the works of Robert Calvert

- part IV: 1981 > '83 -

"Songwriting is like any other task of making something -
it's a very boring process. (...) It's like laying eggs -
a lot of squawking before a final shape arrives." - R.C.

This list of Calvert's works is broken up into six parts.
This part [ IV ] includes the works from '81 to '83.

jump straight to part I / II / III / V / VI

... roll down to explore part IV ...

1981 - SONIC ASSASSINS - Ep. w. the Sonic Assassins / HW

These tracks were recorded on Christmas Eve 1977 - Calvert and Brock formed a short-lived side project of Hawkwind for this, featuring Harvey Bainbridge on bass and Paul Hayles on keyboards.
Calvert hesitated to perform during these days, as he felt yet again an upcoming manic-or-depressive tension. Eventually he showed up in full combat dress; obsessed, as he was during that time, with the iconography of the First World War. Straight out of this state of mind came the highlight of this performance - the improvised Over the Top. At first Calvert recites his poem The Awakening - then wanders, as he is improvising the lyrics, through some haunting World-War I imagery. Truly a piece of instant on-the-spot-poetry. The 'White Feather' he refers to, is traditionally a sign of cowardice. Young ladies gave them to young men, not seen in uniform yet, to brand them as 'chicken' - so that they would have to join up if they were to impress them. Calvert ends the song with a sudden, chilling "Goodbye, genocide."
This Ep. was re-released by Anagram on CD-FORMAT in 1992 as 'Mighty Hawkwind Classics' - the CD features three other Hawkwind Ep.`s - without Calvert, unfortunately. Though there are better live-versions of Free Fall and Death Trap around, Over the Top is worth the whole album.
> More infos on the SONIC ASSASSINS period.
> Read some memories on this gig and the Sonic Assassins period by Paul Hayles - who played keyboards in this line-up and for Hawkwind as well.
Over the Top / Free Fall / Death Trap
(animation w. sound)

                                        an electronic musical for the cybernetic age

'Will Brad Spark, private eye of the cybernetic age, solve the mystery of the murdering micros?'
Though this project is among the more unknown of the many works of Calvert, it is certainly among the very best - and WAY ahead of it's time.
So: Time to bring into the fore - hence I've decided to set up an extensive 'special' on THE KID - feat. notes on the performance and it's performers, an outline of the play and it's plot - in 6 parts incl. excerpts from the original script, sound files and animations, lyric-pages for each of the featured songs [see below] - these are also feat. sound-files of the original backing-tracks and performance recordings - all of this accompanied by photos from the original staging of the play in London, April 1981. A lot of this material can be seen and heard here for the first time.
>> You best start from HERE.

The Kid from Silicon Gulch / Silicon Tronic/Neurotic Blues / Why Can't the World be Run by Machines? / A Day Called X / On the Case / How Can You Call Me a Pig? / Stay Cool, Hang Loose / Back It Up / Living Alone / The Legend of Ned Ludd [click HERE for an animated version of the original recording]


early 80's- Cabaret Shows

Mostly in 1981 and 1982 - following his outstanding electronic-musical THE KID FROM SILICON GULCH - Calvert staged a couple of shows that were announced under the Cabaret "label".
For one of these shows he also used the word "KRANKSCHAFT" for the first time - a term/word he also used later on for some line-ups of his backing-band. I assume he took the english "crankshaft" and re-coined or fused it with the German "Krank" - which simply means to be ill. In any case an oddly sounding and yet a rather distinct amalgam.
The KRANKSCHAFT CABARET and other shows (Quark, Strangeness and Charm / 14 Days of pure HYPE o.a.) featured - again - a highly original mixture of elements: songs, sketches, poems, stand-up compedy pieces and - of course a great deal of instant, on-the-spot and in-your-face improvisation. With his inborn-sense of humour, his lust for word-plays, his rapid ways of thinking and and associations-apparatus under full-throttle it was quite a live-experience... and even from the very few audio-recordings in existence, one can imagine that these performances must have been a fascinating experience, not only seeing an artist at work, but also seeing his his thoughts and wits working out this very minute.
As far as I know all these shows were performed in a couple small theatre and concert venues in London, like the Theatrespace or The Marquee club. Most of these Cabaret evening also featured some songs from THE KID FROM SILICON GULCH and again Calvert was backed up by the same team: Pete Pavli and Jill Riches (soon to become Jill Calvert...) who played in some sketches and did the backing or other lead-vocals. And like THE KID... all this was (or probably had to be) done on a very low budget - you could also say: in a strictly minimalist way. Which wasn't a bad thing at all, as Minimalism always appealed to Calvert. One of his favourite pieces was this brief explanation of some of the major art-form of the 20th century:
"Minimalism is art produced by people with absolutely no money.
Constructivism is produced by people with a little bit of money who have to built it all themselves.
Futurism is: It'll be allright on the night.

However, the CABARET level is kind of misleading in regard to the extreme variety of moods and formats these shows contained. Listening to the recordings one can tell that the biggest part of the audiences surely came for the ex-lead-singer of Hawkwind - expecting mostly some kind of a rock-music related event. Of course they were sympathetic to everything Calvert delievered, but it were definitely the songs they wanted to hear the most - even if the music came from a big reel-to-reel machine, placed prominently on the stage - with Calvert "only" singing the vocals live.
This, however - and fortunately - did not prevent him from also delivering some of his more "serious" poems like "The Red Baron Regrets" or "Cleaning a Rapidograph". Apart from those he also performed a number of poems that he never presented elsewhere like the brilliant lyrics he wrote for the world-famous TELSTAR tune or the hilarious persiflage BIG BAD GIRLS OF LONDON. (see the list of texts below.)
Besides these elements Calvert and his crew performed a couple of sketches from the CAPTAIN LOCKHEED album, on sketch based on his poem "CHURCHILLS SECRET ROCK DEAL" a.o.
The songs were a mix of solo-recordings - again a good couple from the LOCKHEED album - and a selecton of tracks he did with HAWKWIND - like Steppenwolf, Quark, Strangeness and Charm and Born to Go.
All in all: this was -again- quite an ambituous and kind-of-ahead-of-it's-time format - done on an extremly low-budget-level. ...and (yet) again - the tragic aspect: like with THE KID FROM SILICON GULCH no proper recordings of any of these shows seems to be in existence.
So, despite of the more than unsatisfying quality of these recordings I have put up some of them in a slightly illustrated format (incl. sound-files) - and the rest can be explored here for the first time in text-format - some of them with annexed audio-files of audience-recordings.
> HERE are some of the texts and lyrics (incl. soundfiles) that Calvert often featured in these shows:
The Little Bit that won't Lie Down [flash-animation] / Telstar / The Red Baron Regrets [flash-animation] / In Defense of the House of Lords / Big Bad Girls of London / The Dance of the 39 Steps / True Brit / England without the Times / Churchill's Secret Rock Deal [a sketch based on the poem w. the same title] / High Seas / Irish-Non-Rebel-Song - a.o.

HYPE - 'And now, for all you speeding street smarties out there, the one you've all been waiting for, the one that'll pierce your laid-back ears, decoke your sinuses, cut clean thru the schlock-rock, MOR/crossover, techno-flash mind mush. It's the new Number One with a bullet... It's Tom, Supernova, Mahler with a pan-galactic biggie...'
And the Hype goes on. And on...

HYPE, an amphetamine-hit of a story hy Hawkwind collaborator Robert Calvert. Who's been there and made it back again. The debriefing session starts here.
  1982 - HYPE - the novel
"The music may change but the Hype goes on."
HYPE was published in 1982 by the New English Library - and is out of print today.
Calvert on his novel: "HYPE focuses on the music business but it isn't based on my own experiences as such. It is derived obviously from stuff I picked up hanging around record companies. I've drawn characters who are recognizable types but not individuals from these experiences, but the story line of the book and the events in it are not based on my own experiences but are fiction.
The book describes what happens to a young band that is exploited by a record company and internal power struggles between two over-ambitious individuals, who use this band as an elaborate game of spy vs. spy.
I wanted it to be a comedy and had in mind doing it almost like PG. Woodhouse would might have written about the music business, had he known about it. I wanted to write about the music business in the late 70's the way he wrote about Hollywood in the 20's. Although the plot is very much a sort of fast moving thriller type it has got elements of black humour and sarcasm."
Read extended comments of Calvert on the HYPE project on the QUOTES pages.

> And another PREMIERE: read 'Overkill', the closing chapter of the HYPE novel - in which the 'hero' Tom Mahler gets killed onstage and his cunning ex-manager finally arrives in his dream-job position... to turn kinda moody... if only for an instant

1982 - HYPE - Lp
Calvert's first solo-record after his split from Hawkwind. Though this record came out of Calvert's novel by the same name, it was released first.
"This bloke Tom Mahler actually did become quite real to me at one point. I didn`t actually plan to do an album of the book until I was about a quarter of the way into it."
This is maybe his strangest recording while being the most mainstream one - probably because of it. Than again... the mainstream-ish tone is only the surface of the whole thing - the more or the deeper your listen to it, the more the whole concept of "mainstream" falls apart... - only this time this is mostly achieved via the lyrics, that "deconstruct" the whole music industry AND the idea of stardom itself...
HYPE is another concept - or rather a story-telling album circling around the novel's central character named Tom Mahler, it supposedly features the songs of Mahler's own band, who gets hyped by a cunning manager - mostly because of an ongoing internal rivalries amongst the excetutives of Mahler's record company. After all the money that has been pumped into the biggest hype-campaign fails to turn Mahler into the Pop-Hero of all times, and the career of Tony Cahn, the responsible executive, is endangered, the order is given to assassinate Mahler onstage. The exploitation of the inevitably following Mahler cult finally delievers the real big money.
Calvert's lyrics are sharp and witty as ever though some of the songs still remain a bit too mainstream-ish for my taste - like Calvert couldn't really make up his mind if he should go for the downright-pop-song-format or for it's parody. So, some songs seem to meander somewhere in between in re. to production and sound. Still, there are several very good and catchy tunes on it - e.g. 'The Luminous Green Glow...', 'Hanging out on the Seafront' or - in the new CD-edition: 'Lord of the Hornets' - originally released as a single appears here in a much better, 'punchy' version than the original single release. An album that gets better the more you listen to it - always a good sign, after all.
Amongst the musicians were: Simon House / Pete Pavli (adding once more some fabulous 'licks' on his cello) / George Csapo / Michael Moorcock / Nik Turner (with one of the dirtiest sax-solos ever heard) / Trev Thoms a.o.
There were also 2-3 performances of a stage show version of HYPE - rumourous reports said they were fairly chaotic and I also read a truly devastating review somewhere - for these or other mysterious reasons all the other shows got cancelled.
> More of Calvert's comments on HYPE on the QUOTES pages.
>>> a little world premiere: - listen to COULDN'T GO ON - an UNRELEASED TRACK from the HYPE session.
Over my Head / Ambitious / It's the Same / Hanging out on the Seafront / Sensitive / Evil Rock / We Like to be Frightened / Teen Ballad of Deano / Flight 105 / The Luminous Green Glow of the Dials of the Dashboard (at Night) / The Greenfly and the Rose / Lord of the Hornets

1982 -

Lp / w. Hawkwind

A compilation featuring tracks of Hawkwind and other related bands and musicians. Calvert appears on 'Golden Void' and a furious live-version of Robot - better than the original one from PXR5, featuring a frenzy, almost violin solo by Simon House turning into sheer white noise with Calvert paraphrasing, trance-like and threatening, Asimov's three laws of Robotics, which are: 1/ a robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. 2/ a robot must obey the orders given it by humans except where such orders would conflict with the first law. 3/ a robot must protect it's own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the 1st and 2nd law.
The picture was taken in 1977 during the QUARK... tour - the bands best period.

1982 - FRIENDS AND RELATIONS II - Lp / w. Hawkwind

Another compilation gathered from misc. HW tracks and other bands circling in the Hawkwind orbit. Calvert appears only on one track with HW - a splendid live version of Spirit of the Age from 1977.


Lp / with The Imperial Pompadours
- aka. Inner City Unit

The first side features a collection of various Inner City Unit songs - pure punkadelic cover versions of a wide and weird range of songs. ICU was a band which was then featuring Hawkwind's co-founder Nik Turner.
The - I dare to say - 'concept' behind the first side of this record was conceived by Barney Bubbles, the late sleeve designer for Hawkwind and later on for the famous 'Stiff' label. He approached the band with a number of songs which he played to them only once and then asked them to do cover versions from them...
If these results were already quite strange, they are mainstream compared to the utter weirdness AND complexity of the album's b-side... - on which Mr. Calvert appears. It's difficult to find out who did what on this track - but I guess it's safe to expect that Calvert did most of the lyrics and montage --- and a great piece of a soundmontage it is!! -

Calvert only appears on the second side - a strange and sinister sound and text collage about Mr. Hitler and his Third Reich dreams - resp. the genocide nightmares that arose from them.
Mysterious and satirical / cynical texts -at least some of them are taken out of 'Mein Kampf' - in combination with some Wagner recordings and a bit of almost Beefheartian-jamming in the background.
This collage spreads over the entire B-side and is nicely entitled 'Insolence Across the Nation'.
- If I remember correctly, Nik Turner told me that this was actually all recorded in his living room....

Later on Calvert recruited Steve Pond and Fred 'Dead Fred' Reeves from ICU for his own backing band - mostly appearing under his favourite band's name 'Krankschaft' - sometimes also as 'Maximum Effect'.
> NEW: the complete transcription of the INSOLENCE ACROSS THE NATION lyrics - incl. soundbits and illustrations. A wild ride into the abyss of the infamous third Reich...
> Find out more about ICU on the CollabRelations pages and on Steve Ponds ICU homepage.
> Read an in-depth review of the ERSATZ album on Julian Cope's 'Head-Heriatage' website 


This compilation features Calvert's Widow's Song - obviously a remnant from his 1st solo record
CAPTAIN LOCKHEED AND THE STARFIGHTERS - it was probably taken from the record shortly
before it's release as the lyrics do still appear in the booklet, but the song has vanished from the record...
- this version - released here for the first time - has been recorded with the tracks for Calvert's forthcoming solo album entitled "Freq" - the vocals on this track were performed by his wife Jill Calvert.
Again a wonderful tune, wrapped in Calvert's sarcastic, yet subtly humorous lyrics. (picture is taken from a promo-photo session for the Lockheed album).
> see and listen to an animated version of The Widow Song.

- go to PART V
works pt. I / II / III / V / VI
biography   words / lyrics
quotes   collab-relations
R.C. & Hawkwind   Mike Moorcock
the world on Calvert   the spirit behind
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