Hawkwind legend Robert Calvert to be commemorated with blue plaque at Arlington House

Robert Calvert and Hawkwind in 1977

By Joe Banks

Margate’s Brutalist tower block Arlington House is to be formally identified as the “birthplace of space rock” with the unveiling of a Blue Plaque to commemorate Hawkwind legend Robert Calvert.

Robert was the frontman for space rock band Hawkwind during much of their classic 1970s period.

The plaque will be erected on the side of Arlington House, where Calvert lived with his parents and siblings in the 1960s. Hawkwind’s classic song ‘High Rise’ was inspired by his time there.

The plaque will be officially unveiled this Friday (25th November) at 1.30pm. Anybody is welcome to attend.

Calvert was Hawkwind’s singer, poet and conceptualist from 1971-73 and 1976-79. He co-wrote the band’s million-selling single ‘Silver Machine’ and appeared on classic albums including Space Ritual and Quark, Strangeness And Charm. He was the driving force behind Hawkwind’s transformation into the ultimate science fiction rock band as well as being a hugely charismatic and influential performer.

Organised by Thanet residents Nick Dermott and William Gary, the idea for the plaque was inspired by a similar one for T.S. Eliot affixed next to the Nayland Rock Shelter on Margate seafront.

Nick Dermott said: “Living in Arlington House, Calvert would have been surrounded by the vastness of the sky – for J.M.W. Turner, ‘the best skies in Europe’, which in the late 1960s would have been filled with US Air Force fighter jets based at RAF Manston five miles away. “Robert Calvert, Hawkwind and Arlington House are all underappreciated examples of British culture that need to be celebrated.”

In his youth, Calvert worked at Dreamland, during which time he befriended future Hawkwind members Nik Turner and DikMik.

After leaving Hawkwind in 1979, Calvert returned to live in the area, settling in nearby Ramsgate. It was from this base that he wrote his last two solo albums Freq and Test-Tube. He died from a heart attack in 1988 at the tragically early age of 43.

Photo William Gary

In celebration of the plaque’s unveiling, the Hawklords will play a special one-off show on Friday 25 November at Olby’s Soul Café, Margate, with support from tribute band Motorheadz, plus Superheads. Tickets are available for the show here.

As well as being a singer and performer, Calvert was also a prolific writer, poet and playwright. In spring 2023, a major anthology of Calvert’s work – much of which was unreleased in his lifetime – will be published by Clyvedon Press. More information can be found here.

Robert Calvert facts

Robert Calvert was born in Pretoria, South Africa and moved with his parents to Margate when he was two. He attended school in London and Margate. Having finished school he joined The Air Training Corps, where he became a corporal and played the trumpet for the 438 squadron band.

He then went on to college in Canterbury. Robert began his career in earnest by writing poetry. In 1967 he formed the Street Theatre group, Street Dada Nihilismus.

At the end of the 1960s he moved to London. Robert became acquainted with Dave Brock, Hawkwind’s remaining original member, and was the resident poet, lyricist and frontman of the band, intermittently, from 1972–1979.

Robert co-wrote Hawkwind’s hit single Silver Machine, which reached No. 3 in the UK singles chart.

His creative drive and passion also resulted in a great quantity of music outside of Hawkwind as well as writing poems and plays.

The dad-of-four died aged 43, He was buried in Minster Cemetery. His gravestone is engraved with the line “Love’s not Time’s fool”, from William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116.

Many members of Robert’s family still live in Thanet.

Hawkwind musician and former Thanet resident Nik Turner has died aged 82


  1. It’s a strangely subversive tribute if Arlington did inspire ‘High Rise’.
    Lines like “It’s a human zoo, A suicide machine” and “A flypaper stuck with human life”

      • Actually …The best thing Hawkwind did was to let Lemmy sing the lead vocals on the recorded version of
        “Silver machine” which was a result of Robert/ Bob Calvert (who wrote the song and sang the live version )
        being in hospital at the time of recording with Bi Polar .
        I was a very young teenager at the time visiting a friend in hospital in 1972 when I met and was introduced to Bob Calvert and remember well that he told us that he’d just written a new song called “ Silver Machine” for the band and of course it turned out to be a big hit making No 3 in the Uk charts a few months later in the summer of 1972 .

          • You ignore that Hawkwind are an “ Albums “ band and never were really commercially chasing hit singles .plus Silver machine their “ one hit wonder” was a hit in 1972 and it wasn’t until 1975 that Lemmy was fired
            Also Lemmy was fired because of a drugs issue on the Canada / America border and the Hawkwind management were concerned about them being able to work in America again and because of his erratic behaviour and nothing to do with his musicianship
            You should know this stuff if you’re a music author !
            “ Not the smartest of moves” .Says you after they’ve since have had several decades of success .
            and are still to this day creating and selling new music as well as playing live at decent venues like The Roundhouse,London
            And original band leader Dave Brock is still very active in the band

    • This article does kind of suggest that Arlington House was ‘the’ inspiration behind the Hawkwind track High Rise, but that’s somewhat misleading. JG Ballard’s novel High Rise was a major point of reference for the track. It is well known that Bob would often take a lead from Sci-Fi novels. Other examples include Bob’s Hawkwind track Fahrenheit 451 (from Ray Bradbury’s novel of the same name), and Steppenwolf (from Hermann Hesse’s novel of the same name). There is a clearly discernible pattern. I appreciate that the article’s author Joe Banks is knowledgable on Hawkwind so I’ll put any confusion down to a restrictive word count for this article! Funnily enough, a number of years ago I did mention to one of Ramsgate’s ‘heritage powers that be’ about a plaque for Bob on his last (Ramsgate) home, but the idea was immediately dismissed. Good on Margate for doing this.

      • To follow on from that a bit more, I’d say that personally I found the most discernible local resonances in Bob’s ‘work’ were to be found in some of the text pieces he contributed to Frendz. And I always wondered if Bob’s idea for Lucky Leif had at least some (albeit obviously by no means all) of it’s roots in Pegwell Bay being host to The Hugin Viking ship …

  2. It’s a sad that it’s taken 34 years since his death that Robert has been recognised in this way, I feel fortunate especially when I found out Nik died a short time ago I was able to get out all of there vinyl albums out and have a day playing Hawkwind I will do the same Friday, if memory serves me right the main reason Lemmy was fired was he wanted the group to be more Heavy Metal which was more suited to him vocaly he was right as history went on to prove him out, Motorhead were OK but not Hawkwind though, In search of space Hawkwind’s second album 1971 is my favourite studio and The Space Ritual Alive 1973, RIP ROB & NIK the Hawklords are reforming with an additional Lord!!!

    • I agree that it’s taken too long for Robert (Bob) Calvert to be officially recognised by Margate ,but at least he is now .
      I remember too that there is some truth to what you are saying about Lemmy leaning towards a more heavy metal sound which was at odds with the direction that Dave Brock wanted to take Hawkwind and Lemmy didn’t do himself any favours with.his drug problems which came to a head on the US/ Canadian border for the reasons that I’ve already explained and is well documented ,which resulted in his dismissal from the band
      Like you, both “ In search of space “ and “ Space Ritual” are my favourite albums by Hawkwind although some of the following albums in the 70’s are very good too .
      In fact I think that Space Ritual is one of the best “ Live albums” of the 70’s .that’s how good it is .
      Hawkwind have made many albums since then , one of the most unlikeliest ones is an album they made just a few years ago with record producer Mike Batt ( The Wombles / Katie Melua/ Justin Hayward/ Steeleye Span )
      On paper it shouldn’t have worked but it’s actually ok ,but nothing like the vintage Space Rock that they’re known for .

  3. Rockstar agreed the Mike Batt and others album was not bad, 34 studio released albums 13 live but my surprise is 30 single and ep releases urban guerrilla was excellent but aunty beeb banned it due to a IRA bombing program of England, I have a couple of cds as well as vinyls I would say to anyone who is wanting to listen to Hawkwind for the first time try and get a vinyl copy as to me so much of the real rawness of hawkwind is lost, not bad for someone who is a country music fan especially the late Jim Reeves.

    • Big Chris , I agree very much with your comments about listening to Hawkwind on vinyl “ Space Ritual” especially on original 70’s vinyl sounds much more warm than the Cd version ,plus let’s admit it the artwork is amazing on that album and one can enjoy it more on the vinyl version
      An interesting fact about their “ Road to Utopia “ album with Mike Batt is that it features making a guest appearance ….. Eric Clapton !
      I never imagined them working with Mike Batt , never-mind to get Eric Clapton which pleasantly surprised / pleased me .

      • Rockstar a lot of the, time these guest appearances are down to being a friend of one or more of the group or individual at a studio etc and they are available for a friend like brock and Clapton had been /are friends with Batt on a track written by lemmy, what I would have liked to see was them playing with an orchestra and the crazy world of Arthur brown singing some tracks on the tour in2018/19 couldn’t afford it with kids etc but pursuaded bro to buy me album for Xmas when it was released, my kids let alone Mrs think I’m wierd, I can’t argue with them.

  4. Wow. Some of these competative comments. Hawkwind played a huge part in my youth along with Pink Fairies. I will be going along to mark this.

    • Pink Faires ! Wow! They’re a happy blast from the past .
      I remember once at my school in Broadstairs approx 1974/75 we were allowed to bring in a album to play during our music lesson , so I brought some records from my collection
      This varied from Tommy by The Who , Wish you were here / Pink Floyd , Focus 3 , Slayed by Slade , Kimono my house by Sparks ( great band and album) The Yes album by YES , and Tomorrow belongs to me me by Sensational Alex Harvey band . Anyone remember them ?
      These were the days when most of my classmates ( but not all of them ) were listening to David Essex , Mud , Alvin Stardust , Gary Glitter ……. when I was then (still am) really into Progressive Rock music
      So one day I brought in the Pink Faires album “What a bunch of sweeties “,
      To this day I can still see the bemused look on the face of the music teacher listening to it and looking at the album cover which wasn’t of sweets as the title suggested but of other things to get you feeling good .Lol
      I remember talking to my mate in class and the teacher wanted to know what we were talking about
      So I just told her with quick thinking “ that the music sounded like they were just making it up as they go along “.
      I hadn’t really said that to my friend but it was enough to to shut her up , as I have long suspected that was what she was thinking herself .
      My first vinyl album by Pink Faires was “ Never,Never Land “which I bought as a 14 year old when visiting Bremerhaven , in what was then West Germany and I’ve still got it .

      • Sounds like we were listening to similar bands!
        I remember going to Hawkwind and Pink Fairies concerts and dancing absolutely non stop!

      • Rockstar and Angel, Bremerhaven has a big Xmas Market or did have not sure if still there, my sister went there a lot in sixties and seventies she met Gerry Marsden. Marc Bolam, Brian Poole and Status Quo in different years must have been a mecca for the stars, thats where she got me the first Focus album recorded for Xmas,Focus Plays Focus as at the time was not available here, there was some really good Prog Rock groups around late 60s through the 70s Jethro tull, King Crimson, Yes, ELP, The Alan Parsons Project and many more, and the Mrs wants me to get rid of them but I say when I’m dead put them for sale online but before you sell them at 50p a go check what they are selling for, you may already know Hawkwind have a new album out in December the vinyl is £37 at HMV.

    • Thanks Big Chris for “ the heads up “ on the new Hawkwind vinyl release of “We are looking in on you ( Live) “ .album
      The already released Cd version of said album has got some excellent reviews ,so I might be investigating getting it .Lol
      Great 70’s bands that you name checked including Focus ,who can forget “ Sylvia”
      ELP,, their classic Trilogy album was one of the first proper decent music albums that I bought on vinyl at the time with my newspaper round money ( Lol) and Alan Parsons Project who i remember buying their 1st album
      “ Tales of mystery & imagination “ on its initial release before they became famous .
      IMHO APP made at least 6-8 back to back excellent albums , not many bands/ artists can claim that can they ?

      • Rockstar exactly you won’t hear me arguing there have ordered Hawkwind for home delivery, all this talk about decided to listen to my collection of yes today and tomorrow Hawkwind, and a couple of hours of Jim Reeves while having a read about 10 both nights.

        • Big Chris ,Listening to YES tonight and then Hawkwind tomorrow night sounds like a great plan and a nice way to pay your homage to both Robert Calvert and Nik Turner .
          The good reviews for the new Hawkwind album “ We’re looking in on you ( Live) have made comments that the synthesisers are turned up on this album and the guitars that were to the front of the mix on the previous Hawkwind 50 live album have been turned down and that’s to the benefit of this new album by them
          I like the sound of that .
          I believe that Tim Blake 👍👍👍 had been playing keyboards with them recently and this influenced this decision for the mix/ production on this latest album .
          I look forward to hearing your opinion on this latest album after you’ve received and played your vinyl copy
          Btw, Which are your favourite YES albums ?
          Mine are Close to the Edge , which is just a timeless classic &wonderful album ,followed by The YES album ,then Tales of Topographic oceans ( bit controversial on its release if you remember,but IMHO has dated well ) then Going for the One ,then the album with “ Owner of a lonely heart”which has great production by Trevor Horn
          I also love “ The Friends of Mr Cairo “ the solo album by former Yes vocalist Jon Anderson & Vangelis ,
          The title album track which includes (samples ahead of its time) from famous vintage Hollywood movies is one of my all time favourite pieces of music by anyone and is also very moving and sounds great on a good HiFi .
          I’m not particularly a Jim Reeves fan although I like “Distant drums” but grew up with my Dad playing his favourite Roger Miller records incl “ King of the Road “ and I wonder if as you are a fan of Jim Reeves if Roger Miller is on your “approved list “ ? Lol

          • Rockstar your dad & you are in my good books, Roger Miller have 1 vinyl and a 3cd greatest hits mine of his is little green apple’s it was written especially for Roger by Bobby Russell it was also covered by Robbie Williams and Kelly Clarkson, Distant Drums was the first record I ever bought 1966 I begged my mum for an advance on my pocket money was 3 old penny’s a week if good didn’t take long to pay off the sub, its bsid old Tige is almost worn out 4 copies 2 UK 1usa 1 German USA& German both have different b sides, now yes as I have everything they have recorded on vinyl T F T O is favourite but only just as I’m a great fan of Rick Wakeman and he though I disagree Rick that there was two much for 1album not enough for 2 so they packed it out, King Arthur and the Knights of the round table is a master piece of musicianship, I get you when you say your not really a fan of Jim Reeves as if you really think about it I’m called wierd because of my taste of music every genre bar rap I have 1 single but just don’t understand it, I wonder do you listen to Jools Holland on auntie BBC2 as he has some excellent artists on their new to us but maybe not too there country,

  5. Big Chris , Like you I’m a big fan of keyboard maestro Rick Wakeman and have fond memories of buying his debut ” 6 wives of Henry 8th “vinyl record back in 1973 from the much missed market that used to be at Dumpton ,next to the Greyhound track ( Do you remember that ? Lol )
    Other albums that I bought at this period in time ( 1973) and at the market was “ Black Sabbath /Volume 4 “
    “ Houses of the Holy by Led Zeppelin ,Trilogy by Emerson ,Lake & Palmer ,
    Hunky Dory , Man who sold the world ,Aladinne Sane by David Bowie , Dark side of the moon ;Pink Floyd
    And of course …The Yes album by YES …..
    All great albums to start ones record collection I’m sure you will agree
    Back to Rick Wakeman ….. I bought both “Journey to the centre of the earth “ and. “ King Arthur and the round table” on release ,both had nice colour artwork booklets with them and I saw the last album famously performed by Rick with ice skaters at the then Wembley Empire Pool , now known as Wembley Arena .
    As you probably know Rick got a bit kicking for these shows on ice by the music critics at the time
    Now I love both of these 2 classic albums but as you may know Rick has since re-recorded both of them with Hayley Sanderson doing the vocals ,both albums are “ must haves” if you like Rick like we do
    I think Hayley is a wonderful and very underrated singer and you might be interested to know that Rick Wakeman is playing 2 nights at The Palladium ,London in February 2023 when on one night he’s playing “Journey to the centre of the earth “ and the following night he’s playing music by YES …..and King Arthur …..
    And Hayley is performing on BOTH shows !
    Check out her previous performances out at The Palladium with Rick on YouTube .
    She really is very impressive .
    Thanks for your kind words re: Roger Miller and for reminding me of “ Little Green apples “
    Another of his songs that my late Dad regularly used to play by him is “England Swings”
    I’m sure that you’ll recognise it if you hear it .

    • Rockstar England swings like a pendulum do bobbies riding bicycles two by two Westminster Abbey and the Tower of big Ben the Rosie Red cheeks of the little children, oh yes thanks for the nudge lol, I am afraid I would love to go as I reckon it would be a blast I’m not able to nowadays my mind is ok but my body won’t let me but I have my extensive vinyl and CD collection back to Rick I noticed Hayley singing on YouTube more than a year ago but was a poor recording or something up with the playing system as everything else was OK will give it another listen and have heard her singing somewhere else before and recognised the name, your list is good and glad to see you included Bowie as Rick played ona lot of his tracks also Elton John, T Rex and played piano on morning has broken Cat Stevens,in the early 70s Rick and Keith Emerson were the two best and saughtafter organ/keyboard players I can’t argue either and would never dare! YES were on sky tv( sky are another excellent group?? Classical if you haven’t listened to sky a must is sky4) around Xmas last 2years 2 nights playing yes and tales both live Royal Albert Hall I think with orchestra I don’t know why I didn’t say beforehand

      • Big Chris, You made me smile reminding me with the lyrics to “ England Swings “ by Roger Miller
        I know about the many brilliant records that Rick Wakeman has played a session on , Morning is broken by Cat Stevens being my most favourite
        Plus I think people forget how young Rick was when he played on these iconic songs incl Space Oddity by Bowie .
        I think Prog fans these days forget that Rick used t be in Strawbs before YES .
        A few years ago on holiday I read Rick Wakeman’s autobiography but have to admit to being disappointed by what he left out of it ,and that’s just the parts of his life that I do know about !
        Why write an autobiography if you’re not going to give us the FULL story !
        Moving on …. Another album that I forgot that I also bought in 1973 was ……. Elton John : Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
        Now that is a masterpiece of a Double album with ALL Killer and NO filler and brilliantly recorded/ produced by Gus Dudgeon
        Quite frankly one of ,if not , THE best double album of original studio recorded material ever made !

  6. Big Chris , Like you I like most genres of music …..except Rap,. I think I spelt that right .Lol
    And Yes I do watch Jools Holland , best performances on the most recent series I think were ….
    Suede ….. who’s latest album I have and recommend
    And also Christine & the Queens , who is a great French singer and terrific performer
    Country music I like but it isn’t my favourite type of music but I do like Americana and I particularly like both the albums that Robert Plant and Allison Krauss have made together
    The last one “Raise the roof “was one of my favourite albums of 2021 .

    • Rockstar yes Allison Krauss & Robert Plant was radio 2s album of the week as I remember it on Ken Bruce’s programme always listening even now whilst watching world Cup on mute and radio through headphones so I don’t get distracted as have to do pop master was on it back in the naughties got 36 out of 39 points nowadays there are to many 2000 onwards but occasionally the questions are pretty much perfect for my knowledge ie-: 50s to mid 90s, I tape jools when he’s on so I can listen again to New acts and Christine and the Queens blew my mind when they played the his show the first time not got any of there’s yet but listen on YouTube occasionally but she is excellent you definitely have taste, and that is it for tonight, thanks for the information and chat.

    • Rockstar couldn’t go just see your Elton John Goodbye yellow Brick Road double best album ever I won’t argue as it is a very good one bot I have to say the War of the World is most likely mine and Elton’s is Don’t shoot me I’m only the piano player, only bought it as couldn’t get the single Crocodile Rock and well was hooked, strange thing I met Reg at Erith and Belvedere Fcs ground when uncle Roy was manager there I used to get the ball when it went out the ground he followed me the one time he was there he took the ball back then he came back we had one thing in common as I found out then both our teams began with a w Watford his West ham mine little did I know he would be chairman of his one day and be the hit he is didn’t even know it was him when buying that album until Arthur Carver Roy’s uncle on the other side of family told me that Roy was his dad, definitely night now.

      • Big Chris , Your suggestion of “Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds “ being one of the best double albums ever made is a great shout ! 👍 and a worthy nomination .
        I like getting into music / album by bands / artists before they get popular and I remember that I bought the vinyl copy of “War of the worlds “on the day of its release from “The Longplayer” record shop that was at the time ( 1978) in Margate High Street ( which later became Our Price) .
        The Longplayer was a lovely record shop ,it had just been refitted out at some expense before opening with beautiful oak bespoke record display stands .
        They had a good instore HiFi to play any music that you’d request to hear …and they had all the new releases including 12 inch singles which were becoming popular
        And it also had a really decent HiFi shop at the rear of the shop .,if you remember that ?
        The vinyl copy of “ War of the worlds “ attracted me because apart from the music on it ,it came with a lovely booklet of colour illustrations that accompanied the album .
        What do you think of the more recent reboot of this album “ War of the worlds. …..The next generation” ?
        It’s a bit “ marmite “ , I remember the guy in the record shop when I bought it said he couldn’t understand why they did it .
        Personally I like it and it sounds great on a decent HiFi .
        The filmed stage version with Jason Donovan and Ricky Wilson ( Kaiser Chiefs) is often shown on Sky Arts and is worth watching .
        Btw .I would also nominate both “ Quadrephenia “ the original version by The Who as one of the best double studio albums ever released, plus “ The White album” by The Beatles too .
        I’ve probably forgotten some other possible nominations ……
        You mentioned “ Don’t shoot me ,I’m only the piano man “ by Elton
        Thars a mighty fine album ,but not at double album
        Interestingly did you know that Elton released BOTH “ Don’t shoot me “ & “ Goodbye Yellow Brick Road in the SAME year 1973 .
        That’s 6 sides of brand new music in one year …. And the quality is out of this world
        What an amazing achievement !
        I collect music memorabilia and have written to Elton on numerous occasions and when he’s back home at Old Windsor he’s fantastic and replies quickly and always signs things for me and has at times sent back extra things to me .
        Top man for doing that !
        I know the signatures are authentic and my favourite signed thing from him is my Goodbye Yellow Brick Rd and a signed film poster for his biopic “Rocketman “
        And finally ( Lol ) I don’t support a football team like Elton and You beginning with W
        But the one thing your and my teams have in common is that my team also play in Claret & Blue ,
        and are former European champions ( Yes ,I now , we’re still living in the past ,Lol ) and are currently we doing better than The Hammers . Ha ha ha

        • Rockstar you definitely are a villan! Lol you would not be saying that last year! Lol but it’s in the past yes Elton’s album Don’t shoot me iis favourite and 73 was amazing for him and put him on the way to a massive carrer I bought his single Your song but every copy of Crocodile Rock was (rubbish) had a dink in the middle of the second chorus and 1st one took it back to shop and they did not want to change it until I asked them to play another copy and each one did it they had 3 batches each alike hence reason for buying the album I’ve always said the singles were rubbish so we had to buy the album I’m glad I did and I’ve got the next 5 releases of his, quad by the who is an excellent choice to, have seen the stage version on sky but disappointed as have a picture in my head through listening to the album and reading the booklet with the pictures and I have images of what was happening and I can’t get them out of it, same way with the film. I have a very vivid imagination of them appearing over Horsell common.
          With regards to getting in touch with artists never do apart from one I went to school with and his daughter who are Actors I have only been in one fan club and still am no it’s not Jim Reeves. How remiss of me for not getting back to you sooner but only on tablet in the morning yesterday so first chance did you go to the unveiling of plaque was listening Hawkwind from 9am until 7,15 when an album finished as couldn’t concentrate on the music as England were playing!! Disappointingly I turned the wrong one off, back to Elton top man for doing that definitely looks after his fans /people who take the time to write to him and sensibly ( knows what he is talking about) as you do. Today have to do yesterday’s pop master first then some Yardbirds for a few hours best blues band of sixties before, with, and after Eric Clapton. Forgot to say I used a little record shop in Erith TW records and they two had a good hi-fi system and would play everything also in 60s a record /tv/and instrument shop in Bexleyheath had 8 booths with headphones to listen they were the Bees knees when it came to shops but from 70s when I started earning I walked to Erith to save bus money and that meant I could buy a extra single a week or album a few weeks later. Time for a cuppa and meds.

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