Muther Grumble – #3 March 1972
A band of ever-rising popularity, with a reputation among freaks everywhere and two successful albums under high-flying caps, Hawkwind visited Durham for the second time recently. They were a somewhat restructured band to that which came last time having three new members since then. Replacement drummer and bass guitarist and additional poet / flautist. The Dunelm gig was weird in many ways and Hawkwind were anxious to comment on it afterwards.
“Tonight we had a lot of equipment hassles that we just couldn’t get round. Dave Brock’s guitar wasn’t coming through at all most of the time as his amplifier kept packing in and Nick Turner dropped his saxophone on stage and couldn’t play it after that. We’ve also had a lot of gear ripped off lately so things weren’t like they could be at all. We usually do a lot of improvisation around spontaneous ideas and sometimes around things that were worked out but we just couldn’t get off tonight because of the equipment hang-ups.”
The previous evening they had played in Bradford where “the vibes” they said “were good” although they had lost some microphones there. “Our audience were mainly heads, and everything was really good, the whole place was rocking and you could feel it as soon as we played a note.“
Nick Turner commented, “I like Durham, I enjoyed it last time here but then my equipment was working and tonight it wasn’t.” So Hawkwind didn’t play as well as they could and the audience may have felt it. Whatever, things were not flying as they could have been. Their South African poet said, “I’m normally much more cool than I was tonight but I got very agitated by the fact that the audience was completely a dead thing. I told them to get up and they did but they still stayed in rigid postures. I think it’s all to do with being a student, even though we didn’t play well as we could. To be a student is to be a walking critic.
“Our music has to do with liberation on a lot of levels. Tonight was to do with liberation on a physical level and everyone seemed so immovable, but often it’s liberation on a psychic level. Tonight I was trying to get into a chant, like a mantra, to try and break the rigidity but it didn’t work and due to the equipment we couldn’t send out the sounds that we wanted to and the acoustics too were very strange. The sound seemed to drop down in front. For one reason and another we weren’t able to communicate.
“It’s not just that they weren’t on their feet, there was just no energy contact. People can sit down but they can dance in their heads but you can feel it man. Sometimes the strobes have a hypnotic effect but you can sense an energy source if the audience are there with you. Wherever we play we try and play into the natural energy source. We can feel it if it’s there and it comes back to us and sometimes it’s really powerful, like it was in Bradford. Tonight it wasn’t there but the whole gig really was extremely exceptional.“ I commented that the sound was heavy and that the vocals suggested a bad trip. Maybe there was no reaction because everyone was freaked out.
“Yeah, well it’s different each time we play. Tonight could have been a bad trip but it wasn’t mean to be. We can be soft and floating, not in the same way as Quintessence. It’s got to be able to have more than one side. We often do things we’ve not done before and maybe never do them again but it has to be done once to find out how it is. “One thing is to involve people but the question is are we trying to involve them in our trip or are we trying to get in on theirs? “Every gig is different due to all the different circumstances. Tonight a lot of people didn’t like it. I know I don’t feel very good about it myself. After a while we were beating our heads against a brick wall. When we’re trying for a contact it brings us down if we can’t find it. Even so we weren’t thinking bummer thoughts. The vocal phrases used tonight were orientated to feeling good. They were a poem about cosmic dancing – hardly a bad trip. But it was disappointing to everyone that we couldn’t get it on.”
Again they talked of equipment being ripped off and faulty during the gig, but they were all keen to point out that “there’s no limit in rock to what you can do. We are not pretending to play technically brilliant sets featuring fast accurate guitar work; that doesn’t matter so much with us. Bands like Van de Graaf are playing highly organised, complex rock. They are tight but in a different way to us. We’re more into feelings, you know. With us it’s a gestalt, not a particular slice. You’re getting the whole cake.“ Their manager thought too many people thought of Hawkwind too seriously. They are serious. But he was talking of the fashion he saw as created by the media, the fashion that began possibly with Cream or intense sit-down concert playing.
“We don’t want people to sit down and concentrate on us as though they are studying for an exam or vivisection. This examination thing is something most ‘progressive’ bands get but we want people to get up like they would if Rod Stewart was around. We’re just people having a good time, enjoying ourselves and trying to generate that to others. People who get to dig what we are doing don’t have to examine and try to understand us. They know already.“ Whatever their equipment hassles, Hawkwind were a force you couldn’t help but feel one way or the other. Hopefully they’ll play more in the north-east in the future and give more the opportunity of plugging in on their energy bands.
A Plastic Fragment Hawkwind Press Cutting