Howard Stern’s Academy of Music Concert News – November 1974
Toward the end of 1973, United Artists’ Hawkwind made a unique achievement: they became the first British band to headline their debut tour of the United States and to immediately establish themselves (with little record action) as a major headlining hand in the States.
Many people expressed surprise that they were able to do this, and many more bands followed their idea. A look at the development of Hawkwind in the United Kingdom, however, shows that what happened for Hawkwind in the States is simply a repetition of the way Hawkwind broke through in Britain.
Hawkwind formed some four years ago when a bunch of freaks got together in The Mountain Grill in London’s Portobello Road (at that time England’s own Haight Ashbury). Dave Brock had been into many things, perhaps most renowned as one of the leading street musicians in London at that time. Dave became the band’s singer and guitarist, and also the writer of most of their material. Nik Turner, of the distinctive appearance, had spent a few years traveling Europe as a roustabout with a circus, during which time he came into contact with a lot of free jazz musicians in Paris and Amsterdam. Nik played sax and flute, and also sang and wrote. DikMik, who was so called because of his schizophrenic character, played electronic things. Hugh Lloyd Langton played guitar and an assortment of bass guitarists moved through the band until they finally settled with Dave Anderson, who had previously been with the legendary Germanic doom rock band, Amon DuuII. Terry Ollis was on drums.
By this time, Hawkwind had gained some notoriety as a freak band with their unscheduled appearance outside the fence at the Isle of Wight festival, where the silver-painted Nik Turner caused a sensation. They had also signed a deal with EM1 Records, for whom they recorded but one single, the evocative “Hurry Sundown.” Later they signed to United Artists Records, releasing their first album in 1971.
All through this period Hawkwind did all the “wrong” things, and prospered by doing them. They played outdoors, they played for free, they played for charity, and the personnel of the band fluctuated constantly. Then suddenly, as if by magic, people started to realize that this itinerant bunch of stoned hippies had become one of the most popular working bands in Britain, with a fervent cult following second to none. The release of their second album, In Search Of Space at the end of 1971 showed just how they had grown; it went slap into the British charts and stayed there. By this time the group’s personnel had settled down a lot, and the line-up after the release of the album consisted of Dave Brock, Nik Turner, bass player Lemmy (ex-Rockin’ Vicars out of Liverpool), DikMik, drummer Simon King and synthesizer player Del Dettmar,who had previously been the band’s roadie.
Also in the picture was lyricist Robert Calvert, and it was the partnership of Brock and Calvert who produced Hawkwind’s next surprise, the million-selling hit single of 1972, “Silver Machine.” Hawkwind had arrived with a crunch, and did the unprecedented thing of having a hit single with an undoctored “live” recording, made at the same session at The Roundhouse in London from which the famous Greasy Trucker’s Party LP was recorded, featuring Hawkwind, Man and Brinsley Schwarz.
Through 1972 the band consolidated in Europe, and their light-show soon became the most spectacular touring lightshow in existence, under the guidance of Jonathan “Liquid Len” Smeeton and his Lensmen. Hawkwind appeared “Live” on Top of the Pops, where the amazing Stacia made quite an impression, and the band became probably the hardest working heavy act in Britain, filling halls like the Wembley Pool, the Liverpool Stadium and the Oval Stadium. It is estimated that in 1973 Hawkwind played to more people in Britain than any other act. They also regularly toured in Northern Ireland (the only band to dare to do so) and they released two more chart albums, Doremi Fasol Latido and the epic Space Ritual double album, recorded on their massive tour in 1972/73.
At the end of 1973 The Space Ritual went to the U.S.A., playing to packed houses and ecstatic receptions (from the fans if not the critics) in Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, St. Louis, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. A new chapter in the career of Hawkwind was opened. They returned in February and March of 1974 taking in 18 cities (with friends Man as support), and despite the fact that they had no new album on sale, and consequently little support by the media, they put on a devastating show and became the sort of band America had almost forgotten about, the heavy touring rock band.
All that was now needed was a new Hawkwind album to establish them in the record markets also.
Early this year the band went through two more changes which were to make a lot of difference to their future recordings. Del left the band to live in Canada, and Simon House replaced him. Simon had been a friend of the band for some years. Originally he played with a renowned British heavy band, High Tide, and later he moved onto the Third Ear Band with whom he recorded the sound-track to Polanski’s film of “Macbeth.” Simon plays mellotron, electric violin, synthesizers and guitars. Simon immediately made his presence felt in the studio, and the new Hawkwind album, released in August shows how. Titled In The Hall of the Mountain Grill (sic) it marks a whole new direction in Hawkwind’s musical development. Latterly another personnel change has occurred with the addition to
the group of a second drummer. The line-up of Hawkwind is now:
Dave Brock – guitar, synthesizer, vocals
Nik Turner – sax, flute and vocals
Simon House – mellotron, synthesizer, electric violin
Lemmy – bass and vocals
Simon King – drums
Allan Powell – drums
Stacia – mime and dance
A Plastic Fragment Hawkwind Press Cutting