|Album Sleeve Notes, Part 5
The latter half of the seventies, the Charisma
Years, from which this compilation has been
culled, saw a marked change in Hawkwind's
music and in their stage presentation.
Previously, songs had invariably been long on
instrumental jams and short on words, with
records mixed to a 'wall of sound' effect. The
overall sound had been more important than the
individual parts. On stage, the principle was the
same, with shadowy figures moving
mysteriously through the psychedelic lightshow.
On record or on stage there was no lead singer
and whichever person wrote the lyrics became
the one to perform them.
The Charisma Years saw a change to this,
principally due to Robert Calvert's return to the
fold. 1971 to 1973 had seen Robert performing
poetry and some songs with the band as well as writing much of the ephemerical material which had
gone to create the legends of Hawkwind. After a guest appearance at Cardiff Castle in 1975 he
rejoined as the band's vocalist and promptly became the person responsible for most of the lyrics
during the time that Hawkwind were signed to Charisma, at the end of which time Robert once again
went his own way. In fact, Robert wrote or co-wrote every song, barring two, which the band
recorded for Charisma.
Onstage, Calvert was the focal point, rather than the lightshow. As well as providing Hawkwind with a
full-time vocalist he turned the shows away from psychedelia and towards rock theatre by assuming
the identities of characters or ideas within the songs and illustrating the themes with mime and by his
appearance. For Steppenwolf it was the top hat and long black overcoat, for Hassan-i-Sahba it was the
pair of swords. At other times it was his black leather jodhpurs, boots and gloves, his flying helmet,
goggles, pistol, camouflage suit and various other props. He wrote the songs, created the images and
absorbed himself into them onstage to the point that by the end of a tour he was sometimes unable to
leave the characters behind when the show was over.
Robert Calvert and Dave Brock proved to be a good team in producing new material for the band.
They both shared an interest in science fiction and the idea of Hawkwind as science fiction oriented
rock theatre. Hence the increased use of lyrics based on specific books rather than overall themes...
'Steppenwolf' by Hesse, 'Damnation Alley' and 'Jack Of Shadows' by Zelazny, 'High Rise' by Ballard
and the Robot books by Asimov. Even the instrumental number, 'The Iron Dream', was ideally named
after the book of the same title by Spinrad.
The first of the Hawkwind Charisma albums had an extra science fiction theme in that the sleeve and
title were based on the style of covers used by the two most famous of the science fiction pulp
magazines, 'Amazing Stories' (launched in April 1926) and 'Astounding Stories' (launched in January
1930). Even the inner sleeve was printed with a parody of the kind of adverts to be found within those
magazines. On this album, as with previous ones, material was supplied by many band members but it
was the Brock/Calvert material which was by far the strongest (Reefer Madness, Steppenwolf and
Kerb Crawler). Thus, for the remainder of the Charisma Years this duo wrote the bulk of the songs.
The Hawkwind sound changed too. The extensive, often witty lyrics demanded a much 'cleaner'
sound to allow the vocals to stand out and so the band took a more professional stand, with more time
spent in rehearsals and a much higher standard of recording. The press took note of the improved
quality of the music and the depth and humour of the lyrics, resulting in the band enjoying a period of
more favourable record reviews. Melody Maker even declared Quark Strangeness and Charm to be
single of the month! Hawkwind had added critical credibility as musicians to their reputation for
energy and excitement.
Although Robert Calvert left in 1979, leaving the band to return to the psychedelic image with no
frontman, the Charisma Years had a lasting impact. The quality of songwriting and musical
performance continued to be of great importance to Hawkwind...a noteworthy legacy of the
Another on-going factor was that the Brock/Calvert team gave the band many good songs to be
assured regular use in the Hawkwind repertoire. Indeed, it is very hard to imagine a time when the
band might neglect favourites such as Psi Power, Spirit Of The Age, Hassan-i-Sahba, Steppenwolf, or
many of the other classics from the Charisma Years which Hawkwind still regularly play.
Over four years have passed since the Spirit Of The Age album was first issued. During that time,
Hawkwind have continued to rumble on, releasing new albums and filling concert halls on both sides
of the Atlantic. Songs from the Charisma Years remain a part of the band's repertoire, as I am sure
they will do for many years to come.
Sadly, five months after the original sleeve notes were written and one month before the CD was
issued, Robert Calvert died of a heart attack, on August 14th, 1988. He was only forty-three years old
and enjoying ever-growing success with his solo career, seemingly bound for success, with
suggestions that he might do more work with Hawkwind in the near future, when he was suddenly
Fans were shocked and those involved with Hawkwind were dumbstruck by the sudden loss.
Unwittingly, the Spirit Of The Age CD became, through the music and sleevenotes, the Hawkwind
record to highlight Robert's contribution to the career of Hawkwind.
Had the sleevenotes been written after Robert's untimely death, instead of before, I could have,
through the notes, thanked the memory of him for all he did for Hawkwind and for the entertainment
he gave the fans. Happily, instead of simply re-issuing the album, Virgin have decided on a fresh
sleeve, with added notes, so now, on behalf of myself and Hawkwind fans all over the World, â
€œThanks for everything, Robert. We all wish you could have been with us a lot longer."
Had Robert done more work with Hawkwind at the end of the eighties and/or early nineties,
Hawkwind would doubtless have recorded many more of his songs, and in the main it was the songs
which he recorded with Hawkwind which had the most impact. As it is, the four Charisma/Virgin
albums remain the only studio albums which Robert recorded with Hawkwind and this compilation
gives a good insight into those years.
BRIAN TAWN. July 1992
With original vinyl copies of "Warrior At The
Edge Of Time" (complete with fold out sleeve
and inner sleeve), currently changing hands for
£15-£20 it's incredible that until now, the LP
has never been available on CD.
Hawkwind's sixth LP, and originally released
by United Artists in 1975, "Warrior On The
Edge Of Time" reached no. 13 in the U.K.
charts and firmly established the band amongst
the elite of British rock. The albums "In Search
Of Space" (no. 18 - 1971), "Doremi Fasol
Latido" (no. 14 - 1971), "Space Ritual Alive"
(no. 9 - 1973) and "Hall Of The Mountain Grill'
(no. 16 - 1974) as well as the incredible and
unexpected success of the single:, "Silver
Back of the Dojo CD, where these notes are from
Machine" (no. 3 - 1972) had all guaranteed Hawkwind a place in the rock'n'roll hall of fame. "Warrior
On The Edge Of Time" confirmed that, despite fluctuating line ups, the Hawkwind sound was here to
Their last official LP for United Artists, it was also the last Hawkwind LP that bassist Lemmy would
play on. He was sacked from the band when, on a tour of Canada to support the LP's release, he was
arrested by customs officials who mistook amphetamine in his luggage for cocaine and he was kept in
a police cell for five days before being released to find he'd been replaced in Hawkwind by Paul
Rudolph. However as the extra track included here "Motorhead" shows, it wouldn't be long before he
was back with a band of his own.
One other unusual aspect of "Warrior At The Edge Of Time" was that it employed the services of two
drummers, Simon King and Alan Powell. This was because official drummer King had broken his
ribs playing football and though Powell was only meant as a temporary replacement he stayed on even
when King returned to full health! Even the band's headlining Reading Festival appearance to
celebrate "Warrior At The Edge Of Time" reaching the U.K. top 20 didn't pass without incident as Bob
Calvert decided to rejoin for the gig and ended up staying for another four years! Don't worry about
Â£15 for the LP it's worth paying just to hear the stories!
Disc 1 - Zones
Released on 10-28-03, "Zones" was the label's
first UK Charts entry. It peaked at No. 45, 3
weeks after release & was also at No. 3 in the
Indie charts. It was available on record, picture
disc & cassette. The catalogue number is
SHARP 014 and is still available in all 3 formats.
The tracks are: A) Zones, Dangerous Vision,
Running Through the Back Brain, The Island,
Motorway City. B) Utopia 84, Social Alliance,
Sonic Attack, Dream Worker, Brainstorm.
Playing on the record were: Dave Brock (vox,
gtr, K'board, synth) Nik Turner (vox, sax),
Harvey Bainbridge (bass, synth), Ginger Baker
(drums), Huw Lloyd-Langton (lead gtr), Keith
Hayle (k'board, vox), Martin Griffin (drums),
Special guest: Michael Moorcock. It was
recorded on the Hocking Mobile the year before
and was produced by Dr. Technical, engineered by G. Hocking, S.James, R. Heggic. The original
artwork was by John Coulthart and lay-out by Frenchy. A single, "Motorway City" b/w "Master of the
Universe" (FLS 025) was released for promotion and it did well in the lndie charts but did not show in
the Top 100. This record was licensed in Greece (Music Box Records) and Spain (Aspa Records). So
collectors, get searching.
Disc 2 - Do Not Panic
Released on 11-4-84, "This is Hawkwind, Do Not Panic: Stonehenge" was originally in a gatefold
sleeve with the band's name and logo in gold. After the first 10 thousand copies, it came in a single
sleeve with all gold replaced by red. It features an album and a 12". Tracks are: A) Psy Power,
Levitation, Circles, Space Chase B) Death Trap, Angels of Death, Shot Down In the Night- C)
Stonehenge Decoded- D) Watching the Grass Grow. It was also available in cassette and now CD.
Catalogue number is SHARP 022 and it is still available in all formats. Musicians were: Dave Brock
(vox, gtr, synth) / Huw Lloyd Langton (lead guitar) / Harvey Bainbridge (bass, vox, k'board) / Alan
Davey (bass, vox) / Nik Turner (sax, vox) / Danny Thompson (drums) / Keith Hayle (k'board) /
Ginger Baker (drums). It was recorded at Stonehenge in 1981/1982 and produced by Dave Brock.
Artwork was by The Art Studio and the engineer was Paul Cobbold. Due to a change of distribution 4
days before release, the highest UK Charts position was 101. No doubt, it would have reached the Top
60 in normal circumstances. However, it reached No. 5 in the Indie Charts and No. 3 in the Metal
charts (!!). This record was also released in Spain, (Aspa Records) and Greece (Music Box Records).
Hawkwind's 1980's output was, to say the least,
variable in quality. Having started the decade in
fine style with Live 79 (1980) and Levitation
(1980), they fell prey to the temptations of the
mainstream with their next three RCA albums,
Sonic Attack (1981), Church of Hawkwind
(1982) and Choose Your Masques (1982), all of
which sold moderately well and probably
expanded their audience, but at the expense of
originality and sonic diversity which
characterised their earlier work. Zones (1983)
and Stonehenge: This is Hawkwind - Do Not
Panic (1984) were patchy live efforts, and it
was not until Chronicle Of The Black Sword
(1985) and its live counterpart Live Chronicles
(1986) that the true Hawkwind qualities of
imaginative rhythmic invention combined with strong melodies were once again fully exploited. Out
and Intake (1987) was a mixed bag of previously unreleased, studio and live material, leaving only one
more official Hawkwind album to see the decade out. The 1980's also saw the regrettable proliferation
of poor quality live recordings and dubious compilations, which have continued to contaminate the
Hawkwind back-catalogue through the 90's.
The Xenon Codex, their fifteenth studio album proper, was released in April 1988 on the independent
GWR label, and like its predecessor Chronicle of The Black Sword, saw the band in fine form. It was
originally available in a fold-out poster sleeve, similar in style to the cover of 1971's In Search of Space
album. By this point in time, the Hawkwind line-up had altered significantly, with only Dave Brock
(Guitars, Synths and Vocals), Huw Lloyd-Langton(Guitars and vocals) and Harvey Bainbridge (Synths
and Keyboards) remaining from the 1980 version of the band. Newcomers Alan Davey (Bass) and
Danny Thompson (Drums) proved worthy successors to their respective roles.
The album opens with a ticking clock representing the final countdown to apocalyptic oblivion, swiftly
overtaken by a suitably minimalistic two chord Dave Brock riff which bears some resemblance to the
opening section of 'Spirit of The Age' from 1977's Quark, Strangeness and Charm album. 'The War I
Survived' soon develops into a classic power-chord rocker, with lyrics supplied by Hawkwind fan
Roger Neville-Neil, and inspired by Kurt Vonnegut's novel Slaughterhouse 5. Throughout the track
Huw Lloyd-Langton plays stunning slide guitar, marking a departure from his usual heavily sustained
'Wastelands of Sleep' is a dreamy synthesized ballad in the tradition of 'Space is Deep', with a mesmeric
electronic rhythm track. The swathes of synth chords complement perfectly Lloyd-Langton's
dream-like guitar fills. 'Neon Skyline' features a dramatic chord progression and chanted chorus in the
familiar Hawkwind style. As always, Alan Davey's songs fit flawlessly within the structure of the
album, which, on this occasion, features a varied selection of contributions from all the participants.
Harvey Bainbridge's 'Lost Chronicles' starts with a poignant instrumental section redolent of 'Wind of
Change', and a clear justification for his move from bass to keyboards. Huw Lloyd-Langton's solo, on
what proved to be his last Hawkwind album, is debatably his greatest ever. The track is followed by a
reprise of 'Neon Skyline'. 'Tides', a Lloyd-Langton instrumental composition, which closed side one of
the original album, is a haunting repetitive piece with seagull effects and tasteful keyboard
'Heads', another track with lyrics by Roger Neville-Neil, kicked off side two in surreal subdued style.
A slow keyboard-based number, it epitomised the gothic atmosphere of the whole album. Compare
this studio version of the song with its live outing on 1991's Palace Springs album, by which point its
full potential had been realised.
Heavily echoed footsteps and a slamming door lead into 'Mutation Zone', a synthesized rap describing
the horrors of a post-nuclear mutated menagerie (the experimentation which the discipline of their
preceding album precluded, was allowed full vent on several Xenon tracks). 'E.M.C' is a throbbing
instrumental rhythmically akin to 'Opa-Loka' from 1975's Warrior On The Edge of Time album.
'Sword Of The East' is a relatively conventional rocker, but nevertheless one of the strongest tracks on
the album. It has remained in Alan Davey's live set long after his departure from the band. The final
track 'Good Evening', which begins with a collage of sound-effects including an alarm clock and a
radio being tuned to a selection of random channels, is a grand deconstruction of the Hawkwind legend.
Never content to allow complacency to set in, the final released track of the decade is a good-natured
joke at the band's own expense. As an archetypal 'Wind riff stops and starts for no good reason,
Brock screams "Mummy Daddy told me get a job", and Lloyd-Langton lets rip with a stunning solo, a
suitable farewell to ten years with the greatest Space Rock band of all time.
The next Hawkwind album, Space Bandits, was released in 1990, and featured several new members
who launched the band into their third decade with a very different type of album.
Hawkwind are a unique band. Born in the midst
of the underground movement of the late 1960s,
they quickly became the leading musical voice of
the so-called alternative society, growing in fame
and popularity to become internationally known.
Yet unlike other underground bands of the era,
they have sold enough records to achieve
There have been many line-up changes in the
band's three decades, during which time the
line-up has included such worthies as Dave
Brock (lead vocalist and the only constant
member), Nik Turner, Robert Calvert, Tim Blake
and even (for a short time) ex-Cream drummer
Then there was Lemmy, the long-haired bassist
who named his own band Motorhead after the title of his last song for Hawkwind. Their strength is
that they play what they want to play rather than following trends. They have spent periods signed to
major record labels, but a parting of the ways has inevitably come when Hawkwind's ideals and serious
business viewpoints have been unable to live together. Retaining the independent attitude with which
they began their career, they did their own thing then and they do it now, resisting all attempts by
others to tell them what to do - real anarchists!
They don't go on marches (though Dave Brock used to join the CND Aldermaston protests in the
1960s) and they don't make bombs (though they do sing of such activity in the song 'Urban Guerilla').
Yet they are anarchists in that they have no desire to abide by the rules and laws made by others. In the
song 'Psychedelic Warlords (Disappear In Smoke)', Dave Brock wrote 'We're sick of politicians,
harassment and laws - all we do is get screwed up by other people's flaws.' Nearly 20 years later,
'Right To Decide' echoed those sentiments. Hawkwind have no love of 'Big Brother', so it comes as no
surprise that 'The Camera That Could Lie' bemoans the increasing and, to their mind, excessive use of
closed circuit TV to keep the general public under observation. The band's social awareness also
surfaces in songs such as 'High Rise' and 'Uncle Sam's On Mars', the latter questioning the obsession
with space exploration when so many ecological problems on Earth remain to be solved. Nor do
Hawkwind have any wish to conform. Most bands faced by sudden chart success would jump at the
chance to appear on Top Of The Pops to promote their hit. Hawkwind refused to mime to their 1972
Top 3 single 'Silver Machine', so the BBC had to film the band performing the song in concert. Also,
when the eventual follow-up single came two years later ('Urban Guerilla' having been withdrawn after
a few days on sale), it was quite different in style to the hit.
The material on this compilation provides a remarkably wide sweep through Hawkwind history. The
originals of the previously mentioned 'Urban Guerilla' and 'Sonic Attack' date from 1973 and the Lemmy
line-up - and though the latter is presented in a 1981 version here, Lemmy is unmistakably the vocalist
on 'Motorhead', his previously mentioned 'theme tune' taken from 1975's epic 'Warrior On The Edge Of
Time' album. Tracks like 'The Forge Of Vulcan' (1977), 'Life Form' and 'High Rise' (both 1979) take
the story forward, while the more recent past is represented by 'Vega' and 'Abducted' from 1995's
'Alien 4' and 'Assassin'. The latter, an encore number from 1996's 'Love In Space', is a great example
of mixing a long, ambient intro to a rock song and shows clearly the currently popular ambient
movement's debt to a band who have been creating such music for nearly 30 years.
Hawkwind have forged their own path from the beginning and, as musical heroes of the underground
movement, have always been happy to play anywhere for any suitable cause. In 1975, having headlined
on the Friday night at Reading Festival for a healthy fee, they played for nothing on the Saturday at
Watchfield Free Festival. But it was their regular headlining of the Summer Solstice Stonehenge Free
Festival that they enjoyed most. They played twice at the last Stonehenge festival to be held, in 1984,
and tried unsuccessfully to get past official cordons in order to play there the following year.
Hawkwind music has always fused experimental electronic music -for which read curious sounds
wrung from synthesisers- with the power of heavy rock played at very loud volume. This makes for an
extremely exciting result, especially at concerts, where the sounds are invariably complemented by a
dazzling psychedelic lightshow. Yet poetry, such as the chilling 'Abducted' and the awesome 'Sonic
Attack', has always been a part of Hawkwind music, as have instrumentals with majestic chords and
synthesiser sweeps such as 'Vega', or lighter numbers such as 'The Forge Of Vulcan' or 'Virgin Of The
While other bands seek to emulate them, Hawkwind are already looking to new ideas for the future -
and thousands of fans await the results. In the meantime, enjoy this fascinating selection from the
original Ambient Anarchists.
From Buddy Holly's Number One with "I Guess It
Doesn't Matter Anymore" in 1959 to John
Lennon's with "Starting Over" a generation later, it
has always been accepted that a pop celebrity's
death tends to sell records. Before they'd even
wiped away the tears, music industry moguls
would be forced to meet the demand kindled by
tragedy by rush-releasing product while the
corpse was still warm. So it was, then, with the
fictitious "Tom Mahler" who, via circumstances
similar to Lennon's pavement assassination, was
'shot to fame' by the dubious machinations of his
Mahler was the creation of former Hawkwind
front man Robert Calvert who, as well as
pursuing a solo career as a recording artist, was
also the author of "Hype," a novel published by
the New English Library. This tome is an excellent source of reference while listening to Calvert's
concept album of the same name. By one of those bilious coincidences that sometimes inflict
themselves on pop, this sound track to Mahler's passing was the gifted and fated Calvert's last record.
The Grim Reaper came for Robert Calvert in his Isle of Thanet home on 14th August 1988. A few
months later, the fortieth incarnation of Hawkwind convened to play a benefit concert for his widow
and son, an event which was held, fittingly, at Brixton's Sundown Cinema where most of Hawkwind's
"Space Ritual Alive" was taped in 1973. This album had marked Calvert's official vinyl debut with the
Though his photograph had gazed from the cover of "In Search Of Space" two years earlier, Calvert
had been but one of several peripheral members that passed through the ranks since Hawkwind's
inception in the late sixties. With saxophonist Nik Turner and guitarist Dave Brock principal among its
founders, Hawkwind took shape within the hippy community centred round London's Ladbroke Grove.
Breathing the same air were the likes of Tyrannosaurus Rex, The Social Deviants, The Pink Fairies and
The Third Ear Band. These entertainers were all regular fixtures at the free concerts that packed the
alternative culture's social calendar in post-flower power England. So common were these altruistic
happenings that reaction when scanning billings in Time Out or International Times had shifted from a
cynical 'Yes, but how much is it to get in?' to a jaded 'Hmmm, is that all that's on this time?'
More often than not bathed in swirling coloured lights, Hawkwind's modus operandi was the realization
of musical moods through open-ended improvisation. That they could command teenage attention was
partly symptomatic of a transfer of emphasis to works of such length that none could be crammed
onto a two minute single. Co-related with this was a greater respect for instrumental proficiency as
outlines dissolved between different forms. Instead of screaming hysteria, there was now
knotted-brow 'appreciation' of bands -not groups- like Hawkwind who played psychedelic 'rock'
-which only the finest minds could appreciate- rather than vulgar 'pop.'
The word 'psychedelic' is crucial here. I know it's distasteful to mention such things but, alas, it's true:
both the personnel of Hawkwind and certain of their followers partook of illegal drugs. "First time I
saw them," recalled one dazzled fan, "I was tripping and the music was melting the walls, know what I
mean?" Onstage, it was frequently the case, as Brock remembered with quiet pride, that "we were all
hallucinating so much, most of us couldn't concentrate for three seconds, let alone do a number." One
particularly deafening amalgam of Hawkwind and The Pink Fairies for an encore lent credence to one
participant's observation that such recitals sometimes "must have sounded awful to someone who
wasn't completely out of their brain."
In the retractable spheres of the recording studio, this abandoned approach could be modified, as it was
for the combo's initial sorties on disc by producers such as Pretty Things guitarist Dick Taylor who
attended to Hawkwind's eponymous first album. However, it wasn't until Robert Calvert was enlisted
that any headway was made in the singles chart. Dave Brock had met South Africa-born Calvert in the
Mountain Grill, a Portobello Road cafe later immortalised in the title of Hawkwind's fifth album.
Though he was then writing for underground journal Frendz, the first quarter-century of Robert's life
had given little surface indication of his future career. When he was two, his family had quit the
Transvaal for the greener pastures of Kent. With the onset of puberty, his ambition to be a pilot was
thwarted by an eardrum complaint. The disappointed youth's formal education ended at Canterbury
College of Technology, training to be a surveyor.
Robert's excellent memory and methodical tenacity might well have won him a secure profession in
maps and grids. However, the blossoming hippy sub-culture led him instead to the Mountain Grill and
Dave Brock who invited him to join the flux of guest performers who provided diversions during
Hawkwind's set. Among these auxiliaries already were science-fiction author Michael Moorcock and
Stacia, a dancer of erotic exuberance.
As 'resident poet,' Calvert's brief was to declaim the otherworldly ethereal and agitprop leanings of
Hawkwind's music and politics. As well as pinpointing iniquities and espousing worthy causes such as
that of the Friends of the Earth, the new member's lyrical vocabulary hovered round such buzz-words
as 'warlords' and 'interplanetary communication.' Defiantly short-haired, clean shaven and dapper amid
the other personnel's matted tresses, granddad vests and intense socks, it was the quality of Calvert's
poetry that endeared him to Hawkwind devotees and, thereby, escalated his greater involvement in the
stage act and, subsequently, in the recording studio.
A Calvert-Brock collaboration, "Silver Machine," became something of a Hawkwind anthem - especially
after its ascension into the U.K. Top Ten in 1972. This was first heard by the general public the
previous year when the outfit took part in the celebrated hippy knees-up at Glastonbury Fayre. The
version that got them on Top of the Pops, however, had to be mixed and edited from a performance at
the Roundhouse - with the superimposition of gruff lead vocals by bass guitarist Ian 'Lemmy'
Kilminster who was to become better known as the leader of 'power trio' Motorhead.
Following up "Silver Machine," another Calvert opus, "Urban Guerilla" - a comment on the antics of the
I.R.A. - had the hallmark of a hit too. It had actually reached Number 39 when an outbreak of
bombings necessitated its withdrawal from general circulation. However, such excursions at 45 r.p.m.
were regarded as trivial tangents to Hawkwind's main body of work on albums.
With his standing in the band then at odds with his self-picture as a "true space-age oral poet," Calvert
slipped his cable shortly before Hawkwind's debut U.S. tour. Reflective of the Biggles gear he'd been
wearing on the boards of late, Calvert's first solo L.P., the critically-acclaimed rock satire "Captain
Lockheed And The Starfighters," concerned deathtrap craft used by the German Air Force. Next up
was "Lucky Lief And The Longships," produced by the innovative Brian Eno in 1974 - the same year as
Michael Moorcock's vinyl venture, "New World's Fair." Dependent on needs peculiar to each piece,
both writers tended to draw from a pool of musicians either in or associated with Hawkwind. Calvert
even rejoined the troupe in the mid 'seventies after a guest appearance at the Reading Festival in 1975.
With Hawkwind temporarily in neutral by the early 'eighties, Calvert and Brock formed The Hawklords
from the latter's casual Sonic Assassins whose artistic aspirations had been merely to have a bloody
good laugh for beer money in venues within spitting distance of their native Barnstable. The release of
The Hawklords' first LP. was not the sole cause for celebration in 1982. This red letter year also
brought forth the third re-issue of "Silver Machine" and, crucially, the completion of "Hype."
Among the Hawkwind contingent heard on "Hype" are cellist Peter Pavli and on violin, keyboards and
backing vocals - Simon House who also, with George Csapo, assisted Calvert with musical
arrangements. After serving time with The Third Ear Band, House had bowed his fiddle in High Tide -in
which Pavli thrummed bass- before trying his hand with Hawkwind - whom he left when his services
were required by David Bowie for a 1978 world tour.
Needless to say, "Hype" is psychedelic as hell. Nonetheless, much the same ratio exists between it and
"Lucky Lief" as that between Bowie's "Let's Dance" and "Diamond Dogs." Technological advances
afford greater clarity and such sophistications as the synthesized representation of a gull's eldritch cry
on "Hanging Out On The Sea Front," Furthermore, avoiding gratuitous aural frills and instrumental
blowing, there is a greater -and healthier- inclination towards a more disciplined attack. Tellingly, many
of the tracks do not fade out but have defined endings.
Though shrouded by multi-tracked layers of treated sound, detached precision does not by any means
take precedence over guts and drive. Out of step with the march of hip-hop, rap et al, the release of
"Hype" was like a Viking longship docking in a hovercraft terminal. As well as Calvert's lively and vivid
imagination verifying the lost value of someone singing a song as opposed to producing a production,
some of the crunching rowdiness and riff-based pulse of the early Kinks, Troggs and Velvet
Underground abounds in the grooves; much of the exhilaration of the impromptu springing from the
chugging of Calvert's own rudimentary rhythm guitar.
With a voice to match, Robert's inability to pitch notes far beyond his central two octaves compounds
an idiosyncratic charm peculiar to certain stylists who warp an intrinsically limited range and delivery to
their own devices. Too one-dimensional and lacking in grace-saving humour, neither Jim Morrison nor
Johnny Rotten make it, in my opinion. Among those who do are laconic Lou Reed, androgenous Adam
Faith, asthmatic Keith Relf and wobbly Ray Davies. Similarly up against more technically-gifted
contemporaries are Bob Dylan, David Bowie and Dave Berry. As a singer pure and simple, Robert
Calvert too is a member of this oligarchy.
Into the bargain, he used words with the economy that is only gleaned from years of effort. His
struggles to be a 'true space-age oral poet' were not wasted. This is well exemplified in "Over My
Head." Running a gauntlet of lyrical references from Fellini to The Rooftop Singers' "Walk Right In," it
is a succinct summary of Mahler's tilting for the downfall of some aesthete's knickers. Other
outstanding moments in a consistently strong collection include the catchy "Lord Of The Hornets" (the
promotional single), menacing "Flight 105", sardonic "Sensitive", and "Evil Rock", in which Calvert
almost talks the lyrics like a collegiate Lord Sutch. This dissection of the addiction that is rock'n'roll
also features a gritty horn solo by Nik Turner.
Turner did not, however, honk with Hawkwind at Calvert's Brixton wake. Under Brock's aegis, the
band -as a sort of English 'answer' to The Grateful Dead- still go out for good money but the
commercial apotheosis of 1972 is unlikely to return. Although another hook-up with Brock was,
apparently, on the cards when forty-three year old Calvert suffered that fatal heart attack, it had been
proved with "Hype" that the part more than equalled the whole. Better off artistically without
Hawkwind, Robert Calvert was not content to rest on past laurels. His abiding interest in new musical
developments and technology allied with hard-won experience and unfettered intelligence suggest that
Robert Calvert might have achieved the prominence granted to lesser victims of the same passion. As it
is, "Hype" stands as both a worthy epitaph and a testament to Calvert's courage in remaining true to his