Friends – 13 November 1970
One Saturday about twelve months ago there was a gig at All Saints Hall in the Grove. Among others, a band at that time mysteriously titled ‘Group X’ were playing. John Peel saw them and enjoyed: he recommended them to Doug Smith of Clearwater Productions (about the only ‘head’ company in the music business) and there was the beginning. Reborn as ‘Hawkwind’ they began the long grind. Now their album is ‘bubbling under’ in some charts, moving upwards in others; gigs are coming in more and more frequently and all the trappings of stardom seem to loom in the not too distant future. Of course, they make clear, fame won’t alter them, they won’t fall victim to the star syndrome: the stock answers from the up-and-coming group with the first glint of bread in their eyes. And there the resemblance fades. Hawkwind are distinctly not the run of the mill pop group, with fame as the object and music as a necessary irritant, useful only in procuring the next flash car. They’re a got together band. DikMik, self-taught electronics man, turned up from an Aldershot commune to be a roadie, Nik Turner, sax, also joined up to hump the gear. They both found better things to do for the band. Dave Brock, guitar, was a busker. Only Crimble, bass, had been through the established group scene – he founded ‘Skin Alley’ and when they ‘got too straight, I dropped out.’
The Grateful Dead
Since the beginnings Hawkwind have developed on lines that remind you strangely of the early Grateful Dead, musically and socially. They don’t claim such a role, they don’t especially mind it but certainly aren’t looking for the comparison. But it’s unmistakably there. The music ‘we want to trip people out’, the superfreak image ‘we just look f***ing weird, anything to make people think a little, it’s really William Burroughs land out there,’ the ever-increasing number of followers / friends and above all the monumental dope consumption. Quote at Phun City: ‘We’d really like to get together and play, but I don’t think we can’ The community ideal is strong amongst them. They admire the Hog Farm / Caravan band ‘Stone Ground’; if possible, Hawkwind would like to see ‘a total community band, not just limited to four or five, but maybe a dozen, everyone getting it on together, or in smaller groups.’ They’ve become one of the two bands that can be described with any truth as â€˜underground.’ With the other, the Pink Fairies, they plan a Christmas Party at the Roundhouse (Dec 13) and next year’s summer solstice will be celebrated by a get-together at Glastonbury.
‘We’re in it for the revolution’ is the claim, but it’s a revolution more rooted in the love and peace of hallucinogenic sixty-seven, than in the blood and guts of somewhat more hardened seventy. Though they decry the fashionable cynicism of good vibes and exuding peace: ‘it doesn’t have to be sixty-seven, it’s much older than that. Of course we’ve realised that everything in the garden’s no longer roses, but that doesn’t mean that those ideals are invalid.’ Above all, Hawkwind want to communicate, anyhow, anywhere, any way. They don’t claim any positive connections with politics, but they know the power that a band can wield, and they want to see it used in the right way, instead of the usual self-indulgence. As well as the ideal community band, there’s plans for a Rock and Roll circus, this time something more than a secretive vehicle for superegotripping. They play as many free gigs as possible, and prize their growing fame as the best means to further communication. ‘People have put us there because they like what we are and what we do. The more we can say that will be listened to, the better. And the better known we become, the more people will be willing to listen. In the next couple of years something is going to happen, good or bad: young people everywhere know this, they all want to do something now, but a coming together isn’t enough by itself, there must be something to trigger it off. We would like to see the whole system change.’
The Unstoppable Monster
‘At the moment all society is doing is proceeding along the necessary path to supports its current situation. But once it seems there was some kind of choice between two paths and we took the wrong one. Now the machine has taken over and it got top heavy, progress has just turned into an unstoppable monster and it’s time we started to go backwards and found the right way. At the moment things are moving towards a complete invasion of privacy, everyone’s surveyed, assessed and annihilated. They don’t know what to do, so they can only laugh it off.’ Hawkwind want a total spiritual revolution, like so many with their philosophy they’ve met the inevitable negative response, if any at all, from an anaesthetised society. ‘Things haven’t changed since the Inquisition in the sixteenth century, they system still preserves itself and destroys those who question it. Leary, Buddha, Mena Baba, true Christianity, they all preach spiritual peace, but no-one listens.’ They’ve found to their disappointment that any revolutionaries, let alone spiritual ones, are terrifyingly rare. Straight society as a whole rejects anything that hints of dissent, ‘the colleges are thick as
s***, all they can think of is their personal careers and futures, though there’s usually a far-out, but tiny, minority’ and they’ve been forced into the unwilling though totally undaunted acceptance that change, though inevitable, is going to take plenty of time and plenty of hassling.
Spaced Out Rock
In simple terms Hawkwind are a rock band, and for most of their public it will be the music that defines their personalities rather than their pronouncements on the world situation and the potential for its alternatives. Listening to them the analogies with the Dead emerge again. ‘Spaced-out rock’ is the ideal description for a Hawkwind set. They want to trip you out, and even the least receptive don’t usually manage to avoid some kind of reaction, good or bad. ‘We can do amazing things with the electronics. There was this gig at Nottingham and no-one listened to the first set, they were all too busy getting pissed in the bar. When it came around to the second set and we played ‘Paranoia’ the electronics were too much for them.’ Six hulking hearties threw up and several of their chicks had to be given medical attention. But usually the musical effect is on the head rather than the gut. Essentially a head band in every sense of the word, Hawkwind ‘are far more into thinking the music than being it’ (their nearest partners in the musical revolution, the Pink Fairies, take the opposite, but complementary role) and, unlike the former doyens of stoned sounds, the Pink Floyd, who never wrote for the acid freaks but just dug sci-fi, they are unashamedly out to give the good ol’ psychedelic experience. Their album, on Liberty, is by no means all that they wanted. Continuous problems over their and the producer’s differing views of how the band
sounded resulted in their eventual capitulation in the face of overwhelming obstacles. Tapes were chopped and changed, the order of numbers altered: ‘If we do a second album we’ll most likely do it ourselves or get someone who can really relate to us and get it down right.’
Upwards and onwards
Compared to the revolutionary antics of many of today’s bands, whether for real or for gimmick, Hawkwind sometimes sound, in their ideas, like some hip anachronism. Love, peace and flowers are all well and good, but isn’t it a bit late for thatâ€¦up against the wall, etc.. Yet Hawkwind, lacking in some eyes the true revolutionary fervour, have one thing, probably the most vital, on their side: they are actually getting it on and doing something. Very few bands even consider doing free gigs, fewer still do them. Last year’s rolling Stones concerts proved that camping it up and singing ‘Street Fighting Man’ isn’t really what people want any more, now even the Tremeloes are getting into ‘heavy/prog’ sounds; rock bands can no longer luxuriate in the self-indulgence of their own superstardom, not if they aims any more positive than ephemeral glory. If the young public have decided to idolize the rock’nroll star, and virtually hand over to them the dictation of a whole generation’s lifestyle and opinion, then at least it must be hoped that these stars won’t jeopardise their own position. At worst Hawkwind are behind the times and over-optimistic, at best they
might be termed one of the most positive bands in England. Either way they play good music and manage to make their audiences happy, and that, in the event, is what really matters.
A Plastic Fragment Hawkwind Press Cutting