|Calvert Lockheed Interviews
"It's all very well for Marc Bolan to call himself a poet. He's quite a quaint singer and writes fun lyrics; but
to say he's a poet and to toss together a book of jottings that any self-respecting poet would throw out the
window is a bit much."
Bob has had the idea of Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters for a long time, and the single is just a part
of an album, which in turn is part of a big stage production. The album is currently being recorded with
people like Hawkwind and ex-Roxy, Eno; it is called "Hero With A Wing" and subtitled Captain Lockheed
and the Starfighters.
The plot -which is the same for the stage production- is based on fact. In 1958, Franz Joseph Strauss,
Chancellor of West Germany, reviewed the state of the air force and announced that it was imperative to
build up the somewhat pathetic ranks with Lockheed Starfighters. These were revolutionary machines - the
first link between a piloted missile and fighter plane.
He wanted 700, the government said they could only afford 250, and the planes duly arrived. The German
pilots weren't used to these new machines, which had been slightly modified to order, and a series of
terrible crashes began. In all, 159 planes crashed and the whole business has been remarkably hushed up
The stage version will contain long narrative passages, and Viv Stanshall, Keith Moon and Arthur Brown
will all, hopefully, take part.
"Arthur is definitely the bloke to play the Gremlin - that's the mythological thing that pilots talk about
jokingly as causing faults. And I think Eno would be wonderful as a lounging, laconic pilot."
For the first time Bob has written the music as well as the words. "I want it more musical than Hawkwind
things. The single is very into the Germanic style of rock that Hawkwind are part of, where the melody
tends to get subjugated by the solidity of the hypnotic beat. But I want to use melody as a way of
conveying lyrics; two of my favourite song writers are Noel Coward and Cole Porter."
"Poetry in Motion"
"Hawkwind's Bob Calvert flying high with Captain
Lockheed...¦while shooting down Marc Bolan."
Despite the appearance and possible hit of Captain
Lockheed and the Starfighters their inventor Bob
Calvert remains primarily a poet.
"Albeit one of the most highly paid poets in the
world," he admits.
Bob has been reading poetry with, and writing lyrics
for Hawkwind for ages now, and before that was a
poet in his own right and even went on television
reading some of his sickly love verses. He has just
surfaced very sanely from a nervous breakdown and
is staunchly proud of his profession while just
beginning to branch out as a playwright.
"Calvert: hero with a wing"
From Sounds, 27/04/74
Well, as everyone knows, craziness is contagious. It
spread in ever-increasing circles of darkness, like
ripples in a pond, around Hamlet, eventually
submerging all and sundry in its fearful penumbra.
Some forms of dementia are more aggressive than
others; their exponents tend to be lucid proselytizers.
Such a man is Bob Calvert, who has quite a pressure
building up behind his own personal obsessions with
a particular brand of kamikaze heroism.
Most of those who patronise the music press will
know by now that Bob Calvert is Captain Lockheed,
the Hero With a Wing, the fantasy pilot of a
self-destructing jetfighter, the German Starfighter,
one of the most disastrous designs ever to have
streaked across the heavens in the name of national
The Starfighter story, which I shall not recount here
other than to remind you that upwards of one hundred and sixty examples of the said craft have crashed in
everyday service, constitutes an essential co-ordinate point in Calvert's imagination: where the quest for
individual glory, fame in perpetuity assured at the moment of oblivion, intersects with a childhood
absorption with the technical and aesthetic attractions of autonomous jet powered flight.
Above all Calvert admires the autonomy of the hero, his aloofness. Hence the Hero With A Wing; hence his
admiration for the German Expressionist playwright Bertolt Brecht, hence his admiration for Hamlet, and
the need to reuse him in "The Rise And Fall Of Luigi Brilliantino", the project which follows "Captain
"Luigi Brilliantino" is set in Chicago or 1928-35 and traces the story of Luigi, who sets out from Sicily to
avenge the murder of his father and his mother's remarriage with the murderer. Calvert says it has an
Oedipus style twist at the end so you may be assured that his literary reference points are respectable. He
has gone some way into writing words and dialogue for the presentation, which he calls "another black
The only musician he has definitely in mind for the music, which he dubs "swing rock" -rock music with a
basis in the swing band sound of the Thirties- is ex-Pink Fairy Paul Rudolph. Although the subject matter is
to be weighty, Bob insists that the treatment will have an element of parody which will make the music
But the dividing line between theatre with music and musical theatre is fine: on the recorded "Captain
Lockheed" I had a strong impression of a collection of songs linked with spoken parts rather than an
integrated dramatic work. Whether the stage show, which will be considerably expanded, will give the
same impression or will be more of a complete dramatic presentation remains to be seen.
Calvert admits that, according to his lights, he's doing things the wrong way round: as its name implies, a
record is a permanent impression of a work which pre-exists its recording. "The main difference between
the stage show and the album is that it's longer. But the album is a complete sound play in itself whereas
the stage thing has lights and all the other things that the theatre can provide.
"The whole thing seems even more extraordinary to me now than when I first started this venture. I can
see no reason why they continue to fly this plane.
"I find something fascinating about the arms dealer as a figure - I always had a sneaking admiration when I
was a kid for the bad man in the Westerns who incited the Indians to attack the farmers and then supplied
both sides with arms."
"I want to be a novelist one day but I haven't had the time to get down a protracted prose work yet...
things have happened since I left Hawkwind. My whole approach to work is different from theirs. They're
improvisers, but I meditate for a long time over something before I commit it.
But for all the machinations which exploit and degrade the hero in his jet-plane, his heroism is nonetheless
presented as real and admirable in Lockheed (as no doubt it will be in "Luigi"): "One thing that has been
missing from almost every form of fiction is the identifiable hero. In the serious work of fiction," he says,
countering a suggestion that Bruce Lee was a very real popular hero, "the hero seems to have been lacking.
I think the actions of a hero more or less sum up the ideals of his race. They are the expression of the
ideals of his race.
"I'm not obsessed with Germany or Germans, though I admire Paul Klee and Bertolt Brecht very much. My
observations cover quite a wide range of things. When I was a kid I was always much more interested to
be a gangster than a cowboy, whom I thought was an oaf."
Doubtless, say I, jokingly, you prefer cricket to football. "Yes, I was coming to that," he said. "I've made a
single called 'Howzat!' and the flip side is 'Cricket Reggae Cricket'. I always wanted to give cricket the
same thing that football's been given."
This is from the 25/08/73 issue of Disc...¦