Bury St Edmunds has a special place in rocker Tom Robinson’s heart

Tom Robinson, playing The Apex, Bury St Edmunds, October 27. Photo: CreepingMacKroki.be

Tom Robinson, playing The Apex, Bury St Edmunds, October 27. Photo: CreepingMacKroki.be - Credit: Archant

Bury St Edmunds has a special place in veteran rocker Tom Robinson’s heart, starting with a romantic weekend with his future wife to moving memories of John Peel’s funeral at the cathedral in 2004.

Tom Robinson, playing Cambridge Junction, November 2. Photo: CreepingMacKroki.be

Tom Robinson, playing Cambridge Junction, November 2. Photo: CreepingMacKroki.be - Credit: Archant

“The sheer number of people who descended on the town that day was staggering. I came by rail and every carriage on every train that pulled into the station was standing room only,” he recalls.

“As the coffin came back down the aisle to the sound of Teenage Kicks by the Undertones I caught a glimpse of Fergal Sharkey’s grief-ravaged face across the celebrity-packed congregation. That entire day in Bury remains permamently etched on my memory.

“An old schoolfriend of mine is a member of the Bury Quakers and 10 years ago I built them a website to help with their refurbishment appeal. As soon as the target was reached and the work completed, they got me to take it down again. Mind you, they subsequently got Kall-Kwik in Bury St Edmunds to build them a new site for the meeting house afterwards, so maybe mine just wasn’t very good,” he laughs.

Launcing his career in 1975, the singer-songwriter enjoyed chart success fronting the Tom Robinson Band, known for hits like Glad To Be Gay, 2-4-6-8 Motorway and Up Against The Wall. After releasing 10 more albums, he began hosting radio programmes on all the BBC’s major networks - where over the past 13 years he’s become a staunch champion of independent bands and emerging artists.

The 6 Music radio presenter is hanging up his headphones temporarily as he takes Only The Now - his first LP in 20 years - out on the road with an enviable backing band in tow. It includes Faithless drummer Andy Treacey, producer and multi-instrumentalist Gerry Diver, session guitarist Adam Phillips, who has played with the likes of Richard Ashcroft, Cher and Rod Stewart; and guest vocalist and guitarist Lee Forsyth Griffiths.

“This will be my first tour of the century with a full scale electric band. I’ve got a tranche of strong new material and a new album I’m proud of, I’m keen to get out there and show off those new songs to audiences alongside the vintage hits that gave me that first 15 minutes of fame.”

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Robinson - joined on the record by special guests including John Grant, Billy Bragg, Martin Carthy, Colin Firth, Nadine Shah, Forsyth Griffiths Lisa Knapp, Sir Ian McKellen, TV Smith and Nitin Sawhney - was taken completely by surprise by the reaction when they festivals like Latitude, Glastonbury and Green Man over the summer.

“The show consists of about 60% audience favourites from the old days - War Baby, Glad To Be Gay, 2-4-6-8 Motorway etc - and 40% songs from the new album Only The Now. But at our Latitude set - as you can see for yourself on YouTube - the new songs went down even better than the old ones. We do our best to make it a good humoured and engaging show and of all the bands I’ve had since the late 1970s this one finally has the firepower to truly do justice to that vintage material nearly four decades later.

“Come in good time so as not to miss our special guests Kitten Pyramid - a band I love and play on my BBC Radio shows. They’re a real treat for the eyes and ears...”

Tom Robinson plays The Apex tonight and Cambridge Junction November 2.

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