Hawkwind: A Space Odyssey

Melody Maker – 29 April 1972

Superficially Hawkwind may be thought of as one link in a growing chain of space consciousness.

The title of their last album, “In Search of Space,” is an artfully ambivalent indication of the ideas they reflect. On the one hand is the space out there past the Van Alien belt, the ethereal space with which one associates their music. On the other is the search for space on our own little planet.

The relationship between the two meanings is one that Hawkwind is very much involved in. For while this new age of mechanical space travel suggests unlimited horizons, the situation upon Earth promises the opposite.

The alternative widely prophesied is between severe restraint on material growth or destruction on a worldwide scale. The fact that doomsday is all too viable sets the background for the group’s activities. They regard Hawkwind as primarily a mobile communications sys tem which can function through its music.

It sounds a vague idea, but that flexibility is probably its main strength. A concrete ideology could be easily attacked. As it is the group speaks of its efforts at communication as helping to spread the new consciousness, which is fair enough since until it has replaced the old no-one will know what it actually is.

There is a little more body behind the group though than a few peace signs and well-meaning pleas for love and brotherhood. “In Search of Space,” which was their second LP, included a formidable booklet called “The Hawkwind Log.” Beginning with a creation myth, this
log sketched phenomena from many corners of time in an effort to show Man in some kind of perspective.

It came uncomfortably close to overshadowing the rest of the album package, although the music’s appeal increases steadily as the rhythms become memorised. The log writer was Bob Calvert. Currently he’s in the country, recovering from a more recent psychological adventure – or more accurately in this case, misadventure.

Hawkwind, being more of a community than a compact unit, are able to carry on gigging with their musical line-up down to six – Nik Turner (alto sax, flute, audio generator and vocals). Dave Brock (vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, audio generator), Lemmy (bass guitar), Del Dettmar (synthesiser), Simon King (drums) and Dik Mik (audio generator).

With Calvert out of circulation, Turner, Brock, Lemmy and manager Doug Smith were the only Hawkwindites to assemble for interviewing purposes. The log and last album cover, I suggested, seems to contain influences from Buckminster Fuller – in particular the use of phrases like “Space Ship Earth.”

No, they said, it’s more a question of moving in the same direction at the same time. Calvert is not the sole reason for their involvement in space: It had been thriving even before he joined the group.

“It was like that all the time,” confirmed Doug Smith. It was just that someone had to be the Captain. They had always played space music and spaced out music.”

Smith devotes a great deal of energy to describing the group, their music and their significance. Since they don’t regard themselves and their ideas as too sacred to laugh about once in a while, listening to him isn’t the ordeal it might sound. He has some coherent ideas about the inevitability of a small minority acquiring financial power on behalf of a far larger section of the population. It is the consequence of Hawkwind’s need for better and more ambitious equipment to extend their musical ideas, and thereby their attempts to spread awareness.

“There’s no political motivation behind it. It’s a moral motivation,” Smith mentioned.

“Politics of freedom,” added Turner, to murmurs of approval.

The group has a reputation for possessing “grass-roots support.” This they have achieved without allowing the build-up of a dividing barrier between group and audience. The people many musicians would call “fans” Hawkwind call “friends.” In Doug Smith’s words, it’s “a joint awareness of people together.”

“The audiences have changed now,” amplified Lemmy. “They don’t say ‘me.’ They shout ‘us.’ It’s a growth of a collective consciousness.” The group is very concerned to create an environment in which to play to an audience. For instance they are working on a space opera that will use mime, dancing, lights, film, and chemical smoke.

Their space opera has suffered various setbacks, but is expected to be operative by the autumn. Calvert’s notes for it are stimulating, referring prominently to the visual effects the audience could be subjected to. Its basic theme revolves around the dreams or fantasies experienced by seven space explorers in suspended animation.

Andrew Means

A Plastic Fragment Hawkwind Press Cutting

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