|Biography||A Brief History Of Tom|
June 1st 1950 in Cambridge, Tom Robinson was a choirboy until his voice broke,
and everything else broke along with it. At a time when homosexuality was still
punishable in Britain by prison, he fell in love with another boy at school.
Wracked with shame and selfhatred, Tom attempted suicide at age 16. An understanding
head teacher got him transferred to a pioneering therapeutic community for disturbed
adolescents in Kent.
There at Finchden Manor, Tom was inspired by John Peel's Perfumed Garden on pirate Radio London, and a visit from old boy Alexis Korner. The legendary bluesman and broadcaster transfixed a roomful of people with nothing but his voice and an acoustic guitar. The whole direction of Tom's future life and career became suddenly clear.
In the early seventies Tom joined the acoustic trio Café Society with two friends in London. They impressed Ray Davies of The Kinks enough for him to produce their debut album, though it sold only 600 copies. Meantime he discovered London's emerging gay scene and embraced the politics of gay liberation, which linked gay rights to the wider issues of equality and justice in society at large.
Inspired by an early Sex Pistols gig, Tom left Cafe Society and formed the more overtly political Tom Robinson Band (TRB) in 1977, aged 26. His band had a hit with "2-4-6-8 Motorway", quickly followed into the Top 20 by a live EP despite a BBC ban on the controversial lead track "Glad To Be Gay". Swept along by a tide of music press hysteria TRB's debut album "Power In The Darkness" went gold. But the band fell from favour equally quickly and broke up - demoralised and squabbling - in 1979.
As the '80s arrived, Tom ploughed his remaining earnings into a new band, Sector 27. They recorded a critically acclaimed album with Steve Lillywhite and took New York by storm (playing Madison Square Garden with The Police) before they too split up and left Tom technically bankrupt.
Fleeing the taxman, he packed his few possessions into his Austin A40 and headed for Hamburg. Living in a friend's spare room - Tom began writing again and ended up working in East Berlin with local band NO55. He returned home with fluent German and a song that became his Top 10 comeback, 1983's 'War Baby'.
Tom's continental exile had given him a fresh perspective on pop, and his return to the charts was marked by with a string of shows - not at regular rock venues - but performing late night cabaret at the Edinburgh Fringe. His career enjoyed a resurgence in the mid 90s with a trio of albums for the respected folk/roots label Cooking Vinyl.
He has become an advocate for a wider sexuality than his earlier potrayal as only a homosexual campaigner allowed - marrying a woman and starting a family. Having kickstarted his musical career with the notoriety of "Glad To Be Gay", Tom rounded it off twenty years later with an album cheerfully titled "Having It Both Ways" (Cooking Vinyl, 1996). In 1998 his bisexual epic "Blood Brother" won in three categories at the Gay & Lesbian American Music Awards in New York.
Over the past two decades Robinson has gradually become better known as a broadcaster than as a musician. In 1986 a radio producer offered Tom him his own series on the BBC World Service. Just like his heroes Peel and Korner, he soon found himself broadcasting his favourite music to a worldwide radio audience.
Unusually, Tom has presented programmes on all the BBC's national stations: Radios 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5Live. He fronted The Locker Room, a series about men and masculinity, for Radio 4 in the early nineties and later hosted the Home Truths tribute programme to John Peel a year after the latter's untimely death in 2004.
With producer by Matthew Linfoot he won a Sony Radio Award in 1997 with the gay music documentary You've Got To Hide Your Love Awy and a second Sony Gold in 2012 for his groundbreaking weekly radio show with Somethin' Else productions: NowPlaying@6Music. Since 2002 Tom has been a champion of new and emerging music at BBC Radio 6 Music where he now hosts his own Saturday night show and the Introducing Mixtape download on Monday mornings. He still occasionally freelances for Radio 4 (Something Understood, Pick Of The Week etc).
Tom hosts the new music blog Fresh On The Net and remains an active supporter of Amnesty International, The National Assembly Against Racism and The Samaritans along with the Peter Tatchell Foundation for Human Rights.
From an original biography by SYLVIE SIMMONDS