Robert Calvert

Roger Neville-Neil

> Bob and I
started writing
letters to each other when I was in the U.S. Navy.
I had never actually seen him or any of his performances but had been hooked by his clever wit, style of writing, and the subject matter covered on all these records he had done. It was Quark, Strangeness and Charm that grabbed me. After that, it was like the quest for the holy grail.

Eventually, I wrote a letter to Bob making comments about all the things I liked about his writing style and mentioned that I'd love to learn how to write like he does - someday.
Brian Tawn forwarded the letter and Bob wrote back thanking me for all the nice comments. He mentioned his past military experience and said that we seem to have something in common, "Why don't we try to keep a correspondence going?"

Calvert live at the QEH - photo by Melissa Joseph After I got out of the Navy, I left America and moved to England for college. So the first time I met Bob was at his Queen Elizabeth Hall gig. He was very friendly, enthusiastic, and amusing. Very quick with a pun. Pretty much, this is how he was at the gigs I attended. He had a keen wit. Finely focused. With a knack for viewing the ordinary - in unusual and unique ways.

The lyrics I was writing back then, were very much Calvert inspired.
That's what I was trying hard to write. Learn how to write. Something that might remind people of his style. Though, I realized they would never come close to anything as brilliant as Bob's own work. Yes, that elusive holy grail once again!

Well, currently...I've got a new set of coconuts I'm banging together as I skip over the horizon... keeping an eye on that Calvert grail. I've teamed up with a good group of Knights for the quest.
FAR FLUNG are about to release a concept album based on a poem I wrote. The CD is titled "The Raven that ate the Moon". So be warned and keep an eye to the sky. Space will never be the same. So go check out FAR FLUNG on the Collaborations & Relations page and get ready to kiss your Moon goodbye!
FAR FLUNG are primed for the millenium.

On a typical Calvertian dialogue tactic (incl. a reference to Roger Zelazny / Damnation Alley):

"I'd generally carry a book with me when I went to gigs - at one of Bob's sound checks I turned up with an American copy of a Roger Zelazny book. A short stories collection that probably hadn't been released in Britain at the time.
I got heavily into Zelazny after having seen the movie Damnation Alley and noting that Hawkwind were apparently into his books.
I was married back then and happened to be in a U.S. Navy commissary in Pearl Harbour, going through the record bins -- A-Z. That's when I found out about...Quark, Strangeness and Charm. (Ironically, my birthday's the same day as Galileo's)

Bob saw me enter the hall and smiled. As I walked over to join him, I reached into my coat pocket to extract the Zelazny book - his eyes, like eagles' locked on the object in my hand.
Before I even had a chance to get out a work Bob quickly asked, "Can I borrow that book?"
Trying to look and act flabbergasted I retorted, "Borrow?"
Bob's smile quickly vanished and he looked very bemused. Most likely reviewing our previous dialogue. Puzzling over it.
I grinned, "Hell, I was going to give it to you. I've just finished it and thought you might not have seen this one.
Bob mentioned that he hadn't and commented that he felt Zelazny's best books were his earler ones...but, he would like to read this one all the same.
He paused briefly and then casually stated, "You know..I've met Roger Zelazny."
My face registered surprise and awe, "You have?"
Bob straightened up and took on a dignified air....much like the peacock does, expanding like bellows -- proudly fanning its feathers. "Yes, I have."
I was hanging on his every word...like a wet towel clamped firmly on a clothes line -- "hanging out" to dry.
"I told him about the songs I've done based on his stories."
"What'd he say?"
Bob leaned forward, firing off, "WHERE'S MY ROYALTIES!!!"
This just stunned me. My eyebrows launched into the stratosphere...leaving my mouth gapping in the wind - far below.

Roger and Robert - photo: M. Joseph A large mischieveous smile spread across Bob's face as he casually added:
"No, he didn't say that. I just thought it would sound more interesting. Actually, he was surprised that somebody had done a song about them.
He didn't know about them."

Thinking back, Bob managed to get an even better surprised look out of me than I did out of him. He worked in nicely and waited for the best time to spring it.
Good timing. Excellent delivery. Never saw it coming.

Roger Neville-Neil on a night to remember - Calvert and his band The Starfighters fighting the weathergods for good...

Bob recounted the adventure and excitement of preparing for a Brighton concert. lt sounded to me like a tale of gremlins vs. The Starfighters' determination to triumph against overwhelming odds.

Narration (Rod serling voice over): "Yet another interesting Calvert pit-stop along the meandering touring track known as-THE TWILIGHT ZONE."
England had suffered from these freak storms from time to time that would send hurricane force winds blasting across the country in random locations. Trees would topple - impersonating landlocked versions of river log jams. While smaller an normally inanimate objects - would make futile attempts at flight. Communities transformed into large scale wind tunnel agronomy experiments. (As if secret weather experiments were unleashed by disgruntled mythical storm gods under covert govemment control.)

The Starfighters were setting up for the Brighton show when one of these wind storms hit. The power went out in the hall... so the gig would have to be cancelled. Just after announcing cancellation and rescheduling of the show for the next day - the power suddenly returned!

Calvert / J. Cortines During his dialogue, Bob weaved an epic tale of monumental obstacles and how he found a challenge that wouldn't stop him. The band carried on with the sound check... while Bob dashed out toward the tarmac. Outside the hall, he told people, back on the street, that the gig was cancelled - but they could listen to a FREE PREVIEW of the concert!
Bob was beaming as he related this brilliant idea of turning a setback into a unique experience. lt was like live theatre, interacting with this potential audience... urging and convincing unsuspecting pedestrians to come into the hall for an impromptu show during a wicked night. Offering refuge and entertainment to the weary and storm tossed Yes, it did indeed sound exciting and he conveyed this totally - with flare.

Bob did confess that it was difficult to sleep that night. The band was sandwiched tightly inside their van, while the storm raged outside their small self-contained mechanical environment. I tried to imagine all these people-- trapped, interacting. The ongoing narratives and dialogues. The van rocking beneath the uncomfortable, fidgeting musicians. While outside their shelter - howls of enraged atmospheres probed the seals of the Starfighters' auto-cafe. No, not much fun at all. But a night to remember.
The score:   Robert: 1, Thor's inquisitors: 0.

- a memory-glimpse from the funeral of Robert Calvert:

> I was just standing there and over-heard a little girl say something to Nik Turner.
It was also surreal. She either asked or said something about flowers growing later...at the site - and Nik replied: "And they'll all have faces like Bob."
That images kept coming up after I heard it.
These Calvert flowers -- singing.<

- Calvert at the QEH & with R.N.N. photos taken by MELISSA JOSEPH -

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