EVENING NEWS - December 1977
TOM ROBINSON - ROCK VOICE OF '78?
By James Johnson
Music with a hard-core political bias could soon become a regular feature
of the Top ten if a singer called Tom Robinson continues his sudden and mercurial
rise to the top. Last night nearly 3000 jostling fans filled the Lyceum ballroom
for a concert by the singer, whom many observers feel could become the voice
of rock music in 1978.
Six months ago 27-year-old Robinson and his group were
performing to just a few hundred people in public houses around North London.
Then his first single, an innocuous song called Motorway, became one of the top
five chart singles. Now, from this position of some success, it looks as if
Robinson is prepared to launch the rest of his material that combines
accessible, catchy rock with lyrics that deal, as he puts it, with oppressed
In return, many of the singer’s most enthusiastic admirers
feel he has the potential to become the kind of spokesman that has been missing
since the days when Bob Dylan and John Lennon were at their peak. As the son
of wealthy parents Robinson adds a middle-class articulation to the kind of dissatisfaction
expressed by punk rock. And now that the punk movement could be running out of
steam he seems an ideal candidate to take over.
EMI Records have already signed
up Robinson in a contract reputed to be worth £100,000 and the singer realises the kind of contradictions
he may shortly face. “Nobody is more aware about the probable fate
of this group more than myself,” he says. “If we get some
commercial success people will inevitably say it’s a sell-out.
We mean to carry on and if we do lose the feeling we have with the audience
now they can come and throw bricks at my Rolls-Royce.” In the callous,
commercial world of rock music last night’s show was an extraordinary
event in many ways. Robinson’s followers who could not get into
the theatre were given leaflets to ensure prior booking facilities on
the next tour. Meanwhile, for those inside, free programmes were given
out mixing up traditional information for fans about the group with comment
on matters like the George Ince campaign.
Robinson’s background includes several years at a grammar school
plus a spell at the Finchley Manor School for Maladjusted Children. “I
was sent there when I was 16 years old after suicide attempts and a nervous
breakdown.” He explains matter-of-factly. “It was just an
unspectacular nervous breakdown brought on by ‘A’ levels.”
His current political preoccupations were brought on because, he frankly
admits, he is homosexual. “I was never a political animal until
things started happening close to home. Quite ordinary people I knew
who went out for a drink got beaten up or picked up by the police. I then
realised that freedom is indivisible and that it covers several other
areas as well.”