Ciao 2001 (Italian) – 21 May 1972
From 24 to 28 May there takes place an Italian tour by Hawkwind, the group that with its second LP “In Search Of Space”, launched space-rock in England. First mentioned in an editorial of ours, the album reached considerable heights in the English charts and now will also be distributed in Italy. Meanwhile, Hawkwind (their name in Italian translates more or less as “falco da caccia”), with the help of poet Bob Calvert, are preparing a “space opera” that should constitute their next album.
For a brief outline of “space rock”, namely music dominated by distant and apparently unco-ordinated effects which invoke the idea of astral space, perhaps we can find its origins in the experiments of the Grateful Dead. The Californian group, from their first album, up until the double “Live / Dead”, preceded the researches undertaken by the Pink Floyd under the influence of Syd Barrett, which audibly persists in the current album “Meddle”. This gave rise to the German music of Amon Duul II, Can and Tangerine Dream who developed their own forms of the electronic-space style that today attains its highest representation in the English band Hawkwind. All of the above-mentioned groups are in fact becoming more acoustic and resorting to more melodic forms, while Dave Brock’s group means to create a space opera, which has already been partly carried out on “In Search Of Space”.
This disk, a follow-up to “Hawkwind”, (released in 1970 and now difficult to obtain) actually contains a booklet presented as the diary of an astronaut aboard the spaceship Hawkwind, found planetside with a lifeless crew, by Captain Calvert (the name of the poet who’s recently joined the group, and author of the booklet). Over the course of a 6-day voyage from the City Of Eternity, the craft has travelled across time and space, between myths and scientific explanations, legends and astronomy. Citations from the classics and Indian legends are interwoven into the multitude of magical notes and astrological theories, comic strips and images of fetuses, Atlantis and Andromeda, the second Gospel of Matthew, cellular genetics, galaxies and Inca pyramids, the Hindu religion and the trial of the group in an English courtroom.
A crazy but charming mishmash, rather like the music. Imagine a piece lasting all of 15 minutes sustaining a single rhythm, and yet pleasant (somewhat like James Brown, but this is deeply profound music, in which Hawkwind address the mind of the listener): the piece in question is called “You Shouldn’t Do That”, and is perhaps the most successful thing on the record.
We now hear the views of the poet Calvert: “Myself and Hawkwind were always circling about one another until, about a year ago, we joined up, because it seemed to me that we had the necessary potential for a theatre of science fiction. Now we’re actually making extensive use of the writings of the science fiction author Michael Moorcock for our “Space Opera”, which is not yet finished. Our show will include electronic music, strobe lights, dancers, mime and space hero costumes. The only danger is that it collapses into carnival; for this reason it is necessary to always maintain a certain distance, so that with a little effort we will obtain the same quality that there is in the music. Now the band has started to use actual lyrics, while before they only used instruments; but I think that the combination of rock and poetry (since I am a poet, not a singer who writes words, which is very different) can work a lot better than the jazz-poetry attempted by Allan Ginsberg some years ago. Besides, many people do not enjoy long instrumentals, and the human voice has a powerful effect on them.”
Now Hawkwind are looking at Germany, where space-rock is already established; but the English group use many more effects of every kind, possessing a considerable variety of electronic instruments: a synthesizer, used by former roadie and technician Del Dettmar, and various sound-generators and oscillators deployed by DikMik (the pseudonym of Michael Davies), Nik Turner and Dave Brock.
Turner is the saxophone player and flautist, and these instruments when electrified have a very similar sound to that of Dave Jackson in “Pioneers” or “Plague”. Brock is the guitarist and founder of the group, and composer of the greater part of the material. Terry Ollis on the drums and Dave Anderson (ex-Amon Duul II) on bass appeared on the album “In Search Of Space”, but the two roles have had many occupants, and are now, it seems, in the keeping of Ian Kilminster and Simon King.
Brock, the guitarist, declares that none of the seven (including Calvert on the flute) are great musicians, but that they seek to induce with music the effects, both hypnotic and stimulating, that drugs have on the mind. In fact, the record, besides the already cited “You Shouldn’t Do That”, includes other equally brilliantly conceived pieces, like “Master Of The Universe” and “Adjust Me”, where the rich vein of effects reaches an apogee.
According to written reviews of their gigs, they are already performing numbers from their next album, and their light-show is spectacular in the extreme: a great reason to catch more of their shows (there are no more than five in Italy, unfortunately) and to decide for oneself as to the validity of a formula that is certain to become a standard genre the closer our society comes to the technological and the astronautical: space rock.
A Plastic Fragment Hawkwind Press Cutting