Highlights from the July 3, 1994 Washington Post article

Donated by WKODAMA@aba.com

Jim Gordon is prisoner C89262 in the California Men's Colony at San Luis Obispo. He killed his mother on June 3, 1983, by pounding her head with a hammer, then finishing the job with three plunges of a butcher knife into the ribs. He says "You know, I heard the new version of 'Layla' on the radio and I was real surprised. And then I was informed that it was nominated for a Grammy and I was real surprised." Gordon did not petition the prison officials for permission to attend the ceremony, and regarding that said "I watched the show, and when my name was announced, well, I didn't hear it. I'd stepped out of the room. But the other guys said, 'Well, you won.'" Concerning the isolation from the rest of the music industry, Gordon said "When the crime happened, they all just turned their backs on me. I don't blame 'em, to tell you the truth. Whatever was taking me down that road, I was on a path of self-destruction and it was nothing that any reputable studio musician or artist would want to be connected with. Because it was kind of a hopeless situation." Apparently Gordon believes that he didn't commit the crime, but rather that the crime "happened" and says "When I remember the crime, it's kind of like a dream. I can remember going through what happened in that space and time, and it seems kind of detached, like I was going through it on some other plane. It didn't seem real." According to police reports, when they found him he feared that the person who killed his mother might come for him too, and in the police car he sobbed "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, but she's tortured me for years." He was pretty consistently known as an All-American type, with Frank Zappa even nicknaming him "Skippy." Gordon did admit that Speedballs were commonplace on the 1971 Joe Cocker "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" tour, when he claims he was dating Rita Coolidge. A journalist who wrote a never released book on Gordon says he once showed her a letter from Gordon's father written in 1969 urging him to get psychiatric help. However, the letter apparently made no references to the voices that Gordon heard. The most powerful voice was that of his mother. The voice would deny him food, with Gordon starving himself for days and then hiding in a motel to eat fried chicken. The voice also caused him pain, denied him sleep and relaxation, caused him to be sullen and incommunicative with the occasional violent outburst, and, finally, refused to let him play drums. He says "My mother, she persecuted me a great deal, I felt. And it finally got so bad that I just gave up and got a condominium and just stayed indoors. I didn't ever go anyplace. That's when I started hearing voices, and having delusional thoughts and hallucations, and all of a sudden the crime occurred." Predictably, his work dwindled to nothing. In 1977, he began a series of aborted hospital stays. His last work was in 1979 when he got a gig with Paul Anka in Las Vegas. A few bars into the opening song, he walked off stage, unable to play. Today, he says he no longer hears the voices. He says he is on two medications, Navane for acute paranoid schizophrenia, and another one for depression, which Gordon says stems from prison life. Talking about the crime, he says "I was in a real strange place then. What I was imagining and what was real -- I still don't know the answer to that...but something always confronted me and didn't allow me to go along the lines I wanted to go along. And well, it just ruined my life." His lawyer says "[Gordon] truly believed he was acting in self-defense," and calls him "the most tragic case of my career." Gordon had a well-documented history of mental problems and a firm diagnosis of acute schizophrenia, yet was found guilty of second degree murder due to a then-recent change in California law severely restricting the insanity defense. He had made statements right after the crime admitting it ws wrong to kill. So, in May 1984, the court sentenced him to 16 years to life. Most of his time has been at Atascadero State Hospital. Parole has been denied him twice. His finances are in good shape, in spite of all this, due to royalties from Layla and other Dominos work, work with Traffic, and work with George Harrison, among other things. Finally, he says "As far as getting back toanything I was doing before 1981, it's pretty grim. Unless -- what I'd like to do is get in some kind of touring situation, maybe contribute a little bit with my writing." As a meek afterthought, he adds "I'd still like to play with Eric."