Melody Maker – 2 October 1976
ROBERT CALVERT is a self-confessed “manic depressive, hypo maniac” He is also a poet, songwriter and author and has written a play about Jimi Hendrix called The Stars That Play With Uncle Sam’s Dice.
He was a member of the original Hawkwind, co-wrote their 1972 hit “Silver Machine” and was responsible for much of the bands “Space Ritual” project.
He has recorded two solo albums, “Captain Lockheed And The Starfighter ” and “Lucky Leif And The Longships” both eccentric concept albums.
He rejoined Hawkwind last year and is currently touring with them. A new play which deals with the death of Brian Jones and the yachtsman Donald Crowhurst, who both died on the same day in 1969 has recently been completed. It will be performed in London at the ICA theatre in November.
Still moving house. Last minute packing of things essential to my well-being. A lady friend assists me with her superior powers of organisation. “So whatchya wanna keep this old cricket pad for? S’only one of ’em. There’s not even a pair here.” (She is American )
I turn the faded white article over in my hands. It has a decidedly surgical look about it. Some smeared purple writing on the inside. Urgent speed hand that I may one day take the trouble to decipher.
It could be a poem. Or just a list of tasks I once intended to accomplish. A jointed leg plaster with straps, the writing lends it a heroic look, like an autographed fracture. “You don’t wanna keep this do you?” the lady enquires, eagerly, one eye on the throwing away box.
“Yes”, I tell her, gently and deposit it in the junk trunk. Along with all the scraps of paper, patterned with cryptic scribble. Reels of recorded tape. Unlabelled, some of them buckled. Old leaflets and brochures. An ashtray shaped like a Dolphin. With its tail broken off.
Forgotten objects activate the memory more effectively than the analysed system. This is a trunk of talisman. It is a random, lateral filing method.
” But why ” She sighs in mock despair, a slow-motion shake of the head.
” Because it reminds me of a world, ” I mumble dreamily. Trying to read my way through an obscure thicket of rhymes I composed at the age of 15? The work of a disturbed adolescent. An intellectual delinquent, A cerebral punk. ” C’mon ” The lady urges, ” Lets get this thing organised. “
There’s going to be a party. Nik Turners birthday. And a going away for the house. Out in the garden if it doesn’t rain. I try to take a nap in the afternoon. Trunks all packed and ready to move.
” Telephone ” a raucous voice calls up the stairs. I come down slowly. Rumpled, yawning. Open the door of a cupboard by mistake. It is full of people tasting wine and passing comments. The party has already started.
Have to grope my way through bodies to get to the phone. Elbows and drinks being splashed. ” Hello. O yes Daniel. Of course I remember. Daniel Makeover. You gave me your manuscript for the lecture on the lyrics of Jimi Hendrix in comparison with the teachings of the Old Testament. How could I forget that! “
” Sorry I couldn’t use it for anything. Yes if it turns up I’ll post it to you. OK yes, Really, Fine. Good bye. “
Someone hands me a glass of rhubarb coloured liquid. I ask her what’s in it. ” Everything. ” She giggles. I swallow it. It tastes of everything. Everything tastes quite interesting.
Outside in the garden, masses of the stoned and the drunk lounging around on the grass. Music pounding sweetly through a hundred watt stack. I can see his Viking hair and beard. Tony Hyde last of the truly primitive painters.
He did the cover of Lucky Leif. ” And ” Astounding Sounds. ” Him, Nik Turner, me, a few others here, we were teenage nihilist together in the coastal stretch of Kent where Dante Gabriel Rossetti is buried. Where T S Elliot could connect nothing with nothing. And where an American airman called Napoleon Green went berserk and machine-gunned people on the sea front in 1958.
Back to rehearsal. Dave Brock is having trouble with his foot pedals. there is a violent screaming of feedback. He kicks one of them. A back-line roadie springs into action like a goalkeeper. Great save. Another pedal is brought on in a hurry, plugged up. The buzzing of leads being tested.
The atmosphere is swimming with echo and reverb. It seems to have an effect on the gravity in the studio. Words weigh less when you speak. They bounce and float. Ready. OK. Two, three, four.
It’s a new number Paul Rudolph has cooked up. A sort of heavy metal Arab Sabre dance. Alan Powell and Simon king are pounding relentless menace on their chromium drum kits. Simon House picks out a pattern of synthesised eastern sounds from his polyphonic keyboard. I take notes of the imagery the rhythm conjures. Of Scorpions, Oasis, Mirage, Petro Dollar. And the cult of the Hashishins. And it is time for another tea break.
After rehearsals a meeting with Jonathon Smeeton to discuss last minute visual details. He has plans on a drawing board for an arrangement of lights and a stagy looking structure called Atom – Henge.
He points to it’s special features with a snapped off drumstick. Like a squadron leader briefing his men for a night attack. There is only one week left before we go on the road,
Telephone. ” Hello Daniel. How did you get this number? All right, never mind. No I haven’t found it yet. I told you as soon as it turns up I’ll post it to you. Yes, that’s a promise. Now I’m quite bust at the moment so if you don’t mind . . . yes . . . as soon as it turns up. Good bye. “
Rehearsals. The hectic processing of ideas. Laboratory testing of new material. e are seven mad scientists at work to create a monster that will lead us through the next few months of touring. There will be little time for anything else.
we are caught up in a tidal wave of energy. The manic phase of the moon. ( Tonight it is at it’s fullest. ) There will be hardly anything but going and doing until the end of November. My voice is getting hoarse. Sounds like Jack Hawkwins when his vocal chords had gone and he did his talking with swallowed air.
At the end of the day I go and see a film showing in Wardour Street. Goddard’s Sympathy For The Devil, watching the Rolling Stones trying to record the definitive version of the song. I can see what the problems are and feel an almost overwhelming urge to intervene . Music is like chemistry. Full of amazing accidents. And a few mistakes as well.
Last-minute nerves. Pre tour tension. Complaints and arguments are creeping into the proceedings. Lets go. Two, three, four. Wait a minute. Why? What’s the matter. That drum-break is hopeless. It’s really un-together. Alright. We’ll do it again then. Two. three four. Hold it, hold it, hold it. What now? Lets do it again. All right. Two, three four. No, no, no stop!
Simon King leaps up from behind his armoury of gleaming percussion and threatens to turk me if I don’t get on with it. I look at his face and see if he actually means it. I also wonder what he means by turk. And if he has ever done it to anyone before.
In any case he certainly looks capable of doing it now. And I realise it is because I am being unreasonable. ( which is quite reasonable of me. ) Two, three, four . . . and this time it works. Good lets get down to Dingwalls. I am standing by the bar when a chick for no apparent reason, and with no fore play, or warning, gets down on her hands and knees and sinks her teeth into my arse. Is this my karma?
We drive down to Pinewood studios for a preview of Atom Henge in all its working order and glory. And for what is known as a dress rehearsal, although no one seems to be wearing anything special for the occasion. There is still a list of costumes and props to be obtained. Why do we always leave everything to the last minute? Is it a craving for excitement?
So this is Atom Henge. A massive, pulsing theatre machine of lights and projection screens. A temple of hallucinations erected by a hoard of skilled devotees armed with drills, screwdrivers and faith. Liquid Len explained that it takes five hours or more to set up.
He demonstrates it’s various functions. Cueing in effects from his control panel of switches and patch-boards. ” This is fire, OK ” Flames begin to consume the screens so realistically it’s a wonder the sprinklers don’t come on. ” Wait a minute, let me show you this. You see if you select blue and mix it with a projection of . . . . “
” TELEPHONE ” Oh no not again. I pick up the receiver and hold it like a pistol against my head. ” Daniel it’s not you again is it . . . “
After I have slammed down the phone I find myself walking in a phantasmagorical landscape of gigantic neon crystals. To have threatened someone with a turking is quite a satisfying feeling.
And then to escape into the fantasy world of AtomHenge, ” Astounding Sounds and Amazing Music. “
The band is tuning up. I go and test my microphone. It’s an electrovoice close range type. Test my transhailer through it. It doesn’t feed-back at all. Great, here we go then. Once more. From the top as they say, or over it.
Later there is another tea-break. Dave Brock and I take a walk through Pinewood, trying to find a tea machine or canteen that’s open. We find ourselves walking through an abandoned film set, a derelict facade that looks exactly like the streets of Notting Hill.
And we look in the window of a cafe called the Reluctant Dragon. Nothing but miles of field growing inside. As we walk away from it I glance back over my shoulder and see that our reflections are still there, peering out of the glass, scanning the deserted wind-swept streets.
A Plastic Fragment Hawkwind Press Cutting