music friday: drummers
five years (2019-2023)

danny kustow

Danny Kustow died a few days ago. He was best known as the guitarist for the original Tom Robinson Band.

I wrote this back in 2006 ... it's worth checking out the entire post, there's some good tidbits in there ... but here is the part that references Kustow in particular, lightly edited:

The Tom Robinson Band was coming to town, we were big fans, he was playing somewhere semi-large in the City, but he was playing in a dinky club in Davis before he got to San Fran, so we decided to see him there. Our friend Claire said she could get us backstage. I came prepared ... I made a big sign that read "Danny Kustow is God" and took it to the show. We set up right near the stage on the side Kustow would be playing, and it's safe to say the band was delighted to have such a big fan in such a dinky club, because for probably the only time in my life, then, now, or in the future, the band played to me ... that is, I was identified as the biggest fan in the crowd, so I got a lot of the "let's interact with the audience by looking his way" stuff.

And when the show was over, Claire escorted me backstage ... and if the club was dinky, you can imagine what the dressing room was like. It was, to be perfectly honest, not much more than a closet. A closet with four people stuffed inside of it. Five, once I entered.

The band was v.nice ... they all autographed my sign ... to this day it's the only time I got to go backstage.

Looking back, trying to identify why Kustow made such an impression on me. I was under the spell of punk rock, where great musicianship was almost in bad taste. The great punk guitarists tended towards minimalism, or followed the creatively chaotic playing of Johnny Thunders. Kustow was different ... he had the kind of chops that would have served him well in a traditional classic rock band, but his playing also had an audible snarl that was perfect for the music TRB were making. As Joe Strummer said of Mick Jones in "Complete Control", "You're my guitar hero!"

Robinson gave a beautiful tribute at Danny's funeral ... not sure this link works properly, but a transcript was posted on Facebook. Meanwhile, thank you Danny. Here is one of many highlights from those days:


Chairman Ralph

Just stumbled across this -- nice one! glad to see that someone else remembers TRB, in general, and Danny, in particular, because he really was the guy that made their sound roar so mightily.

I saw the reunited TRB twice, so it's good to read something from someone who saw them back in the day. For what it's worth, here's my a few of my own impressions:

RIP Danny, and keep playing your TRB -- if I made one of those proverbial "desert island disc" types of lists, Power In The Darkness would definitely get a slot!

Steven Rubio

Thanks for that! The song I keep returning to over the years is "Winter of '79".

A couple of years after the above concert, we went to see Robinson's next band, Sector 27. Sadly, Tom had laryngitis ... he could barely sing, although he was typically good-natured. Interesting band with a couple of good songs.

Chairman Ralph

Hey, Steve, you're welcome. My favorite is "Up Against The Wall." Whenever I feel stuck, guitar/songwriting-wise, I'll put that one out to get the juices going again, and that usually does the job.

My other picks along those lines from that album are the title track, "Ain't Gonna Take It," "Winter Of '79," "The Man You Never Saw," and "You Gotta Survive."

Sector 27 did have some good songs -- "Invitation," "Can't Keep Away," "Bitterly Disappointed" -- though my top picks are "Looking At You," and "Take It Or Leave It," which sums up my feelings about the whole cartel mentality of big labels, big companies, hell, big anything ("Do as we say, the alternative way/Remember who's running the show"). Those two songs alone would have made a killer 45, I think.

I've only found one Sector 27 live tape, from Chicago, although the link isn't up on that site at the moment. I've also stumbled across some live stuff from Italy on YouTube, but the quality is pretty crappy.

I find that album's production rather arid and airbrushed, though I'm sure it was better live, as most bands typically are. For me, that album is a divider between that era, and Tom's later output, which is slick and professional-sounding, but not what gets my blood pumping, if you know what I mean.

I actually exchanged e-mails with Danny about a decade or so ago, which inspired to me write part one in the first place, and think about this whole topic.

That said, I'm writing a Part Two, actually, to cover the second TRB album, plus Sector 27 and the related releases (like the RISING FREE EP that came with the first album).

Like I said, it's great to see him and TRB celebrated somewhere, since they've essentially been written out of the punk history books, despite being quite a bit more successful than most of their peers during that brief glorious '77-'7 run.

I'd like to hear his new record, though, and shop and compare, as they say. I'm sure I'll get around to it.

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