NME – 4 May 1974
But in the meantime, welcome to the Last Concert of All, featuring Hawkwind, Man and plenty of buckskinned liggerage – and Charles Shaar Murray recording the whole psychedelic spectacle for posterity (i.e. this week’s NME)The war cry of the American cretin sings out over Baltimore. “Boooooogie!” A second voice takes up the theme with a variant on the traditional ritual. “Play some rock and roll!”
“An abominable suggestion” replies the world’s only Welsh Bokononist with nary a hint of sarcasm , and Deke Leonard takes a flying leap into “A Hard Way To Live”. The Latin Casino in Baltimore, Maryland begins to rock. After all, some of the groups who play there are Top 40 poppy bands – at least, that’s what Cathy says. Cathy is twenty years old, with long glossy black hair, and due to the drinking laws of Marlyand, she won’t be able to buy her own booze until next year. But she manages all right by pressing a
crumpled dollar bill into the palm of the reporter and requests a Southern Comfort.
The Latin Casino *is* Baltimore, Maryland. “Every Sunday is Woodstock Night! Free beer! Free pizza!” It’s a hard way to live. These kids don’t know how lucky they are to be hearing the music at all. Why, just that afternoon, Hawkwind’s manager Douglas Smith had swept into the lobby of the Baltimore Holiday Inn declaring “That’s it – the gig’s off! The stage is too small and we can’t get the light show across it.” The other half of the package (for some reason known as the 1999 Party) agrees to play anyway, and finally so do Hawkwind. Which is why the new Man band are on a tiny stage in Baltimore at midnight on a Sunday playing “A Hard Way to Live” to a half empty club audience.
“How many groups”, asks Doug Smith rhetorically, “would bring a package like this to the States without the backing of their record company, do the whole thing themselves and still make money?” He’s sitting in shirt and underpants in a room full of steam in a Holiday Inn in Philadelphia. “We’ve brought Man along with us because we think they’re the best bloody band in the world and they’re our friends. We’ve even brought Andy Dunkley along. Our own deejay too. It’s definitely exciting. The thing with Hawkwind is they’re still just a bunch of freaks. They made more bread off live appearances last year than any other group in Britain and they’re still just a bunch of freaks. They really are space cowboys, too.”
The cowboy bit is almost incongruous. Following the 1999 Party’s Southern dates, everyone’s spent a small fortune on clothing from Loretta Lynn’s western shops. Lemmy and Nik Turner and …bless her bandoleros… even Stacia are into the fringed buckskin and stetsons, looking more like Poco roadies than Sonic Assassins. Seemingly every member of the Man band has at least two pairs of cowboy boots. Mickey Jones proudly displays his Nashville souvenirs, a T-shirt and this horrible garish thing that you’re
supposed to hang on the wall.
[Edited out at this point is a lengthy diversion which concentrates exclusively on Man]
Strangely enough, the best set that either Man or Hawkwind played during the period I was with them was in Baltimore. In Philadelphia, both Man and Hawkwind played well below their best that night – both bands produced lacklustre music, aided and abetted by a rather muddy sound. However, in Baltimore’s Latin Casino, despite (or perhaps because of) a confused and hostile audience, they were both great. Hawkwind played first that night. After all, they were the bill-toppers, it was their tour, and they could make those decisions.
Even minus Stacia and minus the light show, Hawkwind were just fine. Regular readers of this publication will have noted that in the two years that I’ve been participating in this demented and tasteless journalistic venture, I’ve never written about Hawkwind before. The reason for this is simply that I’ve never enjoyed ‘em before, A few months ago, Michael Moorcock told me that they’d gotten ‘about 200% tighter’, and as it happens he’s right. Though they only put ninety minutes worth of ideas into a two-hour set, the genuinely funky ensemble playing of Lemmy (bass), Simon King (drums) and Dave Brock (guitar) firmly underpins all the weirdness. Nik Turner’s saxophone and flute playing are still not exactly ripping with virtuosity, but it’s all effective enough in context.
‘Do not panic!’ bellows Nik. ‘panic!’ responds Lemmy. ’Think only of yourself!’ ‘yourself!’ ’Far out,’ says Cathy, ‘this is the freakiest band we’ve had here since Iggy. Now he was weird.’
The funniest thing is that it works, intergalactic marauders and all. The last concert before the end of the world. Devastation and plunder. The theory is better than the practice but it does what it says it does. They could be a band a hundred years from now who don’t play very well and learnt rock and roll off a few surviving records. The world ends in half an hour. ’Welcome to the future. Welcome to the golden age. Welcome.’ Baltimore hasn’t got the faintest idea of what it’s all about, but they like the unvarying rhythm and the weird sound textures and the way the luminous legions of Liquid Len are using what lights they have at their disposal and they give the band a reasonable reaction. They don’t know what they’re reacting to, why they’re reacting or even how, but they realise that something of some sort has happened to them, and as that’s probably quite a musical rarity in Baltimore (even if Frank Zappa was born there), they give da band a great big hand.
-Charles Shaar Murray
A Plastic Fragment Hawkwind Press Cutting