In 1973, Tom Robinson formed an acoustic trio called Cafe Society with Herewood Kaye, a friend from Middlesborough, and Raphael Doyle.
Shortly after their formation, Cafe Society became one of the initial two signings of Ray Davies‘ newly formed Konk West label and set out to record their first album. The LP sold all of 6,000 copies.
Work on the second album started in the summer of 1976 but complications developed which delayed its completion.
In October, Tom announced that he was leaving the group in disgust over the way they were being handled.
By August 1977 the album was still sitting in the can waiting to come out, so Raphael and Herewood split up with no sign of the album being released.
Tom gigged around London, initially using pickup bands made up of friends until he settled on his “proper” band, comprising lead guitarist Danny Kustow (an old friend from Finchden Manor school), Brian Taylor – alias Dolphin – on drums and Mark Ambler on bass.
The Tom Robinson Band signed a record deal with EMI (after being turned down by Stiff) and released their first single, 2-4-6-8 Motorway. The single was a slice of pure, joyous rock and a perfect driving song. It peaked at #5 in the charts during the English summer. TRB was off and running.
This was followed with the Rising Free EP, recorded live at a triumphant Lyceum show in November 1977.
The four songs on the EP formed a good cross-section of TRB’s musical styles: Don’t Take No For An Answer (an angry, driving rocker ), Glad to Be Gay (an ironic statement couched in an irresistible sing-along chorus with tremendous lyrics), Martin (another sing-along about a boy whose brother is always pulling crazy stunts and getting into trouble) and Right On, Sisters.
Debut album, Power In The Darkness (1978), showed that Robinson was a skilled, clever songwriter who knew how to use a hook or a phrase to great effect, such that, whether you agreed with the political stance or not, you would unthinkingly begin to sing along in spite of the often over-sloganised lyrics.
The album reached #4 in the UK album charts.
Ultimately TRB became a kind of Socialist Workers Party set to music. They were very visible supporters of Rock Against Racism (an organisation set up out of concern about the increasing activities of the National Front, Britain’s neo-fascist party).
By 1979 the band had folded. Robinson briefly fronted a new band called S27 and eventually went on to become a successful BBC radio DJ.
Vocals, bass, guitar
Brian ‘Dolphin’ Taylor