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  ROLLING STONE - August 1978
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. We don't."

"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 music."

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 pub act.

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."

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