Robin Trower began his career in the 1960s with the band Procol Harum, whose enigmatic lyrics and evocative sound typified and exemplified for many an era of experimentation and idyllic hopes. Deeply inspired by the blues as well as his contemporaries, including rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix, Trower eventually struck out on his own. In doing so he launched himself on a journey peppered with success and failure, but one on which he always remained true to his own particular brand of rock guitar.
Critical reaction to Trower has varied from laudatory to impatient. In a 2000 review from the Augusta Chronicle, Tharon A. Giddens described Trower's style: "[He] continues to deliver tasty, dense metal blues guitar expected of a Hendrix acolyte." David Sinclair of the London Times wrote, "Thirty-two years after he released his first album, [he] remains cocooned in an artistic bubble that has proved impervious to all outside developments … since the mid-1970s." For Trower, the critics be damned, it's the fans that count. His loyal fan base has sold out his venues, bought his records, and helped run his website. Trower has more than 30 years of solo performing under his belt, and has released more than 20 solo albums.
Attracted to Blues
Trower was born March 9, 1945, in London, England. He was fortunate enough to be the son of parents with an inherent interest in music. From 1959 to 1963 Trower's parents, Len and Shirley, operated a coffee house in their basement called the Shades, which catered to the burgeoning "Mods" scene—one that focused on fashion, music, and an urban sensibility. Around this time Trower began his career as a musician playing in a rhythm-and-blues-influenced band called the Paramounts. The Paramounts recorded a few singles and then disbanded in 1965.
In 1967 Gary Brooker, one of the original members of the Paramounts, needed a band to perform and tour in support of some songs he had co-written and recorded. Trower and B.J. Wilson, also of the Paramounts, joined Brooker, along with Matthew Fisher on organ and David Knights on bass, to form Procol Harum. Trower played with Procol Harum for a few years, but left in 1971 to go solo. He explained his reason for leaving Procol Harum to Alan Sculley of the St. Louis PostDispatch: "I was starting to write more and more material … which obviously was all guitar music. There just wasn't the room in Procol Harum for it." Trower went from the moody off-kilter romanticism of Procol Harum to develop his own hard-edged blues-influenced style of guitar playing.
On His Own
Trower tried forming another band in 1971, called Jude, but it didn't last long, and the format just didn't seem to work for Trower. That was when he decided to become a solo artist. He organized a backup group that consisted of talented and dedicated musicians, many of whom became mainstays of his band. This included singer and bassist James Dewar and Bill Lordan on drums.
In 1973 Trower's first solo album, Twice Removed From Yesterday, was released. It contained the singles "I Can't Wait Much Longer" and "Hannah." It did not become a hit, but the lack of attention wouldn't last long. The following year his album Bridge of Sighs was released. Bridge of Sighs became a hit, and still remains a necessary addition to any collection of early 1970s guitar music. Popular singles from Bridge of Sighs included "Day of the Eagle," "Too Rolling Stoned," and "Bridge of Sighs." His follow-up album, For Earth Below, was also successful. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s he released records almost annually and filled stadiums with his energetic, spiraling guitar playing. Bruce Madden of the Grand Rapids Press described the style that was specifically Trower's: "Trower's solo albums merged blues, controlled feedback, ethereal soundscapes and wah-wah peddle assaults."
While Trower was productive, almost prolific, during the 1970s, by the 1980s his popularity had begun to wane. He continued to produce albums, collaborating with other artists such as Lordan and Jack Bruce. But by the late 1980s Trower felt a need to delve into new material. He had started writing more lyrics and was feeling a need to sing as well.
Returned to Blues
His journey eventually brought Trower to a crossroads. He wanted to record a blues album, but couldn't find a record company. He explained to Madden, "I couldn't get any major label, or even a minor one, interested in me doing a blues album." That led Trower to the decision to create his own label. In the early 1990s Trower formed the record label V-12. After exploring different sounds throughout the late 1970s and the 1980s that left him unsatisfied, Trower wanted to focus more on the traditional style of blues and its influence on his music.
In 1994 he released 20th Century Blues, a collection of his own works, with Livingstone Brown delivering vocals. Three years later he released Someday Blues. He told Curtis Ross of the Tampa Tribune about his intentions with this album: "How can you top B.B. King, Albert King, and Otis Rush?… my goal isn't to 'top' anyone, but to draw on my love of blues." Trower described to Madden the satisfaction of working on his own label: "Being able to have my own label is about being able to make the tracks I want to make." He further described what playing the blues means to him: "With blues, I'm trying to get to a place, it's like an attitude, an atmosphere … when you hit it—it's the most satisfying thing." With 40 years of performing under his belt, Trower seems to have found a place in the pantheon of rock guitar stars. His talent has remained consistent and so has the adoration he receives from fans around the world.
With Procol Harum
Procol Harum, Deram, 1967.
Shine On Brightly, Repertoire, 1968.
A Salty Dog, A&M, 1969.
Home, Repertoire, 1970.
Broken Barricades, A&M, 1971.
Best of Procol Harum, A&M, 1973.
Prodigal Stranger, Zoo, 1990.
The Long Goodbye, RCA Victor, 1995.
Twice Removed From Yesterday, Chrysalis, 1973.
Bridge of Sighs, Chrysalis, 1974.
For Earth Below, Chrysalis, 1975.
Robin Trower Live, Chrysalis, 1976.
Long Misty Days, Chrysalis, 1976.
In City Dreams, Chrysalis, 1977.
Caravan to Midnight, Chrysalis, 1978.
Victims of the Fury, Chrysalis, 1980.
(With Jack Bruce and Bill Lordan) BLT, Chrysalis, 1981.
(With Jack Bruce and Bill Lordan) Truce, One Way, 1982.
Back It Up, BGO, 1983.
Beyond the Mist, Passport, 1985.
Passion, GNP Crescendo, 1987.
Take What You Need, Atlantic, 1988.
In the Line of Fire, Atlantic, 1990.
Essential Robin Trower, Chrysalis, 1991.
(With the Bryan Ferry Band) Taxi, Toshiba EMI, 1993.
20th Century Blues, V-12, 1994.
(With Bryan Ferry) Mamouna, Virgin Records, 1994.
BBC Radio One-Live, Griffin, 1995.
The King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents Robin Trower, King Biscuit Flower, 1995.
Someday Blues, V-12, 1997; reissued as Another Day's Blues, V-12, 2005.
This Was Now, V-12, 1999.
Go My Way, Town Sound, 2000.
Speed of Sound: The Best of Robin Trower, Fuel 2000, 2002.
Living Out of Time, V-12, 2003.
For the Record …
Born on March 9, 1945, in London, England; married: Andrea, 1968; children: three.
Played guitar for the Paramounts, 1962; joined Procol Harum, 1967; left Procol Harum, formed and quickly disbanded group named Jude, 1971; released first solo album, Twice Removed From Yesterday, 1973; albums certified gold include Bridge of Sighs, 1974; For Earth Below, 1975; Long Misty Days, 1976; In City Dreams, 1977; released 15 albums between 1976 and 1993; formed his own label, V-12 Records, released 20th Century Blues, 1994; sang vocals for first time on album Someday Blues, 1997; sang own lyrics for first time on Go My Way, 2001.
Addresses: Website—Robin Trower Official Website: http://www.trowerpower.com/
Augusta Chronicle, October 6, 2000, p. O05.
Evening Times (Glasgow, UK), November 12, 2005, p. 14.
Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO), November 9, 2001, p. GO16.
Grand Rapids Press, July 9, 1997, p. B8.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 20, 2001, p. GO25.
Tampa Tribune, July 28, 2000, p. 14.
Times (London, England), April 20, 2005, p.18.
Vancouver Sun, July 31, 2003, p. C5.