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New Musical Express logo Lets Go Cruise The Gay Bars
  New Musical Express - January 29 1977
Tom Robinson meets Julie Burchill

It’s eight o’clock in Fulham’s Golden Lion and Tom Robinson is due to play at nine thirty. He says maybe we could go cruise the fag bars till then. With all the delicacy of a steam hammer, I say I hate those places. What kind of creep would go there? Tom Robinson, apparently, “Sometimes I used to get so lonely there was nothing else to do.”

The idea of this boy being lonely is ludicrous. Were he a heterosexual, there’s no way Tom Robinson’s angelic visage wouldn’t be plastered all over every pubescent boudoir in the land. He’s all eyes and curls and real pale skin, the stuff teen dreams are sculptured from. If he wanted to sing “her” instead of “him”, he’d make a mint.

Tom Robinson, singer songwriter, late of Café Society and an institute for the maladjusted, now of the Tom Robinson Band and Gay Switchboard, is tired of waiting for Konk. In particular, he’s tired of waiting for the Kink who controls Konk, one Ray Davies, who signed him when Tom was with Café Society, three years ago. The contract has four years yet to run, and Davies has released just one album. It’s Ill-Will A-GoGo between these two, and not without reason.

We mean to talk about music but instead we talk about the Sex Pistols and the misguided misogyny of T.S. Eliot and how it feels to be a faggot in the UK ’77. It’s ok. You wouldn’t choose it if you were given a say in the matter, but you get used to it.

Tom though has gone over to the enemy. He says he had his first experience with a girl two months ago. “Me and Ray Davies were at this party, and she couldn’t decide which one of us she wanted. First she’d come on really strong to me, and then to him. And Ray’s so beautiful; part of the reason I signed with him is because he’s so sexy. I was amazed when I ended up with her.”

Didja like it, Tom? “Well . . . yeah. It was really interesting. It was so different. Not a patch on the real thing though.” We exchange Knowing Smirks. Tom’s 27 and says this was his first girl, ever. He spent the years from 16 to 23 in a home for maladjusted boys, which can hardly have been conducive to heterosexuality. But he loved the place “It was a haven, after hospitals and being pumped full of drugs.”

Tom wears a Rock Against Racism sticker and curses Eric Clapton. A sell out. The natural condition of the Seventies. Selling Out. All down the line. He reels off the names Dana Gillespie, Joan Armatrading, Roberta Flack. Nona Hendryx, I counter, Patti Smith.

“Oh . . . I was talking to a guy from Patti’s band and he said she was a real closet case.” I thought the only thing Patti kept in her closet was Tom Verlaine, but you never can tell. Tom looks up and says the Stones are like a dinosaur attached to an iron lung. Has he always been political?

“Believe it or not the thing which made me political was touring with Barclay James Harvest. When I was with Café Society. Barclay James Harvest are such a bunch of rednecks . . . they used to con the money out of these kids and herd them into a hall and feed them with song after song of knitted-cardigan-by-the-TV, middle class platitudes . . . it just annoyed me so much. But of course Café Society were respectable boys. I hate respectable people. Most of all I hate respectable faggots.

Right . . . the whole syndrome of two guys setting up house together with a garage and a mortgage and talking over the fence to the neighbours . . . it’s just so sick. Because the minute their backs are turned, those same neighbours are gonna be sniggering behind their hands. We should accept we’re different and live by it.”

How do the people who hire you treat you?
“Well . . . in this pub, if you’re a closet case and you just come in and eye all the boys over your glass, you’re likely to get your nose opened. But if you’re honest with them and don’t pretend, they’ll treat you fine.”

Whereas the world will treat you fine if you’re a closet case and crucify you if you’re honest . . . Tom recalls how someone from the Festival Of Light called up LBC to rant wildly when Tom sang on there. The DJ almost lost his job.

How’s Ray, Tom?
“Oh . . .” Tom’s eyes grow ominous “I’m signed to a seven year contract and it’s got four years to run . . . there’s nothing I can do.”
Won’t he let you go?
Tom shakes his head. “When I dedicated ‘Tired Of Waiting For You’ to him onstage at the Nashville he was there and was so angry that two days later he sent me a letter offering me a release from the recording contract. That was over a month ago. Nothing’s happened.”

What are you living on?
‘Well . . . we just live on what we get from gigs. We just want to play, as much as we can. The thing is, people have to pigeonhole you, make you safe. Once I’m pigeonholed and filed away as a faggot who sings faggot songs, I’m not a threat any more. But I don’t want to be known as a fag. I want to be known as a singer.”

Just then a man approached and informed Tom that they’d obtained a gig at a London college. “Oh great” said Tom, “For their Gay Association.”

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