|Take Me To The Pilot
This interview with Bob Calvert appeared in Melody Maker on August 4th, 1973. It was conducted
by Michael Benton.
Thanks to Frank Weil, who sent this to me
When the moon broke away from the earth they continued to be related. When Bob Calvert broke away
from Hawkwind they continued to be related. Indeed Bob is partially responsible for Hawkwind's current
single. Besides his work with Hawkwind, this strange earthling has been busy creating and developing
"Captain Lockheed And The Starfighters," a play with music that looks like becoming highly controversial.
Looking incredibly un-Hawkwindish in suit, short hair, rolled umbrella and staying at the Dorchester Hotel,
Park Lane, Bob Calvert in his own dynamic, extrovert way talked to me about his latest project. "Although
I'm known as a poet and songwriter, it's been my ambition to become a playwright. Since I was a young
boy I've always wanted to be connected with aircraft, ideally as an 'Ace'.
"I've grown up with the Starfighter jets, which have accounted for the lives of many young pilots. It has
become so much a part of me that I've had to write about it in order to get it out of my system."
At the moment Bob has a single, "Captain Lockheed And The Starfighters," out on release and it looks like
becoming a hit, with over 10,000 sold in its first week of release.
Two tracks "Ejection" and "Catch A Falling Starfighter" have Hawkwind voyagers Nik Turner (sax), Lemmy
(bass) and Simon King (drums), with former Pink Fairy Twink doing his bit on percussion. Dr. Technical
is also there, figuring in production.
"It would be nice for the record to be a hit, but I'm not really bothered about it. What concerns me is
getting the play staged at somewhere like the Roundhouse. I want it to be a theatrical event in the true
sense. Like those in the Elizabethan era. Not like one of Alice Cooper's egotistical displays, which in spite
of what people say, is nothing to do with theatrics.
"The story is a true one about the German Air force under the direction of Joseph Strauss, who allegedly for
political gain revitalised it with seven hundred Starfighter jets. As we know many of them have crashed,
giving them names like 'jinx-jets', and 'widow makers.' A more popular name now is 'flying coffins.' The
play is a comical tragedy - it's a good way to put across a heavy idea, although 159 crashed jets is no joke."
So much energy has been injected into the play, Calvert's work with Hawkwind has had to be limited. He's
an extremely fragile person, who has been regularly ill from the pressures of being on the road with the
band. If the record takes-off, or in true Starfighter tradition crashes into the charts, Calvert won't take a
band on the road under the name of Captain Lockheed. "I've a tendency to be manic-depressive and the
thought of not having regular sleep and meals is too much for me to take. What I'm planning is to stage the
play at somewhere like the Roundhouse. A concept album will also follow. "People like Viv Stanshall, Keith
Moon, Neil Innes, Arthur Brown - who'll be the gremlin and perhaps Jim Capaldi will all be doing something
towards the production. Being a hypo-manic and consequently having mental disturbances means that I
need to be settled in one place at a time and by staging the play, I'll be able to do just that."
A space poet from the planet Margate, Calvert has featured intermittently in the success of Hawkwind. He
wrote their hugely successful, "Silver Machine," and conceived the idea for their "Space Ritual" album.
"Writing hit singles is a matter of luck. I believe I could write hits on purpose, but I don't want to because it
wouldn't be satisfying. Financially I'm quite comfortable and the only reason I might want to have more
money would be to improve the theatre situation in Britain. I'd dearly like to see it back to Elizabethan times."
When I questioned him about staying at the Dorchester, he told me: "I'm going through an elegant phase at
the moment. Clean shirts and things feel good and uplift me. Unfortunately my life-style is governed by
being a manic-depressive. For instance, when I wrote the Captain Lockheed play, I started it by sitting on
the old hulk of a boat lying in a cove in Cornwall. It just looked like the remains of a crashed aircraft and
just being near it helped me to relate to what I was trying to do. I completed it in Morocco at a time when I
was feeling very depressed."
For Hawkwind, Calvert can see a more theatrical future and for himself nothing more than being a writer. If
his play flops, it won't worry him. "You can't expect everybody to like everything you do - that would be
selfish. Besides I'll have another project to work on by that time."