PRESS - Autumn 1993
SONGS FOR SWINGING LOVERS
By Siobhan Long
VISIT ANY book shop or video outlet and you'll find whole alcoves devoted
to the fine art of lovemaking. Considered treatises on everything from
twoplay to foreplay. Earnest 'roleplays' demonstrating perplexing positions
with solemn voiceovers providing the A-B-C- to satisfying (but safe) sex.
On the other hand there's always the top shelf harbouring the (not so
hidden) delights of Donna and Deep Throat for those with more urgent or
unctuous requirements. But let's face it, all the Andrew Strongs &
Alex Comforts in the world can't make up for the practised eye, the knowing
caress that comes courtesy of hands-on experience. Erogenous zones were
made to be explored, not explained and anyway, whoever located a G-spot
after ploughing through the likes of the 'Encyclopaedia Of Erotic Wisdom'
by Rufus C. Camphansen?
So be honest, when it comes to matters carnal all that's really needed
is (preferably) two consenting participants, a relatively comfortable
surface to accommodate the chosen positions and, if you're seriously intent
on making a meal of it, a selection of suitable rhythms on the turn-table...
Tom Robinson's a man who's adopted pretty much every position so far.
So what music would he recommend for carnal occasions?
"It's an interesting question," Mr. Robinson concedes. Picking 10 albums
that he would choose to make love to doesn't appear to cause any head-itching
or handwringing. The list, though, is formidable and embarrassingly eclectic.
"My No. 1 would have to be Brian Eno's 'On Land' from 1982. It's
music designed to be heard rather than listened to," he says. "Most music
demands attention. It says 'Listen to my lyric', or alternatively you're
stuck with musak which is supermarket aural wallpaper. But Eno
is a painting that you live with in a room. He has no melodies, no chord
sequences. It's the most extrordinary music I've ever heard because it
creates an atmosphere and the way that that interacts with the mood makes
it extremely effective." (Those who wrote off Eno, Isham &
Co. as clinically cold avant-gardists may wish to adjust their mind-sets
at this point).
For record No. 2 an altogether different mood is required. It's Frankie
Goes To Hollywood's "Relax" and the man suggests that for optimum
results you should acquire the myriad 12" versions and edit them onto
one tape. "It's a remarkable record," he reckons. "It was of its time.
It had a gloriously hypnotic effect and it was no coincidence that it
was No. 1 for so long. 'Relax' was made as a sex record and had the greatest
production behind it with Trevor Horn working at the peak of his powers
as a producer at that time. It had the rhythms of the dance floor which
are akin to the rhythms of sex." With Holly Johnson laughing all
the way to his boudoir, no doubt.
From the high camp of FGTH to the archness of Robert Smith
and The Cure. Tom Robinson seizes upon "The Walk", hand in hand
with New Order's "Blue Monday" to furnish an entirely different
ambience. Strange bedfellows they may appear to be, but Robinson sees
in them both a tiny line-up with a massive sound.
"The Cure were new and inexperienced when I first stumbled across
them in 1979 at the Reading Rock Festival. Robert Smith is a superb
guitarist who's never taken himself seriously." Once, when they were waiting
in the wings to appear on an Italian pop TV show, Smith gazed out
at the overtly baroque theatre resplendent in Italian designer over-statement,
filled with screaming fans orgasmic at the mere sight of their miming
heroes and turning to Robinson commented: "It looks like a disaster -
I do hope so"!
So we're talking flippant sex here, are we ? Less Eno mood music,
more Smithsonian undergraduate humour perhaps? It's far simpler than that,
according to Tom Robinson. "He's got a serious musical brain with 'I don't
care' vocals on top... And New Order ? How do they fit in this
equation of sex, mimes and audiotape ? "New Order had a facelessness
which was very appealing originally. They weren't like a group in any
accepted sense. And 'Blue Monday' was stupidly successful.
It was so good on pure quality. It sold on the strength of its own merits
regardless of reviews or publicity. And again it's no coincidence that
dance records are so closely linked with sex because they allow you to
swim in their atmosphere, they wash over you, just as any sexual experience
does." Maybe Bernard Sumner ate the Karma Sutra for breakfast the
day this one was written.
Pink Floyd's "Dark Side Of The Moon" assumes 5th position in Tom
Robinson's odyssey of the body. Why ? "It's an album I don't care to sit
down and listen to during the day but for lovemaking it's got a dreamy
atmosphere and pleasantly vacuous lyrics that wash past you. It's music
designed for hash heads, really."
At Number 6, we find those incorrigible sex machines - The Chieftains.
The Chieftains ?!? Paddy Maloney's tin whistle accompanying orgasmic
cries in the dark ? Derek Bell's harp heralding the hormonal flow
and procreative juices ? Seamus Ennis'd turn in his grave. But Tom Robinson
insists that "The Chieftains Vol IV", and in particular "The Kerry
Slides" (aah, that explains it) "evoke a tenderness and innocence" - that'd
win the heart of a Brigidine novitiate, no doubt.
Then again if it's the gentle art of seduction that interests you, Miles
Davis' "Sketches Of Spain" is Tom's answer. And who, pray tell would
he envisage seducing to the backdrop of Davis' regal trumpet?
"Morten Harkett of AHA. Maybe he'd be amenable to Davis'
muted trumpet. I think Morton's a man of great (dot dot dot) !!! "
From which enigmatic observation my subject moves on to the more basic
approach, loosely aligned with the Henry Miller 'gonadal glow' school
"Manfred Mann's first album ("Mann Made") from 1964 was released
at a time when I was a raw youth discovering the joys of sex," he explains.
"'I'm Your Kingpin' is only 3 minutes long which means that it doesn't
always give you long enough to perform. "In fact it's probably more suited
to self-abuse than anything else." he adds benignly.
And there's a postscript. "The Manfreds reformed last November
in the Town & Country Club for Tom McGuinness' 50th birthday
and I was asked to play bass with them!," Tom reveals. "So there I was
in my black polo, Chelsea boots and black-rimmed glasses playing with
The Manfreds !" And was 'I'm Your Kingpin' included in the night's repertoire
for Tom's benefit ? "No," he says, "but I had a hard-on for the entire
An altogether different circumstance prompted his selection of No. 9
Marianne Faithfull's "Broken English" (1979). After the rapid rise
to stardom of the Tom Robinson Band things eventually started to turn
ugly with matters financial and personal engulfing Robinson.
"I went through a low period in the early eighties when I was threatened
with bankruptcy. I nearly suffered a nervous breakdown and I fled to Germany
where I was essentially in exile. After our meteoric rise we all (TRB)
became monsters. We started believing our own publicity and if you believe
your own publicity on the way up you also believe it on the way down.
My self-esteem disappeared. My work was failing and so my self-worth disappeared
"So I was at a very low ebb and I was frequenting numerous saunas in Berlin,
smashed out of my mind. These places were totally decadent filled with
bodies groping one another through steam, people wandering in dimly-lit
corridors. It had a Felliniesque feel to it. On one particular day I was
with a Turkish boy when I vaguely heard 'Broken English' over the
speakers. It was so hypnotic and repetitive and it seemed so apt for my
circumstances. There's a line where she says: 'Don't say it in Russian,
don't say it in German, say it in broken English. "It's ancient production
sounds dated now," Tom concedes, "but at that time her creaking vocals
were staggering, the lyric and vocal performance were chilling enough
to make an immediate impression."
And for the final peak in this mountain of sexual/musical exploration?
The Rolling Stones ? Bryan Ferry ? Hendrix ? "Dan Hartman released
a concept album called 'New Green Clear Blue' which incidentally was panned
by the critics simply because it was him," says Tom. "But it's a wonderful,
hypnotic album that I've loved from the minute I heard it."
Not quite what I expected, but coming at the tail end of a list that accommodates
the likes of Eno, The Chieftains and The Cure, Dan
Hartman fits rather comfortably into Robinson's spectrum of music
to copulate to. Comments and verdicts post-coitus please.
Far from being the "heavy-metal bigoted rock'n'roller in disguise" that
he teasingly suggests during his live shows, Robinson's a man with a mission.
"Don't let anyone tell you who you can love", is his central message now
that he's a father and involved in a relationship with a woman. And with
his musical selection there's no end to the possibilities.
Tom Robinson, sex, love and rock'n'roll were made for one another.