Tom Robinson isn't the first openly-gay musician.
He is the first, and still only, successful one. The Tom
Robinson Band's first single, "2-4-6-8- Motorway,"
hit number four on the British charts. Early in 1978, the
EP "Rising Free," which included "(Sing if You're) Glad
to be Gay," was released. Its content denied it any airplay in England, but it reached 18 in the charts anyway.
In mid-1978, "Power in the Darkness," TRB's first LP,
was released. It was certified gold in England and enjoyed similar success in Europe and Japan.
Tom was also becoming known as a political activist.
He helped establish the organization "Rock Against Racism"
and TRB headlined with The Clash at RAR's "Carnival Against
the Nazis." Tom also performed in the November, 1979 March
on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
Things didn't go so well in the United States.
Some American programmers who were following British punk
and - new ^rave began playing TRB songs, but airplay had subsided by the time the records were available domestically.
The "Power in the Darkness" American tour only covered four
cities. Most of the seats went to the press. Tom described the tour as "a very alienating experience, so
far removed from the audiences of peers and real communication."
When "TRB Two" was released, the Tom Robinson Band
was in the process of breaking up over the strain of
quickly-found success. The first real U.S. tour in April-
June of 1979 (which included an appearance at Armadillo
World Headquarters) featured a new keyboardist and drummer.
The band was dissolved immediately after the tour.
Shortly after TRB broke up, Tom accidentally met
old friend Jo Burt, who had been touring with the Troggs.
They began writing songs together. Tom's songs with the
TRB had been very political, covering issues like racism,
feminism, unemployment, and the oppression of gay women
and men. According to Jo Burt, "We wanted to get more
personal and away from the explicit and overtly political
songs that we had both been doing. But, in fact, we came
full around, because we were writing political songs again
- not so much in the words, but in the music." Tom and Jo
were soon recording demos and looking for musicians to complete a band.
First came drummer Derek Quinton, "an amiable lunatic
and reformed football hooligan ("Do you want to dance or
what?") Derek's strong background in rhythm and blues and
willingness to experiment with new patterns and synthesized
percussion provider?' a firm foundation for the band's driving
The band spent weeks auditioning lead guitarists.
"Everybody we tried was firmly attached to hack cliches,"
Tom said. Finally, the "almost too pretty" Stevie B
appeared. He had picked up the guitar at age 13 because
"I wanted to practice the pose. I used to skip school and
stand in front of the mirror to get my stance right. At
fourteen, I really began to learn how to play." His fractured way of attacking the music and strikingly rich echo-
plexed guitar gave them the sound they were looking for.
With the name Sector 27, a line from an Allen Ginsberg
poem, the band began playing small London clubs, gradually
building a following. The "Sector 27" album was recorded
in the fall of 1980 with XTC producer Steve Lillywhite.
It is enjoying more critical acclaim, airplay and popularity than any of Tom's previous work.
Sector 27 appeared in Austin as part of a six-week
U.S.-Canadian tour. The band seemed much stronger and
happier onstage than the already-disintegrating TRB which
had played Austin.
Jim Olinger and Wayde Frey of CONNECTIONS interviewed
Tom on the afternoon of his January 26 appearance at Club
How was the March on Washington?
I was really proud to be part of that. It was the
most amazing thing I've seen. I was standing on the
side of the street and the March was going by me for
maybe an hour, an hour and a half, and there still was
no end to it. It was just unbelievable. I've been in
a lot of demonstrations, and I've never seen anything
I played at the British Carnival Against the Nazis,
which was a big anti-National Front demonstration, and
there was maybe 80,000 people there, but this was double
When the Texan contingent came down, that was unbelievable, too, because there was all those marching
bands and their leader and the flags and everything.
There were people just crying and laughing and clapping
on the sidewalk, because it was like they're used to
Texans saying, "Hey, we're Texan," but people saying
"We're Texan and gay," was really something. People
were crying from it.
Have you been doing anything else in the human
Yeah, there's a movie we made for Amnesty International. It's called The Secret Policeman's Ball.
It is partly comedy and partly music. It had people
from the Monty Python team, Joan Clese, Terry Jones,
and Peter Cook. It was in London and had all British
people. On the music side, there was a new release
from the Bonza Raktu Band, John Williams, the classical guitar player, Pete Townsend from The Who, myself and Betty Conway. They made an album of the
musical items and an album of the comedy items. They're