Robin Scott (born Robin Edmond Scott, 1 April 1947, Croydon, London), lead singer and founder of a music project he called M, is a singer originally from the United Kingdom. His career encompasses four decades.
He grew up in the South London suburb of Croydon, and after leaving school enrolled at Croydon Art college, where he met Malcolm McLaren in the late 1960s. Scott befriended him and fashion guru Vivienne Westwood (with whom he was to collaborate ten years later).
He declined their offer to be involved in SEX, the Chelsea clothes shop which McLaren and Westwood launched, preferring to make his career in music. While at college he had displayed a talent for songwriting topical songs which he performed on radio and television, and this led to his debut album, entitled Woman From the Warm Grass, which was released on a small independent record label called Head Records.
Scott was backed on the album by a notable group of the time, Mighty Baby, but the recording studio soon folded. Scott began working as a troubadour, singing his own songs and accompanying himself on guitar and spent a period playing folk music clubs as a solo musician, sharing bills with such emergent artists as David Bowie, John Martyn and Ralph McTell. He also recorded a session for the BBC, one of the tracks from which was included on the CD reissue of the album in 2001.
In early 1970, he conceived a multimedia project, 'The Voice' which was aired on BBC Radio 3, but he left to travel both around Europe and North America. When he returned, he made demos with members of the progressive rock band Camel, songwriter Terry Britten and music publisher Ronnie Scott. In 1972 he entered the 'Search for a Star' national talent contest, which he won, and was offered a recording contract by EMI, but because they would not support his backing band, he turned down the deal.
In 1973, he performed in bands with the likes of Pete Thomas (later of Elvis Costello and the Attractions), Paul 'Bassman' Riley, and also wrote a musical called 'Heartaches & Teardrops,' a play with original songs which has parallels to The Rocky Horror Show, and the 'True Love And Romance' comic strip genre.
Scott then started working with the band Roogalator, a well regarded and original R&B band producing their debut single, "Cincinnati Fatback" (one of the first releases on Stiff Records) followed by another single "Love & The Single Girl" on Virgin. As Virgin failed to pick up the album option, he independently produced Roogalator's debut LP Play It By Ear to be released on his own Do It Records, for whom Scott also recorded Cry Myself To Sleep under the alias of Comic Romance.
When punk rock began to surface in late 1976 early 1977, while working with Roogalator both as producer and manager, he released early recordings by Adam and the Ants on his Do It Records label. In 1978, Scott worked as producer for Barclay Records in Paris, France where he lived with his girlfriend Brigitte Vinchon (alias Brigit Novik), after producing and filming with director Julien Temple an all female punk quartet, The Slits.
While still in Paris he recorded early versions of "Moderne Man" and "Satisfy Your Lust", tracks which would ultimately appear on the first album. With a group of session musicians he called 'M', he also produced and recorded "Pop Muzik", which was written as his résumé of twenty five years of pop music and of being in the music industry since 1954.
Among the other musicians who played on the track were his brother Julian Scott (on bass), then-unknown keyboardist Wally Badarou, Canadian programmer John Lewis (who died of AIDS in 1982) and backing vocalist Brigit Novik. When it was released in the UK in early 1979, it became a hit, reaching No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart and No. 1 in the US, after which MCA Records, the label which had released the single, requested he record an accompanying album.
New York • London • Paris • Munich was recorded in Montreux, Switzerland, at Queen's Mountain Studios, and using their regular engineer, David Richards as well as Julian Scott, Wally Badarou (who would later work with Stevie Winwood, among others) and Brigit Novik. Additional musicians on the LP included drummer Phil Gould (later of Level 42),Gary Barnacle on saxophone and flute, and (at the time) local Montreux resident David Bowie, who did occasional handclaps.
Released in the UK at the end of 1979, the LP was also a sizeable hit in the U.S., where it was released on Sire Records. In contrast to "Pop Muzik", another track titled "Moonlight and Muzak" was released in late 1979 as the third single from the album, peaking at No. 33 in the UK. MCA executives were unhappy with this change of direction, but with a hit behind him, Scott felt it was relevant to be heard at this point. The track was written as a result of his experiences in the U.S. where he came into contact with the music company called the Muzak Organisation.
He described it as "a very weird experience. There were all these white collar workers conscientiously putting together music with the precision of chemists. Way before Brian Eno was doing it, these guys were doing it for real. They were pre-occupied with the pace of workers in factories, and how to maximise their efficiency."
The song was a UK Top 40 hit, and then "That's the Way the Money Goes" became another charting hit inside of a year. A 45-minute film incorporating videos and concert performances to date came as a result of a quick globe-trotting world tour in the wake of the hit.
Other M releases:
In late 1980, the follow-up album called The Official Secrets Act was released, containing the songs "Keep It to Yourself" and the title track, and was inspired, albeit tongue-in-cheek, by the overwhelming worldwide paranoia of the time. It was recorded in the UK and Dublin, with contributions from Bill Whelan (the man behind Riverdance, who at the time worked as an arranger).
Among the musicians on the album were Phil Gould on drums again, who also introduced his friend and subsequent Level 42 colleague Mark King. King at the time played guitar as much as bass, and it was prior to his discovery of his trademark sound. In 1981 Scott co-produced rising star Ryuichi Sakamoto, along with fellow members of the Yellow Magic Orchestra (who also participated on resultant albums Left Handed Dream and The Arrangement), as did King Crimson/David Bowie guitarist Adrian Belew, while Scott and Brigit Novik supplied vocals and co-wrote four tracks.
The same year brought a third 'M' album Famous Last Words, which featured many of the musicians from the previous albums, including the early incarnation of Level 42 (who by this time were having their own regular hits), producer Wally Badarou also playing keyboards, Julian Scott on bass, Brigit Novik on backing vocals, a young Thomas Dolby on programming, Yellow Magic Orchestra drummer Yukihiro Takahashi, guitarist from Gang of Four Andy Gill and Tony Levin on bass.
MCA declined release of the album in the UK, and it only saw the light of day in France, Italy and the US (where 'M' was not even signed up). Subsequently the label and M parted company. At this point some role reversing took place and Scott produced the M single "Danube" for the Stiff label, featuring Brigit Novik on vocals, followed by "The Wedding Dance" presenting Novik as an artist in her own right.
As a development of the ethnic references on The Official Secrets Act and the Stiff releases, Scott found a new musical direction, producing an EP of African acts in Kenya. This led to the album 'Robin Scott & Shikisha' in 1983/4, recorded in Kenya and the UK, with musicians from several different African states. The album featured a female vocal trio from South Africa, Shikisha (hence the album title), and Wally Badarou and Julian Scott.
Most of this world music was originally suppressed, but was remastered and released in 2003. The resurgence of interest in Scott and the history of "Pop Muzik" follows U2's use of the Steve Osborne remix opening their 'PopMart' tour. Remixes have come from all sides, from Marcus' "Pop Muzic 2001" in 2002, and by Junior Vasquez and the Dub Pistols in 2003.
In 2003 a collection of Scott's artwork was shown at the Ensign Gallery in London.
Scott appeared in the Countdown Spectacular 2 concert series in Australia between late August and early September 2007, when he sang "Pop Muzik". In 2009, an album featuring the original 1979 mix and thirteen remixes of "Pop Muzik" was issued by Union Square. He is now working with his son, who is a beat boxer, and his band, who are currently recording demos.