Hawkwind Get Their Trousers Pressed

Trans-Oceanic Trouser Press – September 1975

It all started quietly from a blues band called Dr. Brock’s Prescription which toured Britain and Europe playing second to such famous (don’t knock ’em) bands as Cubie and the Blizzards. The name flitted between “Group X” and “Hawkwind’s Zoo” before being shortened to just plain Hawkwind. In 1970, they were signed to Liberty and recorded one single, “Hurry On Sundown.” By the time they had recorded their first album, HAWKWIND (United Artists), numerous changes had taken place in this rather unpopular
“people’s” band. A sax player who had started as a Hawkwind roadie, Nik Turner, had joined as a musician, bringing the company involved on the first LP to six: Dave Brock, guitar/vocals; Hugh Lloyd Langton, lead guitar; DikMik, electronics; John Harrison, bass; Terry Ollis, drums; and Nik Turner. The response to the album was not quite wonderful, the enthusiasm of the band being rather hard to listen to. The group continued playing free festivals, including a legendary performance outside the fence at the Isle of Wight Festival, for which Nik Turner painted himself silver, political benefits, and other worthy causes, building themselves a strong reputation as a non-commercial, anti-elitist organization. One of the shows they did was the Glastonbury Fayre Festival, in the summer of 1971, where they acquired Stacia, an itinerant hippie who was “tripping my brains out on acid” at the time. She soon became Hawkwind’s “dancer,” a term loosely describing her demented travels around the stage, in bizarre make-up and exotic costumes that she sometimes discarded, revealing her gargantuan mammaries to the delight/disgust of many. Unfortunately, her nude gyrations quickly became a drawing point for the band, and many randy non-fans went to shows only to see Miss Stacia disrobe.

Later that year (November, to be exact), after more personnel changes (Dave Anderson of Amon Duul replaced John Harrison; Bob Calvert, a science fiction freak, became the group’s resident poet/vocalist; and roadie Del Dettmar became the new synthesizer player, in lieu of DikMik who moved for a short time to India – when he returned, the band had two electricians. Del, for whatever reason, worked for such bands as Pretty Things, Edgar Broughton, Cochise, and Juicy Lucy before joining the Hawkwind team) the band released their sci-fi freakout album. In Search of Space (Liberty/UA). Including a 24-page “Hawkwind Log” and a complicated fold-out sleeve, the album is a mind-obliterating combination of mongoloid repetition on bass/drum/guitar machine and crudely-employed synthesizer doodles. It appears, upon listening to the various songs, that the individual influences at work are rather easy to identify. The two songs which Dave Brock wrote by himself, “You Know You’re Only Dreaming” and “We Took The Wrong Step Years Ago” are by far the most melodic and “pleasant” pieces presented. The performances are raw and gruff, but the attempt to make Hawkwind musical is clear. On the other hand, Nik Turner’s two collaborative pieces (with Brock) are the totally crazed 15-minutes-plus “You Shouldn’t Do That” with its monstroso riff and extravagant use of audio generators and “Master of the Universe.” Dave Andersen’s contribution bears a distinctly more sophisticated approach in its construction and “tastefuller” synthesizer sounds. These songwriting trends have carried on in the case of Brock and Turner. (Anderson was replaced several months after In Search of Space.) Not until 1974, with the addition of Simon House, did these two forces have any competition within Hawkwind.

Hawkwind’s prospects looked bright as the year ended. A band called Opal Butterfly yielded a new drummer, Simon King, to replace Terry Ollis, and a bassist, Lemmy (a quid till Friday) The Lurch, in truth Ian Kilmister, a mysterious bloke whose career had begun as a Rockin’ Vicar back in March 1966. He had subsequently been a roadie for several bands, including Hendrix, before becoming the guitarist for Opal Butterfly.

On February 13 of the new year, Hawkwind played one of their most famous gigs at the Roundhouse, At that show they recorded “Silver Machine,” which was released as a single. Selling zillions of copies, it hit #3 in the British charts in July. It was the band’s only successful single, and it brought them all sorts of unwelcome rewards like fame and popular adulation, both of which ran against the band’s reputation as a people’s band, as well as against the grain of the essentially anti-social members of the band. It also left them broke, as strange and unconnected as that may seem. (There is an un-remixed version of “Silver Machine” on the Glastonbury Fayre album “Revelations” – the single was the product of studio overdubs.) Around this time, the double set Greasy Truckers Party, was released, with one side of live Hawkwind, on which they do “Born To Go” and “Master of the Universe.”

Buoyed by their single success, Hawkwind began putting together two projects. One was their third album, Doremi Fasol Latido, released November 10, 1972, and the other was the Space Ritual Tour, which opened in Kings Lynn, England, on November 8. The Space Ritual, a long conceptual affair concerning a vague end-of-the-world space theme, included most of the material recorded for Doremi Fasol Latido, but also had contributions from Bob Calvert and sci-fi writer Michael Moorcock, who were responsible for the more fantastic aspects of the sound-and-lights presentation, such as Moorcock’s “Sonic Attack,” and Calvert’s “Earth Calling.”

Having begun these two projects in November, more exciting things occurred in December, As the album hit #14 in the UK charts, they recorded the follow-up Space Ritual Live at two performances – Liverpool Stadium on the 22nd, and the Brixton Sundown on the 30th. It was this live double that gave most Americans their first real taste of Hawkwind, carrying with it some strange downer-oriented drug attachments that became clear when audiences actually turned up to see them during their first U.S. tour a year later. They made their American debut in hiladelphia on Thanksgiving, then rambled into New York, where a special arrangement with the Hayden Planetarium provided a special film showing at the concert, and the grounds for an immense debauched party at the planetarium itself afterwards. The audience reaction along this tour was not the normal mix of visionary rock devotees inspecting the “next big thing” and accidentals, not knowing what to expect, nor particularly concerned. Actually, the crowd seemed to know what they were letting themselves in for, and amid cries of “HAWKWIIIIND…” and “WHIPPING
POOOOST!” Black Sabaff fans passed out contentedly in the aisles. With a completely mind-staggering sensual assault, the performance mixed unbelievably loud Hawknoise with flashing lights and sirens to leave the listener/viewer with a feeling not unlike a 72-hour hangover. Stacia, to some’s delight, stripped, Nik Turner blared, Lemmy and Simon pounded, and Bob Calvert made profound pronouncements over the PA. Witness the following exchange with a cynic in the balcony in N.Y.C.:

“Space is cold…”  – “…Take a blanket”

“Space is dark…” – “…Take a flashlight”

“Space does not comfort…” – “…Take a friend”

Apparently, not everyone was that pleased with the touring company. But, somehow, the band’s prominence increased in the States, and by the time the “1999 Party” with Hawkwind and Man arrived here in March 1974, they were selling out houses all over the place, playing the same material to younger, more doped-out kids than before. By this tour, DikMik had left, and the electronics were being handled by Dave and Del. Shortly afterwards, Robert Calvert’s project Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters, appeared in Britain. Based on his fixation with a defective WWII German fighter plane, affectionately dubbed the “widow maker,” this musical (dialogue and songs, that is) tragedy featured such ridiculous personalities as Vivian Stanshall and Jim Capaldi as the actors and Arthur Brown, Eno, and Hawkwind as the musicians. Undoubtedly one of the strangest recordings ever made, but only a single, “Ejection”/”Catch a Falling Starfighter” was released in America. None of the material was ever played on stage, and it was the last Calvert/Hawkwind collaboration.

Shortly after the “Ejection” single, UA released another single in America, “Urban Guerilla”/”Brainbox Pollution.” “Urban Guerilla” had been originally released in England in August, 1973, but taken off the market at the band’s request on September 1. There had been a rash of IRA bombings that month, and Hawkwind didn’t want to “benefit from the terror or encourage it.” It was subsequently replaced with “Brainbox Pollution” for an A-side.

Hawkwind’s fifth album was released in September 1974, and took the band into the charts for the first time. In The Hall Of The Mountain Grill (dedicated to their restaurant hang-out in London) featured the addition, on keyboards and violin, of Simon House, formerly with High Tide and the Third Ear Band. After completion of the album, Simon King was injured (several stories exist as to how) and Alan Powell (Chicken Shack/Vinegar Joe) replaced him for a tour of Europe, After Simon’s recovery and a couple of gigs with both drummers playing together, it was decided that Alan should remain with the band. At the same time, Del chose to retire to Canada, and Simon House became the electronics player, a role which firmly entrenched him as the most influential force in the band, with his melodic, refined playing going strongly against the traditional cretinism inherent in Hawkwind’s rocking. In October/ November of this past year, the third assault on America won some new friends and lost some as the metal magnetism began to become redundant and the death-defying downer-head crowds began wearing vacillators’ patience thin. Some of the halls were papered (excessive distribution of free tix), but local New York publicists found the eight dollar tickets hard to dispose of, free or otherwise. At the show at the Academy of Music, several frustrated
writers were spotted hailing taxicabs, throwing orchestra seats (actually the tix) through the windows, and running away before they could be returned, gratis. The tour’s highlight for the band was a feud with the IRS concerning income taxes, a dispute which finally saw Hawkwind’s equipment impounded in lieu of unpaid taxes. Fortunately, arrangements were made with the Feds to get their equipment back without any gigs being missed.

The most recent album. Warrior On The Edge Of Time, was released in May, on Atco. Released simultaneously on that side of the puddle was New World’s Fair by Michael Moorcock and Deep Fix, which, although containing appearances by most members of Hawkwind, does not sound at all like it. The emphasis is more folky, as a matter of fact.

On their most recent tour this past spring, Lemmy was busted for dope midway, and Paul Rudolph (Mr. Pink Fairies) was called in to replace him. As things currently stand, Rudolph is a permanent Hawkwinder as well as a temporary member of the reformed Fairies who begin a UK tour in the fall. Lemmy is leading a trio named Motorhead (after a Hawkwind song) which includes another Fairy, Larry Wallis/Wallace. Their debut single has already been recorded. Hawkwind, whatever is left of it (Stacia has drifted out of the band) has been rejuvenated by Rudolph, and expects a new album in the fall, to match a planned tour.

Hawkwind has been with us for five years, and from their meagre beginnings, doing all the wrong things and generally not trying to be a big success, they have become one of Britain’s most popular bands. It can only be a matter of time before they gain the popularity they deserve in the U.S. Hawkwind plays the music of today and tomorrow; the hard, mindless rock of today joined with the electronics of tomorrow. So, in case of sonic attack…  Prepare Yourself.

-Vince Legrand and Ira Robbins

A Plastic Fragment Hawkwind Press Cutting

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