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Cabaret 79 [1982]

by Tom Robinson

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1.
Pub Hassle 03:21
2.
The first night I dared to come out on the town It was hard believing my eyes Met a fresh faced teacher in a big leather coat On a dancefloor crowded with guys And though he never told me he loved me I know he never told me no lies Hoping... moping Freezing at the bus stop in Coldharbour Lane Blew it... knew it Hitting the bottle I could hardly remember his name Wasn't too easy It wasn't slow You wanna leave me You'd better go Time out taking the tube into town To the upstairs room on the right Stuck in the middle but feeling the need To keep it up night after night One time I hit the jackpot Made out with the hottest in sight Grinning... winning He was a slim dark mover With devastating eyes Fun night... one night He came and left me there barely saying goodbye Boozing... cruising Bitterly sipping a half pint of 'E' Who's he... choosing Clenching my toes And just wishing to God it was me Wasn't too easy It wasn't slow You wanna leave me You'd better go
3.
Getting a refectory breakfast Laghing in the midday sun Kawazaki Z9OO Two-up over the ton Visits in the winter vacation Vino in the afternoon Long term away on location Letters from the Venice lagoon Hey ho baby you're an angel Choking on a cheap cigar Red head lecherous angel Propping up the Union bar All night parties with Charlie Swimming in the middle of May Eyeing up the rival bikers Hanging out at Mac's Cafe Stoned cold over in Cromer Rolling up a last resort Kissing at the Saturday disco Riot on the studio floor Hey ho baby you're an angel Cutting up a couple of cars Red head lecherous angel Propping up the Union bar I must have been crazy to end it I must have been out of my brain I felt he was getting dependent So I said I'd never see him again Now I miss him when I listen to a jukebox I miss him when I'm having a shave I miss him in the middle of the morning I miss him at the end of the day Hey ho baby you're an angel I'm missing you wherever you are Red head lecherous angel Propping up the Union bar Hey ho baby you're an angel Choking on a cheap cigar Red head lecherous angel I miss you, wherever you are
4.
The British Police are the best in the world I don't believe one of these stories I've heard 'Bout them raiding our pubs for no reason at all Lining the customers up by the wall Picking out people, knocking them down Resisting arrest as they're kicked on the ground Searching their houses and calling them queer I don't believe that sort of thing happens here Sing if you're glad to be gay Sing if you're happy this way, hey (x2) Pictures of naked young women are fun In Penthouse and Playboy, page three of The Sun There's no nudes in Gay News our one magazine But they still find excuses to call it obscene Read how disgusting we are in the press In the Evening News and the Sunday Express Molesters of children, corruptors of youth It's there in the paper, it must be the truth Sing if you're glad to be gay Sing if you're happy this way, hey (x2) Have you heard the story about Peter Wells Who one day was arrested and dragged to the cells For being in love with a man of eighteen The vicar found out they'd been having a scene The magistrate sent him for trial by the Crown He even appealed, but they still sent him down He was only mistreated a couple of years Cos even in prison they... Look after the queers. Sing if you're glad to be gay Sing if you're happy this way So sit back and watch as they close down our clubs Arrest us for meeting and raid all our pubs Make sure your boyfriend's at least 21 So only your friends and your brothers get done Lie to your workmates, lie to your folks Put down the queens and tell anti-queer jokes Gay Lib's ridiculous, join their laughter "The buggers are legal now - What more are they after ?" Sing if you're glad to be gay Sing if you're happy this way
5.
Stand Together All you gay women All you gay men Come together, stand together And each others' rights defend There are ghettoes in our cities Some are black and some are white Some you see and some are hidden In the shadows of the night To be gay is to be fighting All the prejudice and lies That condemn us to be running Scared and lonely all our lives All you gay women All you gay men Come together, stand together And each others' rights defend There are people in the cities And the towns throughout the land Who are saying to themselves This is the time to make a stand Workers, women, gays and black and white Now opening our eyes To the need to take control Of both our bodies and our lives. All you gay women All you gay men Come together, stand together And each others' rights defend
6.
Truce 03:39
Truce, call a truce Stop all the firing and the fighting Christmas morning, 1914 What would the good Lord say ? Truce, call a truce Stop all the shelling and the shooting Fröhliche Weinacht Kamerad, Freundschaft Let's all be friends for a days In the man made hell In the putrescent smell In the mines and mud and trenches The men from the Rhine crossed over the line For a truce... With the Tommies and the Frenchies But the very next day There were hand grenades There was gunfire, gassing and slaughter As we blasted the Hun To Kingdome Come With machine guns, shelling and mortars Well it was nice to pretend We could love our fellow men With the Christmas angels calling But the dream turned sour In a matter of hours And we made it all up in the morning Truce, call a truce Stop all the bitching and backbiting Who'd leave their lover Or send in the bailiffs This one day of the year ? Truce, call a truce Stop all the sackings and the stealing Who'd rape a schoolgirl Or cut off someone's pension And spoil all this Christmas cheer There's a couple of days when the bashers of gays Who oppress, arrest and charge us All leave us alone to return back home For a truce... With our mothers and our fathers But the very next day it's back to the fray And setting our homes in order Bashing Lesbian mothers And underage lovers Disowning gay sons and daughters Well it's quaint to pretend We could all live as friends With the Christmas angels calling But the dream turns sour In a matter of hours And they make it all up in the morning
7.
If you go I think you should know You're closing a door Behind you And if we meet again Try not to pretend We lost anything Of value My generosity Generosity Is fading fast For you, baby Don't wanna hear 'bout tomorrow My curiosity Curiosity Is not gonna be The undoing of me I'll carry my own tiny sorrow Like the hawk That yearns to lock His claws into every Sparrow You're the one That loves to run The needle through the bone To the marrow Twenty lovers in a week You can get 'em Sure you can There's lot's of geeks And every mother one of them Wants to get lucky Or maybe you need More than one man Probably a legion Every one a fan I'm trying to find it in me To hope you're happy So when you go I feel you oughta know You're closing a door Behind you And when we meet again Promise not to pretend We lost anything Of value
8.
Fighting with the kids on the fairground Caravans and TV masts Generating trucks and Alsatians I never seen you run so fast Picking through the litter left afterwards For .22 shells in the grass Found a pound note and a keyring Martin, it's funny them days are past Saturday flicks at the fleapit When we had the money to go Always on the side of the outlaws And staying for the second show Bonfires down at the bombsite And watching the embers glow Candles and cake in the dugout Martin, it seems so long ago 1967... it seems so long ago We were only eleven It seems so long ago Day return to Southend Central Nanny's little treat on the train Every year we sat on her blanket And every year it started to rain Eating apples off the allotments And swapping cigarette cards Lending Fat Freddy's train set And treading on his restaurant car 1967... it seems so long ago We were only eleven It seems so long ago Now I don't wanna give up football And I don't wanna settle down Maybe there's life after 25 But I don't feel like sticking around I don't wanna work in a garage I don't want my dreams to fold Never want to have to stop laughing Martin I'm terrified... of getting old 1967... seems so long ago 1967... it seems so long ago
9.
Even Steven 03:14
We set sail on a Monday Tuesday was all at sea Scrubbed the decks on a Wednesday Thursday locker and key Friday came to the coastline Saturday I was ashore Someday I'll quit this crazy business And testify the law Get even, Steven Go down the line Come in and get happy And the sun will shine Come on the right side Get off your pride Come in and get happy And get satisfied Met a young girl on a Monday Tuesday I was in love Saw her again on a Wednesday And Thursday just wasn't enough Friday I gave her a halfpenny Saturday sat on her knee Someday I'm gonna have to tell that girl You're the only boy for me Get even, Steven Go down the line Come in and get happy And the sun will shine Come on the right side Get off your pride Come in and be happy And get satisfied We made love on a Monday And Tuesday woke up alone Broke out in a rash on a Wednesday Thursday I lost a stone Friday they certified me Saturday I was in bed Someday I'm gonna quit this stupid song And go back home instead Get even, Steven Go down the line Come in and get happy I wanna make you mine Come on the right side Get off your pride Come in and get happy And get satisfied (x3)
10.
You've a certain sartorial eloquence And a style that's almost all your own You've got the knack of being so laid back It's like talking to the Great Unknown You've got a selfsufficient swept-back hairdo Pretty certain that you've got it made Oh, your lifestyle shows in the clothes you chose Sitting pretty in the Masquerade Don't you wanna play this game no more Don't you wanna play no more ? I wouldn't really mind But you seem so bored Don't you wanna play no more ? You remain the only mean contender Though you never meant to lose at all Down at mouth, yet unsurrounded Adam Ant before The Fall Oh when you go, you know I might be lonely But I'll keep it under close control Go and get your kicks and we can call it quits I believe I'm feeling indisposed Don't you wanna play this game no more Don't you wanna play no more ? (x3) I wouldn't really mind But you seem so bored Don't you wanna play no more ?
11.
I met him at a party Just a couple of years ago He was rather overhearty and ridiculous But as I'd seen him on the screen He cast a certain spell I basked in his attraction For a couple of hours or so His manners were a fraction too meticulous If he was real or not I couldn't tell But like a silly fool I fell... Mad about the boy I know it's stupid but I'm Mad about the boy I'm so ashamed of it but must admit The sleepless nights I've Had about the boy On the silver screen He haunts my foolish heart In every single scene Although I'm quite aware That here and there Are traces of the cad about the boy Lord knows I'm not a fool girl I really shouldn't care Lord knows I'm not a schoolgirl In the flurry of a first affair Will it ever cloy - This odd diversity of misery and joy I'm feeling quite insane and young again And all because I'm Mad about the boy It seems a little silly For a girl of my age and weight To walk down Picadilly In a haze of love It ought to take a good deal more To get a bad girl down I ought to have been exempt For my particular kind of fate Has taught me such contempt For every phrase of love And now I've been and spent My last half crown To weep about a painted clown Mad about the boy I know it's stupid but I'm Mad about the boy He has a gay appeal that makes me feel There may be something Sad about the boy Walking down the street His eyes look out at me From people that I meet I know that quite sincerely Housman really wrote "The Shropshire Lad" about the boy I'm hardly sentimental Love isn't so sublime I have to pay my rental And I can't afford to waste much time How I should enjoy - For him to treat me As a plaything or a toy I'd give my all to him And crawl to him So help me God I'm Mad about the boy
12.
Easy Street 02:12
17 years I've been running and hiding Never thought loving was sweeter than this Now I'm alone again, I'm only thinking Of soul brother Steven, the man that I miss Now I'm alone again, I'm only thinking Of soul brother Steven, the man that I miss Carry on cruising the crowds at the Catacombs Carry on hustling into the night Easy way out for the suckers and chickens But I've lost my mainman, the love of my life Easy way out for the suckers and chickens But I've lost my mainman, the love of my life Steal me a car and a bottle of Teachers A few dozen downers, I'll go out in style Goodbye sweet Steven and pretty boy Peter I'll see you on Easy Street after awhile Goodbye sweet Steven and pretty boy Peter I'll see you on Easy Street after a while
13.
It's the same old story all over the world When a boy meets a boy and a girl meets a girl We all come together cos we're happy to say It's a natural fact that it's good to be gay We've been analysed, ridiculed and driven away By our elders and betters just for growing up gay They trampled on our feelings Till we hid them for shame Well now "Glad to be Gay" is the name of the game Cos it's the same old story all over the world When a boy meets a boy and a girl meets a girl We all come together cos we're happy to say It's a natural fact that it's good to be gay Don't feel guilty if you're passing for straight If you wanna be yourself, well it's never too late People won't mind if you're honest and gay You might even find they prefer you that way Cos it's the same old story all over the world When a boy meets a boy and a girl meets a girl We all come together cos we're happy to say It's a natural fact that it's good to be gay Some sisters and brothers who are glad to be gay Say they've no need to join us 'cos they're doing OK But we need supporting, and we need it today And besides - if they tried it, they'd like it - in CHE Cos it's the same old story all over the world When a boy meets a boy and a girl meets a girl We all come together cos we're happy to say It's a natural fact that it's good to be gay (x2)
14.
The British Police are the best in the world I don't believe one of these stories I've heard 'Bout them spending £3m to bust up a ring Of consenting leathermen doing their thing; It might have been private, where no-one complained But the judge put an end to their fun & their games He sentenced the members to four or five years I can't believe that sort of thing happens here Sing if you're glad to be gay Sing if you're happy that way, hey (x2) The liars of Wapping are really the pits Commissioned by bigots and written by shits They plaster their pages with bingo and tits Then add all the scandal and slander that fits They pick out their victims, destroying their lives They sneer as they smear as they damn and despise If it's paedophile teachers or lesbian nuns If it's filth and it's fiction... it's there in The Sun And now there's a nightmare They blame on the gays It's brutal and lethal and slowly invades The medical facts are ignored or forgot By the bigots who think It's the judgement of God Attacked by the Vatican, bashed by The Bill With cheap politicians all making a kill The message is simple and obvious, please Just lay off the patients and let's fight the disease For 21 years now I've fought for the right For people to love just whoever they like But the right-on and righteous are out for my blood Now I live with my kid and a woman I love Well if gay liberation means freedom for all A label is no liberation at all I'm here and I'm queer and I do what I do And I'm not gonna wear... a straitjacket for you Sing if you're glad to be gay Sing if you're happy that way
15.
Last Rites 03:10
Mother nature has a way of fighting resistance Punishing me for an imperfect existence But in reality this free society Fears the man who seeks alliance If I should die, it won't solve a great deal It won't change the way that people feel I wish to God that I could pray But I feel he's made me pay For a life I've been trying to conceal Oh I don't really mind the pain My strength for loneliness is getting higher Unless it starts to rain I'll keep adding fuel to fire Up till now I've had nothing to complain about But now it seems that I've lost More friends than I can count Oh must I face it quite alone ? They won't even use the phone There can be no doubt Oh I don't really mind the pain As the media feed up my fire I don't need their selfish gain As I watch their readership get higher... Man could not have been created without flaws Sure we expected to lose a few wars Yes I know that I'm crying Well I'm shit scared of dying When we ourselves opened the door And yes I really mind the pain My strength for loneliness is getting lower It may never rain - for personally The search seems to be... Getting slower.
16.
If you're down in London town And happen to be gay There's a great information service Open every day They'll tell you who and where and when And how and why and more On 8-3 double 7-3-2-4 8-3 double 7-3-2-4

about

1967 seems so long ago...

And in 1979 it did; an achingly nostalgic East End world of bombsites and day trips to Southend which had already disappeared. Now, another 20 years along the line, 1967 is in exactly the same place, but 1979 has joined it on the sepia shelf. It's one of those trick tracking shots from a camera which remind us, as we get older, that what we thought were our personal memories are in fact history.

So, a bit of history. 1979 was a cusp year for gay people in the UK: the liberation movement that had started with the Stonewall Riots in America in 1969 - and Gay Liberation Front in Britain soon after - had snowballed to the extent that it had built up its own momentum without having actually achieved any significant reforms. By 1979 our paper, Gay News, was selling 25,000 copies a fortnight; we were shortly to have our very own (and wonderful) ITV magazine series, Gay Life; and Greater London Arts had given £1,000 for a gay arts festival.

The result of this was a Gay Pride March the like of which no-one had ever seen in this country. 10,000 dykes and faggots flaunted themselves from Charing Cross to Hyde Park. Not many by today's Pride standards, but looking along Piccadilly that afternoon and seeing nothing but happy perverts in either direction was one of those empowering moments you draw on in times of trouble for the rest of your life.

Afterwards there was a rally in Hyde Park, hemmed in by ludicrously large numbers of police and compered by T. Robinson. He thanked the lesbian and gay members of the Force for turning out in such large numbers to support the cause. We laughed. They blushed. We relaxed. Power again, you see.

Then there was Polly Perkins - the biggest openly lesbian entertainer this country had produced up to then and very popular on the pub circuit. She sang "I'm a Superdyke" in spangly hotpants and - in protest at her pandering to male fantasies - was dragged off the stage by some of the people you hear on the track "Stand Together" on this album. That's the kind of folk we were then. No respect, no empathy.

And that's the kind of situation in which Tom Robinson set up Cabaret 79. It was a personal venture in all respects. Having put up - and lost - a lot of money to subsidise Pride that year, he also staged a week's performances at a 500 seater West End venue. He showcased gay material for which he didn't have an outlet elsewhere. He brought in jazz musicians - though it has to be said that he didn't use them to their full potential.

He put himself on the line with a solo set to open the programme, looking for a rapport with his queer audience, daring them to accuse him of selling out, or to find the material "right off". He flirted with us, flattered us, challenged us. Only when he'd got us more or less tamed did the band come on. And by the end we felt the kind of affirmation you only get at maybe a dozen concerts in your life if your lucky. Sure, it was time and place, but it was also the words and the music.

Listening to "Coldharbour Lane", we recognised the success of scoring, the gloom of rejection, in "the upstairs room on the right"; we knew that fresh-faced teacher in the big leather coat, that dance hall crowded with guys. And all wrapped up in the most glorious boozy cruisy blues tune.

"Coldharbour Lane" is a chanson, not a song. The difference is that a song tries to be general and universal, where a chanson is precise, particular, offering a character, a situation and a story. At its best - as here - a chanson is a play sung in three minutes.

I've always thought of Tom as a chansonnier; one of his strengths as a performer has been the ability to characterise his songs so accurately. He should have a crack at more music theatre - or even, if you'll pardon the expression, straight acting. On this album he has the chance to go over the top on "Mad About the Boy" but there are other, more subtle characterisations as well.

Aside from "Coldharbour Lane" there is "1967", full of accurate nostalgia and culminating in the terrifying fear (at 23) of growing old. "Truce" is a brilliant example of 'Only Connect' - the First World War soldiers' pact reflecting the uneasy settlement all misfits make with their parents over Christmas. Even more pertinent in these backlash laddish days, Barbie Norden's "Pub Hassle" wickedly captures the tones of all intrusive male drunks on female get-togethers, while Lewis Furey's "Closing a Door" survives as a desolate anthem to self- sufficiency. All these songs prove that Tom Robinson is a great singer-actor, which is the best kind of singer to be.

Then there are the lovesongs. They evoke a lost gay scene of furtiveness, stereotypes and self-oppression unimaginable to today's confident young readers of Boyz - no coincidence that our club was The Masquerade. This was a world of "suckers and chickens" in an Earls Court where Tom started out performing at the Troubadour cafe - an area where you picked up red-headed lecherous angels who drove you off on Kawasaki Z900s to Max's cafe - if you were lucky. Here you'll also find a man with Sartorial Eloquence, Sweet Steven and Pretty Boy Peter.

These too are chansons, if only because a man writing a love song to another man remains a precise and particular act, unlike the song to "you" or the diva singing of The Man That Got Away. At the time these songs were written and performed, they were an affirmation for us; we needed to see ourselves on stage with a hunger which no longer applies.

What have I left out ? Oh yes - "Stand Together" - an embarassment even in the show for which it was written. In Cabaret 79 (the show) it was a tedious interlude which took hours to get on stage and appealed only to Rabbit's Friends and Relations. We knew it had to be there to appease Gaia, but couldn't say we enjoyed it. Skip.

"Glad to Be Gay" is the albatross which hangs around Tom's neck - the song which everyone feels is theirs, defining and trapping a generation. For years he kept adding verses as a running commentary on the times, as did others, with varying degrees of success. So the song continues to be the song of those lesbians and gay men with any kind of political awareness. It remains such a classic because of that quality, rare in protest movements, irony: the cheerful anthem of the chorus jarring with the increasingly bitter catalogue of oppression in the verses. Included here is a 1997 version with a new last verse referring to Tom's own home life, which I have to say I find jarring. This song has always been a public song, not a private one. I say let it go, Tom - it's not yours any more. It's that good.

"Mad About the Boy" - an encore which was splendidly, publicly liberating. Noel Coward had tentatively come out at the end of his life in "Song at Twilight". Everybody knew he was queer - queens had been performing or parodying the song in private for forty years - and there were rumours of a fourth, gay, verse somewhere. Yet the Coward estate was a large prickly beast which refused to allow male performance of Sir Noel's supposedly female songs. I don't know how Tom cleared the rights, or even if he did, but he got away with something others had tried for years. At the end of a marathon concert he launched himself into character with gusto and wrecked what was left of his voice. We didn't care. He wore a brocade dressing gown too.

That dressing gown also seemed a farewell to Punk. Tom had always been ambiguous about it, although he'd been marketed on the same bandwagon. The blazer, and tie at half-mast, were meant to signify dangerous illegal adolescent sexuality, but compared with self-mutilation it was tame stuff. Yet for all Punk's in-yer-face antics, precious little about it was genuinely sexually challenging. Tom was the man who put the S onto punk.

But he also had other stories to tell, more complicated stories which led elsewhere. Over the years since, the songs have got longer, more fragmented, more allusive and elusive - which is maybe just another way of saying we've grown older. Unusually for middle aged pop stars, his politics haven't moved to The Right for tax purposes, and there's been a pretty much continuous development right up to "Having it Both Ways" in 1996.

Nevertheless this remains his definitive album where art, politics and feelings came together in a uniquely direct and moving way.

1979? It's right here in my living room.

Peter Scott - Presland
London, April 1997

credits

released June 1, 1982

Tracks 1-12 recorded live at the Collegiate Theatre (now the Bloomsbury Theatre), London June 1979. Engineered by Bill Price. Produced by TR. Front cover photograph by David Corio.

With special thanks to Noel Greig, Jill Posener and Barbara Norden.
This release digitally remastered by Jay Burnett at NODE recording, London 1997 with the addition of *bonus tracks 13-16

CHARLIE MORGAN - drums
IAN PARKER - piano
GRAHAM COLLIER - double bass
JEFF DALY - saxophone
JEFF SHARKEY - electric guitar
TOM ROBINSON - guitar/bass

The Deviant Wreckords Women's Voice Choir appear on "Stand Together"

Originally released 1982 Statik Records (UK) and Line GmbH (Germany)

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Tom Robinson London, UK

Tom Robinson (b.1950) is a UK songwriter & broadcaster first known in the 70s as an anti-racist and LGBT campaigner. He released 19 albums between 1975-2001 with various bands and has co-written songs with Elton John, Peter Gabriel, Dan Hartman and Manu Katché. He's an award-winning presenter at BBC Radio 6 Music, and released Only The Now (his first album in 19 years) in October 2015. ... more

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