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London Evening News Tom Robinson - Rock Voice Of '78?
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 minorities.

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.”

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