Robb Johnson

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Robb Johnson
Robb Johnson performing in Faversham in November 2007.
Background information
Birth name Robb Jenner Johnson
Born (1955-12-25) December 25, 1955 (age 59)
Origin Isleworth, England
Genres Folk, punk
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter
Instruments Vocals, Guitar
Labels Irregular Records

Robb Johnson (born Isleworth, Hounslow, 25 December 1955)[1][2][3] is a British musician and songwriter, who has been called "one of the last genuinely political songwriters", and is known for his mix of political satire and wit.[2] He has his own record label, Irregular Records,[4] and has released more than 30 albums since 1985, either solo or in several collaborations.[5][6]


Johnson began his musical career playing in folk clubs in the 1970s and ran a folk club at the University of Sussex,[2] before forming a band called Grubstreet,[1] which split up in 1983. Two years later he made his first solo album – In Amongst the Rain – setting up his own label on which to release it, before forming an agitprop group, The Ministry of Humour, with Mark Shilcock and Graham Barnes.[4] After the break-up of this act and a failed attempt at forming a new electric band,[2] he returned to performing solo and also formed a duo with female singer Pip Collings.[1]

In 1997 he composed the song cycle Gentle Men, based on the experiences of his grandfathers in the First World War. The song cycle was recorded by Johnson in collaboration with Roy Bailey,[7] and performed at the commemorative Passchendaele Peace Concert.[8] In 2006 he was a special guest at the BBC's "Folk Britannia" concert at the Barbican Centre, ending the night with a rendition of World War I song "Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire".[9] He remains active and has released at least one album annually for over 20 years, as well as playing regular gigs, including benefits and political events.[2][5]



Johnson performing with his band The Irregulars at the Black Country Living Museum in 2009
Johnson performing at the Tolpuddle Martyrs' Festival and Rally 2012
  • In Amongst The Rain (1985)[10]
  • Songs for the New Jerusalem (1987)
  • Skewed, Slewed, Stewed & Awkward (1987)
  • Small Town World (1989)
  • Overnight (1991) (Robb Johnson and Pip Collings)
  • Tourists and Casualties (1993) (The Johnson-Collings Band)
  • Heart's Desire (1994) (Robb Johnson and Pip Collings)
  • 1-2-3 (1994) (The Johnson-Collings Band)
  • Lack of Jolly Ploughboy (1995) (Robb Johnson and Pip Collings)
  • Lavender Blues (1995, six-track mini-album)
  • Interesting Times (1995) (The Robb Johnson Band)
  • The Night Café (1995)
  • Hell’s Kitchen (1996) (The Robb Johnson Roots Band)
  • Ugly Town (1997)
  • Invisible People (1997)
  • Gentle Men (1997) (Roy Bailey, Vera Coomans, Robb Johnson, & Koen De Cauter & The Golden Serenaders)
  • The Big Wheel (1999)
  • 21st Century Blues (2001) (Robb Johnson, Miranda Sykes and Saskia Tomkins)
  • The Triumph of Hope Over Experience (2002)
  • Clockwork Music (2003)
  • Metro (2005)
  • All That Way For This (2007) (Robb Johnson & The Irregulars)
  • Love & Death & Politics (2008) (Robb Johnson & The Irregulars)
  • The Liberty Tree (2009) (Leon Rosselson and Robb Johnson)
  • The Ghost of Love (2009) (Robb Johnson & The Irregulars)
  • Man Walks Into a Pub (2010)
  • Some Recent Protest Songs (2011)
  • Once Upon a Time (2011) (Robb Johnson & The Irregulars)
  • Happily Ever After (2012) (Robb Johnson & The Irregulars)
  • Bring Down the Moon (2013)
  • Us and Them (2014)
  • Here Goes Nothing (2015) (Robb Johnson & The Irregulars)

Compilations, re-issues and live[edit]

  • This Is the UK Talking (1994) [singles, benefits, demos: 1987–1994]
  • Overnight [1996, solo re-recording of tracks from the 1991 album of the same name and Tourists and Casualties]
  • Yeah Yeah Yeah: So Far So Good 1991–1998 (1998) (The Robb Johnson Band)
  • The Big Wheel – The Second XI and Alternative Versions (1999) [live recordings and tracks omitted from the album of the same name]
  • Margaret Thatcher: My Part in Her Downfall (2000) [re-recordings, inc. unreleased songs]
  • Maximum Respect (2002) [compilation of animal-themed songs inc. new tracks]
  • Friday Night in Brentford (2003) [live]
  • Tony Blair: My Part in His Downfall (2004) [2CD; demos, website tracks & unreleased: 1997–2004]
  • A Beginner's Guide (2005) [re-recordings plus new songs]
  • Saturday Night at The Fire Station (2006) (Robb Johnson & The Irregulars) [live]
  • Margaret Thatcher: My Part in Her Downfall – Deluxe (2009) [box set comprising 3rd & 4th albums plus other rare & unreleased material]
  • West Pier Serenade (2013) [re-recordings plus 1 new song]
  • Gentle Men (2013) [re-recording of 1997 album plus new songs]


  • The Animals Song 7" (1986)
  • The Herald of Free Enterprise 7" (1988)
  • Wasted Years 7" (1991)
  • Living in the Rubbish 12" (1991) (Robb Johnson and Pip Collings)
  • Saturday Afternoon Red Army CD EP (1995)
  • Sweet Jane / Bay of Angels 7" (2014)
  • Cheep and Cheerful / The Top of This Wheel 7" (2015)

Other appearances[edit]

  • "When the People Rise Again" – track on the charity album That Eastern Wind – Songs and Poems of Geoff Parry, vol 8 (2008)
  • "A Fine Career" – Johnson contributes lead vocals on this track from Chumbawamba's 2008 album, The Boy Bands Have Won
  • "Permanent Free Zone" – track on the compilation album Return of the Read Menace, 1999.

Personal life[edit]

Johnson married Meeta Kanabar on 22 August 1992.[1] The couple have two sons, Hari (born 1998) and Arvin (born 1999).[5] Johnson worked as a teacher at various schools in London, but relocated to Hove in around 2006.[3] He is a supporter of Brentford F.C. and has performed fund-raising concerts for the club.[11]


  1. ^ a b c d Gregory, Andy (2002). The International Who's Who in Popular Music 2002. Routledge. pp. 261–262. ISBN 1-85743-161-8. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Robb Johnson : Biography". Retrieved 2008-07-17. 
  3. ^ a b Cumber, Robert (3 December 2009). "Teacher-turned-musician's festive ode to Hounslow". Hounslow Chronicle. Retrieved 6 January 2010. 
  4. ^ a b "Songs from the European Urban Experience: Robb Johnson and the Irregular Records Label". FolkWorld. Retrieved 2008-07-17. 
  5. ^ a b c "Robb Johnson – Catalogue". Irregular Records. Retrieved 2008-07-17. 
  6. ^ "Latest news". Irregular Records. Retrieved 2008-07-17. 
  7. ^ Broughton, Simon; Mark Ellingham; Richard Trillo (1999). World Music: The Rough Guide. Rough Guides. p. 29. ISBN 1-85828-635-2. 
  8. ^ "Roy Bailey". The Living Tradition. Retrieved 2008-07-17. 
  9. ^ "Folk Britannia". BBC. Retrieved 2008-07-17. 
  10. ^ "The Irregular World of ROBB JOHNSON". Folk on Tap. Retrieved 2008-07-17. 
  11. ^ "Robb Johnson returns". Brentford F.C. 2004-11-17. Retrieved 2008-07-17. 

External links[edit]