Saturday, 8 October 2016


Sydney-based John 'Robbo' Robinson has been one of Australia's most renowned guitarists for more than forty years, and he is also an accomplished composer-arranger and a highly respected guitar teacher. John first came to prominence when he joined Sydney band The Dave Miller Set in 1967. The group was formed in early 1967 by Christchurch-born singer-songwriter Dave Miller. John joined a few months later and over the next three years he emerged as one of Australia's original 'guitar heroes', with the DMS becoming one of the first local bands to explore the heavy-rock style pioneered by acts like Cream, Hendrix and Free.

John's work with the DMS inluded countless gigs up and down the east coast of Australia and tours to New Zealand and Fiji, Pacific cruises -- DMS were one of the first Australian pop bands to do this -- and even a pioneering tour to Indonesia in 1969. John featured on the five DMS Singles, "Why, Why Why", "Hope", "Get Together", the psychedelic classic "Mr Guy Fawkes", and their final single, a cover of Chicago's "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?".

After the failure of the last single, which flopped because of the infamous 1970 Radio Ban, the Dave Miller Set split. John soon put together a new group, the acclaimed Blackfeather, and secured a deal with Festival's new progressive subsidiary Infinity. In April 1971 they released the classic Australian hard rock album At The Mountains Of Madness, which was a Top Ten hit, and they had great success with the hit single lifted from it, the perennial favourite "Seasons Of Change", which was also successfully covered by Fraternity. Unfortunately, the partnership between Robinson and singer Neale Johns broke up acrimoniously later in the year and it was then that John discovered that the band's name was in fact owned by their agent. Neale Johns formed a rival version of the band and John found himself unable to use the name of the group he had formed.

John then joined Hunger, the house band at Jonathon's Disco, which eventualy led to his next project, the acclaimed studio supergroup Duck. Under the direction of producer G.Wayne Thomas they recorded a highly regarded album of rock and R&B covers entitled Laid. Released in mid-1972 and featuring Jon English and Bobbi Marchini on lead vocals, with backing by John, renowned jazz pianist Bobby Gebert, percussionist Larry Duryea (ex Tamam Shud), former Aztec Teddy Toi on bass and Steve Webb on drums; the LP is now a prized collectors' item. A touring version of the group was put together, with former Wild Cherries frontman Danny Robinson replacing English (who had by then joined the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar).

After the end of the Duck project, John reunited with Dave Miller for a short-lived revival of the Dave Miller Set. In early 1973 John began working in earnest to develop his arranging and composing skills, which enabled him to get work with Festival producer Martin Erdman arranging recordings for Sister Janet Mead, Barry Leef and Jeff St John. John then formed the progressive power trio Eclipse with Tony Anderson on drums and Gary Evans on bass; John later augmented the group with electric violin and Moog synthesiser. By the time Eclipse folded, John had met the acclaimed Hungarian-born jazz-rock bassist Jackie Orzacsky and they formed a trio with drummer Joe Tattersall. With drummer they recorded the superb but little-known LP, Morning in Beramiada, which was released under Jackie's name.

Throughout this period John worked on tracks for a solo album project which was finally released in 1974 by Festival under the title Pity For The Victim. It featured an all-star lineup including some of the best singers of the period -- Bobbi Marchini, Alison MacCallum, Barry Leef, Jeff St. John and Janice Slater -- with Patrick Bleakley, Benny Kaika and Teddy Toi (bass), Julie Pearson and Bobby Gebert (keyboards), Steve Webb and Bruno Lawrence (drums) and Larry Duryea (percussion). It is now a sought-after collectors' item -- only about 1000 copies were pressed according to John and it remains one of the great 'lost treasures' of Seventies Oz music. Sadly, it shared the same fate as the Orzacsky LP -- without a group to promote and perform them both albums sank without trace, which is a real pity, as they are both top-notch efforts. Fortunately, John has at last been able to remaster and re-release this classic album on CD, remastered, with many bonus tracks, and it can be ordered online from the CD BABY website.

With his finances and live work at an all-time low, John joined forces with singer-bassist-guitarist Paul Radcliffe (ex King Fox) in a new six-piece band called Currents. which featured Greg Taylor and Andy Ross on reeds, Radcliffe on bass, Peter Itelly on drums, and John Levine on keys -- the first large ensemble John had worked with since Duck. Through Jackie Orzacsky, John had a brief but rather unhappy stint in Marcia Hines' touring band, and continued working with Currents until they disbanded in 1976. At this point, John decided to try his luck as a guitar teacher; not surprisingly, he found himself in high demand and it has been the mainstay of his work for ever since. His many students include some very famous names, including Eric McCusker (Captain Matchbox, Mondo Rock) and Murray Cook (The Wiggles).

The last project John was involved in ca. 1980 was an instrumental combo called The Electric Guitar Orchestra. This included John Levine from Currents, plus John Comino and Steve Robinson (no relation) who specialised in double-neck twelve-string electric. The group performed compositions by Robinson and Levine, including a Robinson arrangement of part of 'The Firebird Suite' by Stravinsky and they did some special 2JJJ radio broadcasts. The band was recorded by Willie Rout of Wirra Willa Studios as part of a grant John received from the Arts Council.

Since 1980 John has concentrated on his teaching with great success, but he has also been working away constantly during his spare hours, writing, arranging and recording original music.  John has just released his first solo album in thirty years.  HOT is a superb collection of some of the best of John's compositions, including the achingly beautiful instrumental "Amelia" and "Requiem: SRV", a scorching guitar workout dedicated to one of John's favourite players, the late Stevie Ray Vaughan. John's latest CD, Funky Bunny Escapes! was released in 2006, along with the long-awaited re-release of Pity For The Victim.



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