Sunday, 12 February 2017

PXR5 - Tracks & References

The view according to Dave Brock:

PXR5 was a bodge-up of bits and pieces, a final flushing of the toilet at Charisma.”

What they said then… 

“[Death Trap] points out – and not for the first time – that The Stranglers owe not a little to Hawkwind,” thought Giovanni Dadomo, who also considered that Robot “pretty much [sums-up] the live Hawkwind experience. Hypnotic percussive pulse, wailing guitar and synth and Calvert’s first person lyric.”

What they say now…

Discussing the Atomhenge Charisma Years boxset, in R2 magazine, Oz Hardwick noted “the musique concrete of ‘Life Form’, the quirky pop of ‘Jack of Shadows’ and, naturally, the trademark spacerock of ‘PXR5’, while considering the era overall as containing “some of the band’s most diverse explorations.” Reviewing the same collection for Vive Le Rock, Jon Truman declared the band’s four Charisma LPs as “brave, experimental and ground-breaking.”

Tracks and references:

Death Trap

The Stations of the Cross are representative of incidents occurring during the passage of Christ from the Judgement Hall to his crucifixion at Calvary. 

Paul Hayles, on the origin of the song: “[Calvert] had a crash whilst trying out a car he was thinking of buying, breaking the neck of a girl we all knew.”

Jack of Shadows

Let’s hear it again for Roger Zelazny. Shadowjack, in Jack of Shadows (1971), is a supernatural thief seeking vengeance against all those responsible for his execution on a world which has one face always pointing at its Sun.

Uncle Sams on Mars 

“America has left the moon...” Gene Cernan was the last man to stand on the moon surface, leaving the moon and completing America’s lunar expedition in the early hours of Thursday 15th December, 1972. Uncle Sam arrived on Mars in 1976…in the shape of the unmanned Viking orbiter and lander spacecraft. NASA communications sampled on this track include President Nixon’s famous telephone call to the Sea of Tranquillity to speak to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin and the Apollo 11 launch.

“He’s got his bucket and spade in his left hand…” the traditional child’s accouterments on seaside holidays in Great Britain.

McDonald’s hamburgers: McDonald’s were still rare in Britain in those days (the first having opened in London in 1976).

Gill Scott-Heron’s ‘Whitey on the Moon’ might be an influence on the song’s title.

The title is grammatically incorrect, unless, of course, there are lots of Uncle Sams, all on Mars. Perhaps it’s a deliberate attempt at ambiguity, as with the missing apostrophe in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake… Or less prosaically, perhaps it’s just a typo.


A version of the lyrics for this track appeared as early as 1972, forming part of the Space Ritual tour programme.

Life Form

A later version of this track appears on Spacebrock, noted as being used in the film Any Given Sunday (Oliver Stone, 1999).


From the Czech word robota and first used by Karel Capek in his play R.U.R (1921). 

The three laws of robotics were devised by SF writer Isaac Asimov as a foundation for the behaviour of robots in relation to human beings. 

High Rise

The first ‘High Rise’ tower blocks in the UK were built after the Second World War. ‘The Lawn’, in Harlow, now has Grade II Listed status.

The novel High Rise (J.G. Ballard,1975) chronicles the social collapse into barbarism of a society living in a tower block: “…a commentary on the hideous possibilities of advanced technology and the rat-like nature of trapped human beings” said The Financial Times.

Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray, 1955) is one of only three films to star James Dean.


Considered to be a reference to the disintegration of the line-up that recorded Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music; the three crew members who are mentioned as having not survived would be Rudolph, Powell and Turner.

A Note on the Album Cover

Notoriously, PXR5 was released with a back-cover image showing a plug incorrectly wired, with the 'HM Govt. Health Dept. Warning' that 'This wiring can seriously damage your health'. Subsequently, it came with a irremovable sticker placed over the offending image.

Don't Try This At Home


  1. Decent end of an era album, Calvert went onto a solo career and Hawkwind returned to a heavier sound for the 1979 tour. It's a shame Calvert left because he would certainly have taken Hawkwind in an interesting direction in the 80's,a lot of his work presaged the new technology that would become all encompassing in the new decade. Brock's Hawkwind became more mystical and fantasy orientated, but the live shows continued to be excellent entertainment, both musically and visually. Why did Calvert leave Hawkwind? probably due to work stresses and the need to be recognised in his own right for the great poet and songwriter that he undoubtedly was, although he unfortunately never gained the recognition that he richly deserved.

    1. Great write up also he was ill and I think there was a fall out.