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Hawkwind poet Robert Calvert’s prophetic sci-fi noir ‘The Kid From Silicon Gulch’
11:07 am


Robert Calvert

Detective Sparks (Robert Calvert) is ready to solve the case!
In 1981, the idea of something like the Internet and its physical conduit, the personal computer, becoming deeply intertwined with our work and lives, still seemed like something out of a science-fiction novel. Granted, home computers were already in existence back in this time, but only for a small demographic that was mainly consumers with a healthy-sized wallet and a technology-inclined brain to match. There had been a number of sci-fi works, both films and prose that did include plot lines involving a world tied to computers, but none of these could quite touch the futuristic noir/stage musical, The Kid from Silicon Gulch
Robert Calvert during his time in Hawkwind.
The Kid from Silicon Gulch starred Robert Calvert, who also pulled in triple duty as both the main writer and co-director. Calvert was best-known for being the band poet and occasional lead singer for the space rock sonic phenom Hawkwind, throughout most of the 1970’s. Calvert, while often considered to be the “mad” one of the band, was also an incredibly forward thinking artist and writer, with all of those attributes shining brightly in Kid.
The musical stars Calvert as Brad Sparks, the sole private dick, not counting his personal computer assistant, ZYTE B128, at the “Non-Stop Computerized Detective Agency” in an unnamed time in the future. It’s an electro-noir universe with appropriately pulp-novel worthy lines and an eerie nod to the future partially turned into our present. Just look at Calvert’s intro from the original script;

“This is my beat. The heat drenched empty sidewalks and all the millions of lonely electronic hotel rooms and cybernetic apartments. No one goes out any more. They all stay in their rooms pressing their buttons, staring at their terminals. I call it The Gulch. Silicon Gulch.”

Detective Sparks is ready for action.
Sparks’ world soon is rattled by the arrival of one Baroness Spencer, whom Brad refers to as “Countess.” Blonde, gorgeous, pixie-built but with a big-regal swagger, the Countess (Jill Riches) has come to Detective Sparks to help investigate the death of her husband, Hymy. The police are calling it an accident but the Countess feels like it is murder, with the accusation being that the suspect is not “whom” but “what.” The what in question being Hymy’s own “micro-computer.” Given the mention a little bit later on in the play when Sparks’ is interviewing Hymy’s “micro-computer,” the latter states that everything it says is done in a merely imitative manner. In short, there’s a potential hacker running around the Gulch, manipulating machines to execute the criminal biddings of man…. or woman.

The death numbers start to add up as Sparks peels the layers of this case in an onion-like manner, uncovering some clever twists and great songs along the way. As someone who usually gets a little nervous with the phrase “stage musical,” thanks to a theater geek past that entailed seeing all strains of deep cheese of the Oklahoma variety, the music in The Kid from Silicon Gulch is refreshingly modern and flat out good. Some of the songs, especially “Silicon Neurotic Blues,” “Day Called X” and “On the Case” (which was later covered by Calvert’s former bandmate, Hawkwind backbone and founder, Dave Brock, whose guitar work also appeared on some of the music used in the show) sound borderline No Wave. Calvert’s ability to frame his lyrics perfectly with an assortment of melodies, a skill that served him so well both in Hawkwind and in his solo career, is bar none. Sadly, the soundtrack for Kid from Silicon Gulch were never officially recorded, but thanks to both the video recording efforts from Sandy Cameron and James Heyarth, as well as Calvert’s son, Nicholas, who uploaded the taped segments online, we can enjoy this show on YouTube.
Confrontation between the Countess and Sparks
The cast, while as minimal as the sets, are great fun. Riches, who also has illustrated a number of book covers, including work for another Hawkwind wordsmith, Michael Moorcock, is appropriately cool and slightly dangerous here as the Countess. (Riches would soon change her name to Jill Calvert, after becoming Robert’s third and last wife.) Peter Pavli is likable as the bumbling Sgt. Karelli. Another cohort of Calvert’s, Pavli also pulled multi-tasking duties here, since he helped create a lot of the music used throughout Kid.

Of course, the real star here is Calvert himself. Physically, with his tall build, strong profile and requisite trench coat and fedora, he could not be a better fit for the hard boiled and hardworking Detective Sparks. While it will shock no one who is familiar with Hawkwind or his solo work that he handles all of the singing duties with sheer deftness, it should be noted that he is equally good with all of the attached stage acting duties. Prior to his transition into the space/punk rock poet “urban guerrilla” laureate, Calvert worked in the theatre, even founding his own street troupe entitled Street Dada Nihilismus in the late 60’s. So his multi-creative backgrounds served him very well here. One has to wonder if the creators of the UK sci-fi television show, Red Dwarf, got to attend any of the performances of The Kid. Sparks’ interaction with the assorted computers, especially his own, is reminiscent of Dwarf’s main computer network, Holly. Given that Red Dwarf started in 1988, a few short years after Kid from Silicon Gulch debuted, it is a possibility. (1988 is also the same year that Calvert passed away from a heart attack.)
Still from Kid from Silicon Gulch
Considering how many artistic bowling pins Robert Calvert could efficiently juggle, it’s a crime that he remains but a cult figure. Given how many bloated rock-egos surpassed him on the fame game, as well as the critical write-up level, the time is well nigh for Calvert’s work, both in terms of music, writing and overall performance, to get a proper hero’s welcome-style re-evaluation. The Kid from Silicon Gulch is just the tip of the iceberg of the blazing light that is the genius of Robert Calvert

Posted by Heather Drain | Leave a comment
Original 1999 Off-Broadway taping of ‘Hedwig And The Angry Inch’

Has Hedwig And The Angry Inch entered the annals of the ‘classic musical’ yet? If not, then why not?

I can’t think of another original musical from the last 10/15 years to have gained such a strong cult following and had so much niche AND crossover appeal (no mean feat considering the subject matter.) Shows with people throwing themselves around to Abba or Queen songs don’t count.

Here is a rare treat for fans of Hedwig, it’s a taping of the original cast performing the show Off-Broadway in 1999, featuring what is very obviously a star-making turn for John Cameron Mitchell. The quality’s not all that bad, and of course the music is great. Which is important for a musical. Here’s a little more info via YouTube uploader Antoine Granger (and Wikipedia):

Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a rock musical about a fictional rock and roll band fronted by an East German transgender singer. The text is by John Cameron Mitchell, and the music and lyrics are by Stephen Trask. The musical premiered in 1998 and has been performed throughout the world in hundreds of stage productions.

The story draws on Mitchell’s life as the son of a U.S. Army Major General who once commanded the U.S. sector of occupied West Berlin. The character of Hedwig was originally inspired by a German divorced U.S. Army wife who was a Mitchell family babysitter and moonlighted as a prostitute at her Junction City, Kansas trailer park home. The music is steeped in the androgynous 1970s glam rock era of David Bowie (who co-produced the Los Angeles production of the show), as well as the work of John Lennon and early punk godfathers Lou Reed and Iggy Pop.

The musical opened Off-Broadway at the Jane Street Theater on February 14, 1998. The theater was located in the ballroom of the Hotel Riverview, which once housed the surviving crew of the Titanic (a fact which figured in the original production). Originally directed and produced by Peter Askin, the play won a Village Voice Obie Award and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical. The Off-Broadway production ran for two years, and was remounted with various casts by the original creative team in Boston, Los Angeles, and London.

Songs :

“Tear Me Down”
“The Origin of Love”
“Sugar Daddy”
“The Angry Inch”
“Wig in a Box”
“Wicked Little Town”
“The Long Grift”
“Hedwig’s Lament”
“Exquisite Corpse”
“Wicked Little Town (Reprise)”
“Midnight Radio”

This is the original cast performing on stage in 1999, awesome performance if you ask me. I took the liberty to do a small noise reduction over the original source. If you liked the show I strongly advise you to also check out the movie.


Thanks to Zac Griffiths.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
The Wire: The Musical
12:42 pm

Pop Culture

The Wire

All you need to know is OMAR IS BACK!!!

I’m in! Now where do I buy tickets?

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Characters from ‘The Wire’ made into little wind-up toys

Via The World’s Best Ever

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
The World Needs a Hero: The Return of Captain Invincible

Everyone loves a hero and even more, everyone loves a villain. The more broad chested the hero and luridly evil the villain, the better. This basic black/white viewpoint that people cling to like a spit stained security blanket is often the main impetus behind the superhero genre. A figure, often with extraordinary powers, becomes the pinpoint of hope for all that is fair and just. Real life is mired with red tape, corruption and the folly of our own nature. These are all reasons why the idea of a flawed superhero wasn’t terribly popular until recent years. (Though The Kinks get some major points with their song, “Catch Me Now I’m Falling” off of their album Low Budget.) But there was a film that predated all of them, way back in 1983 in the form of Philippe Mora’s The Return of Captain Invincible. Did I mention that it’s also a musical?

The Return of Captain Invincible stars Alan Arkin as our titular hero who is first introduced in a 1940’s style B&W newsreel, with our young, clean-cut Captain defeating gangsters, fighting the Nazis and representing everything that is good and wholesome about America. That is, until he ends up getting hit with charges of communism by The House of Un-American Activities, led by Joseph McCarthy. The witch hunt demoralizes our hero, who goes into hiding and ends up in Australia, liquor soaked and trading his spandex for stained, baggy clothes.

To passersby, he’s just a liver-crying-for-help derelict, belting out “New York, New York” to the rural hills Down Under, when he’s not inadvertently saving lives, particularly of tough police woman, Patty Patria (Kate Fitzpatrick). It’s only a matter of time before the superhero within the man has to come back out, especially with his old foe, the devilish and devilishly handsome Mr Midnight (Christopher Lee), back on the horizon. But it takes an old promise to a young boy who has now grown up to be the President of the United States (the incredible Michael Pate), to bring the hesitant, rusty but goodhearted Captain out of retirement. The question then emerges, will the once strong superhero be able to defend the world from the evil megalomaniacal clutches of Mr. Midnight and surpass his own inner demons?

The Return of Captain Invincible is a heartfelt, goony and surprisingly smart film. It is truly a strange creature, one that could have only be helmed by the same man that gave us the historical art film, Mad Dog Morgan (with Dennis Hopper) AND Howling II (with Sybil Danning’s shirt exploding breasts), Phillipe Mora. A wholly unique filmmaker who is never praised enough for his brass balls, not to mention creative flexibility, Mora pulled out all stops with this one. From the bright, comic-book style color schemes to the number of bizarre little touches,Captain Invincible is a superhero film like no other.

For starters, there’s our main character, played with typical perfection by Alan Arkin. Handsome and with a enough emotional gravitas to pull off a man who is solid in heart but whose spirit has been cracked by the very country he protected, Arkin’s Captain Invincible is a true hero with a human bent. We get to see him run the gamut from being your typical 1940’s strong-jawed hero to being a scruffy alcoholic suffering from the DT’s the night before he goes back into training, only to circle right back to being the chap that saves the day. On top of that, Arkin’s musical background comes into play quite nicely here, taking vocal duties on most of the songs featured, with the highlights being “The Good Guys & The Bad Guys” and “Mr. Midnight.” Arkin balances out the humanity and absurdity of it all so perfectly.

Speaking of absurd wonder, Michael Pate as the President is stupendously awesome. If he ran for office, my cynical booty would be hightailing it to the nearest booth in a hot flash of a second! A legendary character actor who had made his mark both in America and his native Australia, Pate is all Kennedy hair, Texan charm and big shouldered awesomeness, with the standout being the “Bullshit” number. This literally amounts to Pate saying the word “Bullshit” over and over again, set to an electronic beat. It is cathartic in its greatness.

Of course, there is the tall, cool, grim-in-his-beauty Christopher Lee as our villain Mr. Midnight. Lee is having a lot of great fun here, bringing a sense of intentional camp to his role. Lee is center point to the absolute musical highlight of the film with “Choose Your Poison.” Yes, Christopher Lee, in that wonderful Wagner-opera from depths of unknown bass voice of his, singing about the joys of drinking. It’s even better than “Bullshit!”

Kate Fitzpatrick doesn’t really get to shine quite as much as the others but is still good and realistically tough, as in you can halfway buy her as a real police officer. The aforementioned soundtrack, while a bit MOR in spots, has some absolute gems here. It should shock absolutely no one that the highlights, minus my much beloved “Bullshit,” were all helmed by Rocky Horror pioneer and flat out genius Richard O’Brien, along with another Rocky alumni, Richard Hartley, providing the music. His numbers, which include the title theme, “Mr Midnight” and “Choose Your Poison” are A+ O’Brien greatness.

Return of Captain Invincible
is not a perfect film and it will undoubtedly off-put some with its strange brew of social commentary and goofiness bordering on surrealism. The idea that a bourbon soaked derelict muttering to himself down the road could be a superhero gone to seed is a smart and thoughtful one. Our hero and concept here could fit in any time period. A little flea-bitten and hardened by a flawed world but at the end of the day, still hopeful and willing to fight for a better future.

Plus, “Bullshit!”


Posted by Heather Drain | Leave a comment
Total Recall: The Musical

And in other Governor news…what if Arnold Schwarzenegger from Total Recall sang about his wants, needs, and desires to see the colonies of Mars instead of (sorta) speaking them?  It might look something like Jon and Al Kaplan‘s Total Recall: The Musical.  I do believe it’s a work-in-progress, but the first song from it, The Mountains of Mars, is just now starting to circulate. 

Jon and Al are also the team behind Silence!, the musical version of Silence of the Lambs.  If you’re curious about that project’s standout song, “Put The Fucking Lotion In The Basket,” click here.

(via Cinematical)

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment
Ed Gein: The Musicial
11:09 am


Ed Gein

“I’m cooking like a man on killing spree, my mom says I’m dating, weird like a thug, I’m in love, ‘cause she’s all cooked up!”  If Mel Brooks did it with Hitler, maybe filmmaker Steve Russell can do it for Plainfield’s most notorious flesh fetishist?  Get ready for Ed Gein: The Musical:

According to the Associated Press, this jaunty-creepy portrait of Gein?

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment