Nick Plytas - keyboards; Danny Kustow - lead guitar; Brian "The Dolphin" Taylor - drums, vocals; Tom Robinson - lead vocals, bass
The Tom Robinson Band made a big splash during the summer of 1978, when the rock press went gaga over Robinson's controversial pro-gay, punk message. The band was just getting adjusted to a new line-up that included Nick Plytas on keyboards, replacing original member Mark Ambler, when they recorded a number of shows at the Bottom Line in New York City for the King Biscuit Flower Hour. Most of the shows are pretty close in setlist design, but there are a few surprises here, too. The show features material from the band's just released LP on Capitol Records, Power In The Darkness, which, three decades after its release, still holds up well. Among the highlights of the show are "Don't Take No For An Answer," "Grey Cortina," Robinson's social anthem, "Glad To Be Gay," and "Long Hot Summer."
Buzz for the Tom Robinson Band was very strong during this period, primarily because he had received considerable press over the song "Glad To Be Gay." It was a weird paradox because Robinson and the band played punk music that most people deemed to be macho. In the end, his overt openly gay stance might have hurt him with radio programmers and the media, both of whom seemed to cool to his music after the initial LP and U.S. tour.
Tom Robinson and his band were part of the same U.K. punk/new wave scene that launched the careers of the Pretenders, the Police, Elvis Costello, and Nick Lowe. With his gritty, streetwise swagger, Robinson was expected to have a big career both in his native U.K. and here in the U.S., where FM radio was beginning to embrace this brave new style of music. Although his infectious dance club rocker, "2-4-6-8 Motorway," was the song that broke Robinson in both the clubs and on the radio, it was his controversial anthem, "Glad To Be Gay" that gained him the most media exposure. While David Bowie, the New York Dolls, T. Rex, Lou Reed, and other rockers that emerged in the early-'70s "glam-rock" movement also heralded the feminine side of men, they were clearly androgynous or at least bi-sexual in their approach.
Robinson was the first international music artist willing to be rock's advocate for gay rights. For a short while, Robinson and his sexual politics were all the rage, but he soon fell out of favor with the rock media, and eventually his fans. He released a handful of albums through the mid-1980s, before becoming a musician who toured only occasionally. He eventually broke up the Tom Robinson Band and has settled into life as a popular club DJ in England.
New York during the summer of 1978 was a hotbed of potent punk. Artists such as Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, the Police, the Pretenders, the Clash, and the Tom Robinson Band all presented some their most memorable Big Apple performances during this period.