Steve Roberts has one of rock & roll’s most underrated and essentially unknown voices. Although the soulful singer/songwriter is recognized in his hometown of Liverpool, England, mass exposure is something he has yet to achieve. Like his friend Peter Coyle of the Lotus Eaters, Roberts is an example of a critic’s favourite who is perhaps too subtle and soft-spoken to be heard above the din of commercial rubbish. He began his musical career in 1981, posting an ad on a notice board, in search of a band that shared his Jam and Kinks influences. Through it, he was introduced to bassist Tony Elliott. The two became friends and attempted to form a group called Total Action. However, the buddies weren’t able to find new members. Elliott then joined Sebastian’s Men while Roberts was added to In Dangerous Rhythm. Neither band was successful, and Roberts and Elliott met again in 1984. They started rehearsing at the Ministry in Liverpool when Elliott joined Steve’s band 16 Tambourines, named after the album by Three O’Clock. Through 16 Tambourines Roberts found a vehicle for his smooth, unpretentious vocals. From 1985 to 1986, Roberts sang at over 100 16 Tambourines gigs, which were gaining positive word of mouth. The group was eventually signed to Arista Records and released one LP, How Green Is Your Valley?, in 1990. 16 Tambourines were compared to other Liverpool acts such as the Christians and Black, but they were really without peer, open to unfashionable cocktail jazz and blue-eyed soul touches that created a timeless feel. However, their label didn’t see a future with the band and abruptly dumped them. Suddenly orphaned, 16 Tambourines collapsed, leaving Roberts and Elliott to keep the torch burning as The Tambourines releasing a number of guitar heavy singles on indie labels. The Tambourines temporarily reformed for a number of gigs between 2014 and 2016. After the Tambourines broke up, Roberts decided to go solo. He created the Acoustic Engine a network of gigs for singer songwriters and working with members of the Lightning Seeds and The La’s released It Just Is in 2001, receiving a Mercury Award nomination. In 2005 he released a second solo album Shake it Make it and Don’t Fake It and followed it quickly with an album from a new band Captain Pop which reunited him with a couple of former 16 Tambourines.
Steve moved away from Liverpool in 2008 to the Derbyshire town of Glossop where once he found his feet, he established himself in the area’s musical community getting involved in organising gigs and festivals along with writing songs for short films and stage plays. He received a nomination for best original writing at 2016 Buxton Fringe Festival for his show Spy Songs and Stories inspired by the Cold War and released 2 EPs of music to coincide. He also released an upbeat power pop style EP titled When We Dreamed We Dreamed of Dreams.
With songwriter Matt Hill, Steve has written 2 songs for a play about the longest strike by women ever undertaken in the UK. The play is called ‘Striking Feet’ written by Leslie Oldfield and the 2 songs are ‘Always Fighting the Last War’ and ‘We Haven’t Got much at All’. The play premiers in Spring 2020 and there’ll be more news on this soon.
Steve is undertaking an Arts Council funded project called the Life of Books, writing songs and developing a show about our love for books. More details can be found on the Blog pages. Ten new songs have been written and will be released later in 2020.
In November 2019, 16 Tambourines reformed and played a sold out show in Liverpool. Plans are underway to play more gigs and record a new album. News on this will be available soon!
Thanks to Michael Sutton at ALL MUSIC for much of this biography.