Thursday, June 16, 2005
"Sorry Mr Harris"
Tom Robinson must have been a particularly difficult guy to have a quiet drink with in the 70s. He'd have arrived at the pub wearing a long coat, collar up, a hat pulled way down over his face. He'd have wanted to sit way at the back of the pub, next to the jukebox, back to the wall, and he'd have jumped every time the door slammed. Maybe that's what being an agit-prop singer did to you. In any case, after the youthful anarchy of his first album, the second one was a dark, paranoid affair, no more so than here. He sings in character, as a friendly policeman in charge of interrogations, so that's got to be unique for a start. His jolly, Oxford-educated sounding officer clearly has a distaste for the work: "I'm sorry if the soldiers had to hurt you Mr Harris/You haven't really left them any choice/This must be quite a trial, not having eaten for a while/I wonder what's the matter with your voice." But as time goes by, the persuasion gets ratcheted up: "That fellow Charlie Jones you were detained with Mr Harris/I'm afraid we found him hanging in his cell/So we've asked your little brother to assist with our enquiries/I hope he won't be difficult as well." Beyond the lyric, there was never a huge amount to recommend Tom's work, but he did have the great luck to have a terrific guitarist - Danny Kustow - who really did know how to tear it up. It's a nostalgic pleasure to come back to this once in a while, to remember the whole era and wonder how the guys at Guantanamo Bay are doing.