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."
Mann, 'Let it Rock ' / Dec. '72
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.
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.
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 -
earliest example of (psych)-Punkrock.
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.
combination created - probably up to now - the most intense and - strangely
enough - succesful blend of poetry and modern, electronic
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
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. 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..."
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!
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
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.
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
> "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'
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
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
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
...now try to imagine
any of today's record companies promoting one of their bands like this...
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
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
"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
"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
I would have
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.
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
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.
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 ...
mime & dancer, she got the kick for performances when seeing Arthur
Brown's expressive performances - another
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.
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
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
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.
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...
an urban guerilla
I make bombs in my cellar
I'm a derelict dweller
I'm a potential killer
I'm a street fighting
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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...
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....)
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."
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
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."
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:
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."
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.
- 7/72 - by Nick Kent
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: