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New Musical Express logo The Most Important New Band In Britain
  NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS Deptember 17 1977
At least, that’s what the ON THE TOWN Editor says, so he’s running TWO reviews – and running! Send any complaints to the third taverna on the left, Agathopes, Syros, somewhere in the azure Aegean . . .

These men are angry. They don’t wear chains and razor blades, they don’t snarl at the audience; but when Tom Robinson stops in the middle of the set, points at the door and talks about the people Out There, you know that this is a band that has been pushed into a corner by the rest of the world and is ready to fight its way out. It isn’t the stylised hate and war reaction of The Clash, but in songs like “Long Hot Summer”, “Up Against The Wall” and “We Ain’t Gonna Take It”. Tom Robinson is singing about all the minority groups who are no longer on the defensive, crying for everyone who has been hospitalised for a week because they look-walk-talk differently. He’s telling you that there’s no more room to sit on the fence, it’s “time to decide which side you’re on.”

Robinson is the band’s obvious focal point, punching a bass and singing clearly and strongly enough to get the message across. Danny Kustow moves like Mick Jones but doesn’t borrow his riffs. Between them Tom and Danny break four strings in one evening. Drummer Brian Taylor steps up front to sing “Riding Along On The Back Of An E-Type”, while organist Mike Amber leads a chorus of “Auld Lang Syne” – but Tom’s sing-along monologue about his fictitious brother Martin is genuine 1977 music hall. Don’t be fooled by the fun and equally committed fans, because songs like “It’s Getting Tighter”, “Winter Of ‘79” and “Glad To Be Gay” will send shivers down your spine.

This is one of the most relevant bands I’ve seen this year, but a lot of people are going to miss them because they can’t identify with a group who are glad to be gay. That’s like ignoring Bob Marley because he’s black. Songs like “Power In The Darkness”, with its damning GLC rap, and lyrics about fascists in the high street with everyone else on the run mean something to everyone. “Motorway” is the new single, and the album is going to make a major impact if people have confidence to buy it and play it. This band wants their freedom. Does that frighten you? After the set the audience stood chanting, “Smash the National Front!” Two policemen came into the club, picked me out of the crowd and asked me if I was “John Williams”. Why me? That frightens me.


The last time I saw the Tom Robinson band they were a trifle weak sounding and not really together. Only Tom and Danny were shorthaired and the other two guys seemed a bit out of it. Naturally now they’ve “sold out” (Tom’s words) the other two have got their locks lopped and lo, they seem to have gelled, got it together etc, somewhat. This is only too apparent by the fact that their following sings along even on a complicated opus like “A Brother Like Martin”. Something told me I was about to be stunned by a band performing at a peak. From “Ford Cortina” onwards the set literally took off into dizzy heights of mesmerisation, hypnotism and transfixion. Fast links kept everybody dancing through “Right On Sister!” with the audience punching air en masse, Tom furiously strumming his bass and Danny blowing snot down his shirtfront!

A word about Danny and his guitar – remember Ronson’s solo on “Moonrage Daydream”? Well, Danny plays with that kind of power – burning sustained notes, a power within. His solo on “Winter Of ‘79” was truly frightening, and set the serious tone for “Better decide Which Side You’re On”, a tour de force which positively shocked me. Pause for a gobful of air and its anthem time . . . “Corrupters of youth, it’s there in the papers – must be the truth! So sing if you’re glad to be gay – sing if you’re happy that way.”

I’ll mention the other songs ‘cause the titles say a lot about the way this band feels about 1977 in UK – “Power In The Darkness (Freedom)”. “We Ain’t Gonna Take It”, “I’m Alright Jack” . . . Danny breaks a string, the band scream to the set’s end, I notice the deafening volume has ceased, collect my senses, yell for more! A genuinely moving “I Shall Be Released”, a manic “I’m Waiting For My Man” featuring Rich Kid Glen Matlock on Tom’s bass and Tom on Iggy Pop impersonations – shredding his clothes off his back and falling into the arms of the people in front! A stunning performance from the most powerful band I’ve seen since the Pistols – and that is the highest praise.


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