Jim Gordon Biography, ‘Drums & Demons,’ Arrives From Author Joel Selvin

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Jim Gordon, the legendary drummer who performed with some of music’s biggest names but ultimately died in prison in 2023 for brutally murdering his mother decades ago, is the subject of a significant biography. Drums & Demons: The Tragic Journey of Jim Gordon, is from best-selling author Joel Selvin, with the cooperation of the late musician’s family and first-hand accounts, medical records and court documents. The book was published on Feb. 27, 2024, via Diversion Books. It’s available to order in the U.S. here and in the U.K. here.

Gordon is considered to be one of the greatest drummers of all-time, beginning with his days with the legendary Los Angeles studio musicians Wrecking Crew to his recording and touring work as a member of such landmark rock bands as Derek and the Dominos, Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen, and Delaney and Bonnie and Friends. “Despite his musical genius,” notes the publisher’s blurb, “his uncontrollable madness… ultimately led to the most shocking crime in rock history.”

“I have had the Jim Gordon story spinning in my brain since it happened,” Selvin told Best Classic Bands. “It was an editor at a publishing house that suggested my next book combine rock and roll and crime. I remembered a couple of people who had Jim’s cooperation on a book they could never finish back in the late ’80s and when I was able to acquire their research, I knew I had a book.”

From the original press announcement: Born and raised in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, Gordon got his start as a professional drummer touring with the Everly Brothers in the mid-1960s. His penchant for creative and astonishingly accurate musicianship earned him regular session work, joining the community retroactively referred to as The Wrecking Crew. His preternatural intuition and perfect sense of time can be heard on more than 30 Top 10 singles including several #1 hits including the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations,” Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” and “I Got You Babe” by Sonny & Cher (he also supplied the literal beat for “The Beat Goes On” by the latter). He has been immortalized on albums by George Harrison, John Lennon and the Byrds among dozens of other classic rock acts. Gordon was notably the drummer for Derek and the Dominos and provided the piano coda for “Layla.”

And from the publisher’s announcement: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Tom Petty, Frank Zappa, Steely Dan, Ringo Starr, Harry Nilsson, and many more, knew Gordon for his superior playing, extraordinary training and technique, preternatural intuition, perfect sense of time, and his “big fill”―the mathematically-precise clatter that exploded like detonating fireworks on his drum breaks. And as award-winning journalist Selvin reveals, the story of Jim Gordon is the most brilliant, turbulent, and wrenching rock opera ever.

This riveting narrative follows Gordon as the very chemicals in his brain that gifted him also destroyed him. His head crowded with a hellish gang of voices screaming at him, demanding obedience, Gordon descended from the absolute heights of the rock world―playing with the most famous musicians of his generation―to working with a Santa Monica dive-bar band for $30 a night.

With full cooperation from Gordon’s family, and based on his trademark extensive, detailed research, Selvin’s account is at once an epic journey through an artist’s monumental musical contributions, a rollicking history of rock drumming, and a terrifying downward spiral into unimaginable madness that Gordon fought a valiant but losing battle against. One of the great untold stories of rock is finally being told.

[Read the rest of our interview about the book with the author here.]

Selvin is a San Francisco–based music critic and author known for his weekly column in the San Francisco Chronicle, which ran from 1972 to 2009. Selvin has written more than 20 books covering various aspects of pop music—including the No. 1 New York Times bestseller Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock with Sammy Hagar and Altamont: The Rolling Stones, The Hells Angels and the Inside Story of Rock’s Darkest Day. He has written liner notes for dozens of recorded albums and appeared in countless documentaries. His most recent books are Sly and the Family Stone: An Oral History and Hollywood Eden: Electric Guitars, Fast Cars and the Myth of the California Paradise.

Related: Our interview with Selvin about his Altamont book

Best Classic Bands Staff

6 Comments so far

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  1. Ann
    #1 Ann 14 May, 2023, 10:53

    I’m really looking forward to this book.
    Hopefully, Joel can set the record straight on some stories about jim that’s been floating out there on the internet. I already pre-ordered my book.

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  2. Jmack
    #2 Jmack 15 September, 2023, 22:01

    Since I lived in San Francisco during Selvins time I’m a fan of his writing, he’s definitely knowledgeable about rock music, and it’s history, and this Gordon book should be fascinating. The guy was a monster behind the drums, but apparently a monster in real life sadly.

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  3. Paco
    #3 Paco 19 October, 2023, 06:43

    Really looking forward to this biography. Gordon was a tremendous influence on my playing and approach to drumming very early on. His playing with Derek & The Dominos alone is enough to put him in the “Drumming Hall Of Fame” A tragic ending to a stellar career…

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  4. Slipperman
    #4 Slipperman 23 October, 2023, 09:37

    Really looking forward to reading this, the story always captivated me, rising to the heights of the music world only to descend into a mental hell.
    I wonder how Brian Wilson didn’t go off the rails and never come back to reality…sadly Jim wasn’t able to come back to that reality.

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  5. Jmack
    #5 Jmack 25 October, 2023, 00:34

    Big fan of Jim Gordon listening to his playing with Derek and the dominoes. He’s just superb very much excited about the book.

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  6. BMac
    #6 BMac 28 February, 2024, 15:39

    This is a book I’ve been looking forward to. At least, I think I’ve been looking forward to it. Trouble is, I kind of know how it ends, and I’m sure there will be quite a number of gory details along the way.

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