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Baker's Dozen

Too Good To Be True: Tom Robinson's Favourite Albums
Lisa Jenkins , August 7th, 2013 07:52

The erstwhile punk frontman and now radio presenter and all-round man of music distils his sprawling record collection down to his 13 finest albums


Dr. John - Gris-Gris
It’s inseparable from the time when we heard it. I think it came out in ’68, and what people don’t remember is how little music there was available to music fans in those days. Radio 1 had only just been invented. Its idea of a great pop record was ‘Flowers In The Rain’ by The Move. Nothing from San Francisco, let alone from New Orleans. John Peel was our only kind of lifeline to knowing that there was a wider world of all this music. People say it must have been great to be alive in ’68, when The Doors were at their height and Jimi Hendrix and blah blah blah... but getting to hear any of it was really hard. You could only buy Dr. John on import. An album was like a week’s pocket money.

John Peel played Dr. John in the middle of the night and we were listening under the bedclothes with the transistor radio. On came this kind of weird, spooky voodoo music. It was just like: “What the fuck was that?!” I bought it on import from Virgin Records. I think the early Virgin Records was just a mail order record store and they advertised on the back of the International Times. You could send away a postal order and they’d send you the record. When I got it, we just played the bejesus out of it! We learned all the songs - didn’t know what they were about, but god it sounded fantastic. It was just amazing, unlike anything else.

It totally exposes you to a totally different culture and worldview. It’s the reason music was so important back in those days and is less so now. In those days it was a bush telegraph that told you what was going on elsewhere in the world. We didn’t have the internet, we only had the International Times, and later, Time Out, but even then, it was only what the journalists chose to report. The music would convey all kinds of stuff that you couldn’t possibly know.