“If you do things out of time you’re weird.” — Robyn Hitchcock
Robyn Rowan Hitchcock was born on this day in London, England in 1953. He is 60 years old.
[I couldn’t find anything about Hitchcock’s upbringing or family. Nada. Zip. Really… I looked. If you can find something send a reply.]
He started his music career as a singer songwriter in the 1970’s. He listened to the Beatles, Dylan, the Velvet Underground and absorbed it all. He says he developed a kind of song writing muscle that takes hold every summer and starts producing with out his taking any notice of it. He genre hopped from Folk to Punk with his band, the proto-punk group The Soft Boys.
The group, “a punk-era band specializing in melodic, chiming jangle pop and clever lyrics” [All Music] mixed the psychedelic with the weird, but they kept away from the “aggressive, simplistic approach of most punk bands.” [About.com] Their “masterpiece” [Ibid] album Underwater Moonlight, released in 1980. Soon after Underwater Moonlight was released the group broke up and Hitchcock made his solo debut with Black Snake Diamond Role.
Black Snake Diamond Role represented a subtle but clear shift away from the more aggressive tone of The Soft Boys toward a more pop-oriented sound. “The Man Who Invented Himself” is user-friendly… and the production, while mostly straightforward, is …polished and professional. …the surrealism of the lyrics and the trippy undertow of the melodies are in the same league as Hitchcock’s earlier work…. Black Snake Diamond Role staked out a distinct sonic territory for Hitchcock’s solo career [All Music — Black Snake Diamond Role review]
Here’s I’m the Man with the Lightbulb Head:
The 80’s progressed with Groovy Decay and the all-acoustic I Often Dream of Trains. Then he formed Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians and produced the album that usually tops the Best of Robyn Hitchcock list, Fegmania!
Featuring layered, intertwining guitars and keyboards that created lush and thick sonic textures. … Fegmania! was Hitchcock’s most consistent work to date, featuring such highlights as the Eastern-tinged “Egyptian Cream,” and the creepy “My Wife & My Dead Wife,” and the relatively straightforward “The Man with the Lightbulb Head.” [All Music review of Fegmania!]
In 1988 he signed with A&M Records, thus widening his reach to an American audience. He put out Globe of Frogs in ’88 and (my favorite Hitchcock record) Queen Elvis ’89.
Here’s a live version of Lost Madonna of the Wasp:
and a very MTV version of the brilliant One Long Pair of Eyes:
Perspex Island and Respect followed in 2 year intervals for A&M. Then he switch to Warner for Moss Elixir for which he…
returned to the spare singer/songwriter format for his best set of songs in more than ten years. Everything is here: the quirky on “Man with a Woman’s Shadow,” and the elegant on “Beautiful Queen,” and the straight-ahead Beatlessque music in which Hitchcock excels in the perfect pop of “Alright, Yeah.” [All Music review of Moss Elixir]
He did a few more “solo” LPS — Jewels for Sophia, 1999, Luxor, 2003, and Spooked, 2004 — before teaming up various rockers to form the Venus 3 project in 2006. With Venus 3 he put out Olé! Tarantula, 2006, Goodnight Oslo, 2009 and Propellor Time, 2010. In 2011 he released Tromsø, Kaptein, on Hype City Records, a Norwegian label.
He has a new album, “Love from London,” coming out on Tuesday. He’ll be touring the UK and the US shortly to celebrate the album.
“Forty years ago, when I first got hold of an electric guitar, if someone had told me that at 60 I’d be playing amplified beat music, I would have just said, ‘Get out of here! … It’s like Mr. Rogers is playing guitar; that’s gross!’ But you know, rock ‘n’ roll is an old man’s game now.” [NPR: Weekend Edition]
This blog goes out to my buddy Sam who reminded me that today is Robin Hitchcock’s birthday. Sam, who is a freshman in college, learned about Hitchcock through his dad, Chip. He says “I think what I like most about Robyn’s style is his dreamy weirdness, but also the ability his songs have to be interpreted many different ways.” Some of Sam’s favorite Hitchcock songs are
So You Think You’re In Love,
The Man Who Invented Himself, and
The Man With The Lightbulb Head.
Good list Sam. And thanks for the nudge!