Sunday, 26 October 2008

Living in the Future

If Philip K Dick had made records this is what they would have sounded like.

This has to be one of the most paranoid (but preternatural with much of it, like all good sci-fi) albums ever made.

And despite the obvious link to the previous post, this is the absolute antithesis to the music Nik Turner went on to make when he left Hawkwind.

This was Robert Calvert's last proper album (1986), and the minimalist and pared down keyboard, synthetic beats and clipped guitar sounds that he uses to accompany his words only add to its bleak, dystopic poignancy.

From the opening words:

'I was kept in deep freeze
And allowed to grow'

the listener is aware they are in the presence of a master metaphysician; but one with an awful lot on his mind.

Test-tube conception, vivisection, surveillance (on and off line), medical and bio-ethics, eugenics and insanity are all topics Calvert examines and shares with the listener on this album.

I say share intentionally, for as with much great poetry (and Bob Calvert was a poet), the narrative voice possesses your mind, it virally infects and infiltrates your 'own' thoughts.
We share and hear his voices - for voices he had - but perhaps they're not really that dissimilar to the voices we all have in our heads.

The album ends where it began, with a different version of the opening song.
So the circle is complete: and it all goes round and round...

But this time the song has a heavier vibe and the delivery is more embittered and angry - no longer the passive, will-less victim, but now a rebel, a fighter: the fighter pilot he apparently always wanted to be, perhaps.

I was fortunate enough to see Bob Calvert perform with his band the Starfighters several times when he made a comeback in the mid-eighties on the back of this album.
He would often play a noise generator oscillator type thing; and boy was he manic with it; the sounds he used to create from this thing would send you spinning round the venue, whipping you from one side of the joint to the other; and he would do this while maintaining the most manic of expressions, as if these sounds were emanating from his very troubled being.

I'd gone to see the band one night at The Jolly Boatman, an old boathouse that had been converted into a music venue perched on the edge of the Thames in Kingston, London, and found myself standing at a urinal, as you do, when Bob came alongside to use my urinal's neighbour.
Now it's difficult enough to talk to another guy who's pissing alongside you while you're pissing alongside him, right.
But here was Bob. Fully donned in leather flying cap (one of those old World War 2 things with the ear flaps), goggles that covered pretty much three quarters of his face, brown leather flying jacket with a big sheepskin collar, white silk scarf, a pair of those flying trousers that have sticky-out hoops on either side of the thighs and knee high brown leather riding boots.
So I didn't get to talk to him.

I still regret that.
Because that was one of his last gigs; a couple of weeks later news was announced of his death from a heart attack at his home in Ramsgate, England.
He was forty-three years old.

Much of Bob's music has been re-released on CD, so if you like this or find it interesting do go and check out his other albums.
And certainly acquire a copy of Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters, as it is truly essential; and considered by many (myself included) to be the greatest Hawkwind album they never made.

Robert Calvert - Test-Tube Conceived

In Vitro Breed
The Rah Rah Man
I Hear Voices
Fanfare for the Perfect Race
On line
Save Them From the Scientists
Fly on the Wall
Thanks to the Scientists
Test-Tube Conceived

This is a cassette rip of excellent quality @256 kbs.
I have let a couple of tracks run into each other as the segues are too vital to break.
You'll get the picture.
And you can get it here


Carlos said...

Hi Roy

Thanks for your comment and visit at Musicology!
You can find the Spirit's Kahuna Dream at this excellent blog

the link



Josh said...


Well, I mention this great post and then make an ass of myself on an upcoming edition of the Deuce Project. I mention Calvert and then something goes awry in the studio and I COMPLETELY forget what I was saying and basically claim ignorance to his place in Hawkwind's history. Hopefully any listeners will come here and be put straight. Ahh...the beauty of live radio.

Anyway, I hope all is going swimmingly for you. I've been loving the posts lately.

A Dashing Blade said...

"I'd gone to see the band one night at The Jolly Boatman . . . " don't remember Calvert playing but do remember Inner City Unit supported by a vary young Australasia that venue.

roy rocket said...

It was a good venue that.
Now it's a wreck, and often features in petitions. Apparently.
I saw the Starfighters all over London - best gig ever was at Klub Foot at Hammersmith's Clarendon. RIP.
Are there any venues left in London; besides the O2 that is?
Shanti, roy

Anonymous said...

Fantastic! Had no hope of ever finding this one. Many thanks!

pinkpressthreat said...

Thanks A million for this :)

roy rocket said...


si said...

Smashing stuff Roy - really looking forward to getting stuck into this one.

All the best

Anonymous said...

link -> deleted ;(

roy rocket said...

The future will be repaired.
Keep 'em peeled.

roy rocket said...

Link fixed!