Out of This World

Best (French) – January 1974

“And in the fullness of time, the prophecy must be fulfilled, and the Hawklords shall return to smite the land.  And the dark forces shall be scourged, the cities razed and made into parks.  Peace shall come to everyone.  For is it not written that the sword is key to heaven and hell?”
(Saga of Doremi Fasol Latido, Psalm 14)

Hawkwind have returned to Paris: the time of the prophecy has undoubtedly arrived. This makes it well over two years since t  hey were last seen here, apart from the brief incursion they made last year to the north of the country.  But here they were before us once more, lurking in the shadows which they never leave.  Beholding them thus, with their vague, unseeing glances, like dark twisted dreams, fixed in an impassive, almost stylized stance, they really do seem to have come from some inconceivable dun-coloured planet, dancing out of time on the strangest of orbits. As if the most incredible spaceship had just deposited them there at that very moment.

Nik Turner, the sax player, must be an extra-terrestrial.  For him, life has been transformed into an endless trip, taken to its logical conclusion: the belief that he himself is nothing more than the incarnation of his own music.  He is not insane [debatable :-)], but is simply living his dream. His
companions, Dave Brock (guitar, vocals), Lemmy (bass, vocals), Simon King (drums) and Del Dettmar (synthesizer) are of a more “normal” appearance but their music is intoxicated, unselfconscious, dreamlike to the point of ecstasy.  Music of the pulsating cosmos, weary of its infinitude, wandering from the depths of the stars, music which seems to come to you to take you
along with it, as far as possible. Yes, it’s time to leave this world today…

We were born to go / as far as we can fly / turn electric dreams / into reality
(Born To Go)

Hawkwind offer a vertigo-inducing invitation to escape, and, symbolically, their “Space Ritual”, a gigantic show which continues without the slightest pause for over two hours, starts with “Born to Go”, an anthem of departure as the whole reason for existence.  The band have a single goal: to levitate people, to make them forget the drabness of day-to-day existence, to draw them into dreams of travel through time and space.  This is why these musicians play in semi-invisibility: you have to forget their human and technical reality, and focus solely on the existence of the music.

The latter performs the function of life support on a scientific voyage, by dint of two components. The first of these elements is the infernal rhythm provided by the combination of bass and drums, which dominates the music with its pounding and the obsessive atmosphere it generates, spellbinding the listener as if by hypnosis.  Hawkwind, through the thread of their albums, have perfected this process of rhythmic hypnosis allied to the creation of a foreboding mood.

Their first bass player, John Harrison, already had a melodic and thematically important role.  But it was Dave Anderson, the main impetus behind the imposing atmospherics of “Yeti”, but who left Amon Düül II at the behest of his friend Huw Lloyd-Langton, that we hear on “In Search Of Space”.  There he imposed the compelling presence of the bass, high in the mix, a recipe followed to the letter by the current bass player, Lemmy.  As for the drum sound, awfully primitive but possessed of endless rolls, it was the original drummer, Terry Ollis (who would go on stage wearing very little), who created it and his successor since 1972, Simon King, further hardened and accentuated this style.  On the launch-pads of these insane rhythms, one reaches the sphere of dreams.

This music of dreams and unreality, by turns  floating and grinding, depends on a second set of components:  Del Dettmar and his mad synthesizers invoke a thousand whirling electronic chimeras: the sax of Turner (what an original musician he is) croaks like a gelatinous gas pipe; the simple flute is transformed by amplification: and Dave Brock pulls magical sequences of barre-chords out of his guitar, yielding magnificent flights of an other-worldly savour  (an intriguing tang which is due to a particularly original playing style, based on a personal design of crescendos and diminuendos).  In this way the rhythms give rise to the ultimate fascination of these dreams-made-music.

Colours change, I stand upright / screaming souls in the night / visions of you know you’re only dreaming (You Know You’re Only Dreaming)

As well as the music, which already comprises the most disorientating of sensations, a total environment prolongs the trip into space.  First of all, the light show of  “Liquid Len and the Lensmen”, himself the chief architect of the environmental experience, transforms the most insipid room (like the Olympia) into an immense vault of heaven where machines glide between livid planets, dwellings of gods and monsters.  This riot of colours and rhythms conjures up a cosmic ball â €“ the audience are already transported far beyond the earth.

The phantasmic shadows of the musicians are projected onto the space generated by the rhythms of their music, sometimes frenetic, sometimes laidback.  And then Stacia appears at the front of the stage.  Stacia is Woman, a wonderful creature, in the most physical meaning of the term, a female colossus from whom is released an overwhelming impression of power and pleasure, rather than enormity.  She conjures up the spirit of some Mother Goddess of antiquity, such as Cybele.  Her dancing, fragmented by the stroboscopes, is a succession of stylized stances: living statue? android?  It’s hard to say.  Music, lights, dance, kinetics: the art of Hawkwind is total, an entire spectacle that is complete unto itself, thus multiplying the visual and the sensual – the theatre of space.

A man is the smallest complete Cosmos in this Universe.  Within him is all Nature and the Elements.  He contains the substance of the Solar System and the energies of the stellar world.  He is a microcosm of the absolute.(The Hawkwind Log)

The band’s numbers follow one another.  The audience are taken to the dark of night (“Down Through The Night”) and into the land of dreams (“You Know You’ Re Only Dreaming”).  And suddenly, there is an explosion, with “Brainstorm”. The madness and paranoia of Man fills the cosmos – because Hawkwind also probe into inner space, the human microcosm.

Their ‘philosophy’ is a constant and was a vocation first expressed on their debut album (in 1970).  That first LP by Hawkwind was amazing!  The sublime guitar of Huw Lloyd-Langton, the hissing electronics of Dik Mik (two members who’ve since left the band, the first in 71, the second this year) magnifying this intra-spiritual voyage: “Be Yourself”, “Paranoia”, “Seeing It As You Really Are”, the mirror of illusions reflecting the contortions of the soul, and all done with the fluidity of a more rock ‘n’ roll pink-floydian style (of which this was the epitome): a troubled kind of music.

And then…Bob Calvert came. Calvert the underground poet, who led Hawkwind “In Search Of Space”: a second album which fully realized the Hawkwind sound, and a conceptual duality – with one side focusing on Man and his corruptibility, and the other looking towards the virgin expanse of space and time.

The music of Hawkwind, in fact, is not unbound. It is based upon an esoteric and philosophical concept of the universe centred on Man (and/or his neuroses).  And the fact that the celebrated author Michael Moorcock recently joined the group shows the strength of this beautiful philosophy that underpins their dreams (see the “Hawkwind Log” booklet which came with “In Search Of Space”).  Consequently Hawkwind were able to thematically unify their songs, to make a saga of them (“Doremi Fasol Latido”), and then a splendid ritual (“Space Ritual”), so wandering from adventure, via mysticism, to the dreams of a planetary intelligence.  What a pity it was that Calvert was not present in Paris…

I am the Master of the Universe
The wind of time is blowing through me
and it’s all moving relative to me
It’s all a fiction of my mind
in a world that I designed
I’m charged with cosmic energy
Has the world gone mad, or is it me?
(Master Of The Universe)

And so the “Space Ritual” unfolds, pulsing and panting with great cries of ecstasy.  After take-off, the journey encompasses space, fear, discovery, and all the adventures of a multi-coloured saga, in which a number of enthralling innovations are added to better-known pieces like “Seven By Seven”, “The Watcher” and “Brainbox Pollution”, the crowning glory.  The centre of the universe is reached in a crescendo of seemingly endless rhythmic pulsation, so much was our awareness of time overcome.

The Master of the Universe is featured, with its self-interrogatory motif.  But the apotheosis comes with “Welcome To The Future” with which the Ritual is finished.  “Silver Machine” will not get played, except in the memory: the doorway cannot form part of the voyage, it only exists to introduce new disciples to the Hawklords (this being one proof of their clarity of purpose).  
And then they depart once more for their universe, leaving us filing out into the greyness, but our spirits flushed with the stuff of dreams.  Outside, in front of Olympia, the kids were still reeling.  Brilliant, wasn’t it?!

-Hervé Picart

A Plastic Fragment Hawkwind Press Cutting

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