Robert Calvert

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Robert Calvert
Born(1945-03-09)9 March 1945
Pretoria, South Africa
Died14 August 1988(1988-08-14) (aged 43)
Ramsgate, England
GenresSpace rock
Associated actsHawkwind, Sonic Assassins, Hawklords

Robert Newton Calvert (9 March 1945 – 14 August 1988)[1] was a South African writer, poet, and musician. He is principally known for his role as lyricist, performance poet and lead vocalist of the space rock band Hawkwind.[2]

Biography[edit]

Calvert was born in Pretoria, South Africa, and moved with his parents to England when he was two. He attended school in London and Margate. Having finished school he joined the Air Training Corps, in which he became a corporal and played trumpet for the 438 Squadron band.[3] He then went on to college in Canterbury. After leaving college, and having been denied his childhood dream of becoming a fighter pilot, he slowly acquainted himself with the UK's bohemian scene. Calvert began his career in earnest by writing poetry. In 1967 he formed the street theatre group Street Dada Nihilismus.

At the end of the 1960s he returned to London and joined the city's flourishing psychedelic subculture. He soon became one of its most active members; joining, amongst other activities, Frendz, one of the leading underground magazines of the time. During that time he acquainted himself with New Wave science fiction writers. Acclaimed author Michael Moorcock, winner of several science fiction literary awards and publisher of the influential New Worlds magazine, became a lifelong friend. Calvert's poems were published in New Worlds and other magazines. Although he was influenced by the New Wave, Calvert developed a distinct style of his own. His ability to change fluently between poetry, music and theatre allowed him to develop into a multimedia artist. After becoming acquainted with Dave Brock, Calvert joined Hawkwind as a lyricist, performance poet and occasional lead vocalist in 1971. Following a two-year absence, he rejoined as the band's principal lead vocalist in 1975 before leaving once again in 1979. Calvert co-wrote Hawkwind's hit single "Silver Machine", which reached No. 3 in the UK singles chart. Although Lemmy sings on the single version, this is an overdub of a live recording taken at the Roundhouse in London with Calvert on vocals. "They tried everyone else singing it except me", Lemmy later said.[4] Calvert also directed the Space Ritual tour, which is widely perceived as the band's artistic zenith.

Calvert suffered from bipolar disorder, which often caused a fractious relationship with his fellow musicians. At one point he was sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Despite his sometimes debilitating mental health, he remained a fiercely creative, driven and multi-talented artist. During periods away from Hawkwind duties, Calvert worked on his solo career; his solo creative output included albums, stage plays, poetry, and a novel. His first solo album, Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters, was released in 1974. The record is a concept album, an amalgam of music and theatre focused around the Lockheed bribery scandals. In 1975, he won the Capital Radio poetry competition with his poem "Circle Line". In 1975, musician and producer Brian Eno produced and played on Calvert's second solo album, Lucky Leif and the Longships, a concept album which looked at the history of the US and the Vikings, who crossed the Atlantic to reach America before Columbus.

As well as Michael Moorcock and Brian Eno, Calvert's collaborators included Arthur Brown, Steve Peregrin Took, Jim Capaldi, Steve Pond, Inner City Unit, Vivian Stanshall, Nektar, John Greaves, Adrian Wagner, Amon Düül II and, posthumously, Spirits Burning, Dave Brock, and Krankschaft.

Aged 43, Calvert died of a heart attack in 1988 in Ramsgate, England,[1][5] and was buried in Minster Cemetery near Margate. His gravestone is engraved with the line "Love's not Time's fool", from William Shakespeare's Sonnet 116.

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

Demo albums[edit]

  • Blueprints from the Cellar (home-recorded demos)
  • Revenge (demos with Pete Pavli – recorded 1980s, released 1999)
  • Centigrade 232 (Voiceprint, 2007). Spoken word. Released as book/CD (VP403CDMO) and CD (VP403CD 2007)

Live albums[edit]

  • At the Queen Elizabeth Hall (Clear Records 1989, live album recorded on 1 October 1986. Reissued in 1993 as BGOCD 187)
  • Robert Calvert and the Maximum Effect Live at Carlisle Stars And Stripes (Stereo Records, 2009)
  • Radio Egypt (Voiceprint VP384, rehearsals recorded at S Nicholas Barn, 26 September 1987, released 2006)
  • The Right Stuff (Voiceprint VP385, recorded at Middlesbrough Polytechnic, 10 May 1986, released 2006)
  • In Vitro Breed (Voiceprint VP387, recorded at The International, Manchester, 25 October 1987, released 2006. Double CD)
  • Ship Of Fools (Voiceprint VP389, recorded at The Riverside, Newcastle, 2 November 1987, released 2006. Double CD)

Singles[edit]

  • "Ejection" / "Catch a Falling Starfighter" (1973)
  • "Cricket Star" (1979) (one-sided flexi single, released as Robert Calvert and the 1st XI)
  • "Lord of the Hornets" / "The Greenfly and the Rose" (1980)

With Hawkwind[edit]

With Dave Brock[edit]

  • The Brock/Calvert Project - "The Brock/Calvert Project" (2007) (includes readings from Centigrade 232)

Guest appearances[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

Plays[edit]

  • The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice (1976, about Jimi Hendrix)
  • Mirror Mirror (1978, premiered at Pentameters Theatre with Eva Gray in the role of Eleanor Bryant, reprised in 2013 and in April 2019)
  • The Kid From Silicon Gulch (1981)
  • Test-tube Baby of Mine (1986)

Poetry collections[edit]

Novels[edit]

  • Hype (New English Library, 1981)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Doc Rock. "The 1980s". The Dead Rock Stars Club. Retrieved 18 July 2014.
  2. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "Artist Biography by Jason Ankeny". AllMusic. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  3. ^ "Robert Calvert (Hawkwind)- Musician Profile". Spirit-of-metal.com. Retrieved 18 July 2014.
  4. ^ The Saga of Hawkwind, Carol Clerk, 2004 Omnibus Press ISBN 1-84449-101-3
  5. ^ "Robert Calvert - a biography". Aural Innovations. Retrieved 31 May 2015.

External links[edit]