STONE - August 1978
THE TOM ROBINSON BAND 'ROCK WITH A CLENCHED FIST'
By Mikal Gilmore
TOM ROBINSON places a cassette recorder on the table between us and pushes
the red record button, "Do you mind?" he asks with a disarmingly modest
smile. "You see, I've been misquoted so much...." This is a remarkable
statement, I can't help thinking, for a man who, though he's been part
of the British music scene since 1975, has only been doing interviews
for the last year.
Robinson is the lead singer and bassist of the four- piece Tom Robinson
Band, whose first album, Power in the Darkness, has recently been released,
and whose single, "2-4-6-8 Motorway", was a Top Ten English hit and received
considerable air-play here. And he has fair reason to be wary. In England,
his songs, particularly "Glad to Be Gay", a declaimer about gay apathy and
"queer-bashing" - Robinson's gay, but the other members of his band are
not - have earned him a reputation as a political spokesman / sloganeer.
The British press touts him as one of the few real savants of the New Wave;
one writer even quoted Robinson as saying, "The Pistols and the Clash equivocate.
"I've never used the verb equivocate in my life," says
Tom, sitting in a Hollywood Holiday Inn. "I wish I had the gall to say we're
New Wave, punk or whatever, but we're a rock & roll group, and we came
along long after the Clash and the Pistols. Anyway, I think the term 'Political
rock' stinks, and I loathe protest music and folk singers."
Robinson's vehemence is surprising, since he started his professional career
in a group called Cafe Society, a cabaret version of Crosby, Stills and
Nash. "That's part of my resentment," he says. "It stems from that bland
assumption that if you play an acoustic guitar you're interested in folk
Robinson, now twenty-seven, says he was first drawn to rock & roll by
his classically trained father, who insisted that rock music was repugnant
- and unwelcome in his household. "I suppose you could say that he was my
biggest influence," smiles Tom. "If he hated it so much, I figured there
must be something good about it." Eventually, the rift between the two spread
so far that Tom spent six years in Finchden Manor, a home for "maladjusted
boys" where he first met Danny Kustow, his current band's guitarist. When
he left the manor five years ago, he headed for London. In his first year
there, Robinson formed Cafe Society with two old friends. Kink Ray Davies
signed the group to his Konk label and produced its one album - a watery-sounding
effort that by most accounts, failed to capture the personality of the band's
By the time Robinson left Cafe Society in 1976 and founded his current band,
he had started writing songs about the volatile social climate around him.
"If you're a rock fan living in London." he says, "and your idols are writing
odes to the latest Britt Ekland, what the fuck's that got to do with you?
That's why the New Wave took off in such an enormous way there - because
it belonged to the people who made it. It was do-it-yourself."