Robert Calvert

Michael Moorcock Michael Moorcock

A contribution by M.M.,
especially written for this site:

> Perhaps the bottom line on Bob Calvert
is that I still play his records with considerable pleasure. I think he was an original and talented artist who never quite had the measure of his own talents.

On occasions I tried very hard to help him get his ideas and work in order.
His vast anxieties only matched his ambitions and both were inclined to sink him. He believed himself to be "better" than most rock and roll people and a literary figure rather than the musical performer he was at his very best.
Bob talked to me quite a bit about his father, his problems with a repressive family who, in my experience, were merely disturbed by his intelligence and genius. I believe this had much to do with his later problems, which made him difficult to work with.

He was a charmer in one mode and a vicious antagonist in the other. This was ultimately to alienate more decent people than not - and Bob needed those people, like other musicians, roadies, publishers, record companies and so on, to perform at his best. More than once he was deliberately sabotaged by roadies to whom he'd been overbearing and rude and even the most phlegmatic musicians eventually gave up working with him.

As a project neared completion, his anxieties would frequently get the better of him so that by the time he was due to go on the road with a new album he was already barking barmy. The vampires and wankers of the music press were inclined to encourage him in excesses which sometimes provided good concerts but left friends and relatives weeping. Yet people stuck with him for long periods. Selfish and self-involved as he was, he had a talent which gave considerable pleasure to more people than he hurt -- and I still feel that the world lost a potential superstar when Bob died.

I just wish he could have taken better control of himself. His pathetic sires gave him no worthwile examples, merely a kind of half mocking aping of the upper-classes which characterises the petit bourgeoise everywhere.

With the exceptional talent Bob possessed, you need a particular mixture of good peasant genes, solid learning, horse sense and a strong, well-directed ego to survive and prosper in the kind of world whose approval Bob both demanded and despised.

(...) That said, like several creative people I know, Robert was his own worst enemy and this tended to make you more sympathetic to him. (...)

At base, he was the victim of social attitudes which are found around the world, but I really wish he was still with us. <

Here are some more words of Michael Moorcock on Robert Calvert - taken from an interview by Robert Godwin, which is part of his book 'The illustrated collector´s guide to Hawkwind':

M.M.: What happened was that Bob, by that time, was performing with the band (Hawkwind), but periodically he would have to be carted off by the men in white coats, literally. I've had to go and find Bob, when his girlfriend warned me what had happened. He'd gone off his rocker, at the Metropole Hotel near Paddington, which is the one where the bomb went off a couple of days back, and to find him in the middle of it with a huge broadsword, which he had taken down from a Scottish display, challenging all-comers to come and get it; and I had to get him. - It was not an easy thing to do.
So I didn't ever want him to feel that I was taking over his role in the band, because it was far more important to him than it would be to me, but I filled in for him. We were doing a gig under the motorway, and he was off being sedated in some institution. So I said to him I
would fill in for him, but I was not going to take over your job. I was never going to, as it were, take his job. As soon as he was fit and well again he'd come back. The first gig was this Portobello Road gig, and that's the first time I ever did `Sonic Attack´. I´d never did it before, it was all fresh then.

Bob was crazy. I mean he was actually certifiably crazy. Whatever that means.
I actually talked to the doctors and stuff because I´ve bailed him out of bins, one bin. I´m exaggerating. I bailed him out of one bin, where very clearly he was just being drugged up and being kept there sedated, with no treatment or anything. I was quite heavily involved in trying to get him out of that, and get him healthy, I took him up to Yorkshire and stuff, and got him sort of set back up again. But he was incapable of staying on track. Although he had the talent for it, and I admire his talent considerably and I mean I really do admire his talent a lot. It showed more in his individual work than in his work with Hawkwind, although his work with Hawkwind was good. I think he was a very good rock and roll person, but he was a snob and he didn't believe that that was what he should be doing. He thought he should be recognised as a poet and a novelist Unfortunately he hadn't written much poetry or written a novel, which was part of the problem. Also when he started to go up, he would get extraordinarily arrogant and unpleasant to roadies and people who he thought below him.
He was just awful. I mean people really did hate him because it was not simply craziness, it was really nasty craziness. He would get VICIOUS with people, almost anyone he worked with. I mean Pete Pavli, who's probably one of the most easy going people in the world, was working with Bob on some of his individual stage shows. (...) Pete 's mainly my partner nowadays, has been for a long time, but he was working with Bob. And Pete was just constantly feeling disgusted by the way Bob was behaving. I've seen roadies sabotage Bob just out of sheer fucking tiredness of his behaviour. Just cut off his sound system.

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