Unauthorised item in the bagging area

Thursday 15 April 2021

Behind A Shed In A Garden In Norbury

Hawkwind's vocalist Robert Calvert suffered from some terrible episodes of poor mental health and was eventually diagnosed with bipolar. As a child he dreamed of being a fighter pilot and when this didn't happen began to dip into bohemian London of the 1960s. His combined interests in psychedelia, poetry and science fiction led him to Hawkwind. He left in 1973 after being hospitalised under the Mental Health Act, rejoined in 1975 and then left again in 1979. Along the way he recorded several solo albums including in 1981 an album called Hype. Hype was tied in to a novel of the same name, telling the fictional story of the rise and fall of a rock 'n' roll star. 

Lord Of The Hornets is the last song on Hype and was also released as a 7" single. It is a buzzing, pounding, overloaded song full of striking lines and memorable imagery, about the man who is the Lord of the Hornets. Norbury is in south London, sandwiched between Streatham and Croydon. It would not surprise me at all if the living God of stinging insects lived in a suburb of south London. 

'Asleep in a hive in the base of a hollow tree
Behind a shed in a garden in Norbury
And when he whispers commands in his megaphone
They swarm to his call and he knows that he's not alone
He's lord of the hornets
As a tiger wing drones in a hive of industry
Each has a place and will be what it must be
Queen's a machine on a larva production line
Laying antenna-ed troops on the stings in a paper mine'

Lord Of The Hornets

Michael Moorcock, science fiction and fantasy author and a key figure in the New Wave of British sci fi plays guitar on Hype. Moorcock also played with Hawkwind and Blue Oyster Cult and had his own band, The Deep Fix. Additionally he is one of the stars of Half Man Half Biscuit's legendary 1989 single Dickie Davies Eyes. A bit of a one off in the HMHB back catalogue musically, it fades in slowly led by organ rather than the Wirral group's usual three chord indie guitar rumble. Nigel Blackwell pulls together more great lines and British cultural references than any other contemporary songwriter could manage- funnier than Mark E Smith, more relevant than Nick Cave, not racist like Morrissey, Nigel Blackwell is the true voice of British post- punk lyricists (I am aware obviously that Nick Cave is not British). 

Dickie Davies Eyes

As the organ comes in, ascending and descending chords and a rattling drum picks up the beat Nigel kicks us off with Tolkein and Moorcock

'Mention The Lord Of The Rings just once more
And I’ll more than likely kill you
Moorcock, Moorcock, Michael Moorcock you fervently moan'

He then brings us Brian Moore (1) and the London Planetarium, Roger Dean (2), Cadbury's Flake adverts (3), oral sex (3), romanticised dreams about the living and the dead and 'a Romany bint in a field with her paints/ suggesting we faint at her beauty... But she's got Dickie Davies Eyes'. (4)

(1) Brian Moore- a football commentator and TV presenter. Covered nine world cups. 

(2) Roger Dean- artist and designer. Famous of his album covers for 1970s prog bands

(3) Cadbury's Flake- the crumbliest, flakiest chocolate... tastes like chocolate never tasted before'

(4) Dickie Davies- TV presenter most famous for being the anchorman of World Of Sport from 1968 to 1985. Darts, rugby, snooker, horse racing, wrestling- he covered it all with a streak of white in his quiff and a twinkle in his eye. 


Martin said...

Ah, Dickie and his Mallen streak! Great post.

Jake Sniper said...

After reading this post Swiss, I went to put some H.M.H.B. on and discovered my copy of C.S.I. Ambleside is missing!

Swiss Adam said...

An emergency situation Jake and no mistake.

Tom W said...

My brother, a Hawkwind fan, had a paperback copy of Hype. God knows how he managed to come across that in the pre-eBay 80s, it must have been a serendipitous find. I once asked if it was worth reading and he said 'It's the kind of book where no matter where you are or what's happening, you're always informed what record's playing in the background.'

Swiss Adam said...

Ha. Love it Tom W.