Robyn Rowan Hitchcock on March 3, 1953 in London, England
Though one of the quieter, less flashy representatives of post-punk and early alternative rock, England's Robyn Hitchcock deserves much credit for the mark he left on the '80s pop/rock landscape. Starting off as frontman of The Soft Boys, a seminal punk rock-inspired cult band distinguished by its tasteful touches of psychedelia, Hitchcock matured into an eclectic, accomplished singer-songwriter of the highest order. Releasing seven studio albums across the decade (including four with his backing band The Egyptians), Hitchcock earned a prominent spot among '80s music legends.
Early Years - The Soft Boys:
Beginning his career in the mid '70s as a folk music singer-songwriter, Hitchcock used his Cambridge base to recruit bandmates for The Soft Boys, a punk-inspired guitar pop band that formed in 1976. However, the group drew far more from psychedelia and a celebration of the weird than the more aggressive, simplistic approach of most punk bands. Much like other brilliant rock outfits, the group broke up almost immediately upon the 1980 release of its elegant masterpiece, Underwater Moonlight, but that simply cleared the path for Hitchcock as a visionary cult solo artist, a role he would come to exemplify.
Initial Solo Efforts:
Hitchcock released three albums during the first half of the '80s as a straight-up solo artist, laboring to find his sound, one distinct from his former band. Following 1984's I Often Dream of Trains, Hitchcock returned to a full band structure to showcase his songwriting. The Egyptians included two former Soft Boys in Andy Metcalfe and Morris Windsor, but Hitchcock had by now forged a thoughtful singer-songwriter approach that was both more mature and less showy about its basic weirdness. 1985's Fegmania! began this new phase of Hitchcock's career quite nicely.
'Element of Light' & Near Stardom:
Hitchcock and the band released their follow-up, Element of Light, in 1986, and at this point the artist had perfected a mellow but challenging take on melodic guitar rock. Based on his classic yet distinctive vocal style, a spotlight track such as "Airscape" also exhibits an ethereal beauty always found in Hitchcock's measured, complex compositions. Some MTV exposure and modern rock radio airplay followed, but Hitchcock's insistence on exploring surrealistic imagery and a variety of thematic quirks on songs like "Balloon Man" helped prevent the widespread popularity of 1988's Globe of Frogs.
Continuing Career & Growing Reputation:
Despite never reaching the promised land of college rock or alternative rock visibility, Robyn Hitchcock remains a moderately familiar but highly revered figure in the world of off-kilter rock music. Part of this can be attributed to the quality and craftsmanship of the artist's songwriting, but it also hasn't hurt that Hitchcock has continued to produce studio albums at a remarkably consistent rate. Five albums during the '90s and another four during the first decade of the new millennium have maintained a healthy presence in music for Hitchcock and also deepened a very worthy music catalogue.