Great Psychedelic Discography

Robert Calvert

Eccentric boho poet, sci-fi writer and vocalist with 70s space-rock outfit, HAWKWIND (he co-wrote their hit, `Silver Machine’, among others), ROBERT CALVERT was also behind a few satirical concept LPs in the mid-70s. Sadly, his bipolar disorder led to periodical bouts of mental health problems which resulted in him once being sectioned. Not to be confused with English-born jazz-fusion saxophonist, who performed with CATAPILLA and GONG.
Born 9th March 1945, Pretoria, South Africa, Robert was raised in Margate and London after his parents relocated to England a couple of years after WWII. Graduating from Portobello Road/Ladbroke Grove street theatre group, Street Dada Nihilismus, his poetry began to attract the attention of established prog-rock ensemble, HAWKWIND, whose songsmith leader DAVE BROCK finally secured his services on a temporary to full-time basis for Top 3 smash `Silver Machine’ in 1972; Robert’s “live at The Roundhouse” vox overdubbed by LEMMY. Recorded at Liverpool and London (Brixton Sundown) in December that year, Robert’s contributions and audio-visuals (developed with graphic artist Barney Bubbles) were an integral part of HAWKWIND’s “Space Ritual” set and tie-in double album of ‘73.
Taking time out from the group in the mid-70s, CALVERT delivered a couple of satirical concept solo sets. Inspired by the German Luftwaffe’s accident-prone “Widowmaker” aeroplane, CAPTAIN LOCKHEED AND THE STARFIGHTERS (1974) {*7}, was the first of these long-players. Featuring HAWKWIND “Starfighters” (Lemmy, Nik Turner, Del Dettmar and Simon King), as few PINK FAIRIES, plus crazy “Fire” man, ARTHUR BROWN, VIV STANSHALL, JIM CAPALDI, Adrian Wagner and a well-disguised BRIAN ENO, one could safely file this under schizoid, the spoken-word interlude/passages essential to the plot but ultimately irritating after several listens. The eponymous 45, `Ejection’ (b/w `Catch A Falling Starfighter’), `The Widow Maker’ and `The Right Stuff’, had all the traits of proto-punk-rock – a couple of years ahead of their time.
Produced by ENO, follow-up set LUCKY LEIF AND THE LONGSHIPS (1975) {*6}, was another concept, this time dealing with what would’ve happened to American culture had the leader of the Vikings colonised the country; The BEACH BOYS-styled `The Lay Of The Surfers’ was atypical of his/the set’s comic humour. The PINK FAIRIES’ Paul Rudolph was again in tow (as was Turner), while HAWKWIND’s sci-fi man, MICHAEL MOORCOCK played some banjo; note that CD re-issues of the record inexplicably toned-down best tunes, `Ship Of Fools’, `Ragna Rock’ and `Magic Potion’.
Musical aviator and detached historian, CALVERT, returned to HAWKWIND duties for albums `Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music’ (1976) and `Quark, Strangeness And Charm’ (1977), while `25 Years On’ (1978) and `PXR5’ (1979) found the group under the Hawklords billing.
Named after his published novel, HYPE (1981) {*5} was a bit of a let-down, its “rise and death of a rock star”/(songs of Tom Mahler) theme typical 80s quirkiness; new wave act, BETHNAL, augmented him. A few years rest and CALVERT was back in business for technoid mini-set, FREQ (1984) {*5}, a GARY NUMAN/JOHN FOXX-esque record that was “revisited” in 1992 with bonus tracks including previous single sides, `Lord Of The Hornets’ and `The Greenfly And The Rose’.
1986’s TEST-TUBE CONCEIVED {*6} led to CALVERT returning to the live scene. The record itself was the usual concept augmented by spartan accompaniment this time around. Sci-fi fantasy subject matter (`Telekinesis’, `In Vitro Breed’ and `Fanfare For The Perfect Race’) was effective and progressive, and his many concerts around England were attracting decent audiences. Tragically, as his career was on an upswing, Robert died of a heart attack on the 14th August 1988 in his Ramsgate abode; he’d recently been working with AMON DUUL II, among others. Of the many posthumous releases, the folky/ambient-chamber set REVENGE (2000) {*5}, was his most interesting and poignant.
© MCS Oct2012

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