Trower is a very interesting musician in many ways. He has recorded albums all of his life and released his latest in 2019. He doesn`t get a lot of love in this article but it was in 1967 his career as a recording artist was started.
Spotlight on Robin Trower
By Francis Gaye
Robin Trower has a face like a punchy boxer who stepped into the ring once too often. His friend, Barry Wilson doesn`t like his nose! But Robin`s is a good-humoured face and like Robin`s career it`s taken a few knocks in its time.
Despite all Robin is a bright, interesting character whose voice is raw and unpolished belying the good sense he talks. He admits to being an introvert, is shy about pushing forward an opinion but welcomes the opportunity to talk for himself.
For the first time in his life Robin is making good money regularly. But he doesn’t, and never has, worried about filthy lucre. “I’ve only worried about it if I haven’t had enough to buy food. I’ve been pretty well off occasionally and generally fairly comfortable. But I starved once or twice in the odd days.
“That was due to bad managements not giving us our money. I’ve been conned many, many times and I’m even a little scared nowadays. When you’ve been conned a few times you get wary. Although we’ve got a good organisation now, sometimes when things go a little wrong, the memory of the old days comes back and I worry.
“Once it’s been done to you you never trust anybody completely again. It’s a lesson you learn and you never forget.”
Cynical perhaps. Realistic certainly. But Robin’s an old pro. He’s never done, or even considered, anything but music. “The only time I did anything that wasn’t in pop was when I did nothing after the Paramounts broke up. I just sat around getting myself together, trying to find where I was going.
“The set up at the end of the Paramounts was just so wrong I had to get out, then get away and think for a time. I’ve always known I would make it. If I didn’t believe this I couldn’t go on. Look, five and six years ago we were playing James Brown stuff and before the Beatles came out we were doing all that gear, it broke big and we just got left behind. I’m 22 and I’ve been playing since I was 14. I’ve been a full time musician since I left school.
“Then I formed a three-piece group to play the stuff I was writing. It was like Hendrix in format, but my music is nothing like his, and I thought that at last I was going to get somewhere.
“I called Barry Wilson and three days later Gary Brooker called me. Being a blues guitarist I didn’t think I’d fit into Procol Harum but, like Barry, as soon as I heard what they were putting down I knew we were right for each other.”
Obviously Robin was happy with the Procols. What do they think of him? Barry Wilson, old friend and hyper-critical adviser tends to see him less as a person than a musician and says: ” He’s the finest guitarist in the country, in his own style. He’s completely original, completely sincere in everything he plays.”
If this sounds like a rather sickening mutual admiration society it wasn’t intended that way. It’s just an assessment built up from years of working together. “And as a person he`s the same, completely honest, sincere.”
Robin is also a cool character. He doesn’t get visibly upset, he looks hard and long before he makes up his mind about a situation or a person. He seldom blows his cool. If somebody upsets him he doesn’t shout or scream, he mentally shrugs and figures that he’ll probably never see the person again so why bother getting involved?
He doesn’t go to people to make friends, if they want him they come to him. He doesn’t have a lot of friends, nor does he make friends easily. He doesn’t court popularity.
Barry and Robin are seen as a pair. They complement each other. “It’s because he’s the drummer and I’m the guitarist and we’re doing much the same job in laying down the beat,” says Robin. Almost everything he says that concerns people and relationships is translated into the context of the group. He gives the impression that all else is secondary to the group, its music and his role within that whole.
“But Barry and I don’t have a lot to do with each other outside the group,” he explained. “Once the gig, practise or interview has finished the group go their separate ways.” Robin likes it that way, he reckons you can get too involved and that’s bad. “We don’t go out together. We have to be ourselves, as our private lives are getting smaller all the time. That’s part of success.
“I enjoy success inasmuch as I’m now in a position to play to people that I respect and that is what success means to me.”
Robin says something as a pure statement of fact which others would interpret as gross conceit. For instance:
“I always felt that I would be a great guitarist.” Bald, matter of fact, but to him a self-evident truth. After all, it’s what he’s been working toward for so long and his own faith in himself has, he feels, been vindicated within the scope of Procol Harum. He’ll feel that he’s living up to his own high standards as long “as I blow our manager Keith Reid’s mind every time I play! As long as he digs what I play I’ll be happy.”
Occasionally he realises that what he says could be misinterpreted. “I don’t want to sound big-headed. Although I like a lot of people and what they do, I don’t dig them, so they don’t mean that much to me.” In other words he acknowledges other people’s work and its importance but he doesn’t always follow the ecstatic eulogies bestowed on it by the Press, public and “business.” He forms his own conclusions with reference to his work and tastes.
Robin is a loner. He says: ” I try not to meet people outside my own circle.” And it’s a small circle.
One feels that he’s got his own scene together, that he is intimately involved in it and that what others say, do or think doesn’t concern him. He admits that he has a superiority complex, but he concedes it with a quiet grin. He says that he doesn’t think about himself that much and that he only thinks about others when they affect him. A strange paradox!
Robin Trower is one of the most difficult people I’ve ever interviewed. It’s almost impossible to get under his skin. He doesn’t laugh a lot, doesn’t gag. He takes things seriously and he certainly takes Robin Trower seriously. But he is NOT a vain or conceited person. He’s just very aware of what he’s got to do and how he’s got to do it.
He’s a challenge to talk to, he’s diffident, disinterested in the wider scope of life outside what he’s involved in and obstinately single-minded. An easy person to like for his honesty, a difficult person to know for his own protective shield.
A musician’s musician and a musician’s person. Happiest in his own company or in the company of those he knows, likes and, as far as he’ll let himself, trusts.
Robin Trower is the enigmatic member of the Procol Harum.