Monday, 27 November 2017

Gong : Robo-Warriors

Last time I posted two robot songs by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard; a band I've been listening to a lot of in recent months, but it took me a while to realise that they'd done a handful of robot songs (I really must pay more attention when listening to music).

This time I'm posting a robot song by a band I've been listening to for the best part of thirty years, and I've only just noticed that they've got a robot song tucked up their sleeve... and they only released it eight years ago! Gong mostly sing songs about pixies and teapots and all sorts of new-age stuff and apart from Mother Gong's Robot Woman LPs, proper Gong just don't do robots... or so I thought.

Gong formed in the fields of northern France in the late nineteen-sixties and despite numerous line-up changes, splits, reformations, disbands, rebrands, reunions and far too much mortality, they're still going strong. Gong are arguably my favourite band of all time, and it's only a handful of their early albums that keep me going back to them. My big brother introduced me to Gong in around nineteen-eighty-eight, and I was happy in nineteen-eighty-nine when Gong (under the banner of Gongmaison) came to play in Morecambe of all places, and the tickets were a mere £3. As mentioned, they've been my favourite band ever since, although their output after the Gongmaison album has (in my mind) not been great. The Shapeshifter album (1992) disappointed me on so many levels so I wasn't expecting much from their next release; Zero to Infinity (2000). It sounded like a poor impression of themselves. They'd long lost the spark that they once had way back in the early seventies, and only frontman, founder and driving force Daevid Allen remained from their classic line-up. I'd briefly listen to subsequent recordings but never returned for a second listen until I heard 2014's I See You, which was by far their best LP since Gongmaison (1989). Daevid Allen died aged 77 in 2015, and I guess I was just as surprised and bewildered as anyone when it was announced in early 2016 that Gong would continue.

In September 2016, Gong released Rejoice, I'm Dead! which far exceeded my expectations. It's arguably their best LP since 1989 and along with I See You, is the only one since Gongmaison that I've given repeated listens... which explains why it's taken me so long to discover their robot song.
Robo-Warriors is tucked away on their 2032 LP, released in 2009. After several disappointing albums, I'm not sure if I ever gave 2032 a proper listen before today, and it's actually quite good.

Monday, 13 November 2017

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard : Robot Stop

It's been a long time since my last post here on 101 Songs About Robots... but it's been a most eventful year to date. Since my previous entry, which featured the hugely talented Beardyman and the Masters of Distraction performing My Robotic Skin is Bleeding live on Tom Robinson's 6Music show, I've been in talks with the B bloody BC of all people! They were impressed with my 'finger on the trigger button' approach to blogging and were keen on using the 'songs about robots' format on their network. I was keen on a six part series on BBC1, similar to Danny Baker's Rockin' Decades, but on BBC1 and in a prestigious prime time slot rather than tucked away in the arse end of BBC4.
I also floated the idea of a two part docudrama which charts my decade long search for one-hundred-and-one songs about robots. I proposed Daniel Craig play the lead role (who bears a striking resemblance to yours truly in both looks and physique), along with a supporting cast including Maureen Lippmann, Daniel Radcliffe, Billy Piper and Bjork. The BBC, however weren't quite so keen on using my 'songs about robots' format for a ratings-busting television series, but for radio!

With the wind thoroughly knocked out of my sails, I battled on henceforward and entered talks with the big knobs at BBC 6 Music. I suggested filling the Sunday 1pm slot as well as hosting (where is) Jarvis Cocker's Sunday Service at 4pm that very same Sunday. This would be followed by a special Now Playing show on the theme of robot songs, curated by yours truly, as well as being the major guest on Stuart Maconie's FreakZone, taking about freaky robot songs. This would have been a great treat for the listeners since I would have previously curated the FreakZone Playlist too... but alas, it was not to be. I was mad keen on the TV show and felt that the only way I'd get it was to use my intellectual property rights as leverage. "No TV show, no radio!" is what I told 'em. I stormed out of the BBC canteen with my head held high and rather large wheel of Stilton concealed 'neath my cape.

The Sunday 1pm slot never happened, nor did my chance at filling (where is) Jarvis Cocker's shoes on the Sunday Service. And since Stuart Maconie had a cream cracker buttered an poised, ready to be clad in a modest layer of Stilton at the moment of my departure, my involvement with the FreakZone show also came to an abrupt end. I prefer the Interesting Alternative Show these days anyway, hosted by cue wielding snooker legend Steve Davis and his sidekick /slash/ Gong member Kavus Tuvetti... Tavardi... Tivolli... any way... I stormed out of the BBC taking my intellectual property with me. And what did the BBC do? You guessed it!

In the early hours of Sunday 5th November, Stuart Maconie broadcast a robot themed playlist hosted by not me, but a feckin' robot. And later that very same day, after the edition of (where is) Jarvis Cocker's Sunday Service that i should have been hosting, Tom Robinson hosted a Now Playing show also on a theme of robots! The sneaky buggers had twisted my format just enough to allow them to claim it as their own. Livid doesn't come close. I phoned my lawyer and sought legal advice, only to be told that by simply removing the words 'songs' and 'about' from my 'songs about robots' format means they can claim my intellectual property as their own. I was also advised to either remove most of the above from my blog or clearly state that it mostly didn't happen, and anything stated that did happen, most likely didn't happen to me.

However the fact* remains that neither Robinson nor Maconie gave me any credit for my blog being fundamental in the curation of both their 'robot' themed shows (Maconie played Kraftwerk, Connie Francis and Black Sabbath, all leached from this very blog)... and adding insult to injury, not a single listener stated that my blog was instrumental in helping them decide which tracks to suggest for the Now Playing show (which featured Goldie Lookin' Chain, Marina and the Diamonds, Damon Albarn, Kraftwerk (again), Grandaddy, Flaming Lips, Flight of the Conchords, Gary Numan, Black Sabbath (again... very unprofessional) and many more that I'm yet to blog about)... and as if rubbing salt into the wound, Robinson didn't play my suggested track; Synthetic Man by Rockets (ticking both 'robot' and 'bonfire night' boxes).

Hard done by doesn't come into it!

But one good thing did come out of my (possibly imaginary) experience with the BBC... and that is King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Having heard their name mentioned early in the year, I was drawn to their performance on the Glastonbury coverage. They're by far the best band I've heard since Fiery Furnaces, with their raucous non-stop space infused psych-rock... but I didn't realise that they'd written a handful of robot songs until I listened to Tom Robinson's Now Playing (plagiarising!) show. Robinson played Han-Tyumi: The Confused Cyborg whilst Maconie played Robot Stop earlier that day... so by way of getting my own back, I'm going to post both of them!

From their 2016 LP titled 'Nonagon Infinity', it's King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard with Robot Stop.

I suppose I'd better throw Maconie a bone and let my loyal readers give his (ahem) 'Robot' playlist a listen, or at least a look at the track listing when the show's no longer available. I'll warn you though... most are instrumental and therefore are not 'songs' about robots, and of the songs featured, at least two of them aren't about robots either since they merely have a robot title and no lyrical references.
If I'd been involved, it wouldn't have been quite so sloppy.

*The evidenceBetween the 1st and 3rd of November 2017, 101 Songs About Robots had a total of ten page views. On the 4th it had thirty-seven page views, clearly from Stuart Maconie researching his (cough) playlist. On the 5th it had forty-eight page views, evidently from Tom Robinson's listeners looking for inspiration on this hitherto unknown genre... and on the 6th, three.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard - Han-Tyumi, The Confused Cyborg

Stealing a song from Tom Robinson's recent Now Playing show which shamelessly and blatantly plagiarised my 'songs about robots' format... I'll go one better and not only give you Han-Tyumi, The Confused Cyborg, but the entire Han-Tyumi and the Murder of the Universe suite... enjoy!

Taken from their psych-tastic 'Murder of the Universe' album... track listing is as follows:

  • 00.00 Welcome To An Altered Future
  • 00.55 Digital Black
  • 03.42 Han-Tyumi, The Confused Cyborg
  • 06.47 Soy-Protein Munt Machine
  • 06.34 Vomit Coffin
  • 08.53 Murder Of The Universe

It wouldn't be fair to throw Maconie a bone and not let Robinson share it with him, so here's a link to the Now Plagiarising show on the theme of robots... a show which didn't feature Synthetic Man by Rockets, but it would have been a heck of a lot better if it had.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

My Robotic Skin is Bleeding / Screen Addiction : Beardyman and the Masters of Distraction

I'm writing this post as this song is being composed and performed live on the fly on BBC Radio 6 Music. This isn't 'hot off the press'. it's not even on the press, yet... but it's a robot song that's fresher than a fresh thing in fresher's week.

The premise is, listeners of Tom Robinson's Now Playing show send in titles to songs that don't exist and the superbly talented Beardyman and his band, the Masters of Distraction are making the songs up live, improvised and synthesised.

You can could listen to the entire show here... but they're only available for a month after broadcast. Beardyman's hour long live and improvised set is 60 minutes in and the song, My Robotic Skin is Bleeding / Screen Addiction is a 105 minutes in (that's about an hour and three-quarters in imperial). I'll also give a shout to Ben Oldham who suggested the 'robotic skin' half of the title and thus, inspired the robot theme of the song... great work Ben! :)

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Cybernetic Surgery : The Cybermen

Like Sheffield, Accrington is nestled in the foothills of the Pennines. Accrington is home to Accrington Stanley FC, the football club best known for being the football club that no one's ever heard of. It's also home to The Cybermen...

image from - used without permission
No not those Cybermen! These Cybermen...

Paul Milek (drums), Ian Dixon (bass, vocals), Roger Entwistle (guitar, vocals)

...they are from Accrington after all... not Mondas.

If it wasn't for Hawkwind, The Cybermen may never have formed but thankfully they did and the first song on their first EP was titled Cybernetic Surgery; recorded in '77 and released in '78. It's a punk influenced slice of 70s pub rock, written on the cheap, recorded on the cheap, released on the cheap and the cover was designed using letteraset and a photostat machine... and that's punk through and through. It's not about the spitting or the shouting, it's about the DIY approach; making music for the hell of it. Sadly the DIY approached spelled doom for The Cybermen when the 'unfortunate borrowing' of most of their equipment prevented them from continuing beyond 1979... and I guess the world just wasn't ready for a three piece acapella punk band from Accrington.

Thanks to for letting me plagiarise their information and borrow a photo. Further reading on The Cybermen can be found here... the free 'info pack' that came with their second EP is well worth a read.

Does anyone under the age of forty even know what a letteraset or photostat machine is? Answers on a postcard to PO Box 101, Cyberster, Cybershire. ...and don't forget to put your age.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Anorexic Robot : Fat Truckers

I've been wanting to post this particular song right from the beginning... but was prevented by only having it on MP3 and I couldn't be bothered to upload it to YouTube myself. There was a shaky handy-cam video of a performance of this particular robot song but its audio & video quality wasn't up to standard so it never got posted. Having recently found a new video on YouTube, the time has come to find out what happens when robot songs and eating disorders collide.

Fat Truckers hail from Sheffield, a northern city with an industrial heart and an unsurpassed musical provenance. The Human League, Pulp, Richard Hawley, Heaven 17, Tony Christie, Arctic Monkeys, Chakk, Cabaret Voltaire, Joe Cocker (and son Jarvis), I Monster, Living in a Box, All Seeing I, LFO and many more all hailed from these industrial foothills of the Pennines. Some were good, some were great and many still are... but Fat Truckers didn't enjoy the success or longevity of some of their better known contemporaries. They didn't seem to last very long at all. One LP plus three singles adds up to a non-hit wonder... but that is of no concern. I don't care about chart success or how big a band's back catalogue is. One decent tune with a robotic theme is my sole concern, and this robot song bangs and clanks with the best of 'em. Taken from the 2003 LP 'The First Fat Truckers Album is for Sale', it's Anorexic Robot by Fat Truckers.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Do The Robot : The Saints

It's All Saints Day so what better reason to post something by The Saints, the antipodean punk pioneers who's debut single was released in September '76, making them the first 'punk' group outside the USA to release a single. The Saints are still active and are hailed as a major influence on the punk genre.

Do the Robot (AKA International Robots) is taken from their 1978 LP 'Eternally Yours', although it does appear as a bonus track on one re-issue of their 1977 debut album '(I'm) Stranded'. This is proper punk, not that 'shock your granny' punk-pop that the Sex Pistols sold us... enjoy!

Monday, 31 October 2016

Death Orgy 9000 : Kaviar

Whilst I've been neglecting this blog for far too long, I've also managed to forget that a handful of readers have suggested some robot songs for me to post. This suggestion came from 'Anonymous' back in February, and since it's scary on several levels, it's an ideal robot song for Halloween.

Death Orgy 9000 is by Kaviar, a band fronted by Kevin Gilbert and is taken from one of several posthumous releases; The Kaviar Sessions (2002). Gilbert died in 1996 from apparent autoerotic asphyxiation which, without wanting to appear disrespectful, is a really silly way to die.
Don't try it at home kids... or anywhere else!

You may want to check out some other robot songs with a vague Halloween theme, or you may not.
If like me, you've nothing better to do, then have a look at my post from Halloween 2014 which features Black Sabbath, Bender and Bruce Haack.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Electric Barbarella : Duran Duran

The other day when posting the Hungry Like the Wolf parody song Cyborg 101, I wondered if Duran Duran's Electric Barbarella was on topic or not... so I perused the lyrics and you can guess the rest.

As most of you will know, Duran Duran took their name from the film Barbarella and as many may rightly assume, this song is another of their homages to that film. The lead role of Barbarella was played by Jane Fonda.. although she ain't no robot. However Duran Duran's Electric Barbarella is a bot... but it's a long way from my favourite Duran Duran song. It lacks their classic sound of funky bass and cutting guitar but its better than nothing, which is what I've been posting for most of this year.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Space Girl : Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger

My ongoing quest for robot songs has thrown up more than a few surprises... but I didn't expect for one second that the great Ewan MacColl would be making an appearance. This song was co-written with Peggy Seeger (who I presume is on vocal duties) in 1952 for a short opera titled 'You're Only Young Once'. According my source, Space Girl parodies The Ghost Soldier Song which I cannot find but its a WWI song and therefore, undoubtedly grim. Space Girl also parodies 1940s sci-fi themes and has its robo-reference at the end of the first verse. It's a cracking tune but as a robot song, it's a bit tenuous so I wasn't sure whether to post it or not... but I did, I did, I did.

*The 1952 date could be wrong... one source says Space Girl was written in 1952, but another source says MacColl & Seeger began working (and loving) together in 1956. Either way, it's the first song I've dug up with a robot reference from the 50s and the second oldest on this blog.