It isn't every day that I get to meet someone who's, albeit unwittingly, changed my life. But tonight I did.
It's impossible to over-estimate Tom Robinson's importance to me. He's one of a handful of people who've genuinely shaped my world-view and helped me become myself and, for that, I thank him.
These days he's probably best known as a top DJ on BBC Radio 6Music but back in my adolescent years he and his music were a lifeline to me just when I needed one. Songs such as this one www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXWR1sYDgGk were rarely off my turntable back then and I still listen to them today.
In those distant - pre-internet - days, not only were Tom's songs an inspiration but his record sleeves and interviews were a vital resource for anyone seeking information, advice or guidance on all things 'alternative'. It was he who pointed me towards buying my first copy of Spare Rib magazine, purchasing Rita Mae Brown's book 'Rubyfruit Jungle' and sending off a stamped addressed envelope for a 'Rock Against Racism' badge. His sleeve notes also supplied me with the number for Gay Switchboard - a useful piece of information to have to hand if you were a girl who needed someone to say that it was 'ok' to like other girls but who didn't have access to any other sources of validation or reassurance and wasn't, yet, ready or able to talk to family or friends about it!
When I was a painfully shy adolescent, struggling to feel confident about who I was, I wrote Tom a fan letter and he wrote back! I still have his reply. Receiving it remains one of the great thrills of my life.
My original vinyl copy of the Tom Robinson Band's first album, 'Power in the Darkness', wore thin decades ago and I now also have CD and mp3 versions of it - and pretty much everything he's released since too, of course.
I've seen him play live on a number of occasions over the years but it was really special to have a chat with him tonight after he'd played a terrific gig at Liverpool Philharmonic Music Room to promote his latest album, 'Only The Now' - his first in nearly 20 years. Not only was Tom in fine form on guitar, keyboards, vocals and anecdotes but he was more than ably backed by Adam Phillips on guitar and Gerry Diver (who also produced the new album) on fiddle and keyboards.
Fellow fans may be interested to know that the set list included (not necessarily in this order, I had to recreate it afterwards from memory!)
Fifty (re-titled 'Sixty' to take into account the passing of the years...)
Cold Cold Ground
Grey Cortina (a beautifully bluesy version)
Don't Jump, Don't Fall
Never Get Old
You Tattooed Me
Atmospherics (Listen to the Radio)
Glad To Be Gay
The Mighty Sword of Justice
A cover of 'Mommy is a Lawyer' by Kenny Young and The Eggplants (no, me neither!)
Home in the Morning
Up Against the Wall
Only The Now
If the 13 year old me had been told that one day she'd get to shake Tom by the hand and thank him in person for all he'd done for her she probably wouldn't have believed it. I'm just glad that I was finally able to tell him what a special place he has in my heart. He, naturally, was lovely, kind and gracious. Thanks again, Tom!