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Robb Johnson, A Break in the Clouds

Latest news


ORDINARY GIANTS (IRR223) is a triple CD to be released in November 2018, distribution by Discovery.

Ordinary Giants is a song suite by acclaimed songwriter Robb Johnson based on the life and times of his father, Ron Johnson. It’s a family history of the 1930s, the Second World War and the Welfare State, performed by over 30 people, from well-known names like Tom Robinson, Claire Martin, Boff Whalley, Roy Bailey, TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady, MP Dennis Skinner, FBU activist Steve White, Joe Solo, Tracey Curtis, Alan Clayson, to children from the school where Robb taught. Robb’s parents are sung by Phil Odgers (from The Men They Couldn't Hang) and Miranda Sykes (currently playing bass with Show of Hands). Musicians include Rory McLeod, Bobby Valentino, Jenny Carr, and Robb’s longstanding rhythm section, John Forrester on bass and son Arvin Johnson on drums.

Read about its inspiration, and the backstories to the individual tracks. (Added 11th September 2018)

And read the glowing reviews of Ordinary Giants! (Added 19th November 2018)

Buy Ordinary Giants from the distributors, Discovery; or, to buy with Paypal, e-mail for details.


Robb intends to have a new album out in time for the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival in July. He says: "Provisionally entitled 'Summertime is Coming', it is a collection of songs that reflect the last ghastly seven years of toff misrule, of government for the rich, by the rich, of government not fit for purpose... I think none of the songs will have seen official CD release. Some tracks have been on Humbugs, but eight of the tracks have never been on any CD whatsoever... although some have appeared on Facebook. CD quality will be a whole lot better though."

The album will be distributed by Discovery, but you can order it as part of the latest Kickstarter campaign. This is to fund the recording of a song suite about Robb's dad's generation, "Ordinary Giants", a sort of sequel to "Gentle Men". The Kickstarter campaign will also fund the writing and production of a second songbook, "Words and Chords 2". Robb hopes people will decide which songs they want to be included, and sponsor a song! You can also opt to have a tweet's worth of text added to the text about the song you sponsor.

Here's the link:


'I'm Voting Labour Next Thursday' is now available to share and download.

Robb says: " The election special version of JC4 PM for Me.... less fake snow and a lot more guitar... Apologies that it is only available as a download. May is clearly rattled by the Xmas 7" so called snap election to give us not enough time to get a proper vinyl version out."  Download from iTunes at: I'm Voting Labour Next Thursday (feat. Fae Simon & The Corbynistas) - Single by Robb Johnson on Apple Music.


Record Store Day this year is on Saturday 22nd April. Robb's RSD record is "The Beautiful Dark", IRR105v. A 10" vinyl release, featuring six post-punk existentialist blues: The Night Cafe, The Bay of Angels, The Big Wheel, You and This City, The Beautiful Dark and The Karl Marx City Blues.

Recorded live in the studio by the genius that is Ali Gavan, performed by the Best Regards Band - Jenny Carr (piano), John Forrester (bass), Arvin Johnson (drums) and Robb on guitar and vocals, these six songs represent one collection of some of Robb's more enduring songs. Robb says: "The performances by Jen and John and Arv are magnificent, the sound on the vinyl is superb,and this is an album I am particularly proud of".

This will be a vinyl-only release.


An interview with Robb on the Culture Matters web site - "Via email interview, Robb Johnson introduces his new album and talks about politics, protest music, and plum pudding".


Robb's latest CD, "My Best Regards", is being distributed by Discovery Records, who will be distributing all the Irregular Records catalogue from October 2016, which was previously undertaken by Proper Distribution. (Added 19th September 2016)


For all UK bookings, Robb as a solo artist is now managed by Jacey Bedford Tour Management - see details on the Contact page. (Added 22nd August 2016)

For Robb with the Best Regards Band, the promoters are Heard and Seen - see details on the Contact page. (Added 5th September 2016)


Clicking on this photo will take you to a higher-resolution version suitable for printing and other publicity. For older photos, see the Photos page. (Added 22nd June 2016)

 Photo by Hari Johnson


The new Morning Star compilation CD, "Don't Be Left Without Us", features a track by Robb entitled "The Future Starts Here". This track will also appear, although not in indentical format, on the forthcoming album, "My Best Regards", which will be released on 30th September. But you can get this taster from the Morning Star web site at

(Added 20th May 2016)


Record Store Day this year is on Saturday 16th April, and to support it Robb has released 7" single "Don't Close the Bar" b/w "Even Steve McQueen", numbered IRR102V, a solo acoustic guitar version of two songs previously recorded with different accompaniments. 


The Kickstarter campaign to fund the new album "My Best Regards" achieved pledges of £2978 from 65 backers, and as a result the album, numbered IRR100, will be released September 30th. It will be available as a CD or download. It features thirteen songs recorded with Jenny Carr on keyboards, John Forrester on bass, Arvin Johnson on percussion, with contributions from Jim Cannell, cello; Linz Maesterosa, clarinet and saxophone; Saskia Tomkins, violin; Reem Kelani, guest vocal; and Kirsty Martin, backing vocals; plus two bonus tracks recorded with Hullabaloo Quire. 

There is a tour in the autumn celebrating the album's release. Most gigs are likely to be solo, but we hope to have some gigs with some of the musicians who worked on the recordings. Dates so far (solo unless noted) are shown on the Gigs page, with more to be announced.

(Added 27th March 2016)


A five-CD career retrospective box set, plus a 64-page booklet, entitled "A Reasonable History of Impossible Demands" is released by PM Press of California and available in this country from 12th February, distribution by Discovery Records.

The life and times (so far!) of the UK’s greatest living songwriter are captured in a deluxe box set. 92 songs on 5 CDs with a 64-page booklet. A career retrospective traversing the acoustic and the electric, the agit-folk and the chanson, the greatest hits and a welter of unreleased material.

“So - yeah, this collection does have quite a lot of politics and protest, lots of songs doing what folk song is supposed to do – provide an alternative ordinary person’s perspective to the dominant culture’s hegemonic discourse, its spin and propagandising on behalf of the interests of the ruling class. But there are also interpersonal songs about relationships, about being a son, being a lover, being a dad (think I may not have had room for the ones about being a Brentford supporter), above all about being a human … what you have here is part journal, part diary, part testament.”
—Robb Johnson

(Added 1st February 2016, updated 12th February)


Excellent news - the deadline for crowdfunding via Kickstarter for this CD has passed, and the target has been reached - so it is all systems go with the CD, which will be released in November. More information here.

(Added on 24th July 2015, updated 1st February 2016)


Robb is planning a double solo CD of his performance, song and spoken word, of his acclaimed song suite "Gentle Men", a family history of WW1 and its consequences, recorded live at Wigan Parish Church recently. The project can only go ahead if at least £1400 is pledged by 7th July 2015. You can pledge any amount from £1 upwards, but anybody who pledges £20 or more will receive a signed copy of the double CD album, plus three postcards of the cover image (exclusive to Kickstarter).

Robb's last Kickstarter project, to fund the production of the CD "Here Goes Nothing", was a great success; and now you are invited to contribute to this next project. You are only asked to pledge a contribution, and no money is taken from your card unless and until the full funding for the project is achieved.


This CD, available from 9th March, features not only Robb but also many others including Matt Abbott, Attila the Stockbroker, Banner Theatre, Billy Bragg, The Black Lamps, Blaggers ITA, Blossoms, Cambodia, Chris Evans Collective, Chris T-T, Chumbawamba, Steve Drewett, Paul Heaton, The Hurriers, Jethro Platts, Joe Solo, Jon Langford, Louise Distras, The Movement, New Model Army, The Oppressed, Grace Petrie, Pitman Poet, Quiet Loner, Sleaford Mods, TV Smith, Terry and Dead, Thee Concerned Citizens, Thee Faction, Tony Walsh, Steve White and the Protest Family and Wilde Sammon. All profits go to the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign. And if you buy an Enemy Within T-shirt from them, you get the CD free!

(Added 28th February 2015)


The latest CD from Robb and the Irregulars, "Here Goes Nothing", will be released on Monday 4th May. It comes as either a regular CD, or as a CD and vinyl LP pairing. There will also be a new T-shirt available at gigs. More information (such as backstories for the songs) will be added as and when it becomes available.

This is the first record funded via Kickstarter, and it has been a huge success, with the costs oversubscribed. All the goodies which have been earned by those who have pledged money will be sent out in March, when it all turns up from the factory.

The tracklist is:

  • Here Goes Nothing
  • Autumn Song
  • North By Northeast
  • Yellow House
  • The Rose and Crown
  • Big Man Waiting For His Train
  • The Ghost Dance
  • The Magic Tonight

Many of the tracks last about five minutes, which is why it is an eight-track album, so the vinyl quality remains really good.The Irregulars on this album are:

  • John Forrester,bass
  • Arv Johnson, drums
  • Linze Maesterosa, sax
  • Roger Stevens, Keyboards,
  • with guest violin from Attila the Stockbroker on Big Man, the song for our friend Roy Chuter.

(Added 21st February 2015)


For Record Store Day this year (the third Saturday in April, which will be 18th April) Robb has produced a 7" single "Cheap and Cheerful" / "At the Top of this Wheel". This record is not a single taken from the album "Here Goes Nothing", but it comes from the same recording sessions, and features Robb & the Irregulars in relatively cheery knees-up mode, just the sort of thing you want from a 7" single. So support your local record shop - it's a matter of use it or lose it! (Updated 21st February 2015)


Two new MP3s, "Make Believe" and "When my Grandfather Played Football", will be released on 15th December 2014. They are available for pre-order - see more details. (Added 1st November 2014)


Mike Harding notified us that he was including one of Robb's songs - "Banks of England" from "Us and Them" - on his weekly podcast. It is available in the Podcast Archive as Podcast No. 89.


Two photos from the Tolpuddle Martyrs' Festival in July 2014 (taken by Jess Hurd), and two from Sidmouth Folk Week in August 2014 (taken by Chris Knight).

Tolpuddle - photo by Jess Hurd

Tolpuddle - photo by Jess Hurd


Sidmouth - photo by Chris Knight

Sidmouth - photo by Chris Knight


Released at the end of July 2014, "Us & Them" is a new acoustic album of contemporary folk songs firmly engaged with the realities of not-so-Merrie Olde Condemned Englande... songs about getting up in the morning and getting on with it, shopping centres and food banks, yuppified pubs and barefoot kids, the centenary of the outbreak of the disaster that was supposed to be the war to end all wars, the disaster that is supposed to be the Minister for Education Michael Gove, drunks and railway stations, Boris Johnson and UKIP, Terry French and the Miners’ Strike, and a celebration of the life of Bob Crow... a tender, bleak, angry, humane, bitter, witty and undefeated album, recorded as live as possible to make sure it sounds like it means it.

Read more about this record in the Catalogue Section.

(1st June 2014, updated 16th August 2014)


This two-song vinyl single features Robb Johnson solo, and was released on 20th April 2013, Record Store Day, supporting independent local record retailers.

You can read all about this record and how it came about in the Catalogue section.

(19th February 2014)

"NO GODS, NO MASTERS" DOUBLE DVD - Robb Johnson and Leon Rosselson

In this glorious two-DVD set, Britain’s finest living songwriters are captured live (on tour in Berkeley, California), presenting two nights of their original songs, words, and inimitable performance.

Turning Silence into Song (Disc One) showcases a pair of career-spanning “greatest hits”, with a suitable sprinkling of new and previously unreleased material. All introduced and contextualized with a large helping of trademark wit and dry irony.

The Liberty Tree (Disc Two) tells the story of Tom Paine’s extraordinary life, interweaving Paine’s own words, from his letters and the pamphlets which made him one of the most influential and dangerous writers of his age, with extracts from newspaper reports, diaries, letters, and other documents of the times. The songs of Robb Johnson and Leon Rosselson add another dimension to the story, reflecting Paine’s radical ideas and evaluating them in the context of the 21st century. This unique blend of words and music challenges received opinion in the same way Paine’s writings did.

Together, herein you’ll find over four hours of the finest contemporary songs, stories, humour, and observation from the greatest practitioners of the craft.

Buy the No Gods No Masters double DVD from Four Dogs Music now!

(1st December 2013 updated 6th January 2014)


Brighton & Hove NUT have got a hardship fund to support teachers for whom striking causes particular financial problems. Robb has recorded a CD-EP of six Gove-related songs, all proceeds of which will go to the hardship fund. The songs, all new recordings, are: "Who Was That Man?", a new version of "Oliver Twist", "Charlie", a revised "Cream of the Nation", an acoustic version of "Rupert Says", and "Ho Ho Ho PLC". Cost is minimum £7, cheques made payable to "Brighton and Hove Teachers' Association NUT" , plus a couple of first class stamps for postage - and remember to say where to send it! Send your order to R Johnson, PO Box 5143, Hove BN52 9FT. You can also e-mail to reserve a copy if you like. 

(17th October 2013)


Even more limited-edition than Robb's vinyl records are these Fairtrade black-and-white T-shirts, celebrating both the release of "Happily Ever After" and the very influential activist of the 1960s, '70s and '80s, Abbie Hoffman - see picture below. Available in sizes XXL, XL, M and S at a cost of £20, these T-shirts can be bought at Robb's gigs, or by mail order from


Robb's song "When Tottenham Burned" won FATEA's "Song of 2011" award. In thanking them, Robb says, "I am pleased that this song has been honoured with the FATEA award. I would hope that the song presents a truer understanding of these events than you find in the mouths of politicians and the media. That is, after all, one of the main functions of folk song."


Praise for Robb Johnson’s solo acoustic album “Some Recent Protest Songs” (IRR080):

“impressive … thoughtful and personal stories of squandered hopes, and laments for a divided Britain” (The Guardian)

“a perfect record for the times” (R2)

“funny, moving and inspiring” (The Morning Star)

“Robb’s typically literate, quirkily individual songs genuinely entertain” (Properganda)


Yes, Robb has succumbed to the 21st Century and now has a Facebook Presence. Marvel at it at You don't even have to be logged in to see it!


Robb now has his own page on the "Waking the Muse" blog on the Properganda web site! See


 Tim Sanpher  The Irregulars is now a twin-guitar, bass and drums line-up, with the superb Tim Sanpher on guitar along with Robb. Bass and drums is the magnificently formidable Forrester and Waygood partnership. Our dear friend and comrade in racket Roger Watson remains our melodeon player, even though since suffering a stroke last June, he is no longer able to play. The band recently recorded 16 tracks for a forthcoming Irregulars album, probably likely to be titled "Happily Ever After" and released some time in the autumn. At the moment, we're not sure what format(s) we'll release the album in...

Without Roger, there is not even the fig-leaf of melodeon-flavoured fFolke Respectability, so we're not sure where or how we're going to promote it. One lunatic idea is to release the album on vinyl, just for the hell of it, and on download through Proper (Proper aren't too keen on handling vinyl). We'd welcome your views on this - email

We are starting to mix the album on July 3rd; already it sounds... very noisy and pretty awesome. If you can help us find some gigs in the autumn, that would be appreciated - again, email us at At the moment, we have a world tour that takes in Leighton Buzzard, Stockwell and Ghent...

(Added 23rd June 2011. Photos by Charlie Waygood)


Now available: "Now That's What I call Garage" by the SC4 (South Coast Four) - Robb's son Arvin Johnson on drums, Robb Johnson on bass, Graham Larkbey on guitar and vocals and Tim Sanpher on lead guitar. A thoroughly excellent collection of ten songs, the sort of stuff that powered pubrock into punk - a tenner plus postage. Unmissable - Chuck Berry meets Bob Dylan. "I Fought the Law" meets "Gloria" and "Peace Love & Understanding" - plus some Larkbey and Johnson numbers too. E-mail for details.

(Added 28th April 2011)

Aficionados of righteous racket will also enjoy "No Future", the Released Emotions CD of classic punk Sex Pistols, Clash and Damned songs performed by the likes of The Price, Blaggers ITA, Attila, Steve Drewett, with Robb providing an acoustic guitar version of "Thanks for the Night". Contact if you fancy one for a tenner.

(Added 26th June 2011)


That excellent on-line music magazine "Caught in the Act" on the "Stick It In Your Ear" web site includes another article about Robb in its March 2011 edition! You will find it at Focussing on the Man Walks Into a Pub CD and tour, it includes some of the information also to be found on this web site, but adds a brand-new Tour Diary written by Robb as he went along, which starts at . Don't stop when you get to the end of that - there's more! An interview with Geoff Wall starts at And there are even two or three introductory paragraphs at

If that still leaves you panting for more, take a look at the article which they published in May 2010.

(Added 27th April 2011)


A recording of the acclaimed "Liberty Tree" song-and-spoken-word story of the life and times of Tom Paine, written by Leon Rosselson and performed by Robb and Leon. A superb two-CD set of radical thinking, topped off with Leon and Robb's songs and some of Tom Paine's favourite jokes. Released by PM Press, and available at gigs or through PM Press, PO Box 23912, Oakland, CA 94623 | 510-658-3906 | Or buy "The Liberty Tree" from Amazon with free postage!

(Added 13th December 2010)


The excellent on-line music magazine "Caught in the Act" on the "Stick It In Your Ear" web site includes in its May 2010 edition a long and detailed article about Robb, which you can read at (It's nearly fifty pages long! - so don't overlook the "next page" blue triangle at the bottom left corner of each page.) There are also a couple of introductory paragraphs at

T-SHIRTS: Margaret Thatcher, my part in her downfall

Now available: striking new T-shirts. The design below is printed on white T-shirts, which are available in sizes XXL, XL, M and S, at a cost of £10 + £2 p&p. Order yours by e-mailing, or save on the p&p by buying yours at one of Robb's gigs.

 T-shirt image

(Added 6th July 2009, updated 5th August 2009)


This photo (click on the thumbnail to see a much larger version) was taken by Milan Svanderlik. If you use it, please credit it to him. (Added 4th April 2017)

Robb Johnson in 2017.  Photo by Milan Svanderlik



These photos were taken at Trowbridge on 25th July 2009 (for which many thanks to photographer Claire Pullinger), but being several years ago they are no longer suitable for publicity purposes. Click on any of them to see a much larger version. There are more of Claire's photos of the occasion at

Also, follow this link for some band photos taken in May 2008.

The current membership of The Irregulars is (in addition to Robb himself, of course):

Naomy Browton, cello
John Forrester, bass and b/vox
Roger Watson, melodeon and harmonica (though missing in Germany when these photos were taken)
Charlie Waygood, drums

 Robb Johnson

 Robb Johnson   Charlie

  Naomy   John

Robb Johnson & The IrregularsOther publicity photographs:
Robb Johnson (photo by Hari Johnson)
Robb Johnson & The Irregulars
Most of The Irregulars
Saskia & Roger
Robb & Paul
Robb & John

These publicity shots are large images which open in a new window. Photo credits: Guy Smallman.