The Regular ‘Wind Miracle

New Musical Express – 30 November 1974

NEW YORK just doesn’t seem to be the place for Hawkwind.

After capacity crowds in Detroit, Chicago and clear across the Middle West, the two thirds full Academy of Music was something of a bringdown. An added difficulty was that the New York concert was the penultimate of a gruelling six weeks tour and some of the band were showing visible signs of exhaustion.

The night before the Academy show Simon King stood against the bar in Max’s Kansas City, with a glazed expression, while the David Bowie look-alike competition wafted around him. Back at the hotel Lemmy refused, steadfastly, to emerge from his bed. Nick Turner and Dave Brock were reported to be missing. Hawkwind had generally reached a high point in their brink-of-disaster tour technique.

Saturday dawned bright and clear. New York was experiencing a spell of freak eighty degree sunshine and a bunch of the most intrepid Hawks stumbled blinking into the daylight for a last minute souvenir and gift buying excursion.

By sunset, the lobby of the Gramercy Park Hotel had turned into a Zappa style nightmare. The huge David Bowie show and road crew were booked into the hotel, and the ladies of the town thronged the foyer and camped on the pavement.

In fact, the star was across town in far plusher Regent; the presence of Hawkwind as a second option to a Bowie sideman caused emotional conflict and flurry of groupie status calculations.

Dave Brock seemed unaffected by the glitz madness in the lobby. He sat serenely in his sixteenth floor suite quietly passing out joints to a select roup of friends, watching Star Trek and looking forward to being back at home. Lemmy still huddled in his cocoon of blankets and, despite all exhortations, refused to move unless some kind of artifical aid turned up. Showtime rolled closer and closer.

The Academy concert was scheduled to start at midnight, and at 11.45 p.m, the regular Hawkwind miracle happened.

Marshalled by Higgy, the implacable tour manager, who often seems to be playing the part of master sergeant in some bizarre movie version of Starship Troopers, the entire show is ready to go. The band have all shown up, looking together and relatively human. The stage is set up and all that remains is for the audience to file in before the whole thing can get under way.

The audience is something of a disappointment. They are older, less enthusiastic and far more solemn than the frenzied kids who flock to see Hawkwind at the Chicago Auditorium or the Detroit Palace. These New Yorkers are more like a Pink Floyd audience, staid veterans of the psychedelic generation who still like to watch a lightshow and hear the cosmic roar.

They’re polite and appreciative, but they lack the zip of the Ripple wine and Quaaludes brigade. It really does seem as though the New York kids haven’t grasped what Hawkwind are all about, or maybe, in New York, they are more interested in style and trans-sexuality than in the galactic outer limits.

The transformation in the band is incredible to behold. The shambling wrecks of a few hours earlier have turned into a tight, efficient unit.

There has always been debate about the validity of Hawkwind. Whether you like what they’re doing is still a matter of taste. The thing they can no Ionjer be faulted for is the way they do it.

Six hard weeks of the third US tour have welded the band together to an incredible degree. The most impressive change in the band is the power of the rhythm section. The addition of Alan Powell as a second drummer has produced a percussion interplay that is a whole new source of interest and dynamics.

The transformation in Lemmy was also kind of amazing. The corpse of the early evening was romping, stomping and strutting out his Liverpool heritage, commanding the front of the stage and rocking with almost demonic energy. His bass line wove in and out of the double drum pattern like the star quarterback in the afternoon’s TV ball game.

Not that the rhythm section had it all their own way. Dave Brock and Simon House have emerged as a melodic top line, far in advance of anything they have done previously. The clanks, honks and tweets of the early band have been resolved into sweeping harmonies that are reminiscent of the Floyd’s careful -with -that -axe period.

Nick Turner’s role in the band also seem to be changing. His reed playing is not longer so predominant. He sings more, and has started working increasingly with the statuesque Stacia in a series of strange Living Theatre pas de deux.

Despite the power of the performance, the audience were hardly tumultuous. The glazed tiredness quickly seemed to return, and was carried away, to be slept off in the hotel, or worn out in the frantic craziness of New York’s after hours bars.

MICK FARREN

A Plastic Fragment Hawkwind Press Cutting

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