Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Robert Calvert—
Captain Lockheed And The Starfighters


Released 1974 on United Artists
The Seth Man, May 2000ce
What can you say about an album that crosses space rock charge out with Monty Pythonistic skits -- except that it’s hazardous Rock with ever-darkening humour direct from the bi-polar brainpan of Hawkwind’s erratic vocalist/lyricist, Robert Calvert. Recorded at about the same time as Calvert’s first and only studio release with Hawkwind during their tenure on United Artists, the “Urban Guerilla” / “Brainbox Pollution” single, Hawkwind all appear here (minus the recently-departed Dikmik.) And co-joined by Paul Rudolph (on 6 string and bass guitar), Twink, Arthur Brown, Adrian Wagner, Brian Eno, Vivian Stanshall and Jim Capaldi the result was a virtual Hawkwind EP peppered by spoken word skits and a two part Arthur Brown-tormenter, “The Song of The Gremlin.” The veritable Hawkwind tracks are all supremely mental space rock outs of the highest order, giving a hint as to what Hawkwind would’ve sounded like if Paul Rudolph had replaced not Lemmy but Dave Brock.

This concept album deals with the tragedy that occurred when American made Lockheed Starfighter jets were purchased in the sixties by the West German Air Force in a supreme act of folly. As stated in the gatefold, the Starfighter was “…originally used by the U.S. Air Force as a light, single seater, fair weather fighter [that the German Defense Ministry had hastily converted into] heavy duty, atom bombers. It was these severe structural modifications which rendered the jet unstable and difficult to control.” Calvert must have felt a strong affinity with them as he too was unreliable, difficult to control and unstable as hell.

The sputtering of a trashed Luftwaffe plane starts up the album over Calvert’s brilliant portrayal of the West German Defence Minister as a raging psychopath who begins angrily berating his country’s air force power, which mutates into a vainglorious fantasy of a “reawakening of German air supremacy” as his raving overdubs into backward Strauss masking and into the first of four 1973-styled Hawkwind hard space rock thrash outs, “Aerospaceage Inferno.” Calvert calmly intones echoed lines over Rudolph’s swooping guitar lines AND his overdubbed, pumping bass riffs and Simon King’s ever-stamina drumming. It links directly into the hilarious “Aircraft Salesman”, where the ‘wunnerful’ American Starfighter salesman cons the still-uptight German Air Defence Minister with buying his wares with promises not of safety or of adequate ground crew support, but of a tasty-looking logo with an identifying “G” (for ‘Germany.”) The only non-Calvert composition (co-written with Dave Brock) “The Widow Maker” follows, and it is pure Hawkwind: all churning guitar and Rudolph’s (or Lemmy’s?) heat-generating bass over more Simon King drums and cymbal bashing.

Side two continues with vocal skits, and it is interesting to note the inclusion of “The Widow’s Song,” which appears in the printed libretto. It is nowhere to be found on the album, but turned up years later on a crap Hawkwind collection with Calvert femme-vocalising. It was once recorded that Nico was named as a possible contributing vocalist on “Lockheed”, and in all certainty “Widow’s Song” was slated for her. Between Calvert’s vocal renditions, the funereal nature of the song and the overall Teutonic effect makes it seem more than a possibility.) A screeching electronic swirl crashes open the Hawkwind-styled “Ejection” with classic Calvert lyrics that rhyme every word with the title over repeated rhythms and omnipresent Simon King high-hat and piston-like fills. “I’m too high to die” intones Calvert, and Rudolph proceeds to tear it up with yet again before the final crash. The dirge-like “Catch A Falling Starfighter” is surrounded by ghostly electronics as Twink beats a funeral march over the assembled moaning of blackened Starfighter pilots.

Unfortunately, Calvert’s follow up “Lucky Leif And the Longships” album was hardly as successful. Although it includes personnel from this album, it was an outright disaster. But then again, Robert Calvert was never exactly known for doing anything in half measures.