Robb’s ready to hit the high notes at Tower gig

Tangerine dream John Robb nails his colours to the mast, showing everyone he's a Blackpool boy at heart.
Tangerine dream John Robb nails his colours to the mast, showing everyone he's a Blackpool boy at heart.

For a man so opinionated, John Robb is a remarkably nice fella.

He’s also a bloke Blackpool should be incredibly proud of, for he is the definition of a local lad made good.

He made his name with The Membranes in the 70s and 80s, and as well as forming another successful band (Goldblade), he’s also written best-selling books, runs a hugely popular website, and has been one of the music world’s most respected voices for the last three decades.

But what makes him even more appealing is that he has never turned his back on the town where he grew up.

He’s fiercely proud of Blackpool, and it’s why the gig he has just lined up means so much to him – playing with The Membranes at the top of Blackpool Tower.

The concert takes place on Friday, August 8, during the town’s famous punk festival Rebellion, and to say Robb is looking forward to it is an understatement.

“It should be fantastic and I’m pretty sure we are the first ever band to play a gig at the top of the Tower,” said a man who is a big Blackpool FC fan, and hasn’t been scared to voice his opposition to fracking on the Fylde coast.

“In fact, I reckon it is probably the highest gig anyone has played, so it’ll be worth coming for that alone.”

Robb formed The Membranes with his mate Mark Tilton when the pair were at Blackpool Sixth Form College.

Tilton bought a ‘Woolworth’s special’ guitar, Robb made a bass out of spare parts and a slab of wood, they enlisted a singer and drummer, and away they went.

“This was pre-internet so we were four lads from Blackpool spending a lot of time in phone boxes, usually on Anchorsholme Lane, calling people, just to try and get going as a band,” Robb recalled. “Blackpool is a really interesting place, yet frustrating too because you are out on a limb at the end of the motorway – you can’t go anywhere else.

“Ten years before us The Beatles had played in town, Jethro Tull had come from Blackpool, and yet there were lots of good punk bands but nowhere for us to play.

“I think that shaped us, and why we got much more noisy and more frustrated sounding.”

The Membranes released six studio albums between 1979 and 90, with Robb going on to form Sensurround, then Goldblade, while managing to find the time to write a critically-acclaimed biography of The Stone Roses (as well as several other books), launch the website Louder Than War, and appear on TV and radio.

Performing in a band has always been his first love though. He still gigs all the time, and reformed The Membranes in 2010.

It’s little wonder that the 150 tickets available for the gig at Blackpool Tower are selling quickly.

“I expect there will be a lot of people who saw us in Blackpool back in the 70s and 80s, but the weird thing is that we also get a lot of young people coming to our gigs as well,” said Robb, 52.

“For me, Blackpool has always been the place I’ve loved most.

“It is a place that always seems to get associated with bad comedians and showbiz, but there has always been a very interesting undercurrent of stuff.

“Maybe it would be easier to come from New York or Berlin. Maybe people would take us more seriously then. I mean it’s hard enough being a Northerner, never mind coming from Blackpool.

“But I’d never want to hide where I’m from. It’s what made me who I am.”

As well as The Membranes, Blackpool bands Crackous Rock and Roll and Dysphonia are on the bill at the Tower, as well as highly-rated young band Jekyll.

And there will be cameras there too – the event is being filmed for a BBC4 film being made about the band.

If you want tickets you’d better be quick. They are priced £10 from the Tower or at http://louderthanwar.com/shop/tickets-2/the-membranes-live/