Sounds – 21 October 1978
Doesn’t Time travel ?
‘When I saw Hawkwind at the Lyceum on August 2 they had an instrument which looked like a little table on legs. It produced some beautiful electronic sounds. What was it?’ – Letter to ‘Melody Maker’, 12/9/70
‘I don’t know who is in this group or the names of either of their numbers, but it didn’t seem to matter as they were shrouded in darkness for the entire act and the music all sounded the same’. – ‘Lincolnshire Standard’, 10/12/71.
‘Nik Turner, the birdman peered through the curtains. The room was curiously vibrating. Hey said Nik, the room appears to be in outer space……’ – Dublin Underground Press, 1972
‘Was I on a trip or did I see Hawkiwnd on ‘Top Of The Pops’?’ – Reader T Andrew, ‘MM’ 29/7/72.
‘A spell binding experience’ – Dave Fudger, ‘Disc’.
‘Their music sounds sounds like good solid punk rock to me’ – Ray Coleman ‘MM’, 15/2/75.
‘This is just a small message to let you know that we are back on course. Last year was the worst year for us, finding us in debt and out of touch with the modern world…’ – Dave Brock, ‘Quark Strangeness and Charm’ inner sleeve notes, 1977.
And so it goes. Ten years of adjudication’s, complications, amputations, excitations. Ups, downs, all arounds.
Lots of vinyl, lots of paper, all the highs and lows you could possibly imagine and then some. On the bus, off the bus, under the bus. As per form, the observers bus came late. Always enjoyed their covers, of course never really connected until ‘Quark Strangeness and Charm’. Where it’s predecessor had helped pay the rent along with the other floggers, ‘Quark’ kept getting back on the turntable. A relief – I always wanted to like Hawkwind. Well not always maybe but for a little while anyway. I mean, how could such a great sleeve lie? Oh, well, the bags were my bags but the contents weren’t. No sweat, plenty alternatives as usual.
But come mid ’77, hombre, well – anything so obviously un-cool deserved all the attention it could get. And anyway, I really did like the sleeve.
Came the time for oral recommendations, I started to get more than a touch of the ‘Bert’ Camus, if you know what I mean. “Weughh! Hawkwind!?” would come the reply from someone or other who’d always struck me as being on the articulate side of grunting. Please yourself, I always do. It’s nice on the bus.
Now for some words with one of the drivers. While co-driver Robert Calvert is downstairs supervising the umpteenth mix of the single version of ‘Psi Power’, Dave Brock is grinning across the reception areas of this Soho recording studio. And sitting on one of two plastic chairs. And chuckling a lot. Despite apologies “I’m probably going to be a bit rusty,” he’d chuckled, explaining that it was his first press encounter in a long time), talking to DB’s a breeze.
No chaff, no preambles: reason I’m here is the new album and tour ready to go. Accordingly my ‘assignment’ consists primarily in obtaining joyously readable on same. But first the name business. As our letters pages have just revealed, not everyone in fandom was exactly overjoyed about ‘Hawkwind’ becoming ‘Hawklords’.
Personally I couldn’t be bothered if it’s Hawkwind, ‘Hawklords, Uranus And The Four Moons or Son Of Giant Sun Trolley. It’s just a new word to learn, after all.
“Well” says Brock with bemused unease of a close relative thereof. “we haven’t changed it to that yet, I mean, the albums called ‘The Hawklords’ and that’s what we are for this tour.”
Interjection on my part – I mention having heard on a previous day of a quote attributed to former keyboardist Simon House, this suggesting that the group itself has somehow broken into fragments. A trifle ludicrous considering the tour and the new record and all. My informant had gone beyond quotation however, proceeding into the realms of speculation, from which he’d none too kindly suggested that the currant group was no more than a way for it’s participants to earn themselves a bunch of greenies. It’s the old art / business paradox again and, as usual, it’s all down to the quality of the goods.
“Heh, heh, heh,” says Brock. “we haven’t split up! What’s actually happened is….I mean whatever you do, you have to build it up to a certain point, and then you have to tear it down. And you get to a point where you have to do that, otherwise you become predictable, boring – and all the other things. You have to tear it down and start again. And that’s what I’ve been trying to get together for such a long time, and it’s always been continuously been put back. And that’s what’s occurred, we’ve finally started doing some things we’ve always wanted to do. We always wanted to do rock theatre”.
“Last time we done Hammersmith we had a theatre company with us and after that gig, I felt so pleased. It took seven years to actually achieve that sort of thing on stage, with a whole sort of incredible show, with a light show, everything.
Brock attempts to explain what the new tour will entail. It’s not crystal clear at this stage because the various parts still haven’t come together. Apart from the group there’s five dancers (slimmed to three at last count), stage sets, costumes etcetera, not to mention lights, slides and films; all the not so peripheral ephemera that the group’s renowned for.
Turns out that the chief architect of the whole shebang is one of Barney Bubbles, a long-time Hawkchaps associate who’s supposed to be with us this afternoon but hasn’t been able to make it. He’ll turn up eventually though, never you worry. Brock therefore is faced with the unenviable task of translating a complex stage presentation, much of it strongly visual, into more wordage. Not just that but (another chuckle), the truth of the matter is he doesn’t know what’s happening himself yet!
Inevitably he’s forced to say ‘concept’ just like we knew he would. Unfashionable as this pair of syllables might be (weren’t they always unless the you were in the Moody Blues or their fan club?) they happen to also fit any number of bills. Brock explains that the bulk of the material is from the new album and that there is a story of sorts, although the running order of the songs isn’t exactly the same as that on record. The record, incidentally, is basically just a series of songs. There are interconnections, sure, but there’s no ‘Tommy’ style narrative structure.
“It’s about a factory, in actual fact. There’s the foundry, and then there’s the sales and so on, and there’s a production line and what happens is there’s various scenes and at the end these people f*** off. With wings into the sky!”
Don’t jump to conclusions – Dave Brock’s no acid casualty nor any other brand of walking wounded. It just looks confusing written down, is all. If you’ve seen the show already you’ll know what he means, if you haven’t, you’ll have the added fun of working it out for yourself. There will, of course be an accompanying programme, also something of a Hawkpersons trademark.
Musically the show draws on the current LP and ‘Quark’ says Brock. “There’s only about four old ones.” Including ‘Brainstorm’, ‘Uncle Sam’s On Mars’ and of course ‘Silver Machine’ itself.
Rewinding just a short way back on what’s an obviously epic tape actually I’m using a plain old C-90 – it’s just my Sixth Form’s demons way of saying Hawkwind have been going ages, so lets bite off just the little we can chew) brings us to ‘Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music’ and 1976. Like I said, Brock’s such an easy geezer to chat with, that it’s not too long before I’ve owned up to the fact that ‘Quark’ is the only album that I own. I even have the gall to admit that I thought it’s predecessor far from enjoyable, having taken the ‘Quark’ liner (see last quote, in quote section) notes as evidence that Brock well feel similarly. He does. And how.
“Well the reason that it was such a terrible album is that it was like having a ship with all captains on it,” says Brock, with one of the most astonishing displays of candour I ever encountered from a ‘pro’. “or like having an army where everyone’s a general. So it’s ‘quick men we’ll attack that front!’ and someone else’ll say ‘No that one’ and everyone’s all over the joint”
“And you can’t run a band – you can’t run anything: imagine having a huge office where everybody thinks they can do everything, and there’s people who can’t do these things.” The result of this was that some personnel changes were forced to occur. It’s a common enough occurrence even amongst the most idealist ensembles, of course, although it’s obvious that Brock didn’t get any pleasure from firing old mates. ‘Quark’ was the start of a new era, says Brock.
“Bob and me were in charge from then on. And what we started to do was get a bit more daring, I think” I have to agree. And even if more personal changes were to occur between ‘Quark Strangeness and Charm’ and the currant platter (exit Simon House – “He was offered a job with more money,” says Dave without a hint of malice in reference to Houses defection to the Bowie camp, Exit also drummer Simon King, with a doubtless independent air), the overall feel is the same, the drones of old replaces with concise, melodic pieces of the ‘song’ variety, whilst Calvert’s lyrical contributions continue to mature. Yes indeedy, things are very together and it shows. And I bet you thought everyone in a group lived on a mixture of Mandies and bad acid. I did.
“You can’t get Mandies anymore,” Brock says wistfully. A joke. a joke! In point of fact Dave says he’s only ever taken one Mandrax in his life and the results were far from pleasant. “I can’t imagine anything more horrible than wine and Mandies – the whirling pits. Can you imagine? ‘I had a good night last night, threw up eight times!’
“I only did that once – I had a bottle of wine and a mandy once and I was so ill. Never drink on mandies, Nik Turner and I went round this guys place and afterwards we were walking down Putney High Street and I was falling all over the place. Both of us had the whirling pits and got really sick.”
Psychedelics too, are part of a dim and jumbly past. Brock confesses that his most effective forays into self damage have been technological. “I used to sit around at home playing about with a synthesiser with headphones on and made myself quite ill, actually.
“I went to see the doctor who uses sound frequencies for healing bruises on muscles and things like that, and told me what I’d been doing and he said it’s really dangerous and told me I could be permanently be damaging my brain!”
But do you feel any different I ask.
“Yeah. I am no longer normal,” he laughs.
A Plastic Fragment Hawkwind Press Cutting