Friday, June 28, 2019

Stonewall 50 #1: TRB You

About a week ago, I was thinking about how I go hogwild for Black History Month in February, with post after post. So why no Gay Pride posts for June? I asked myself. Let's clear that up this weekend, conveniently at the 50th anniversary of the birth of modern Gay Rights.
We'll do three: one each to commemorate each day of the rebellion that ought to prove to all pearlclutchers that if you want what is yours by right, you have to fight for it. And sometimes, you have to spike a few uprooted parking meters into the windshields of the fleeing Agents of the Repressive State to make your point and your safe space in which to be human.
For the first of these, let's start at the flashpoint of the most radical and committed. Today we celebrate someone who doesn't even really do music anymore -- he's one of the most noted radio presenters of the BBC now -- but, when he did, he sure didn't bullshit around.
Back in the mid 1970s, when he began to focus his songwriting skills upon anthems of Gay Liberation, such things were not yet the socially acceptable norms of Identity Politics they are now. One reason they have become such? Look no further than the boy with the bass here.
He looks harmless nowadays, but 40 years ago he was an holocaust-against-homophobes on two legs, with tunes to match. We have everything to owe to people such as he, that we get to live lives of relative freedom in many places.
You know it wasn't always thus, and we know it still isn't in the majority of places on this Earth. When today's hero sang about being glad to be gay it was a real, tangible risk of his life and safety.
He succeeded on the sheer force of his persona and talent, and then -- just as he was beginning to make inroads commercially with his polemical powers -- he shifted gears and eventually transitioned from making music to talking about it on the radio.
I remember hearing him as a gay teenager -- it must have been on WLIR-FM on Long Island -- and what the idea that someone like him existed meant to me growing up.
Which brings us to this concert, one of the few documents of this most beloved group -- called the Tom Robinson Band, or just TRB -- in action that have yet surfaced. 
This one is so woefully undercirculated, and what is around is a pretty muddy, somewhat speed-variable off-air cassette of Nth generation. So for the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion TR sings about in Long Hot Summer, I was gonna just share it and be done with it, and hope someday a better source -- one more worthy of the ferocious intensity of the performance -- would surface.
But somewhere in the recesses of my bootleg-addled brain, somehow I knew (and the text files I have archived confirmed) that I had another capture of it burned to CD somewhere around 2006, so I searched and searched and finally located it. And lo! and behold, it was an unbelievably sparkling pre-FM capture, with the spectral analysis highly populated above 15 kHz like it oughta be, albeit juuuust a tad slow (12.5 cents to be exact).
So I fixed one dropout in the first song, and then speed corrected everything and reconstituted the WNEW-FM commentary from the original live broadcast back into where it was missing at the beginning and end -- this show has unusually good radio play-by-play -- and here we are with it the way it should be heard.
Tom Robinson Band
The Bottom Line
New York City, NY
early show
01 WNEW-FM intro
02 Don't Take No for an Answer
03 Long Hot Summer
04 Too Good to Be True
05 Martin
06 Grey Cortina
07 Winter of '79
08 Glad to Be Gay incl. band introductions
09 Power In the Darkness
10 Those Broken Bass String Blues
11 Ain't Gonna Take It
12 2-4-6-8 Motorway
13 Up Against the Wall
14 encore break + WNEW-FM commentary
15 I Shall Be Released
16 Right On Sister
17 WNEW-FM outro 

Total time: 1:09:41

Tom Robinson - bass, vocals
Danny Kustow - guitar, vocals
Nick Plytas - keyboards, vocals
Brian "Dolphin" Taylor - drums

speed corrected WNEW-FM pre-FM reel, with missing radio commentary segments speed corrected and inserted from 
an unknown generation, off-air FM cassette capture of the original live broadcast
This band was famous for tearing up a stage like they do in this 70 minutes of madness, and when you hear the gushing radio commentary detailing how ridiculously powerful this set is, you'll get a window into just how different Tom Robinson was, and what kind of impact his very direct (and often hilarious) messages-in-music had upon the late 1970s atmosphere into which he dropped his incendiary songs.
I'll be back over the next two days with two more incredibly magnificent artists who also happen to be LGBTQI in their orientations. 
Today, though, marks 50 years to the day it all began: when people with less than nothing to lose began to take what belonged to them without apology to their oppressors. We all stand on their shoulders: the Marsha P. Johnsons, the Sylvia Riveras, and the Tom Robinsons too.
So sing if you're glad to be gay -- I sure am -- and get into this absolutely militant MF of a set from the TRB in the thick of their 101% prime, halcyon days... and a Happy 50th Pride to you all!--J.

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