Music Now – 27 June 1970
Hawkwind – in the same bag as the Floyd or Soft Machine – but not sounding like them.
Yes, it’s Hawkwind, the band that’s freaky, funky and psychedelic. A clichéd description like that just might put you off Hawkwind for ever. ‘Freaky’ has the ability to mean anything from playing the Wild Ones at 78 to watching Coronation Street on a trip. And ‘funky’ covers anything from bad soul up, while ‘psychedelic’ means lots of colour on your plastic shopping bag. It’s truly unfortunate for Hawkwind that these horribly overused clichés seem to suit them exactly, but their music does live up to the full meaning of each word.
Suite for trippers
They are freaky, really freaky. They don’t just amuse the listener with funny little electric noises. Blasts come out and hit you right over the head. Rumour has it that when Hawkwind play ‘Paranoia‘ (a suite for acid trippers, in two parts) to a live audience, people either pass out, freak out, or run screaming. If you don’t think any band can be as totally effective as that, wait for their album at the end of the month, and then judge for yourself.
Meeting Hawkwind is as much of a mind-blow as hearing the album. Like the music the players are from widely varying roots. Nik, who plays sax, has only really got into pop in the last two years; Dave, guitar, singer and composer of most of the group’s material, was formerly a busker: Dik Mik was an aspiring hobbit who, after a traumatic experience in Celtic Lands, found his way via an East Coast commune into Hawkwind. Bass guitarist John A. Harrison has a background in dance bands. Turner discovered lead guitarist Huw Lloyd-Langton in a tube station. They are both veterans of British blues bands, as is drummer Terry Ollis.
The band started off as a reasonably straight lead/rhythm/bass/drums outfit playing standards like ‘Spoonful‘. Nik Turner brought his sax and his friend -Dik Mik- up from Margate and whilst Mik became temporary roadie the sax “added a new dimension to the group’s sound”. Dik Mik, who is expert at creating cacophony with mysterious-looking electrical gadgets, later joined the group as freaky soundmaker. He hopes that in the near future the addition of a mini-moog and a co-ordinator to his line-up he will be able to achieve an even more amazing repertoire.
Every sort of mood
Since the days of ‘Spoonful‘ the group have, says Dave Brock “developed in jumps. What’s happened is that we haven’t evolved gradually, we’ve jumped forward from one rut into another. Adding a sax jumped us into one rut, electronics into another. We’re waiting for the next push so that we can jump again”.
Nik: “I think we’re getting into a smoother, happier music. At the moment our music is derived from all the trips we’ve ever had. In the music somewhere there is horror, beauty, paranoia, ecstasy, even randiness, every sort of human mood. So like a trip, our music is difficult to relate to with words. You can’t really put us in a bag”.
Dik Mik: “You could say that though we don’t sound anything like the Floyd or Soft Machine, we’re in the same bag because we share the same direction as them”.
The album testifies to their remarks, they sound like nobody else, yet a little like everybody else at the same time. The first side starts off with a number that’s almost commercial. A heavy number dominated by guitar and what sounds like a harp (but as Nick sometimes plays his sax through a fuzz box, one can never be certain). It’s called ‘Hurry On Sundown‘, and with its end the album embarks on its trip. ‘The Reason Is‘ begins with an electric haze out of which grows a ghostly guitar, with this track one loses all track, the rest of the album follows on so naturally from what has gone before it. The whole thing is so beautifully integrated that the fact that one title has ended and another begun ceases to matter. It’s all part of the trip.
John: “we cut the album all in one take. A second take would have been almost a different album”.
Nik: “Dave writes the songs and the rest of us just improvise around his basic tune, resulting in a number differing with each time we do it. In fact the audience shapes the number”.
What after this album? There are a lot of hangups, like a delay in the album being released. There are a lot of new ideas for the future, like that moog. Whatever happens Hawkwind aim to ZAP you.
A Plastic Fragment Hawkwind Press Cutting