Friday 1 June 2018

Record Collection Random Choice (RCRC) - R: Tom Robinson Band - Power In The Darkness

The Tom Robinson Band formed in 1976, and fused the energy and freedom of Punk with the political questioning (not sloganeering, merely questioning) of Tom's lyrics.
The band themselves were made up of Tom on bass guitar and vocals, Mark Ambler who passed the audition to be bass player but turned out to be a more adept Hammond Organ operative, Danny Kustow who fused blues guitar with crunching power chords and riffs, and Dolphin Taylor a drummer of thumping power with a bit of swing underneath.

Their first single was the a-political, anthemic "2-4-6-8 Motorway" - a legacy that sees TRB regularly represented on Punk and New Wave compilations.
This was followed by the "Rising Free" EP, whose lead track brought them further media attention, but the sheer passion, energy and commentary in the song did not lose their audience (as the media perhaps predicted), but brought them a certain element of acclaim.
That song was "Glad To Be Gay".
In a world where the only real representation of Gay men in the media were The Village People, Dick Emery characters, John Inman (Mr Humphries in Are You Being Served) and Larry Grayson, Tom's stance was "This is me, this is what I believe.  Take it or leave it.  But you might want to think about for a second".
The bands support of organisations such as Rock Against Racism also brought them attention as a posturing, political band.  And most importantly, they believed it and had something to say.

Their debut album was released in 1978, and contained none of the previous singles - what it did contain was 10 tracks of Clash/Jam-esque rock, with stabs of The Stranglers (from Ambler's Hammond, and Robinson's sometimes snarling vocal), infused with energy, fury, disillusionment, hope and the offer of empowerment.
(The US version added the 2 singles and 4 tracks from the EP, turning it into a virtual double album, as does the CD re-issue).
Production duties fell to Chris Thomas, who repeated the previous trick he performed with Sex Pistols 'Never Mind The Bollocks' by delivering a seriously solid, sonically robust, Rock album.

There aren't too many stronger "in yer face" album openers than "Up Against The Wall", "Grey Cortina" keeps the momentum up and never lets up until the closing track "Power In The Darkness".
Other stand-out tracks are "Long Hot Summer" and "The Winter Of 79" where Tom predicts an apolyptic future.  From the expanded edition, the pub-sing-a-long of "Martin" is an audience pleaser, and "Don't Take No For An Answer" is a bittersweet recounting of a failed deal with Kinks mainman Ray Davies.
And entirely fitting with the underlying theme of the album, songs, and Tom Robinson's outlook, there is also a fine reading of Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released"

A Second album would follow in 1979 ('TRB Two'), but without Mark Ambler or Dolphin Taylor it didn't have "it", and the band fell apart.
Tom continued in music, but his focus shifted towards Human Rights and activism, being involved in Rock Against Racism, Amnesty International.  In parallel he became a radio presenter, and can now be heard on 6Music.

Up Against The Wall

Winter Of 79


  1. I agree it was and I met Tom after a gig in the 80s. Bizarrely, Vicki Michelle from allo allo was also there and seemed to be with him.

    As a matter of fact I don't think Tom was gay. Isn't he now married with kids? Sing if you used to be gay?

    So quite why he took that very brave stance I'm not sure. Bit like Bowie really but he wanted to be outrageous. I suppose it broke down barriers.

    2468 great thumping single.