Art Hero and Inventor
earth's timeline, from acts of heroism to creating test tube concoctions,
special moments occur that invigorate our beliefs in the human spirit.
Perhaps, the Robert Calvert
that dreamed of being tightly nestled in
a cockpit while protecting his country in wartime and peace saw his
future brightly in this manner.
young Calvert may or may not have realized his lifepath was tied
to rock 'n' roll, and that from this base, he could truly
We can now look
into the crystal ball of the past and sight Robert
Calvert, the artist, at times heroic, often inventive, forever
singing. It is truly a crystal ball for many, because the visage
remains a prediction of sorts; many who look, can never meet the
physical man, never talk one-on-one to him.
We experience him in isolation, in our living rooms, our dens, through
loudspeakers, headphones, and now on the internet, through computers.
The language hinted at in his lyrics
is alive for as long as we wish to keep it alive.
I remember going
to see Hawkwind
and telling my wife that anything can happen at a Hawkwind
concert. Maybe Bob Calvert show up,
I said. Dave Brock put
to rest all hope when he spoke up: "We'd like
to dedicate the next piece to the late Bob Calvert."
It was an irony the singer might appreciate. But while I got an
anecdote, a man remained dead and unwittingly died again.
A rock fan would do well to remember to temper their emotions. It's
fine to mourn the loss of an artist, but one should acknowledge
those who have lost more: a wife, a child, all those who were a
part of his daily breath.
Still, in life,
Calvert made every effort to reach all
Not as a pilot of
planes, but as an adventurer of art, specifically within the
rock motif. While Silver
Machine speaks to our child-like primal fantasies, each subsequent
work of Calvert tempts us to dig deeper
into other art-forms, closer and closer to a world that has less
to do with rock music and more with redefining our lives.
Like many sci-fi
rock fans, I graduated from Marvel Comics to sci-fi/fantasy paperbacks.
I was already reading Michael
Moorcock when I was introduced to the breathtaking tribal chaos
of Hawkwind's Space
Throughout this sonic expedition, lurked this voice, at one turn
calm and clear, at another slightly deranged, so that we might partake
in both future states perfect and imperfect. In this beginning,
Calvert and company took me deeper into
Worlds. This would soon change.
I was aware that
admired writer J.G. Ballard,
but it would be Calvert's lyrical adaptation of Ballard's High
Rise that finally persuaded me to check out the original.
I suspect Calvert influenced many of us
to read Hesse's Steppenwolf
or to view certain films (Damnation
Alley). Some of Calvert's lyrics created
their own story, like Spirit
of the Age (marrying two of his poems, one about
a clone, the other an android);
it's spin of unexpected words asks us to exercise our minds in the
same manner, albeit a shorter format, that Ballard
or Hesse might. In the world of 'serious'
poetry, New York poet John Ashberry was
busy breaking expectations from line to line (in direct opposition
to the language required when he wrote technical manuals for a living),
and digging deeper and deeper into a minimalist linguistics.
Calvert was also breaking the language,
on one hand twisting lines in a clever manner, but moving headlong
towards the minimalistic voice of the city and it's cold
Over time, the original search in space (outer, then inner)
becomes an expanded adventure. For me, it would be
Calvert and the Hawklords' onstage mechanized persona which
introduced me to Japanese Noh Theater.
It was track's like Automoton that really
prepared me for minimalist music works by Phillip
Glass, Steve Reich, and even the dark ambient works of the
90s. So much so that I might one day pursue ambient soundscapes
with Thessalonians and Spaceship
prefaces early industrial music
and acknowledges inspiration from Bertolt Brecht
and his 'sprechgesang' (Speechsong) "which gives a very Germanic
feel to our machine-gun lyrics. . . a lot of people who live in
the cities are influenced by what goes on with them, we're influenced
by the cities themselves.”
As one deciphers
the influence that Hawkwind
has had on musics like punk,
new wave, metal,
industrial, ambient and techno, one
can then begin to see that Calvert laid
down much of the early cement, or at the very least, got us to look
at where the cement was being created.
adventures, in a Joyce-like manner, say: Check it out, follow me
and check it all out, because everything that has existed can lead
us into everything that can and will exist.
His adventure asks us to travel beyond rock and conventional art-forms.
For fans who have become artists, be it rock or otherwise, Calvert
is a teacher, a mentor in absentia.
is not just an adventure, or a box of yea and nay Pandoras to be
studied and reshaped. Seeded in many of Calvert's
work's are messages, however coded. We can believe the hype,
in that we acknowledge that hype exists. We can believe in science
that we realize there is both good and bad in this venture. We can
see that fantasy and fiction are viable paths that can indeed lead
to reality, but that the opposite is true.
is never about absolutes, only possibilities. His message, at it's
most serious, is that the human condition is plagued with problems,
regardless of whether we can wrap it up in neat little sci-fi/fantasy
It is at this
moment that Robert Calvert becomes the
hero. Not as a soldier in armor, but as a rising voice that looks
into its own crystal ball, with the text of the world by his side,
preparing to pour out his findings.
The hero, here, has but one request: Listen. Listen
to the sounds.
Down A Diamond Mine, Acid
Line. The adventurer at his twilight now asks us to follow him
into reality and enlightenment: Perhaps, if we acknowledge the problems,
the fears, then we can begin to deal with them and find solutions.
At the heart of any inventor, is the drive to find solutions. But
what happens if there exist personal demons along the way?
For Calvert, sometimes described as a hypo-active,
manic depressive, these are potent artistic death
traps. He can be admired that he continued to experiment and
present musical solutions in such a state.
For those who
are afflicted, this is heroic in its own manner. The
drive in his vocal delivery, even the lyric/poem
on paper, is forever tied to the challenge of feeding this mental
challenge to Calvert, aside from securing
record deals and support for artistic endeavors, is the battle for
acceptance. Robert Calvert never asks
to be considered a hero or even an adventurer. As a musician and
poet, his actions suggest that he desires to be acknowledged
as an artist; more than just a rock icon.
One reason I believe this: I too began writing poetry before I played
music. And as I've had a certain level of success musically, the
poet side of me cries for a greater legitimacy for both my music
and a poetry I have done little to cultivate in recent years.
For better or worse, rock, at its pinnacle, most often does not
fit into the serious art circle; though many have tried to make
Calvert understood this. He understood
that music is one form of language. And language is at the heart
of serious art.
Calvert, with his Morse code music, his
shortwave samples, his megaphone maniacal deliveries, and his cool
mechanical computer rhythms, sought to expand his and our personal
languages and our experiences
The language of the space
pioneer begat the language of the scientist
which begat the language of the
city which begat the language of the
Given that his
lyrics were becoming more serious, and his inner self might have
been craving serious recognition, one might expect Calvert
to totally leave the muse of rock.
However, at the time when he was furthest from the lyrical language
of his Hawkwind
origins, his music swung closer to the simplicities of rock 'n'
roll than ever before.
One should not be surprised. If nothing else, Calvert
never fails to surprise. Or, perhaps, he was beginning to accept
that he was and always would be, a
rock 'n' roller.
I often wonder
what Calvert might have accomplished if
he would have pursued the topic of non-vocal music throughout one
album; perhaps we would have gotten an ambient adventure of sorts,
or even a serious new music.
We do have other paths of language that Calvert
realized publicly; in theater, in poetry. But because Calvert is
rarely remembered as a
a poet or as a playwright
outside of rock circles, he seems to float endlessly as
a tragic figure
an artistic Hamlet if you will.
I was asked to
help start a space rock band in the early 90s, as the resident poet.
Two years later, Melting Euphoria were
still a 3-piece; with a great rhythm section, my keyboard rhythms,
leads and pads were required much more than any vocalizations.
However, live and on the band's premiere CD, I got to take on the
Calvert poet/vocal threads. Much like
he did, I used poems that were not originally written for a rock
motif. And like him, I tried my hand at various emotions.
I felt the best Calvert performances were
clear intonations, the voice futuristic, but striking at the
core of our existence. I don't know if my performances on Melting
Euphoria's 'Through The Strands Of Time' succeeded toward
this goal, but I would not have another opportunity within Melting
Euphoria's walls, as I soon quit the band and continued onwards
with instrumental projects.
Since then, when
I've spoken on record or CD, I've considered the following: Calvert,
as his career continued, seemed intent on not just speaking future
texts or current issue texts for the sake of it: There was always
direction, purpose. I hope that all artists consider this lead.
There is another
Calvert influence that permeated into
my earlier works, as well as my current work with Spaceship
Eyes and space rock band Spirits Burning.
For example, during the Melting Euphoria
sessions, I would breathe into a straw aimed towards the mike to
produce an eerie wind; or breathe into a straw placed inside a plastic
cup containing just a little liquid for a micro-sized test tube
concoction; I placed a metal ball with an internal bell on a pillow
and recorded the soft tinkling motives of it as I gave it a virtual
magical carpet ride.
I don't know if I would trace this type of experimentation only
to Calvert. But I do know that it this
sense of play from the lyrics and musics of the Calvert's
and the Eno's
that has influenced many musicians who have followed.
We are often
too serious in our artworks. Within Calvert's
this: The message may be serious, but that does not need to prevent
us from being playful in its presentations, or from attempting new
strategies that seem child-like
and wide-eyed in their approach.
The rock forum
was perfect for Calvert's mental adventures
and heroism. Calvert is not a renown poet
in most poetry circles. His output in theater was rather minimal.
His legacy is in Hawkwind
and as a solo rock musician. Herein lies the heart of his artistry.
And each day seems to produce a new Calvert
convert to this work, breathing new life into it.
Simply put, Robert Calvert, for those
who have looked and those who will be welcomed in the future, is
an artist who attempted much and achieved much.
The scales on which we judge this success does not matter. What
does matter, is the chord he struck for many, and that it continues
Don Falcone -- November 15th 1997
on Don Falcone
infos on the manifold musical projects of Don Falcone can be found on
pages - incl. a wide selection of soundfiles.
EYES and SPIRITS
BURNING and Noh Poetry Rec. Homepage(s) - incl. the latest news
on the widespread activities of Don Falcone in his various musical incarnations,
soundfiles, bio- and lyric pages and more....