Robert Calvert


> part II <

> from Space to Revolutionary Romance <
"IN SEARCH OF SPACE was released, and moved into the Top 20. By this time, Bob had joined the band as resident poet, singer and songwriter. It was he who introduced the poetical concept to the band. His mental instability caused numerous problems, but his endless supply of ideas, energy and wild schemes gave Hawkwind the kick in the ass they so obviously needed." Steve Mann, 'Let it Rock ' / Dec. '72

ISOS 1971 saw the release of Hawkwind's 2nd album:
X - In Search of Space
It is the first record that features the striking graphics of Barney Bubbles, including photos by the seemingly ever-present photographer Phil Franks. Barney also did most of the work on The Hawkwind Log, a booklet that came with the album, featuring a collage of texts and photos - supposedly a found log-book of a spaceship, containing the cryptic last notes and contemplations of it's travellers through space - another seed of Calvert's concept of the soon to come Space Opera - the Space Ritual.
The Log also features several Calvert poems like Co-Pilots of Spaceship Earth and Ten Seconds of Forever - pieces, that soon became standards of the Calvert / Hawkwind live - repertoire.
ISOS established Hawkwind's style of hynotic free-flowing improvisations, accompanied by tribal rhythm's - in contrast with some acoustic guitar based pieces, remnants of Brock's busking days, often with a melancholic touch.

The band's sheer omnipresence on the live circuit and all kinds of free festivals had secured them a large and loyal live audience already - that consequently also resulted in the band's first significant appearance in the charts.

Though Calvert was already much involved in the band's live appearances, his musical / poetical contributions didn't show up on those early studio recordings - simply, because no one thought that these powerful live-combinations could really be transferred to and 'work' in the studio.
However, ISOS has been re-released (digitally remixed etc.) and now contains 3 Calvert song-collaborations: SILVER MACHINE (the soon to become top-ten hit) / SEVEN BY SEVEN and a fantastic raw-energised version of BORN TO GO - one of the band's best live performances, incl. some frantic Calvert vocals -
probably the earliest example of (psych)-Punkrock.

Read an article from the Melody Maker from Jan. '71 - shortly after the release of ISOS.
Read an (extensive) article from FRIENDS, July 1972 - HW touring Germany; a band breakdown; odyssee included.

Calvert's guest appearances soon turned into the status as the band's permanent 'resident-poet'. In between Hawkwind's psyche-punka-delic songs and sound-collages, Calvert turned up out of the fog and psychedelic light-shows, delievering his intense poetry-performances plus texts by his friend and SF-author Mike Moorcock. And if ever anybody mistook the band for yet another incarnation of love-and-peace naivety, than Calvert's distinctive, brooding and at times aggressive performances provided the definite crack of the stereotype. In fact, his performances of Sonic Attack and In the Egg would even today fit into any experimental-industrial-oriented performance - though the audience probably wouldn't believe that this was already done 3X years ago.

Read an appreciation of Hawkwind's influence on the industrial music scene - by Nigel Ayers of Nocturnal Emissions.

This combination created - probably up to now - the most intense and - strangely enough - succesful blend of poetry and modern, electronic music. s-machine
Calvert's performances went down extremly well with the audiences and his part extended to singing and songwriting.

Though the band had already gained a great following among the psychedelic community

by often playing at free gigs and numerous performances up and down the country, the big commercial breakthrough came with Silver Machine - one of the first songwriting collaborations of Calvert and Brock - and rocketed into the charts to become a million-seller-song.

> LISTEN   to Calvert telling the story around the release of SILVER MACHINE <

"We were asked if we would mind if they'd put Silver Machine out as a single. It was just one of the songs in the Space Ritual. I never thought of making a single - I thought singles are really something from a different industry we were in. When it was suggested and everybody agreed that it was a good idea to do it, I was so naive in those days that I couldn't see any way that if you made a single it wasn't a hit.
the silver machine pays off I assumed if you got into the process of making singles than you're in the busineess of making hit singles and that was it.
So, it didn't surprise me that it got to the top of the charts at all. I think I would have been surprised if it hadn't - not because I thought it was fantastic - subsequently I found out that this is not what most of the singles do.
But that was how naive I was then..."

Silver Machine was probably the first song that introduced Pataphysics and Ubu-esque humour to modern rock-music - and even got the band their first TV-performance on....
Top of the Pops

Read an article from Let it Rock; Dec. Jan. '72 - on the success of SILVER MACHINE
and how it helped Hawkwind to produce their ambituous upcoming SPACE RITUAL.

See the original SILVER MACHINE ad by Barney Bubbles.

Hawkwind appeared as one of the top-bands at Glastonbury Fayre with Calvert taking over the lead vocals.
The legendary Calvert, writer and conceptual thinker, has built up a reputation through his extraordinary ideas.
lt was he who devised the framework of the Space Ritual The Hawkwind Log accompanied Hawkwind's In Search of Space album was partly constructed by Calvert. lt is one of the most impressive correlations of relative ideas about out perspective and proportion in the universe that has ever emerged from the rock culture.

Calvert - 1978 Despite his effect upon the group's development, Calverts membership of the group has appeared irregular in the past. There have been periods when he just seemed to depart and return without warning. He seems to be migratory:
> "Oh well, you can't be there all of the time. You can only be there some of the time. Yes, actually I wasn't always but I have been recently. I've been ill, you see. So I disappeared for a while and came back. I don't think I keep doing it actually.
I think I've done it once. I was laid off, as it were." <

from: Melody Maker's 'Hawkwind File'

splitcalvert After the succesful Glastonbury gig, that has also been released as a part of a festival's compilation album, plans were forged to put him on as the permanent vocalist, but Calvert's recurring mental problems - he was a self confessed 'hypomaniac - manic-depressive' - soon caused him to back away from such a close involvement

- though at times it were simply the man with the white frocks... -

So, it was also due to these infrequent appearances that Calvert never got involved in the studio-recordings from that period, though he was frequently given credit for the conceptual influence.

Read an extensive introduction to Hawkwind's Space Ritual line-up -
from the Melody Maker; April '73

    Hawkwind live

"A visual mind-blower in the shape of an enormous strobe light trained upon the audience has its intensity doubled by the paranoia-inducing random flashing spotlight which causes temporary blindness at approximately ten minute intervals. And then there are the two smaller strobes, one green and one red, which turn Hawkwind into twitching green eyed monsters prowling the depths of a timesless reverberating hell....Through it all throbs and shrieks their ethereal music, and then there are the four bass drums thundering against the edges of your mind."
- official Hawkwind gig promotion by United Artists try to imagine any of today's record companies promoting one of their bands like this...

"I don't think there was any other band that was doing anything quite like this. Playing long stretches of free-form electronic music with spoken poetry being read to it in a way that earlier poets read their work to Jazz. But it seemed at the time we were doing it as a sort of inevitable extension of the whole experimental feeling there was in these days."

The Space Ritual Programme-Cover - design: Barney BubblesThe double live-album Space Ritual is the only recorded document of these days, featuring various of Calvert's poetry performances, like the all-time-Hawkwind-classic Sonic Attack and (still the closing number of all HW-gigs) Welcome to the Future. The Space Ritual involved a massive amount of sound and lighting equipment that was almost completely financed from the incomes of Silver Machine.

"The astonishing success of The Space Ritual must have been the most succesful blend of poetry and music ever been sold on a record. It's still the best selling album the band has produced so far."

> LISTEN   to Calvert talking about his role as the band's 'resident poet'
and the success of the Space Ritual

"The Space Opera, which is really a ritual was Bob Calvert's idea. It's almost a religious ceremony - some of our gigs have that kind of atmosphere.
Most of the material was written by Bob and concerns a fantasy about seven cosmonauts who are travelling through space in a state of suspendedanimation. The Space Opera is an audio visual portrayal of their fantasies and dreams as they travel through space.
It's a very flexible situation in which there is all kinds of scope to bring up subjects which are relative to our society in more realistic terms of ecology."

- Nik Turner

READ an article from SOUNDS on the preparation of the SPACE RITUAL
and Calvert's ideas on it's production and possible experiments....

The Starfarer's Dispatch

I would have liked you
to have been deep-
Frozen too, and waiting
Still as fresh
in your flesh
For my return.
But your father refused
To sign the forms
To freeze you.
Let's see you'd be, what,
About sixty now.
And long
Dead by the time I get
Back to Earth. My time-
Suspended dreams were full
Of you as you
were when I left.
Still under age.
Your android replica
Is playing up again.
It's no joke.
When she comes
She moans
Another's name.

Based on a bundle Calvertian ideas, but with the brain behind it being in and out of mental hospitals during production hase, the Space Ritual's concept remained somewhat vague in the final stage-show.
However, the initial concept focussing on the dreams of starfarers travelling in suspended animation, appeared throughout numerous songs & poems like THE AWAKENING, TEN SECONDS OF FOREVER and WELCOME TO THE FUTURE and included as much references to 'earthly' subjects - a good example for the initial idea gives Calvert's poem
The Starfarer's Dispatch.

Apart from Calvert's poetical concept, and his performances that formed a kind of structural backbone of the entire show - the Ritual also included other dancers and performers - most prominently the exuberant ...

  ...Miss Stacia           

Miss Stacia A self-taught mime & dancer, she got the kick for performances when seeing Arthur Brown's expressive performances - another collabMiss Stacia dancingorator of Calvert in the years to come.

Stacia joined the band in 1971 and toured with them for the following 4-5 years. Her performances were completely improvised - no one could ever tell what she would do - but her extraodinary costumes were quite often dropped completely.

"Stacia just turned up at a gig in Exeter in 1971, She said, 'Can I get up and dance when you play?' and we all said yes, of course. Then when she got up and started taking all her clothes off, we just sort of acceped it. It was the times, everybody used to take their clothes off in those days..." - Dave Brock

Amongst other dancers, the show featured spectacular light & slide shows by their soon-to-become-famous lightcrew: LIQUID LEN AND THE LENSMEN - and also the reknown 'resident DJ' Andy Dunkley, who got the audience in the right mood before the Ritual began, and who also set off the show with it's very own tailor-made Countdown.

"The whole trip will be to involve the audience within the journey through space and time through the minds of those astronauts.
The whole auditorium is the spaceship and we are just the energy unit.

If everything comes together as we hope - the lights, the dancers, the music and the words, we should be able to create a situation where people can identify with and completely immerse in the experience."
- Nik Turner

  But it wasn't all about space-ships, time-travelling, cloning and freaked-out-science-fiction-formulas...
Hawkwind and Calvert didn't earn their street-cred for nothing - they surely knew what was going on - or was bound to come up soon down here on earth - on it's capitol and capitalist-ridden streets...

                       the Punk Pre-Cursors....

I'm an urban guerilla
I make bombs in my cellar
I'm a derelict dweller
I'm a potential killer

I'm a street fighting dancer
I'm a revolutionary romancer
I'm society's cancer
I'm a two-tone panther
So let's not talk of love'n flowers
And things that don't explode
We've used up all of our magic powers
Trying to do it in the road
I'm a political bandit
You just don't understand it
You took my dream and canned it
It's not the way I planned it
I'm society's destructor
I'm a petrol bomb constructor
I'm a cosmic light conductor
I'm the people's debt collector
So watch out Mr. Business Man
Your empire's about to blow
I think you'd better listen, man
In case you did not know
Another highlight of the Calvert / Hawkwind collaboration was


- the 1973 follow-up single to SILVER MACHINE - and actually a much better song. Urban Guerilla features Calvert as the original vocalist and he delievers one of his finest performances here - but, as it often happend in the later years of his career, misfortune struck him at a very promising moment.

The release coincided with a series of bombings by the I.R.A. in London and United Artists, Hawkwind's label at the time, began to fear they might be the next target.

So, just as the Guerilla was climbing up the charts, the BBC and other stations refused to give this 'dangerous' and seemingly terrorism - supporting song any more airplay - eventually UA withdrew the record from further release.

Being the composer of a supposedly pro-terrorist song, Calvert had to give numerous interviews and face quite a hostile public reaction - like a lot of the 'heroes' of the yet unborn Punk-era, for which URBAN GUERILLA is one of THE musical precursors.
By now Urban Guerilla and a number of other Hawkwind songs have been covered by numerous punk/post-punk ... groups like Mudhoney, Sex Pistols, Sisters of Mercy a.m.o.

> > LISTEN   to Calvert on the story and trials around URBAN GUERILLA < <
> > LISTEN   to an excerpt of URBAN GUERILLA < <  
"I was sort of alarmed to see how many people thought that an Urban Guerilla was something to be. It didn't surprise me that it was banned by the BBC at all. In fact I expected it to cause a lot of controversy - it made front pages of the newspapers and I was heavily taking to task. I had to give interviews which were quite embarrasing - because the statements I'd made in the song - which obviously weren't a refutation of guerilla tactics by any means at all. I meant it as a metaphor for an attitude.
I suppose it got me a file opened by the Special Branch or at least by the Home Office. Obviously you can't get away with something like that."

towards the 1st departure...

though things were - despite the back-set of Urban Guerilla - developing fine for Hawkwind in general and Calvert's role was meant to be extened to the band's lead vocalist, various problems arose that made him drift apart from the band - mental and artistic aspects (that don't necessarily exclude each other, of course....)

"For some months, Robert Calvert was the lead vocalist, but problems centering around the unstabling effect on both the mind and the ego forced him into a mental hospital.
Calvert is, to put it mildly, an overwhelming person, possessing a seemingly inexhaustable supply of natural adrenalin and as such he seemed to take over Hawkwind's direction for a time. His ideas were getting further and further out:
he was working on the idea of taking a machine on stage to duplicate poems he would write spontaneously there and then to be handed out to the audience.
Calvert is capable of continuous flashes of brilliance
but his temporary inability to control them is causing the hang-ups."

Beside those problems that arose from Calvert's "overwhelming personality" there were definitely also increasing differences in the artistic / musical approach - which -most likely & simply- had to lead to more problems and consequently to a first split from the band, with Calvert's increasing part in both the band's performances and songwriting.


"My whole approach to work is different from that of the Hawkwind's.
They're improvisers, but I meditate for a long time over something before I commit it."
The combination of supplying the band with the mayor conceptual background and its 'aura', so to speak, but not being able to realize his own ideas completely led to an increasing frustration.
At the time Calvert said he believes Hawkwind to be primarily an instrumental band, with the lyrics and concepts secondary in importance.

Asked if he feels satisfied with the way the music represented the ideas and concepts contained in his lyrics, Calvert replied:
"Not entirely satisfied, no. Some things were quite satisfactory, but the end product isn't always. I think that direction and discipline are needed to keep this conglomeration of sounds together.
Improvisation has to be limited to some series of links to keep it all going in the same direction otherwise it would get totally out of hand.
There are experiments in free music, free jazz, which dispense with chord sequences but it gets really too wild to listen to seriously and to hold the attention very closely. If you're producing experimental electronic music, which Hawkwind does, it helps if the sounds are related to a concept of some kind - if the listener has an idea of the reason for these sounds. It gives it a valid reason for existing otherwise it's just noise."


faces Though it is unlikely he will perform on stage with HW in the nearest future, his presence as lyricist and general creative force will continue to add a vital extra dimension to the band.
Talking to him the last time, he seemed bitter about the situation claiming that the rift had occured because he was too individually-creative a force for the band to take. Since then he has spent another period in a mental hospital, and is getting himself well and truly together to work on a solo-record.

FRENDZ - 7/72 - by Nick Kent

In mid -'73 he backed out of his involvement with Hawkwind, only guesting from time to time at the odd gig.
But the relation to the band remained a good one - with most of the band members appearing on Calvert's first solo-album:
Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters, released in 1974.
One year later Lucky Leif and the Longships followed - produced by Brian Eno.

..but fortunately Calvert's absence didn't last too long...

...and the best songs 'n years in this story are yet to come...

the Hawkwind's - 1976


Nik Turner * Simon King * Dave Brock                
  Robert Calvert              
    Simon House * Alan Powell * Paul Rudolph

...after the return of Calvert in 1976
Read all about it in

> part III <

of another action-packed episode of the Calvert-Collab-Relations story with HAWKWIND

from Madmen to Quarks & Robots

part I / part IV

the spirit's home
biography   NEWS bulletin
works / part I / II / III   works / part IV / V / VI
words / lyrics   quotes
collab-relations   Mike Moorcock
Calv-Art   the spirit behind
the World ON Calvert
contact the spirit

...bug me...