Tom Robinson

Although his career had pretty much flamed out by the start of the '80s, there were few punk-era major-label performers as intensely controversial as Tom Robinson. Cutting his teeth with folk-rockers Café Society (who released a Ray Davies-produced record on the head Kinks' Konk label in 1975), Robinson roared into the spotlight in 1978 with a great single ("2-4-6-8 Motorway") and a much-ballyhooed contract with EMI. What was remarkable about this was that Robinson was the kind of politically conscious, confrontational performer that major labels generally ignored: he was openly gay and sang about it ("Glad to Be Gay"), vociferous in his hatred for then-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, helped form Rock Against Racism, and generally spoke in favor of any leftist political tract that would embarrass the ruling ultraconservative Tory government. His debut album, 1978's Power in the Darkness, was an occasionally stunning piece of punk/hard rock agitprop that, along with being ferociously direct, was politicized rock that focused more on songs than slogans.