'Will Brad Spark, private eye of the cybernetic age, solve the mystery of the murdering micros?'

THE KID FROM SILICON GULCH must be regarded as one of the highlights among Calvert's rich creative output - in re. to 'form' and 'content'.
The play had it's premiere performance on the 28th of April 1981 at the Theatrespace, London
Let's face it: Who, in the year 1981, had an idea of how computers work, what a *network* can - or rather: could do, what words like *mainframe*, *motherboard* or *baud-rate* actually mean? And even if you'd find those very few - who on earth would have been able to transform this knowledge into a contemporary, witty and musically-up-to-date stageshow... on a very low-budget level?

Calvert wrote, co-directed and performed the lead-character BRAD SPARK in THE KID... - accompanied on stage by Pete Pavli, his (to-become-) wife Jill Riches and a few very minimalistic props, *acting* as the nasty killer-computers.

The play/musical is actually a persiflage of the sort of Chandler-ish film-noir-like detective story, based in the milieu of computer hackers - some of them rich, some of them dubious, others highly extravagant, to say the least. But there's much more to it - Calvert spiced the story with a wide selection of his favorite topics: telepathy, conspiracy theories, new technologies, gender-problems in the digital ages...

Brad Spark is the typical lone-wolf Bogart-type of a private detective - only on this case he's not hunting down any organic life-form but fighting against some cunning digital computer brain. Or is he not? WHO is BEHIND this killing-WHAT, or this "Kilo-Watt", as ZYTE - Brad's own personal computer and main-force for logic and decuction - *jokingly' calls it (...all due to that darn second-hand humour-programme that Brad fed into him...)
Whatever this Who-or-What is, it's de-programming various computers in The Gulch so that they are killing their owners by vicious and dubious means: automatic cigar-cutters that, instead of cutting the tip off a Romeo-and-Juliet cigar, rip their users into bits, automatic garage doors that close on the heads of their owners (17 times!) ...
Well, who, or rather how are these computers? Remember Kubrick's HAL? Somehow like that one. Only nastier - and more eccentric.
Brad, aided by his trusty ZYTE, go through a real odyssey of traces, link-up's and dangerous, at times life-threatening adventures while being 'on the case'. And though Spark is doubtlessly the protagonist of this play, he has strong rivals in all the bizarre computer-characters [they ARE characters, these machines] that he meets and tries to question along the way... at times with the threatening aid of a screwdriver, pointing at the very heart of these reluctant suspects, their delicate motherboards...
Those scenes, in which Spark tries to press some 'data' out of them, are surely among the highlights of the play in terms of the sharpness and wit of the dialogue, the absurdity of the man-machine and machine-impersonating-man relationships. You have gay computers, butch-femme computers, highly advanced main-frames that act like just another dumb piece of hardware with a memory-failure, computers with world-dominance delusions... - and they carry names like JIN, JUKE or ZOOT...:
"Hi, my name is Zoot. Go ahead, shoot. I've got stacks of facts. Take your pick, Mr. private Dick."

Apart from the candid way Calvert sets up an up-to-date-and-beyond persiflage of the detective story genre, it is even - or especially now, after more than 20 years, way more than just astonishing, how precisely Calvert foresaw the possibilities of computer hacking and all sorts of crimes on a digital basis - AND its most fruitful environment. Although there's no specific name given to the city ('the Gulch') in which all this takes place, the description given in the play, pretty well paints a picture of the classic Los Angeles / Silicon Valley area, as it has often been depicted over the last 10 years or so in such 'trendy' magazines like 'Wired'. Well, when they had just started to 'envision' these surroundings, Calvert had already been there some 10-15 years ago. In regard not only to this piece of Calvert's rich oeuvre, it's a damn' shame that he has - until now - never made the covers of such -and a couple of other- magazines - who believe they have the copyright on all things digerati and futuristic...
To give you an impression of Calvert's imaginative and at the same highly informed way of laying-out the digital-future-environment, read a short excerpt from the script, in wich Brad Spark describes 'The Gulch' and all the forms of digital crimes and criminals it inhabits...
[ For a more detailed layout of the play and it's plot click HERE. ]

The other BIG component of this project is - naturally - the music.
The musical mixes brilliant theatrical scenes [fuelled by Calvert's razor-bladed humour], with 10 minimalistic, extremly catchy and modern tunes. All songs are based on just 2 or 3 extremly "catchy" electro/rhyhtm loops and are 'championed' by Calvert's ability to crown them with beautiful, at times haunting melodies.
You can hear excerpts of all tracks on the lyric-pages for each of The Kid-songs.
The particular minimalistic style of these songs sounds almost like a blueprint for bands like Wall of Voodoo and other upcoming synth/electro-bands at the time. WOV would have certainly loved these tracks, with their film-noir soaked atmosphere.

A credit for the highly original and stylish music must surely go to Pete Pavli.
Pavli studied Cello under Rostropovitch, one of the great masters on that instrument. Later he played in High Tide and The Third Ear Band. During the early 80s he collaborated with Robert Calvert and Mike Moorcock on various projects and togther they crafted a wide range of pretty avantgarde-ish material.... bound for commercial failures, of course, but still, after all those years quite an experience to listen to! [Check out the REVENGE demo-tracks he did with Calvert.]
On-stage Pavli played the kinda dumb-witted Sergeant Karelli and lend his significant voice to some of those evil computers. Together with Calvert he produced the backing-tracks for the THE KID-songs. [ see list below ] - All songs have the necessary machine-drive with a definite undercurrent of 'groove' - which makes up their particular charm.

Unfortunately, as a number of Calvert's musical projects, THE KID... has never been properly recorded. All the sounds you can hear on the annexed pages are taken from the only remaining recordings of the original backing-tracks and some quite-crackly audience-recordings. There's also a video-recording in existence - from which most of the stills are taken from [ a big THANKS to Sandy Cameron for this!] - alas, this has been shot -naturally- on early-80s home-video equipment and hence the quality is far from the crispy digital stuff we are used to nowadays...

THE KID marked one on the most creative parts in Calvert's career - over a period of 2 years he put out this musical, worked on other demo-tracks with Pete Pavli and set-up 2 more Cabaret-Shows. And another sign of Calvert's enormous output: the program-folder already announces the release of his novel HYPE, another ambituous project, that combined a book, a record and a stage show. All this has been done in just two years....

Some more credits re. the performance: The third actor besides Calvert and Pavli was Jill Riches, who played 'The Countess' and a 'Hood'. Like Pavli she also sang one of the songs.
All three of them also did the numerous computer-voices, with the aid of Glen Swanborough, who also co-directed the play. Credited for additional music is Dave Brock - longtime artistic companion in Hawkwind. He recorded the Kid-Song 'On the Case' for one of his solo-albums. Stage-Design and Technics were done by Jonathan Smeeton and Larry Smart, who had already worked with Calvert during Calvert's years with Hawkwind, particularly during the ATOMHENGE-stage era.

Our MAIN FEATURE: An extensive narration of the play and it's plot - including excerpts from the original script, numerous stills, animations, audio-clips from the performance and Calvert reading the voice-over parts.

lyrics and sounds of all the featured songs:
Silicon Tronic Blues / Why can't the World be Run by Machines / On the Case / Living Alone / Why do you call me a Pig / Stay Cool, Hang Loose / Back It Up / A Day Called X / The Kid from Silicon Gulch / The Legend of Ned Ludd

Read another comment of Calvert on THE KID on the QUOTES pages.

Calvert as BRAD SPARK

pete pavli as sgt. karelli