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
- 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
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
well, you could write whole books on this band - and indeed a few people
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...
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.
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."
Brock, NME - Jan. '71
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.
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.
band had numerous members and various loosely associated collaborators
over the years like the the reknown writer Mike
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
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.
"I worked in Dreamland, the amusement park
- did a bit of work on deck-chairs, beach photography and that sort
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."
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:
Turner. [photo of Nik
Turner by Phil
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
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
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. 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 used to wear luminous socks...') -
his first and main occupation & obsession remained poetry
"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
of Spaceship Earth - that was really the beginning, the germ
of the Space Ritual."
this gig turned out to be the starting point for a collaboration that
-with some intermissions- through most of the 70's.
so Robert Calvert arrived in Space (Rock)...
...and the journey had just begun...
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...
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