. Joe undertook a short UK tour with Bryn Haworth fleshing out the sound on guitar and visited Hiroshi’s native Japan for six weeks of sessions, working with the popular Japanese songstress Momoe Yamaguchi on her album Golden Flight.

After the band split, Gordon returned to the audition merry-go-round trying out for the former Ten Years After guitarist Alvin Lee and Van Morrison, but nothing materialised. Then, out of the blue, he received a phone call from the office of Bruce Welch, the long-time rhythm guitarist with the Shadows. Apparently, the demo tape he had recorded with Sills and Allison had landed on Welch’s desk and, liking what he heard, offered to record them. The sessions went well, but the tapes elicited no interest apart from Cliff Richard, who covered four of the songs on his hugely successful 1976 album I’m Nearly Famous. A further two turned up on the follow-up, Every Face Tells a Story. Gordon’s bass playing also caught the ear of Cliff’s management team, and he was enlisted to perform on an up-and-coming gospel tour. The concerts went well, and he enjoyed the camaraderie of the other musicians, although musically the arrangements left very little room for any personal input. As the dates wound down, he was offered a further year’s work if he took a pay cut. In typical fashion he said “No thanks”, packed up his bass and walked away, leaving the murky world of devious management machinations and the life of a guitar for hire for good.

To make ends meet, he re-booted his solo career with Serve at Room Temperature using the nucleus of Cliff’s backing band. However, it was doomed because of the onset of punk, which consigned every relatively unknown, introspective singer songwriter to the dumpster. The tapes were shelved until a retrospective CD release twenty years later. The new decade brought little relief as his debts were spiralling out of control and he spent most of the eighties playing six gruelling nights a week to drunks in the bars of Norway and Denmark and entertaining unruly, sozzled passengers on cruise ships for a Scandinavian shipping line.

In 1990, he released Hambledon Hill on his own Wilderness Records. Named after an Iron Age hillfort close to Blandford Forum, the bulk of the album was overseen by local recording engineer Tony Arnold at the Courthouse Studios in Cranborne. The title song enjoyed enthusiastic reviews and plenty of radio play when released as a single, but his luck was out once again as the distributor went bust and he resorted to selling copies via the Royal Mail out of his mother’s former council house in Verwood. One song, “Almost Certainly”, was picked up by the West Indian singer Judy Boucher, who took it to the top of the South African charts. Once again, he suspected devious skullduggery at play when he received a measly few quid in royalties. 

In-between intermittent visits to Scandinavia, Voiceprint released the stripped down back to basics It’s Just a Plot to Drive You Crazy, a set of self-confessional songs about lost love, new relationships and an acknowledgement of his own shortcomings on the self-deprecating “My Love Deserves a Medal”. For his next offering, Butterfly in China, he teamed up with the talented, but alarmingly named guitarist ‘Damage’, or Steve Cowan, as he was known to his family. The pair spent a couple of years schlepping around local pubs entertaining small but appreciative audiences, selling copies of his CD’s to punters at regular gigs such as Southampton’s Bent Brief, The Thomas Tripp in Christchurch and The Inn on the Furlong in Ringwood.

Gordon Haskell in London circa 1990 (Photograph Sarah Cheesbrough)

By the millennium with his debts cleared and visits to the frozen wastes of northern Europe a distant memory, he collaborated with Weymouth resident Robbie McIntosh, the former guitarist with Paul McCartney and The Pretenders, on All in the Scheme of Things. The liaison carried on into a live setting with the addition of former Average White Band guitarist Hamish Stuart, which proved to be a very popular combination as the trio packed out venues wherever they appeared.

In 2001 he entered Warehouse Studios in Oxford with drummers Sam Kelly and Paul Beavis, bassist Peter Stroud and saxophonist Paul Yeung to record Look Out. Little did he know that one song, “How Wonderful You Are”, would catapult the tenacious troubadour into the higher reaches of the British singles chart. As per usual, he had to endure misfortune before success, as his record distributor fell victim to financial difficulties and went out of business. Ian Brown, Robbie McIntosh’s manager, believed “How Wonderful You Are” had potential and invested £500 pressing up promotional copies to tout around radio stations to drum up some interest. An old friend from the sixties, DJ Johnnie Walker, gave the record its first airing the day prior to two planes crashing into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York. Immediately, the BBC switchboard lit up like a Christmas tree from inquisitive listeners. The continued interest elevated the single onto the all-important Radio 2 play list, and six weeks of heavy rotation forced a release on the East West label, a subsidiary of Warner Music Group. It flew out of the shops at a phenomenal rate, selling over 400,000 copies in a matter of weeks, earning a silver disc on the way. “How Wonderful You Are” became the most requested single in BBC radio’s history, surpassing “Hey Jude” and “My Way”. The song was well on the way to becoming 2001’s Christmas number one when it was pipped at the post by a karaoke version of Frank and Nancy’ Sinatra’s “Somethin’ Stupid” by Robbie Williams and Nicole Kidman. Gordon had taken a mere forty years to become an overnight success. To cash in on the single, Look Out was re-released with a rejigged track selection, a new sleeve and with Gordon’s preferred title, Harry’s Bar. Healthy sales propelled it to number two in the album charts, earning him gold disc.

Unfortunately, his newfound fame didn’t last as his manager, record company, and certain sections of the press conspired to scupper his career and any goodwill he had fostered. First, his record label for some inexplicable reason refused to release “How Wonderful You Are” in America, which resulted in his manager giving it to a small independent label in Nashville that had a minuscule promotional budget and no clout. Second, against Gordon’s wishes, he was booked on an over ambitious thirty date theatre tour, which was scrapped because of poor ticket sales after just two weeks. The large three and a half thousand seat Hammersmith Odeon allegedly sold thirty-nine tickets. Third and unforgivably, the local press published a piece from an unknown source supposedly on Gordon’s behalf, dismissing the pubs he played in and calling his neighbours snobs, a quote which understandably alienated the locals in his village, Ashmore, near Shaftsbury. By the autumn of 2002 he had been dropped by Warner’s because of a remark he made in an interview about the MD being an “android” and his hastily recorded follow-up album, Shadows on the Wall, failed to capitalise on his success stalling just inside the top fifty.

Gordon’s 2006 autobiography The Road to Harry’s Bar

In 2008, he left the UK with his partner Sue (they married on 7th November 2014 in the New Forest) and set up home on the Greek island of Skopelos, stating that he had “finally given up on England as a lost cause”. Two years later, in 2010, he released One Day Soon as Gordon Haskell Hionides in an acknowledgment of his father’s American / Greek roots. In 2016, he returned to the UK because of the financial crisis in Greece, to be closer to his family and to explore musical opportunities, one of which was the release of his new album, The Cat Who’s Got the Cream. He regularly toured Poland where he had a large fan base and occasionally popped back to Bournemouth for the odd concert, performing at the De La Salle Theatre in St Peters School in Southbourne with his old sparring partner Robbie McIntosh, the Tivoli Theatre in Wimborne and in 2019 he played several gigs in the UK including the Brook in Southampton and The Hub in his hometown of Verwood.

He resolutely shunned the deviousness and double dealings of the recording business and ploughed a lone musical furrow while endeavouring to keep his integrity intact. For the full story, read his autobiography, The Road to Harry’s Bar: Forty Years on the Potholed Road to Stardom. The book is a warts and all story of his childhood in Verwood, the King Crimson debacle, years of poverty scraping a living around the bars of southern England and Scandinavia, his fifteen minutes of fame and the reasoning behind his deep hatred of the recording industry and British media. Gordon’s untimely death from lung cancer was announced on his Facebook page on Sunday 18th October 2020.

To hear a varied selection of the Fleur de Lys cannon, try the 2013 compilation You’ve Got To Earn It on Acid Jazz. For Gordon’s early career, The Collection: 18 of His Finest Songs on the Union Square Music label is as good a place as any to start, although it doesn’t contain his biggest hit “How Wonderful You Are”.

Gordon Haskell Discography
Les Fleur De Lys / Sharon Tandy Singles

Circles c/w So Come On: Immediate (IM 032) 1966

Mud in Your Eye c/w I’ve Been Trying: Polydor (56124) 1966

Reflections of Charles Brown c/w Hold On: Columbia (DB 8226) 1967 as Rupert’s People

Stay With Me Baby c/w Hold On: Atlantic (584 098) 1967 backing Sharon Tandy

Our Day Will Come c/w Look and Find: Atlantic (584 166) 1967 backing Sharon Tandy

Gimme a Little Sign c/w Never Too Much Love: Track (604 012) 1967 backing Tony Simon

I Can See the Light c/w Prodigal Son: Polydor (56200) 1967

Tick Tock c/w That’s A Hoe Down: Polydor (56202) 1968 as Shyster

You’ve Gotta Believe It c/w Border Town: Atlantic (584 194) 1968 backing Sharon Tandy

Hold On c/w Daughter of the Sun: Atlantic (584 219) 1968 backing Sharon Tandy

Love Is Not A Simple Affair c/w Hurry Hurry Choo Choo: Atlantic (584 181) 1968 backing Sharon Tandy

The Way She Looks at You c/w He’ll Hurt Me: Atlantic (584 214) 1968 backing Sharon Tandy

Gong with the Luminous Nose c/w Hammerhead: Polydor (56251) 1967

 Fleur De Lys Albums

Reflections: Blueprint (BP256CD) 1996 CD Compilation

You’ve Got to Earn It: Acid Jazz (AJXCD 324) 2013 CD Compilation

I Can See a Light – The Singles Box Set: Acid Jazz (AJX388X) 2017 Seven vinyl singles packaged into one box set

Cupid’s Inspiration Album

Yesterday Has Gone: NEMS (S 6-63553) 1969

 King Crimson Album

Lizard: Island (ILPS 9141) 1970

  Joe Single

How Can I Resist c/w Sweet Annabelle: GTO Records (GT 84) 1977

 Gordon Haskell Singles

Boat Trip c/w Time Only Knows: CBS (4509) 1969

 Oo-La-Di-Doo-Da-Day c/w Born To Be Together: CBS (4795) 1970

People Don’t Care c/w Silhouettes: RCA (PB 5157) 1979

Castles in the Sky c/w My Baby: RCA (PB 5264) 1980

5-10-15 c/w Whisky: RCA (RCA 30) 1981

I Need Your Love So Much c/w Living in the Attic: RCA (PB 5249) 1984

Hambledon Hill c/w Mystical Allusion: Wilderness Records (WLD7 001) 1990

How Wonderful You Are c/w A Little Help From You: Flying Spark (TDBCDS04) 2001

Freeway to Her Dreams c/w All the Time in the World: Flying Spark (BJ373) 2002

There Goes My Heart Again c/w Self Made Man: East West Records (EW 245CD) 2002

The Lady Wants to Know c/w All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go: R & M (RAMCD004) 2004

I’m Letting Everybody Know: Charity single for CARERSUK 2015

I’m Still Mad About You (Shuffle Version) c/w I’m Still Mad About You (Swing Version): Zoo (ZOO1CD) 2019

 Gordon Haskell Albums

Sail In My Boat: CBS (63741) 1969

It Is and It Isn’t: Atco (K40311) 1971

Serve at Room Temperature: Voiceprint (VP 274CD) 2003

Hambledon Hill: Wilderness Records (WLDLP 001) 1990

It’s Just a Plot to Drive You Crazy: Voiceprint (VP118CD) 1992

Butterfly in China: Wilderness Records (WLD 003) 1996

All in the Scheme of Things: Wilderness Records (WLD 004) 2000

Look Out: Flying Sparks Records (TDBCD 053) 2001

Harry’s Bar: East West (0927-43976-2) 2002

Shadows on the Wall: Flying Spark Records (TDBCD 068) 2002

The Collection: 18 of His Finest Songs: Union Square Music (METRCD097) 2002 A retrospective

All My Life: Union Square Music (USMCD001) 2002 Compliation

The Lady Wants to Know: R & M Records (RAMCD011) 2004

The Road to Harry’s Bar, All Hits Live: Metal Mind Productions (MASSDGD 0949) 2008

One Day Soon: Fruitcake (FCCD 121) 2010

The Cat Who’s Got the Cream: Zoo (ZOO2CD) 2020

Gordon Haskell Albums as a Guest

John Bromley: Sing: Polydor (583048) 1967 With Fleur De Lys

Donnie Elbert: Tribute to a King Polydor (236 560) 1968 With Fleur De Lys

Bryn Haworth: Let the Day’s Go By: Island (ILPS 9287) 1974

Momoe Yamaguchi: Golden Flight CBS SONY (25AH 250) 1977

2 thoughts on “Gordon Haskell

  1. Fascinating life story, albeit very sad. Heard him play at Thomas Tripp and was blown away by his beautiful voice and sensitivity. Rest in peace Gordon.


    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment Ali, Gordon was certainly dealt a few bad cards in his life but he always came back smiling. It was also sad to hear of his death and such a surprise, I certainly didn’t see it coming as he had only completed a short UK tour a matter of months before. John


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