Sounds – 26 May 1973
IF You can’t do it to the plan, improvise.
In Bremen, I think it was, Hawkwind arrived for the first gig of their
recent German tour. Dave Brock: “Something of a disaster – it was
only Nik, Simon and me playing because Del’s synthesiser had blown
up and Lemmy wasn’t there and DikMik wasn’t there. Andy Dunkley
was playing Stockhausen records in the background while we were
playing to get sort of synthesiser effects, and one of our roadies
played bass, so we got by but . . .”
How was the reaction? “I dunno, I didn’t wait around to find out actually.” Nik Turner: “It was good actually, there were people outside trying to smash the doors down.”
You’ll have noticed that it takes more than details like equipment failure and half the band not turning up to prevent Britain’s most successful street people’s rock machine from playing. But there was more to come, in the shape of circumstances beyond their control: as with most of their gigs, Hawkwind had tried to set up the tour of Germany themselves, working with their record company over there and direct with local promoters. From London it all looked 0K, but once they got over to Germany their arrangements began to look less and less arranged until, in Nik’s words, “we had to abandon it half-way through because we just couldn’t afford to stay over there any longer”
They arrived to find that the promotion they’d expected hadn’t been done. so virtually no-one knew they were there, and there were other things. Nik: “We just found we were working with people who weren’t really very together. Trying to do it ourselves from over here you think it’s all been done, but there are so many people involved that there are too many things you can’t take into account, like other people not getting their bit together”
But then they realise they’ve chosen the hard road by insisting they they should have control of their own business organisation. In England they’re now finding it fairly easy to promote their own gigs, or where that isn’t possible because a local promoter has the rights to a hall, to work with him – give him a cut, but still handle all the organisation and actual running of the gig themselves.
That has been made a lot easier, of course, by the fact that Hawkwind had a hit single, and thus have pulling power in terms of audiences, and a kind of symbol of success that’s put them in a strong position as far as the Business is concerned. It’s outside England, where they don’t have those trump cards, that problems start rearing their heads.
For instance, they were determined not to join the army of British bands who work their way excruciatingly around America playing third on the bill on tours; they wanted to work America the same way as they worked Britain, promoting their own gigs and having the kind of control that brings. At first, it looked as if that was going to work out well.
Nik went over to the States with their manager Doug Smith to start setting up the first tour: “It was starting to come together, but then we discovered that our record company out there WEREN’T going to do things they’d said they’d do before. We were going to do it as more of a promotional thing the first tirne, not to try to make bread on it, just do two or three gigs over there, but make them really good and well-publicised ones. Then quite a big tour was coming out of it because quite a lot of people were interested in it.’
But then American UA said they wouldn’t subsidise us – they weren’t really interested because we’re not an American group. and we’re not really, well known over there. It would he easy to go through an agency and let them do it all for us, but again we don’t want that. See from our point of view it’s easy, we can easily get together all the things we’ve got to do. but . . .
“What we’d like to do that is what I’d like to do is to go over there and hire some caravans, travel around like that. I thought it’d be nicer for us to do it that way and take our time over it. If you fly everywhere it just gets ridiculous, you don’t see anything and you get no idea of the size of the place. Aeroplanes make the world very small.”
Dave: “You must be mad it’d take weeks doing it that way.”
Nlk: “No it wouldn’t, you can drive across the States in three days.”
Dave: “Aah – think of that, sitting down for all that time. All our haemorroids’d be playing us up, couldn’t take that. Don’t take any notice of him, it’s just one of his fantasies.”
Medical embarrassment apart, the fantasy just didn’t come together this time around, and it illustrated the one fatal flaw in their policy of trying to work outside the conventional music business structures – that there are times when the business has to co-operate with backing, and in that case it didn’t. “It is possible to do it,” said Dave, “but it’s hard because there’s so many hangups involved.”
Meanwhile, there are more pressing problems – not least among them a feeling within the band that they should get something new and spectular together to follow their “Space Ritual” tour in this country. They see that as a once-only project and aren’t planning to repeat it, but like Lemmv said afterwards it leaves you in a kind of vacuum. “You’re feeling that you’ve done that and you’ve got to go out and better it the next time’
Nik “Of course that’s only our feeling – we haven’t got to do something even more spectacular, we could just go on as we were before the Space Ritual.”
Dave: “Yeah, we could go backwards I suppose – be the first regressive group”
But whatever the show they put together, they’re all feeling they need the stimulus of new numbers to play, confessing even to boredom with their material at times. Dave: “All you need is that key – you get to a point where you feel you’ve come to a barrier and you can’t get over it, and then all of a sudden it’s all open again.”
Though while it may be true that they’re not feeling at their most energetic and sparklingly creative right now, that doesn’t mean the band is falling apart. When Lemmy wasn’t there for the first German gig, it gave fuel to the fevered imaginations of the pop newshounds, but as Dave points out: “Things like that used to happen all the time – different people would go away for a few weeks and nobody would think anything of it. But now, because we’re more well known, you do anything like that and people start thinking ‘ah-ha…'”.
A Plastic Fragment Hawkwind Press Cutting