Listen on Apple Music Listen on Deezer Listen on YouTube Listen on Soundcloud

It really gets to me when I make the mistake of looking at the comments sections of social media and Facebook and I read some ignorant remark by someone asking, in all seriousness, why gay people get to have a Pride parade when there's no parade for straight people. Or why there's a series of television programmes celebrating gay culture when there's no special treatment for heterosexual people. And then they maybe add a little red-face emoji just to show that it makes them really cross that homosexuality is being celebrated.

When I see that stuff, a little red devil appears on one of my shoulders telling me to burn them all. And that little guy with a halo and a white dress flutters onto the other shoulder telling me that this is an opportunity to try to put my tolerance to the test.

Emotionally, I'm angry and frustrated by bigoted rhetoric. But my logical side wants to interrogate these people to find out why they can't understand the flaws in their argument and, moreover, why they feel so strongly. Even if you don't approve of homosexuality - which I suppose, as a liberal person, I have to accept - what is it about homosexuality that makes you think it's any of your business?

In 1978, Tom Robinson was a pub rocker caught up somewhat implausibly in the Punk movement. His first Top Five hit record was 2, 4, 6, 8 Motorway, a jaunty and entirely apolitical rock anthem about driving through the night. But Robinson's song writing was much more potent and personal than the average loutish pub rocker with a guitar. His homosexuality had ruined his childhood in the 1950s and 60s, leading him to a teenage suicide attempt before being institutionalised. At 26, he was much older than most of the kids on the London punk scene and his political views were better informed than the average anarchist, anti-establishment rebel. TRB's logo was a fist punching into the air - a knowing reference to the Black Power movement. He became a leading light in Rock Against Racism - famously inspiring a youthful Billy Bragg to become a protest singer - and of course a very public spokesman for gay rights. His embittered singalong anthem Glad to Be Gay spelled out unforgettably what it meant to be homosexual in 1970s Britain. If you haven't heard it, then check it out right away - it's an important landmark in gay culture and it's also irresistibly catchy.

Better Decide Which Side You're On, by contrast, is less catchy - and definitely not in the realms of the foot-tapping crossover hit 2, 4, 6, 8 Motorway - but the passion is just as strong and most of the lyrics seem particularly apposite 40 years after it was written. It's not really a song about gay rights, although one verse is a pointed warning to the gay community that they should expect a backlash (which duly followed in the 1980s when the AIDS epidemic fuelled the flames of reactionary sentiment). Instead, this is a song about standing up to fight against extreme right "bullyboys" and giving no quarter to those who are "sitting on the fence".

There are some dated references. For instance, The National Front is no longer a force in British counter-cultural politics, but NF leader Anthony Reed Herbert was involved in the formation of the BNP which, along with the English Defence League, picked up where the National front left off. The simple fact is that the struggle for social, racial and sexual equality and justice is more urgent now than it has been for a long time.

"The chips go down before too long," says Robinson. "If Left is right then Right is Wrong; You better decide which side you're on".

So, when you see one of those comments on Facebook or Twitter about how it's unfair that gay people get their own parade, it's not okay to just pass by. Whether you listen to the little devil or the angel on your shoulder, you should speak out. Decide which side you're on - and act accordingly.

Follow us on social:
Music to Fight Evil on Twitter Music to Fight Evil on Facebook

You can learn more about The Tom Robinson Band here

Spotify Website Twitter Facebook YouTube soundcloud Instagram

About the curator

After graduating from the University of Keele in England with a degree in Politics and American Studies, Jon worked as editor of a music and entertainment magazine before spending several years as a freelance writer and, with the advent of the internet, a website designer, developer and consultant. He lives in Reading, home to one of the world's most famous and long-running music festivals, which he has attended every year since 1992.

Comment