Robert Calvert

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Margate into Space <
"What was it that changed a manic speed-freak combo into rock 'n roll stars? What was the mysterious influence that mad genius Bob Calvert exerted on the Ladbroke Grove hippies?
In the years before Calvert, Hawkwind were your archetypical freak
band - permanently broke and perpetually boogyin', doing the usual stoned round of festivals, benefits and clubs. Their untogetherness was legendary: sure, they'd turn up at gigs (well, most of the time), but just how large the band would be or whether they'd be fit to play was another question altogether.
By late '71 though, things were starting to happen, and a large part of this was down to the influence of one Bob Calvert, madman of this parish - poet, writer and eccentric."

Steve Mann, 'Let it Rock' / Dec. '72
HAWKWIND... well, you could write whole books on this band - and indeed a few people have.
A band that came out of London's psychedelic underground scene and significantly shaped it's musical culture. Hawkwind exists for more than 30 years now - they still attract a solid base of devoted fans, they are still producing new records, setu-up their own "Hawkfest" open-air event...
Hawkwind 1972

"If we had a little more money, I would like to turn the whole act into a kind of circus with a complete light show where we could give things away, papers and food etc. Originally we just wanted to freak people out - now we're just interested in sound.
For instance, if a monotonous sound like a chanting goes on long enough, it can really alter people's minds. Very few people seem to realize what can be done.
Hawkwind and Stacia (dancer) - 1972
We try to create an environment where people can lose their inhibitions. We also want to keep clear of the music business as much as possible - just play for the people.
It's like a ship that has to steer around rocks, we have to steer round the industry. But I'd like us to go on Top Of The Pops. It's so ridiculous - we could simply turn it into a party, get everybody to join in and just never stop. They'd never be able to get us off."

- Dave Brock, NME - Jan. '71

Though most people associate the band mainly with their early days of the SPACE RITUAL period, Hawkwind had it's most creative and innovative time in the mid-late 70's, when Calvert joined in as the band's full-time lead-singer and front-man in the most literal sense of the word.

Under Calvert's influence the band set the landmarks for the upcoming
Punk & New Wave movement, fusing their early musical experiments with Calvert's fascination for new technologies and literary concepts.
At the same time they staged performances that combined their innovative musical approaches with lavish stage-designs, theatrical elements and poetry that were again mainly introduced and performed by Calvert.


The band had numerous members and various loosely associated collaborators over the years like the the reknown writer Mike Moorcock:

"I knew Hawkwind via Bob Calvert - we graduated from the same lunatic asylum, which was the Frendz magazine. He introduced me to the band after he'd edited a Science Fiction edition of the magazine.
When I first saw them, they seemed like barbarians who'd got hold of a lot of electrical gear: instead of being self-conscious and pseudo-intellectual, they were actually of the Electronic Age. They weren't impressed by their own gear.
That's why I liked Hawkwind, because they weren't anti-technology; unlike a lot of SF writers and performers. I think nearly all their best stuff has been concerned with the city and technology."

Calvert, being amongst the earliest collaborators was doubtlessly the most influential of them - besides Dave Brock, of course - the founder and main composer of the band. Brock started his musical career as a blues musician - earning his bread for a considerable time as a busker around London's streets and pubs. He's the only remaining original member and still Hawkwind's musical brain.

From '76 until early '79 the joined creative / conceptual and musical forces of Calvert and Brock forged Hawkwind into a forerunner of the upcoming New-Wave and Punk movement.
"I worked in Dreamland, the amusement park in Margate - did a bit of work on deck-chairs, beach photography and that sort of thing.
Nik Turner was selling funny hats at the time. Nik, DikMik and myself used to talk about the sort of band we would get together if we had half a chance. We used to come up quite a lot to London to see bands. That's where I first met Dave Brock when he was busking on Portobello Road. I gradually found myself spending more time in London than in Margate - there seemed to be less going back for - there was a lot happening around the Notting Hill area in that time."
Nik Turner - photo + copyright by Phil FranksHowever, Calvert's liaison with Hawkwind (a liaison dangereuse at times) already started in the band's earliest days - initialized by another of the essential personalities of the band:
Nik Turner. [photo of Nik Turner by Phil Franks]

Calvert and Turner knew each other since their Margate- days that they both spent in and around the fairgrounds of Margate. (visiting it in '96 it gives the impression of a sort of little Las Vegas by the seaside - going somewhat down the drain...). In the late 60's / early 70's they both moved to London - Calvert, to follow up his writing occupations while Turner got in touch with the folks around Dave Brock, who started out as Group X, after their first gig at the All Saint's Hall, Notting Hill Gate in July '69.
When Nik Turner pulled out his sax for the first time to join a session he got immediately converted from the band's roadie to one of their permanent -and soon to become- most prominent members.

> NEW: read an extensive/exclusive interview with Nik Turner on Robert Calvert - the story of Calvert w. Hawkwind a.m.m.

> LISTEN   to the Margate-memories of Robert Calvert
- from an interview by Tim Gadd in 1982

Turner met Calvert again some time later and asked him to come along to a gig.
His brief reply to Calvert asking him what sort of music they were playing was:


"We were totally conceived around that hippy ideal of free expression. It wasn't about being technically superior as musicians, or wanting to be the next Beatles and make loads of money. It was about getting up and having a blast, basically - and trying to blow people's minds - our own included." - Nik Turner

"...Nik said "Space Rock" - which is a term I actually hadn't heard before - but it seemed like the magic key to a movement that was afoot. It was like Ezra Pound and the Imagists discussing the new movement in poetry. And to me it sounded like something brandnew - which it was.
the space ritual It wasn't long after that I found myself performing more gigs with the band and I'd already plannned doing the Space Ritual - not necessarily with Hawkwind - it was something I'd wanted to do for quite a long time - probably even before Hawkwind was formed. It was something I used to dream up and write bits of while I was working in my mom's shop, actually.

Following his own ('homegrown'), early Science Fiction and New Technology oriented concepts and writings for quite some time, Calvert got immediately interested in the concept behind this strange term - though the band's name seemed somewhat 'silly' to him...
Though Calvert did play with some of his own strange musical outfits before - under accordingly bizarre names like Mordecai Sludd and the Others and Oliver Twist and The Lower Third -
('I remember I used to wear luminous socks...') - his first and main occupation & obsession remained poetry and literature:

"I've always written poetry since I was 15. I started doing readings around rock gigs - especially at the 7 Sisters club, that was jointly organized by IT and FRENDZ. That was the first gig with Hawkwind - got up on the stage at their invitation. I read a long poem to start off the show that was called Co-Pilots of Spaceship Earth - that was really the beginning, the germ of the Space Ritual."
 > LISTEN how Calvert got into Hawkwind
- an interview from '82 (streaming real audio)

And this gig turned out to be the starting point for a collaboration that should last
-with some intermissions- through most of the 70's.

...and so Robert Calvert arrived in Space (Rock)...
...and the journey had just begun...

...accompany Mr. Calvert on his odyssey In Search of Space, travelling in his Silver Machine to become a Revolutionary Romancer...splitting from and returning to this legendary band...
join us and click yourself to

> part II <

of the Calvert-Collab-Relations story with HAWKWIND:

from Space to Revolutionary Romance

part III
/ part IV

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