Every Record I Own: Shipbuilding – Robert Wyatt
Robert Wyatt was another significant artist of 2022 for me. Robert Wyatt was a drummer in a progressive rock bands in the 60s and 70s, but had an accident and was paralysed from the waist down. He then made experimental pop/jazz/indie/psychedelic music for the next 30 or so years. A lot of his work feels like what would be made in a bedroom now from someone playing with synths and drum machines and doing layers of percussion and multi tracked vocals, but it felt he was doing it way ahead of his time.
Early in the year I discovered his song The Age of Self on a playlist and I became obsessed with him. His mid-80s period where he was making weirdo political pop on synthesizers and drum machines was my favourite era.
This 7″ came up for sale when someone I follow on Instagram was leaving the country and selling all their records. Shipbuilding hadn’t been one of the songs that had stuck with me, but Robert Wyatt records don’t come up very often so I thought I’d buy it anyway. I didn’t realise until after I bought it but this is a cover of and Elvis Costello song, but this version has become known as the essential version.
Since buying the record this has become one of my favourite Robert Wyatt songs. Its the type of music that really benefits from a nice stereo. The piano is so full sounding and even though Robert Wyatt doesn’t have a classically amazing voice, his falsetto shines through.
I am not really an expert on protest music by any means. But what I love about Robert Wyatt’s protest music is how specific it is. Age of Self is about how the idea of the working class has been destroyed by changing our identities to consumers rather than workers, Pigs…in there is about factory farming. Shipbuilding is about how much responsibility do workers hold for the work they do? When they’re acting as agents of British imperialism.
This 7″ has been sitting next to my stereo for months. I often put it on in the morning or when I pop into the kitchen to make some toast or something. It’s really a perfect song. The B-side kind of sucks though.