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North By Northwest [1982]

by Tom Robinson

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1.
Martin's gone... Martin's gone Things will never be the same again Now Martin's gone I told my mother and the boy next door The girl at the garage and my brother in law I talked to the doctor and I told my boss The launderette lady and the corner shop I told the postman, then I told a gag I told Claire Rayner and the local rag I told the barmaid and the landlord too I told everybody in the world I knew Martin's gone... Martin's gone Things will never be the same again Now Martin's gone I told our father and my favourite guys Ten Hail Marys and a few white lies I told the Samaritans, I told my dog I talked to the telly and the talking clock... Back on the wagon when the nights are dark I drive by the diner where I made my mark Martin's gone... Martin's gone Things will never be the same again Now Martin's gone
2.
Atmospherics 03:19
Atmospherics Leave the bureau in the snow Catch a tram to Onkel Pö Early evening ring around the moon; Slip in past the concierge By the bikes and up the stairs Snap the latch and creep into the room You throw off your coat, Pick up the post And put a coffee on Lie down on the bed Prop up your head And smoke a cigarette... Listen to the radio. In the city late tonight Double feature, black and white Bitter Tears and Taxi to the Klo Find a bar, avoid a fight Show your papers, be polite Walking home with nowhere else to go You throw off your coat Pick up my note And put another coffee on Lie down on the bed Lay back your head And smoke a cigarette... Listen to the radio Atmospherics after dark Noise and voices from the past Across the dial from Moscow to Cologne: Interference in the night Thousand miles on either side Stations fading into the unknown: So throw off your coat Butter some toast And put the coffee on; Lie down on the bed Lay back your head We'll smoke another cigarette... And listen to the radio... Listen to the radio
3.
Real World Music/Notting Hill Music Can't Keep Away (Part II) Mainline station at a quarter to four Down in the tearoom watching the wall Wait till forever - the boy next door Daylight fading, I'm hating it all Can't keep away, keep away, keep away I can't keep away... Can't keep away I keep coming on back for more... Can't keep away, keep away, keep away I can't keep away... Can't keep away From the other door The door says welcome when you're all alone Come in, sit down - make yourself at home Can't help crying when I'm lying in bed Cos I need this feeling like a hole in the head Can't keep away, keep away, keep away I can't keep away... Can't keep away I keep coming on back for more... Can't keep away, keep away, keep away I can't keep away... Can't keep away From the other door
4.
Been collecting pennies In a hat and a mask On a bitter November Before the fireworks start Woodsmoke drifting into the trees Crackle of bracken and burning leaves At the height of the season I'm looking for bonfire... See the smoke and cinders fly Feel as if I'm on fire Just another jealous guy Looking for a bonfire Well we found our matches And we started a spark Now we're touching the paper And standing back in the dark Hot potato - better for some But I've burnt my fingers And bitten my tongue I can never remember: I'm looking for a bonfire... See the smoke and cinders fly Feel as if I'm on fire Just another jealous guy Looking for a bonfire I don't want to turn away We've been on the wheel Now we're watching it Burn away
5.
Everybody's on vacation - Have a holiday, take a break Spend and borrow, there's no tomorrow So get your present today Take some thyme and stuff the turkeys Watch the western world go by Pull a cracker and light the candles Merrily up on high Lets all party - war has started Let's forget about days gone by We won't see another year like it So drink your dinner tonight; It's no use to face the future Count to twenty, close your eyes This year, next year Thermonuclear... Merrily up on high End of term administration Private prison or public school Graduation celebration Everyone playing the fool Family gathering - strained relations Festive gesture, don't say die Drunken patients, ould acquaintance Merrily up on high Lets all party - war has started Let's forget about days gone by We won't see another year like it So drink your dinner tonight; It's no use to face the future Count to twenty, close your eyes This year, next year Thermonuclear... Merrily up on high
6.
Those Days 04:23
There's thunder on the Baltic Radiation on the rain Uncertainty and mayhem in the wind again; Ever since I left you I've been stranded on the tide Just another hundred miles now Till I'm by your side... Those happy days we used to spend Do you remember the time of year... (It feels like) Those happy days are here again... Those happy days are here. Now the days are getting colder And the nights are drawing in Floodwater rising as the waves roll in; Out across the Alster I can see the lights Hold out a little longer I'll be home tonight... Those happy days we used to spend Do you remember the time of year... (It feels like) Those happy days are here again... Those happy days are here.
7.
In The Cold 03:48
Got an earsplitting headache And it's driving me blind Can't work any faster And I'm falling behind; Mr Gillett's always on at me Getting hard on my case Picking me up on Every little mistake: Out in the cold again Out in the cold... There's a kid down the corridor Doesn't know what to do Standing in the passage Blue eyes on you; It could be the first time - What on earth would he say ? He'll never dare approach you Now he's walking away: He's out in the cold again Out in the cold... Seems such a long way Looks like a long way Feels such a long way To go... Stood up on your doorstep Try the buzzer again Waiting on the pavement Like a fool in the rain; Well you said 7.20 Now it's 9.15 Maybe you're trying to tell me something I don't wanna believe Out in the cold again Out in the cold...
8.
For christsake, Chrissy Won't you open the door - Don't tell me you're still sleeping All hell's going on in the street outside All the roads are closed this evening; Tried to call you but the lines are jammed Don't say you're not ready After all we planned... Sail on the night.... Sail on the night tide. There's no need packing You can leave your keys We're running out of time now That money's worth nothing When we're all at sea - Leave it all behind now Down the culvert And across the tracks Down to the river As we turn our backs... Sail on the night.... Sail on the night tide. Only one way out of town tonight Miss the madness if we time it right... Sail on the night.... Sail on the night tide.
9.
Duncannon 04:11
After a month here out of the country Thought I'd go up the wall Twisted and turning, Can't stop the burning - It isn't any better at all (Drove me over the wall...) So I'm stood at a slip road Tired and unshaven Next day at quarter to three Left all the troubles So far behind me I know where I want to be: I... wanna see, wanna see Duncannon I... wanna see, wanna see him Found the name in a phone book, Major obsession A mile away in the rain; Out of the darkness Psychotic schoolboy Watching your window again (Looks like nothing has changed...) I... wanna see, wanna see Duncannon I... wanna see, wanna see him
10.
Love Comes 02:28
Love comes And takes you by the hand again Did you think that you'd remain Melancholy, baby..? The watermelon's tasting so sweet This year... It's gotta be a good year It's gotta be your year; Did you ever think you and me Would ever end up happy.... Can it be true ? Well it's gotta be true I'm sending my love Out there to you Love comes And takes me by the hand again I never thought I'd feel the same But here I am beside you... The watermelon's tasting so sweet This year... It's gotta be a good year It's gotta be our year; Did you ever think you and me Would ever end up happy.... Can it be true ? Well it's gotta be true - I'm sending my love Out there too
11.
Hier machten Hünde ihr Geschäft (immer an der Wand lang) Heute ist der Platz besetzt (immer an der Wand lang) Wessen Zukunft ist verschwommen Heimatlos und mitgenommen Laßt sie nach Berlin herkommen Und tango and der Wand entlang Letzte Tango an der Wand Liebling, gib' mir deine Hand Jedes Kind im ganzen Land singt: "Ich bin ein Berliner" Kommu-Kapi-Apokal-ismus (immer an der Wand lang) Kamikaze Pazifizmus (immer an der Wand lang) Wessen Zukunft ist verschwommen Zählen Greise Megatonnen Laßt sie nach Berlin herkommen Und tango and der Wand entlang Letzte Tango an der Wand Liebling, gib' mir deine Hand Jedes Kind im Ganzen Land singt: "Ich bin ein Berliner" Immer an der Wand lang, immer an der Wand Immer an der Wand, an der Wand entlang Immer an der Wand lang, immer an der Wand Immer an der Wand entlang Stepp' doch mal auf dem Vulkan (immer an der Wand lang) Macht die rote Lichter an (immer an der Wand lang) Auf dem Boden um zu sonnen Ihr habt den Blumentopf gewonnen Braucht nur nach Berlin zu kommen Und tango an der Wand entlang Letzte Tango an der Wand Liebling, gib' mir deine Hand Ich weiß gar nix von diesem Land, da Ich bin kein Berliner Immer an der Wand lang, immer an der Wand Immer an der Wand, an der Wand entlang Immer an der Wand lang, immer an der Wand Immer an der Wand entlang ------------------------------------------------------------ (loose rendition into English) ------------------------------------------------------------ Here dirty dogs had stuff to hide (All along the wall) The place today is occupied (All along the wall) If your future is uncertain Homeless, heading for a Burton Berlin beckons to you all To tango all along the wall Final tango with the band Darling, let me hold your hand Every kid throughout the land Sings "I am a Berliner" Commu-Cap-Apocal-ism (All along the wall) Kami-kaze-Pacifism (All along the wall) If your future's dead as mutton Old men's fingers on the button Berlin beckons to you all To tango all along the wall Final tango with the band Darling, let me hold your hand Every kid throughout the land Sings "I am a Berliner" All along the wall all day, all along the wall All the along, all along the wall All along the wall all day, all along the wall All along the wall all day Dance in this volcano's crater (All along the wall) Set the warning lights for later (All along the wall) Lie right down, protect your eyes You've gone and won the booby prize As Berlin beckons to us all To tango right along the wall Final tango with the band Darling, let me hold your hand Don't know a thing about this land Cos I ain't no Berliner All along the wall all day, all along the wall All the along, all along the wall All along the wall all day, all along the wall All along the wall all day N.B. This rough English version loses some nuances and the rhymes are a bit naff - but you get the idea :-)
12.
(Instrumental)
13.
(instru) mental
14.
Any Favours 01:54
If you think you're slumming when you're coming with me - Don't do me any favours If you think you're slumming when you're coming with me - Don't do me any favours If you think you're slumming when you're coming with me - Don't do me any favours I never get to meet your friends or folks (Don't do me any favours) And I'm the butt of all your jokes (Don't do me any favours) You talk down to me like a clapped-out fool (Don't do me any favours) If you're so clever and cutting and cool (Don't do me any favours) If you think you're slumming when you're coming with me - Don't do me any favours If you think you're slumming when you're coming with me - Don't do me any favours If you think you're slumming when you're coming with me - Don't do me any favours Well you may be pretty and you might be young (Forget it !) - Don't do me any favours But you think the sun shines out of your bum (Forget it !) - Don't do me any favours You're so sarcastic, ha ha ha (Forget it !) - Don't do me any favours Just who the hell do you think you are ? (Forget it !) - Don't do me any favours If you think you're slumming when you're coming with me - Don't do me any favours If you think you're slumming when you're coming with me - Don't do me any favours If you think you're slumming when you're coming with me - Don't do me any favours Talk, talk, talk... Talk, talk, talk... Bitch, bitch, bitch... Talk, talk, talk... Talk, talk, talk... Talk, talk, talk... Bitch, bitch, bitch... Talk, talk, talk... If you think you're coming when you're slumming with me... Forget it.
15.
Out To Lunch 03:34
Tom it's Colin here. Er... are you there ? If so, don't forget lunch today, erm... 12.30 Ian Randall. Er... give me a call Or something So that... it takes place Bye. You're not there are you ? Tom, Colin here... Tom, it's extremely urgent: We're meant to be having Lunch with Ian Randall - Where are you? Tom... Tom, this is Colin Are you there? Are you there ? This is EXTREMELY urgent I'm ringing to remind you We're meant to be having Lunch with Ian Randall If you do get in While I'm at lunch Will you PLEASE go to L'Escargot At the bottom of Greek Street As fast as possible The lunch is due To start at 12.30 I shall be there. See you later. Bye. Hi, I'm ringing on behalf of Colin Bell regarding your lunch date today Thanks very much Goodbye. Tom, it's Colin here Are you there ? Are you there, Tom ? You're not there. Well, I'm at L'Escargot. Alright... Bye. Hello - I'm calling On behalf of Colin Bell At the Press Office regarding your lunch date Today This is Jill Thanks Bye bye Hello - this is Jill here From Phonogram press office Regarding your lunch date today Thanks Bye bye Here are you there Here are you there Here are you there Are you there, Tom...Tom Are you there, Tom...Tom Are you there, Tom...Tom Hello - it's Jill again Ringing on behalf of Colin Bell At the press office... EXTREMELY urgent EXTREMELY urgent EXTREMELY urgent Lunch with Ian Randall Lunch with Ian Randall Lunch with Ian Randall Tom, you lucky schmuck You've missed a wonderful lunch With Ian Randall Heh heh Give me a call When you get in Don't worry about it Alright ? See you later Bye

about

Tom Robinson's Damp Denims

Taxi Zum Klo and Nighthawks, two recent films from Europe about gay male life, both concern schoolteachers who spend a lot of their time in the car, driving to work, going to movies or meetings, looking for love. Tom Robinson's new album North by Northwest could have been the soundtrack for either film: it's first-rate cruising music. Robinson has put in his own time as a teacher of sorts; after establishing himself as rock's gay spokesman with the bitterly ironic "Glad To Be Gay" he spent two years and two albums securing impeccable political credentials. Admirable in theory, his message rocked, too. On tour Robinson proved to be a gay Bob Marley, inspiring people to get-up-stand-up and get down at the same time.

I always wondered about Tom Robinson's personal life. Did he have one ? Was he lucky in love ? Did his boyfriend(s) treat him right ? Sector 27 started getting into it with "Can't Keep Away," a sardonic number about the joyless excitement of cruising public toilets:

"Door says welcome when you're all alone
Come in, sit down make yourself at home"

but that album was primarily a group effort, riff-heavy and emotionally anaemic. By comparison, North by Northwest is an open diary replete with obsessions, anger, and references so private that, they're at once cryptic (who's Claire Rayner? what's Uncle Po?) and inviting (fill in your own). Like the identical scenes in Taxi zum Klo and Nighthawks where the teachers "come out" to their students, North by Northwest is an act of confession that doesn't eradicate the noble image of moral exemplar but gives it a human dimension of temperament and need.

Robinson's LP tells a story of sorts about domestic bliss, loss, sexual compulsiveness, fear of attachment, empty holidays, memories of the lost lover, rejection, flight, connection, and (temporary) contentment. "Atmospherics" cowritten with Peter Gabriel opens with a detailed shot of inate coupledom-brooding, unflorid, vaguely punky; one works at "the bureau," the other catches a double bill of "Bitter Tears and Taxi to the Klo," and later they scan the dial from Moscow to Cologne listening to the radio and smoking in bed.

This equilibrium is quickly disrupted by a breakup or death (murder ?) as the singer wanders inconsolably from laundromat to Dial-a-Prayer crying "Now Martin's Gone". (Same chap as TRB's "Martin" and Secret Policemen's Ball's "1967" ?) Grief sends him back zum Klo to fill the vacuum with anonymous cock while "hating it all" in a reggaefied "Can't Keep Away". Reggae is the punk blues, and this version is certainly more ... well, more oppressive than Sector 27's, whose hyper B-52's guitar line is replaced by a dirgey skating-rink organ.

North by Northwest's most haunting cut is "Looking for a Bonfire" in which our guy goes trick-or-treating on Guy Fawkes' Day with a firecracker in his pants and a thirst for - love ? trouble ? revenge ? In a wonderful jumble of storyline and erotic metaphor, he starts up a flame but then backs off, too recently burned. Burping apocalyptic bad humor on "Merrily Up on high" eyeing a shy guy on "In the Cold Again" Robinson reeks restlessness. But eventually something seems to take, because the album ends with "Love Comes" Lewis Furey's rather mournful ode to beating the odds:

"Did you ever think you and me
Would ever end up happy ?"

The cycle of loving, losing, and loving again is often treated as tragedy in pop song, but to Robinson it's an accepted reality. And it's this matter-of-factness that distinguishes him from such gay romantics as Peter Allen, Sylvester, and David Lasley - indeed, from romantics of every stripe.

Almost as exciting as the revolutionary candor of its lyrics is the peculiar studio sound of North by Northwest. Recorded in Hamburg with just three musicians (producer/ guitarist Richard Mazda, drummer Steve Laurie, Robinson on bass and keyboards) the album bristles with battered machine sound effects, the swooning and buzzing of sick synthesizers. This eerie aural environment suggests the built-in dissonance and complicated wiring of modern romance; it also reminds me of the droogy disco you hear in gritty British films like Nighthawks and Bloody Kids.

And particularly on a cut like "Bonfire" - with its ominous synthesizer melody, cheesy organ backbeat, and the incredibly rangy guitar solo that cuts through the chorus like an excited heartbeat gone wild on the EKG - the disjunctive interplay of instruments and crudity of the sound perfectly capture, to my mind, the butch lyricism and sullen masculinity of post-Stonewall gay culture. So sinister yet so synthetic: all damp denim, flannel biceps, inscrutable glances.

Glimpses of gayness in pop music usually tend toward camp or coyness or emotional masochism, but I can't think of anyone who has evoked the day-to-day life of Everygayman as well as Tom Robinson. Even his most sodden harmonies and private hieroglyphics draw me in deeper than better-made records I enjoy, like Marshall Crenshaw or Mirage. I guess it's no big surprise.

I take to Tom Robinson for the same reason you'll find matrimonially inclined rock crits embracing X, Human Switchboard, and Lou Reed on these pages: hey, Mister, that's me up on the jukebox.

DON SHEWEY
Village Voice
May 1982

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released February 2, 2013

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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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