Hawkwind – a Fantasy of Sound and Colour

Disc – 15 July 1972

Hawkwind are one of those unfortunate bands destined to forever bear the burden of a mountain of clichés; in particular, glib little throwaways like “galactic” and “spaced out,” and of course, like any self-respecting band these days, they “play for the people.”

And this is all a shame because it reflects the superficial attitude the critics have towards them: in fact, until just recently they were regarded as somewhat of a joke, that is, until their first [sic] single “Silver Machine” appeared, hovering at the tail end of the charts.

Whether you can get into their enigmatic sound or not, there’s no denying that they’re interesting, creative and seemingly sincere – and they do seem to be able to appreciate and contribute towards the community outside their own little “family.”  But, more important still, wherever they play there’s always a sense of total involvement: a fusion of band and audience – something that many bands strive for, but rarely achieve.

The band’s philosophy contains close parallels to that of the late Velvet Underground, early Floyd and contemporary Arthur Brown (Kingdom Come), namely the co-ordination of lights and sounds to produce certain states of mind, arouse certain hidden emotions and induce fantasy.

Droopy-eyed Dave Brock explains: “It’s a known thing that certain pitches and frequencies of sound, when combined with the right colour from the spectrum, can induce certain feelings. Each sound has its own colour, you see…”  I didn’t quite, so he continued, drawing invisible diagrams on the desk, “Sounds are composed of a series of pitches running parallel to each other…what we’re trying to do is to get them to overlap and cross over, to attempt some sort of weave, where one sound blends into another and the end result is a long flowing piece.”

Now, you may not have understood that, but it’s easy to see the closeness of what they’re aiming for to the ceremonies and holy rites of the African Medicine Man, the Voodoo “Witch Doctor” or perhaps the Buddhist Mantras: all have one aim -to free the mind from the confines of the body- and this they achieve through the repetition of certain sounds or words.  To put it simply, in the words of Mr. Brock: “we want to recreate the effects. experiences and realisations of an acid trip – without acid.”

But, as some of you already know, the loss of their lights, along with all their equipment, recently, has set them back, not only on a performance level, but also in the development of what some have called their “Space Opera” – which vocalist Bob Calvert explains thus: “It doesn’t have a plot like a traditional opera but is an opera, nevertheless, in the way it presents a situation. It concerns dreams people might have if they were suspended in animation in deep space; whereas our last album concerned a journey into space, this is more about being there.”

But so far, it’s a long way off – setbacks caused by the theft of their gear, changes in personnel and various comings and goings, along with an increased volume of road work have resulted in the project being sadly neglected.

Like earlier Amon Düül material, and perhaps early Floyd the basis of their music is not in its virtuosity or technical brilliance, but in its effect. Dave doesn’t mind admitting that Hawkwind aren’t the cleverest musicians in the world, but says “It’s fun – we always seem to get a good two-way vibe with our audiences.”

Oh yes, and Hawkwind really do “play for the people” – literally. They’ve done so many benefits now, that it’s beginning to get on top of them. Demand exceeds supply, or as Dave says: “Probably because we’re one of the few bands who do play a lot of benefits, people are beginning to take it for granted that they can get us, so that sometimes we’re advertised as playing somewhere and people turn up and pay to get in only to find that they’ve been ripped off – nobody bothered to tell us until the last minute, and then it’s too late.”

“Also.” adds Nik Turner, sauntering in, “we’re a bit dubious about the whole benefits set up – so often the money gets absorbed by the structure of the organisation that puts them on. Edgar Broughton’s got a good idea: he wants to he paid the money off the door -personally- so that he can write a cheque and send it direct to the charity involved, and that way there’s no siphoning of the takings.”

“It disappoints me that more bands, especially the big names, don’t get into the idea of ploughing back some of their bread into the community, to help keep the scene alive – after all, these are the people who made them. You can’t reject that.”

-Peter Erskine

A Plastic Fragment Hawkwind Press Cutting

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