the works of Robert Calvert

- part V: 1984 > '87 -

"I used to enjoy sitting in churchyards and reading
Verlaine, Keats, Shelley, Dylan Thomas. - God, I was naive!
I thought you could make a living as a poet!"
- R.C.

This list of Calvert's works is broken up into six parts.
This part [ 5 ] includes the works from '84 to '87.

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

... roll down to explore part V ...

1984 - FREQ - Lp / CD

Calvert's first solo-release after two years - a very good - and a kind of it's own once again. With FREQ he developed and established his minimalistic style. Sparse but intense rhythm and synth patterns - which he already employed in his 'electronic musical' The Kid from Silicon Gulch - set the general tone of the album. In fact the song 'on the infamous machine-crusher and 'founder' of the luddite movement 'Ned Ludd' from 'The Kid...' appears on FREQ in a new version.
The album was inspired and dealt for a good part with the then ongoing miner strikes in Britain which caused a heavy controversy amongst the British public - the outcome of which Margaret Thatcher finally used to smash the worker's unions to pieces. Calvert and various other musicians (Billy Bragg, The Redskins a.o.) took sides with the worker's, played benefit gigs - and finally released FREQ. Another sign of his interest and engagement in current social / political affairs - just a remark for everyone who wants to categorize Mr. Calvert as an artist who was 'only' obsessed with futuristic ideas. In fact, Calvert has been described by his wife Jill as 'a luddite with a fascination for new technologies'.
Interspersed between the songs are various speeches and original recordings of some demonstrations and talks amongst the workers. One of those actually features Calvert in conversation with them - describing Mrs. Thatcher nice, briefly and rather accurate as "Hitler without a moustache".
Highlights are the gloomy 'Acid Rain' and the brooding, yet beautiful 'The Cool Courage of Bomb Squad Officers'.
> Read an essay by THOMAS PYNCHON (author of 'Gravity's Rainbow') - a contemporary view on the luddite attitude: 'Is it O.K. to be a Luddite?'
TRACKS: Ned Ludd [illustrated + sound] / Acid Rain / All the Machines are Quiet / Standing on the Picket Line / The Cool Courage of Bomb Squad Officers / Work Song / - the new release by Cleopatra also features:
Lord of the Hornets / The Greenfly and the Rose -- in between all songs are "Talk" sequences.

CD / w. Hawkwind

A recording of a Hawkwind concert from May 1973, London / Wembley - though the cover states -obviously wrong- 1976. The sound quality isn't quite overwhelming - but this album features several vocal and some rare poetry performances by Calvert: the powerful and evocative In the Egg and the threatening 'Wage War', both showing Calvert in his best, menacing form - furthermore a rare live performance of Urban Guerilla, the follow up single to Silver Machine - and actually a much better song.
This recording also shows how much Calvert was involved with the band and how his appearences in fact coined the general style of the performances during this period. More and more of his poetry & sound performances were integrated in the gigs and Calvert took over on vocals for various songs - for a little while he became (for the first time) the band's lead-singer - however, a little later Calvert withdraw from the band to concentrate on his solo-album Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters. Even if the quality of the recording is far from perfect it is worthwile having for these rare Calvert performances and as a document for one of Hawkwind's best periods in the band's long / ongoing history.
Gaga / In the Egg (flash-animations) / Orgone Accumulator (illustrated) / Wage War / Urban Guerilla / Master of the Universe / Welcome to the Future (flash-animation) / Sonic Attack / Silver Machine
---- actually there are LOTs of different Hawkwind releases from that period around, but I am really too tired to look out for all of them...


Calvert's last solo-album. Another highlight in his career. And minimalism is again the basic musical concept. 'Thanks to the Scientists' is yet another example for his excellent feel for simple yet hauntingly beautiful melodies, combined to more than eerie subjects...
Genetics became one of the obsessive subjects in the later part of Calvert's life, which is thoroughly documented on this record. But TTC is also a proof for his ongoing preoccupation with other sorts of new technologies - their development, consequences and manifestations in the society and everyday life.
Gene manipulation, vivisection, telekinesis, love-robots (that's what we are struggling with everyday, don't we? - well, soon we will.); one song even deals with the then futuristic life-form of being 'On-Line' - which is now, exactly 11 years later, THE hot global subject.
Musicians on this album and on the following tour were: Dave Anderson (former Amon Düül and Hawkwind) / Martin Holdcraft / Brian Snelling a.o.
> Read a comment of Calvert on genetic engineering and new technologies on the QUOTES pages.
Hear + view a flash-animated version of the title track.
In Vitro Breed / The Rah Rah Man / Telekinesis / I hear Voices / Fanfare for the Perfect Race (Instrumental) / On Line / Save them from the Scientists / Fly on the Wall / Thanks to the Scientists / Test Tube Conceived [illustrated + sound]

1986 - TEST TUBE BABY OF MINE - a comedy in two acts

a relearsal scene from TTBOMOut of 'Test Tube Conceived' evolved Calvert's next play 'Test Tube Baby of Mine', which premiere-performance he also co-directed. It is a black comedy about genetic engineering - again a subject which becomes more and more important theses days...
A brief summary:
Virginia and Peter, research biologists, genetically engineer their own superhuman baby for the public acclaim and the Nobel-golden glory of scientific laurels (i.e. to finally appear on the Sunday Times Color Sup). However, as a result of a series of mishaps, the embryo is implanted into Carol, a working-class woman from Penge (a blue-collar district in South London). Unaware of the mix-up, Carol and her equally dumbwitted husband Brian, raise the child as their own. Fourteen years elapse before Peter and Virginia discover the genetic mix-up. Peter goes to Carol and Brian's home, where he reveals the true identity of the superhuman child. Unfortunately, the reunion doesn't turn out as he's expecting...
One of the special twists of this black comedy: Both couples are played by the same actor and actress.
This play is going to be re-staged soon in London and in New York by Ghislaine Nichols, who also played the female characters in the premiere production. This version will be extended and revised according to Calvert's own ideas for a re-writing by author/actor Isidore Elias. Performances in London will probably also include some of Calvert's songs fom the 'Test-Tube' period.
And here's another premiere:
> Read more infos on TEST TUBE BABY OF MINE - and two excerpts from the script

[i.e. the new version - a posthumous collaboration btw. Calvert and Isidore Elias]

1987 / 1992 - The Cellar Tapes 1 & 2 - cassettes

These tapes were released on Calverts own mail-order label. They are containing a collection of demo-recordings for the FREQ and TEST TUBE CONCEIVED albums, produced on his home equipment. Furthermore there are some songs which never made it onto an official album release - yet. Some of them were very probably meant to appear on the next record - like 'Radio Egypt' and 'Working Down a Diamond Mine', which were already part of the concert's play-list. The latter one again focuses on the subject of SOUTH-AFRICA - a theme that Calvert was haunted by throughout his life - always carrying with him a certain feeling of guilt - having been born there, having his parents and brother there... - read also his poem White Dynasty on this matter and another comment of Calvert on his personal situation in regard to South Africa on the QUOTES pages.
Apart from 2 of these tracks both tapes were later on released on CD format under the title
Blueprints from the Cellar on BGO records (see next chapter of WORKS).
> Read Calvert's comments on these tracks on the QUOTES pages. - Tracklist: see the CD-release

1987 - THE EARTH RITUAL - poems

The last collection of his poetry works that Calvert published - again via his own "Harbour" publications.
As the title indicates the perspective of these poems is somewhat more down to earth - the subjects of technology and futurism are stepping in the background.
Calvert describes and celebrates the (hidden) earthly secrets which his poetic perception unravels in his nearest personal surroundings: landscapes, day to day objects... He has the ability to find all the wonders, hidden layers and connotations he once found in the matters of outer space in the English / Kent-ish countryside or even in his domestic surrounding. Once again proving his original and often surprising ways of perception.
However, the -in my unhumble opinion- best poem of this volume is quite atypical among this selection of poems - due to it's distinct biographical background - something that Calvert very rarely employed (openly) in his works. White Dynasty is an outstanding, dense description of Calvert's highly ambiguous feelings about his birthplace South Africa and his current relationship to his parents and brother, who were, at the time, still living in SA.
As it often happened, Calvert also used this poem as a part of his song-lyrics. Sadly, due to his early death, the song exists only as a demo-track [presumed title: Sanctions] - still, the intensity comes right through. It's a - so far - unreleased track, but you can listen to a piece of it on the illustrated White Dynasty page.
> Read a statement of Calvert on this collection on the Quotes pages and find a broad selection of those poems on the WORDS pages.

- go to PART VI
works pt. I / II / III / IV / VI
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