Ep06: Tom Robinson on how individual audience members can change the world
Greetings, curious listener, and thanks for visiting this page. I’m delighted to share my conversation with Tom Robinson, recorded remotely on 27th March 2020.
[Content warning: swearing, brief discussion of a nervous breakdown and the benefits of therapy, plus a mention of suicide in the context of lyrics helping people.]
In this conversation, we discuss:
- being a a pop star and LGBT activist in the 1970s and onwards, and why the fight for a free and fair society needs to level up
- how an act of kindness by British blues legend Alexis Korner shaped a teenage Tom’s future
- how songs can inspire individual audience members to change the world
- why “you should do the right thing, whether or not you expect to get a pat on the back for it”
- how to start a conversation with a famous person
- “late onset bisexuality” and how getting a job at BBC 6 Music gave him the opportunity to watch his kids grow up
The three songs Tom invites you to listen to from his back catalogue are: “Glad To Be Gay” (the Amnesty International Secret Policeman’s Ball version), “Merciful God” (Only The Now) and the 12″ single version of “War Baby”.
New music: “No Fanfare” by Youth Sector, the music of Freya Roy and “Ghost Town” by Greentea Peng.
More musical favourites: Squid, Cabbage, Kate Tempest and Tricky.
Things we talked about:
In the intro I mention last week’s blog post on the danger of endless lists – I’d love to hear your mindful productivity tips!
Finchden Manor therapeutic community – Tom has written very beautifully about his experience here.
Billy Bragg’s new song “Can’t Be There Today”.
Tom’s 2015 album “Only The Now”.
The Lesbians and Gay Men Support the Miners organisation and the 2014 film “Pride”, which tells the story of how hearts and minds were changed during the 1984-85 miner’s strike.
The generosity of British blues musician and radio broadcaster Alexis Korner.
Tom’s work with BBC 6 Music and his website Fresh On The Net, where artists can submit their tracks for consideration and read loads of brilliant advice.
Towards the end of the conversation, Tom quotes from TS Eliot’s 1940 poem “East Coker”:
“And every moment is a new and shocking
Valuation of all we have been.”
Born in Cambridge in 1950, Tom Robinson first became known in the late 1970s as a musician and LGBT activist with the Tom Robinson Band (TRB) who were early supporters of Rock Against Racism and Amnesty International. In 1977 their Top 5 debut release “2-4-6-8 Motorway” became one of the landmark singles of the UK punk era.
Other hits included “Glad To Be Gay”, “Up Against The Wall” and the band’s debut album “Power In The Darkness” which went gold in the UK and Japan. As a solo artist Tom had further solo hits in 1983 with “War Baby” and “Atmospherics: Listen To The Radio”, and co-wrote songs with Peter Gabriel, Elton John and Dan Hartman.
As a radio broadcaster, over the last 30 years Tom has hosted programmes on all eight of the BBC‘s national radio stations and won two Gold Sony Academy Radio Awards. He currently hosts three shows a week on BBC Radio 6 Music, was a member of the Ivor Novello Awards committee for ten years and in 2016 was awarded a fellowship of LIPA in recognition of his support for new music artists through BBC Introducing. His music blog at Fresh On The Net currently offers an open door to new tunes and free insider advice for independent and emerging musicians.
Follow Tom on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
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Have a lovely day xoPodcast
Wow! That was an hour of concentrated wisdom.
IKR – I learned SO much from him!
i have enjoyed them all and Tom was no exception. I first heard his 2 4 6 8 Motorway followed by Glad To Be Gay decades ago now. I occasionally hear his radio show but did not know a lot about him. I was surprised to hear he was a father these days ecause of his past. He sounds on great form.
I’m delighted we got to have this chat, he’s done so much interesting stuff!
Wow, loved all the podcasts up to now but the Tom one was pretty special, old enough to remember 2 4 6 8. Inspirational stuff, thank you very much.
You’re so welcome! Thank *you* for listening, and for letting know you enjoyed the latest episode.