Saturday, 9 March 2013

Robert Calvert

The first time I saw Hawkwind live in concert  was 8 months after my family had relocated from London to Ipswich. My mate and I were each 15 years of age and found that our tickets for the show had us placed in the same row, but on either side of the aisle. Sat on my right, exuding patchouli, was an exotic young lady, perhaps a couple of years older than me, wearing a cheesecloth shirt that virtually matched my own (this was 1975 folks!) and very little else. Soon after taking my seat, she began to lean into me, linking her arm through mine and talking quietly, close to my ear, in a slow, husky drawl. My pal across the aisle looked on in envy, while I beamed over at him in gloating disbelief, despite feeling way out of my depth in this highly charged situation.

An hour or so later, when Hawkwind took to the stage, the audience rose to their feet as one. I tried to stand, but the young lady grabbed me, pulled me back into my seat, held me close, looked deeply into my eyes, threw up all over me and passed out face first in my lap. A security guy was on the spot and took her out to the foyer of the venue, where she quickly recovered, having 'overdone it' earlier in the evening. I washed my clothes as best I could under the tap in the toilet, but was a bit of a smelly mess for the remainder of the gig - it was a dank, sweaty, dry-ice clouded affair though, so I doubt if anyone noticed the additional fug in the air. My mate thoroughly enjoyed my misfortune and can still be relied upon to recount the story with amused relish 38 years later.

A quick flick through old ticket stubs and diary entries confirms that I saw Hawkwind in concert on five separate occasions between 1975 and 1979, the first four of which featured the unique presence of novelist, poet, singer, songwriter, and showman, Robert Calvert in the driving seat. I initially picked up on Calvert a full two years before the evening of the vomitus maximus incident, via a 7" single purchased for 12p in late 1973, from the reduced price section at Woolworth's in Walthamstow. I must have been aware of 'Silver Machine' at the time, but that was the extent of my Hawkwind knowledge, so I have no idea what attracted me to the fantastic 'Ejection' by Captain Lockheed & the Starfighters (essentially Hawkwind plus Twink and minus Dave Brock), perhaps the oddity of a, then rarely seen, picture sleeve single. Over the past 40 years, the song has been described variously as kraut rock, space rock, even nascent punk rock. It's all of these and more.

Robert Calvert died from a heart attack in 1988 aged just 44. Had he lived, today would have marked his 69th birthday, so here's a little something extra to remember him by, 'Spirit of the Age', a Hawkwind classic from 1977.


C said...

Ewww! That's a classic story, The Swede... I don't envy you one bit. (I had a girl throw up over me on an 'plane once, that was pretty bad!)

As for Hawkwind, always a had a (quite unlikely really) soft spot for them just for being who they were and doing what they did! My sister had 'Hall Of The Mountain Grill' so that was one of those early albums that seared itself into my consciousness from a young age. (She also saw them live too and came back with tales of Stacia that shocked me hugely!)

I know what you mean about that kraut/space/nascent punk rock of the track here too.

(Now... who are all these dapper chappies and well turned out ladies catching my eye on your header images these last few months? They're great!)

The Swede said...

In my innocence, I thought it was love (or at least lust!), but in truth she just wanted a place to lay her head....after she'd vomited all over me!

Ah Stacia! Now I have clear memories of a naked dancing lady at that first Hawkwind gig, who I'd always assumed to be her, but apparently Stacia had quit to get married earlier in 1975, so I don't know who was up there!

I have a bit of a thing for old photographs. I just love these captured extraordinary ordinary moments in forgotten people's lives and have used a few of the images I've picked up along the way for my headers. I'm glad you like them, there are more to come!

Anonymous said... of the greatest of all British rock institutions. I'm ashamed to say that I have never seen them live. Unbelievable, I know, but I did follow their recording career quite closely up until the 80's and have dipped in and out since. As for the gig with the vomiting girl...I feel your pain and I'm sure I'd have made the same deluded assumption. I can smell it all now - the dope, the sweat, the hippies and the vomit. Good times.

Kolley Kibber said...

Oh, that's heavy. A lapful of vomit. And I bet she escaped with no recollection of the sorry event at all.

'Spirit of the Age' was one of the multitudinous tracks I listened to avidly on Radio Caroline in about 1977, when the station had a marvellously eclectic bent. I realised when revisiting the song recently that I know all the words, obviously absorbed passively on one of those radio nights when I should have been doing my biology homework.

And who remembers Robert Calvert doing 'Quark, Strangeness and Charm' on Marc Bolan's post-school show? Justin Bieber it very much wasn't...

The Swede said...

SB. I gave the band another go (the 5th gig) post-Calvert, but with a combination of my tastes changing and their central focus no longer in evidence I came away disappointed and never really went back.

The dope, the sweat, the hippies and the vomit - good name for a Hawkwind tribute band!

Kolley. Funnily enough, the Marc show performance (minus Brock - he didn't like Bolan) was on my shortlist. I remember it well. I also remember that period of Radio Caroline very well, Loving Awareness anyone? The jingle is still stuck in my head, 'Thou art surely the all-time sucker'.

Old Pa's Corner said...

Two crackers,a cracking story and you really cracked me up! It was all going so well!

The Swede said...

Old Pa. As Singing Bear so rightly put it - The dope, the sweat, the hippies and the vomit!

Deegee said...

The Capt is the best front man I have ever seen live and I must have been to over a 1000 gigs in my lifetime. Saw Bob 6 times with Hawkwind/lords and every time it was a different wonderful adventure. Aman taken well before his time and a man that was light years ahead of his time. In short the guy was a genius!!

The Swede said...

Well said Deegee and thanks for dropping by.

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