The Ridiculous Roadshow

New Musical Express – 26 January 1974

Alias Hawkwind On Tour

WITH JUST an off-hand laugh Dave Brock in Chicago put it like this: “We decided to call our next tour the Ridiculous Roadshow because all our tours are just so silly and disorganised.”

Never a truer word was spoken. Hawkwind must win this year’s Steve Took Award as the most hapless bunch of individuals ever to set foot on a stage.

They seem to exist in a state of gentle chaos for most of the time, things always seemingly on the edge of falling apart. The fact that in Chicago – probably the band’s most important gig ever – the roadies showed up at the hall only around an hour before blast off is fairly standard procedure.

Nobody was too concerned. The band had set up their equipment themselves, so why worry? Yet strangely, all this just adds to Hawkwind’s charm. Nik Turner has always said that one reason why people get to Hawkwind gigs is that they like to see a bunch of folks, not necessarily very talented, who’ve just put some music together and made if work.

It helps to explain why Hawkwind, perhaps more than any other band, represent the gulf that often exists between critics and the public. Musically you could be mistaken for thinking the band have consciously adopted a policy of not improving – remaining a sort of musical dinosaur, that makes a new chord quite an event. Yet this group of one time buskers, roadies, Ladbroke Grove freaks now command a mighty following in Britain – they play an extra date at the Edmonton Sundown this week after the first was sold out – and have created a stir of interest in the States.

As might be expected, America didn’t quite know how to react to Hawkwind. They were given horrendously bad reviews – one critic described Stacia as dancing like a stripper with tired blood but as in Britain the grass roots crowd seemed to welcome the arrival of the sonic assassins, especially in Chicago.

Personally I’ve always felt travelling through space with Hawkwind would be rather like being stranded in the Sahara with a bunch of Eskimoes, but in Chicago they proved that their two-hour cosmic tour de force on stage does have a shattering effect, even if it’s hard to tell sometimes whether it’s for good or bad.

Even though the light show still does rely at times on vague, unrelated slides flowing across the screens, it’s getting stronger, and the addition of effects like a police siren all adds to the confusion.

Hawkwind soldiered along with their customary heavy-handedness, running one number into another, reaching some neat climaxes at times and fouling themselves up at others. Few other bands, one feels, sort themselves out of these situations with such calm and aplomb. Perhaps it’s all a matter of what you’re used to. Anyway it’s the overall effect of their set that counts, not just the music, as the band will readily admit.

“I have been in more musical groups,” says drummer Simon King, the only guy in the band to be a professional musician before Hawkwind and who joined them two years ago. “But when I joined Hawkwind and saw the atmosphere we were creating I thought the band had to have something.”

“The point is, people go to see a band like Yes for their music and they could just go and sit facing the wall for all they get out of it visually. But with us it’s the event that counts, and the more effects we use the better.”

So what does the future hold for this particular cosmic oddity? According to Nik Turner, none of them have a very set idea of the way Hawkwind should progress.

“All I can say is we’re getting out of the space trip now – not concentrating so much on it – and we hope to diversity into other kinds of imagery. The space ritual project was a one-off idea and we’d like to use it now as a jumping off point for other ideas.”

A Plastic Fragment Hawkwind Press Cutting

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