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26 février 2007

Tom Robinson - Castaway Party - Battersea Arts Centre

Not quite a full revival or a reawakening but `Punk` appears to be back in vogue without fully having gone away. Many questions are asked of middle-aged Punk parents by their offspring. What was it all about?

Why was it such a rebellious time? And what was there to rebel over? Naturally the main thrust was against the establishment, monarchy, political figures and their party politics, unjust wars and any cause that required an activist.

Tom Robinson did not fit the stereotype of a typical Punk musician in the late seventies. Intelligent, articulate, multi-talented musician (oboe, clarinet, bass, guitar, keyboards) singer, songwriter and bandleader. In the ten years to the mid eighties he was putting over a very strong message through his self penned songs mostly dealing with anti-war and gay rights issues. 2-4-6-8 Motorway ‘77, Up against the Wall ‘78, War Baby ‘83, Power in the Darkness ‘78 and Glad to be Gay ‘75 being the most notable.

His musical collaboration with Elton John and Peter Gabriel confirmed his standing as a major force in the hard hitting and politically forceful Punk movement. Accused by the music press of `replacing his acute lyrics with sloganeering` in the years following the Punk era he has managed to retain the passion for the issues he was campaigning for at the time.

Most of his time is now devoted to encouraging and bringing on young or un-discovered musical or song writing talent, often showcasing them on his B.B.C. 6 Music show, `Evening Sequence`. However he has not given up performing, a talent still a strong as it ever was, and each year he puts together a show for friends and supporters in London, Belgium and beyond. Supported on stage by friends from his performing days, regulars in the form of T.V.Smith (The Adverts), Adam Phillips, Tim Sanders, Andy Treacy and Lee Griffiths make up the backbone of the band. The line-up is often augmented by musical finds from the 6 Music Shows introducing the talents of unknowns like Philip Jeayes or relaunching the careers of musicians of the calibre of Roddy Frame (Astec Camera).

The themes and issues of the 70s/80s may be old hat but Tom can still put over the message with force, passion and directness. To see him in full flow with T.V.Smith thumping out the lyrics of the Robinson penned `The Thin Green Line` or Motorway leaves you in no doubt that the message has still got legs. It takes some effort to get this gig reviewer to his feet, arms waving, singing at full volume, belting out `Sing if you’re Glad to be Gay` but Tom manages it every time. It will be well worth your time and effort to check out the work of Tom Robinson and see what your parents were getting all steamed up about in the Punk era and why Tom has remained one of the highly regarded spokesmen of the issues. You may find that you have more in common with your parents than you first imagined.

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