Grooves: Basement Jaxx, Stormzy… and Eric Gordon

Róisín Gadelrab recalls some memorable chats about music as she pays tribute to the legendary editor of the New Journal, Tribune and Extra

Thursday, 8th April 2021 — By Róisín Gadelrab

Roisin Gadelrab and Eric Gordon

Eric Gordon, who died this week aged 89, with Grooves editor Róisín Gadelrab

“DO you know Stormzy?”

This was the start of the last call I had from our editor Eric Gordon a couple of months ago, an hour-long meander into various subjects from the foundation of the Camden New Journal to the merits of Michael Kiwanuka and a brief lecture in the business of running a newspaper.

There was nothing unusual about these conversations. Eric had a tendency to fixate on a specific topic/person/issue and push a reporter to focus on the object of his attention until we understood the real story or held the right people to account – via a number of mainly unrelated topics, a series of probing and provoking questions, and often, lively press day arguments. You might not have initially understood the significance, but his instincts were usually right, it just sometimes took us a little longer to get there.

These interventions extended past our news reporting and into the arts pages – and you never quite knew when the next would come. One Saturday he called to ask: “Where are you? I’m in Basement Jaxx!” I couldn’t hear him well, but he repeated the unlikely announcement. “They’re having a party, if you come now, you could easily get in.”

This could have been a completely normal appeal from your average music mag editor but, coming from a newspaper editor reaching his 80s who had talked his way into a very happening party in Primrose Hill, it was a little more bizarre – but not surprising coming from Eric.

Eric created an eclectic and engaging paper rooted in the real issues that affected our readers. He created a team of reporters well aware any story could come under his scrutiny in a second, which kept you on your toes and ultimately made you a more inquisitive and, hopefully, better journalist.

And while it could be a tempestuous relationship, it was a privilege to learn from him. The CNJ office was also an environment where anything could happen. When I first joined, it was entirely unremarkable to anyone that the carpet had been laid over a clothes hanger, a few weeks later, a huge file of newspapers fell on my head and on another occasion, a colleague returned from a non-starter job Eric had dispatched him to on a snowy Hampstead Heath, only to discover the Christmas party invitation Eric had dug up from the pile of papers on his desk was a year old.

There is nowhere like the CNJ to learn your trade and no one like Eric to learn from. He may not have known every act on the music page but he sure wanted to preserve the arts in this very Camden paper.

Eric will be missed and it is up to us to continue his legacy and to do him justice. As live music gigs won’t have started before my next column, I hope Eric will forgive me for giving up the space to his memory – although, his contrary self would probably insist on the opposite. Normal service will resume in the next column.

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