Hero with a Wing

Sounds – 27 April 1974

WELL AS everybody knows, craziness is contagious. It spreads in ever increasing circles of darkness, like ripples in a pond, around hamlet, eventually submerging all and sundry in it’s fearful penumbra.

Some forms of dementia are more aggressive than others: their exponents tend to be lucid proselytisers. 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 jet fighter, the German Starfighter, one of the most disastrous designs ever to have streaked across the heavens in the name of national defence.

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 childhood absorption with the technical and atheistic 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 play wright Bertolt Brecht, hence his admiration for Hamlet, and the need to re-use him in “The Ride And Fall Of Luigi Brilliamtino”, the project which follows “Captain Lockheed”.

“Luigi Brilliamtino”, is set in Chicago of 1928 – 35 and traces the story of Luigi, who set out from Sicily to avenge the murder of his father and his mothers re-marriage 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 comedy”.

the only musician he has in mind for the music, which he dubs “swing rock” – rock music with 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 appropriate.

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 it’s name implies, a record is a permanent impression of a work that pre exists it’s 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 effects that the theatre can provide”

“the whole thing seems even more extraordinary me now than when I first started the 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 to there’s. They’re improvisers, but I meditate for a long time over something before I commit to it.”

But for all the machinations that exploit 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,” 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 sums 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 more interested to be a gangster than a cowboy, whom I always 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 Howza! and the flip side is ‘Cricket Reggae Cricket’. I always wanted to give cricket the same thing football’s been given.”

Martin Hayman

A Plastic Fragment Hawkwind Press Cutting

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