Of Space Rituals & Topless Dancers

Los Angeles Free Press – 28 December 1973

Hawkwind is an anachronism. It’s like 1968 psychedelia never left. Referring to their music as “acid rock,” this British quintet appears as five faceless, jean-attired hippies (except for vocalist-saxophonist Nik Turner who sometimes flashes a baleful iridescent mask). During the course of a performance they invariably remain pretty much sheltered in the dim lights in the background.

Their overall sound of riff, patterns, droning guitar chords, synthesized galvanic zaps and echoic vocals (reminding one of a cross between Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd) are complemented by a light show flashing imagery of planets, stars, space ships, skulls and dinosaurs. The music is
repetitious and monotonous, but Hawkwind masterfully builds on their one-chord patterns, creating an intense, uniquely satisfying culmination (if you’re not driven from the hall beforehand). It doesn’t matter that their light show is average by San Francisco standards of five years ago, no one
else is incorporating light shows into their performances and that alone makes it worthwhile.

“In the front row there was this beautiful blond chick surrounded by these four guys. When Stacia turned around and revealed her boobs, the guys’ jaws dropped. ‘Aaugh.’ They were stunned!”

Hawkwind’s Dave Brock, referring to the band’s own well-endowed female dancer who goes topless at the climax of every gig, was commenting on the high point of a recent appearance. How many other major rock groups can you think of that cart around their own topless dancer? There are a lot of weird things about this band.

“We started out in 1969,” began original member Dave Brock, “in the Notting Hill Gate area (England’s one-time equivalent to Haight-Ashbury). We used to be a street band and we didn’t have much in the way of equipment. After the band started, some of us were still busking.” It was a very strange scene then, with wizards and Hell’s Angels associated with the group. One time they spiked their engineers with acid during a recording session at Air London Studios. They didn’t record there ever again.

Turner provided the original inspiration for space-oriented themes which permeate most of the group’s albums. He describes their music as “science fiction-fantasy, good time rock.” The band’s current album, Space Ritual, is composed of a series of dreams of an astronaut hanging in space. It poses the question, can an astronaut dream while in a near-comatose state during suspended animation?

Hawkwind’s only single of 1972, “Silver Machine,” was a giant hit in Europe. It’s the top-selling 45 in Germany of the last five years, and was voted the favorite little record in England. A year later they followed it up with “Urban Guerilla,” only to withdraw the single as it was rising on the British charts, owing to the unintentional allusions to the alleged activity of the I.R.A. bombers in England last summer.

Bob Calvert, resident poet, used to appear as a guitarist with the band. But when it was discovered that his stage activity of waving a machine gun and changing hats reached maniac proportions, it was mutually agreed that he should remain at home. The members of Hawkwind are helping Calvert complete his own LP, Captain Lockheed and the Starfiqhters, which is the story of U.S. Korean War Starfighters that were subsequently sold to Germany, incurring an abnormal number of crashes after modifications. (Making special appearances are Vivian Stanshall, Arthur Brown and Jim Capaldi.)

There are other peculiarities about the band as well. Although Hawkwind LPs have been released in the States, a disproportionate amount of the sales have been from the import bins, not from England as one might expect, but from France and Germany. Del Dettmar learned to play the synthesizer when the musician responsible for playing that instrument in a band he roadied for died in a crash.

Then there’s Stacia. “Two-and-a-half years ago I just got up on stage and danced. I really liked the music and still do. The drummer they had then sometimes would be wearing only his underpants, and sometimes not even that. I just lost the inhibitions I had and started taking off my clothes. It’s a trip.”

Hawkwind’s motley composition aside, the organization is self-described as an artistic commune, with all parts being more or less equal. “We are a mixed media outfit,” explained manager Doug Smith. “There’s the band’s music, and we have a poet and dancer. Then we have the light show, perhaps the best in the world. We do the light shows for ail the American bands when they tour here, people like Van Morrison. We travel with our own D.J. who plays his own records. Currently we’re considering entering into the print media with a paper.”

Although for the most part during their recent American tour Hawkwind performed Space Ritual, they’re a bit tired of carting around the “Space Rock” tag which is stamped onto posters everywhere they perform. That label may prove difficult to escape, yet the members are “jamming around” until an alternative presents itself.

-Harold Bronson

A Plastic Fragment Hawkwind Press Cutting

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s