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Robert Newton Calvert (9 March 1945 – 14 August 1988) was a South African writer, poet, and musician. He is principally known for his role as lyricist and member of the space rock band Hawkwind.
|Born||9 March 1945|
Pretoria, South Africa
|Died||14 August 1988 (aged 43)|
|Associated acts||Hawkwind, Sonic Assassins, Hawklords|
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, where he became a corporal and played the trumpet for the 438 squadron band. 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 moved to London and joined the 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. Calvert then became acquainted with Dave Brock, and became the resident poet, lyricist and frontman of Hawkwind, intermittently from 1972–1979. 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. Calvert also directed Hawkwind's live opus, the Space Ritual Tour.
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, Calvert remained a fiercely creative, driven and multi-talented artist. During periods away from Hawkwind duties, he worked on his solo career; his creative output including 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 Calvert 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 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.
- Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters (1974)
- Lucky Leif and the Longships (1975)
- Hype (1981)
- Freq (1985)
- Test-Tube Conceived (1986)
- Blueprints from the Cellar (Home-recorded demos)
- Revenge (Demos with Pete Pavli – Released 1999, recorded 1980s)
- Centigrade 232 (Voiceprint, 2007). Spoken word. Released as book/CD (VP403CDMO) and CD (VP403CD 2007)
- 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)
- "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)
- "Silver Machine" / "Seven by Seven" (1972)
- Space Ritual (1973)
- "Urban Guerrilla" / "Brainbox Pollution" (1973)
- Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music (1976)
- "Back on the Streets" / "The Dream of Isis" (1976)
- Quark, Strangeness and Charm (1977)
- Hawklords (1978) (Also known as 25 Years On and recorded using the band name Hawklords)
- PXR5 (1979)
With Dave BrockEdit
- The Brock/Calvert Project - "The Brock/Calvert Project" (2007) (Includes readings from Centigrade 232)
- Adrian Wagner – Distances Between Us (1974)
- Nektar – Down To Earth (1974)
- The Imperial Pompadours – Ersatz (1982)
- Amon Düül – Die Lösung (recorded 1988, released 1989)
- Spirits Burning - "Reflections In A Radio Show" (2001) (Includes readings from Centigrade 232)
- Krankschaft – The Flame Red Superstar (re-recordings 2010)
- The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice (1976, about Jimi Hendrix)
- The Kid From Silicon Gulch (1981)
- Test-tube Baby of Mine (1986)
- Mirror Mirror (1978, premiered at Pentameters Theatre with Eva Gray in the role of Eleanor Bryant, reprised in 2013 and in April 2019)
- Centigrade 232 (1977)
- The Earth Ritual (1987)
- Hype (New English Library, 1981)
- Doc Rock. "The 1980s". The Dead Rock Stars Club. Retrieved 18 July 2014.
- Ankeny, Jason. "Artist Biography by Jason Ankeny". AllMusic. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
- "Robert Calvert (Hawkwind)- Musician Profile". Spirit-of-metal.com. Retrieved 18 July 2014.
- The Saga of Hawkwind, Carol Clerk, 2004 Omnibus Press ISBN 1-84449-101-3
- "Robert Calvert - a biography". Aural Innovations. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
- Knut Gerwers' Spirit of the Page Calvert site
- A short Robert Calvert bio
- Robert Calvert discography at Discogs
- Robert Calvert on tour in 1986
- Gnawing Medusa's Flesh: The Science Fiction Poetry of Robert Calvert
- Working Down A Diamond Mine
- An interview with Robert Calvert
- Robert Newton Calvert-In Remembrance