Melody Maker – 12 July 1975
THE FACE is without character. The eyes are disguised, behind a dazed curtain. The legs begin to melt, the crooked knees locking into ruptured ankles.
An arm twitches, and a hand, fingers extended, offers itself to empty space. There is no moment of impact perceptible as the body meets the ground; rather, a gradual dissolve as the two become inseparable.
The head, crowned by a coarse tangle of hair which spirals out like the insides of some disused mattress, lolls from side to side.
The brain concealed within, on the point of extinction itself, is quite dead to John Cale’s homage to Brian Wilson which supplies the soundtrack for this moment of collapse. As “Mr Wilson” fades into the MC5’s “Sister Anne,” the creature lapses into comatose silence.
That’s a French rock and roll fan for you,
And he’s not alone. Gathered here, in La Gare de la Bastille In Paris, are same five or six thousand others just like our friend. True, they’re not all quite as damaged. But, then, they’re not all here yet.
Eventual estimates will put the audience at no less than 8,000. It may be closer to 9,000, lured out of whatever haunting grounds they normally inhabit by the prospect of seven hours of music, courtesy of Hawkwind, Gong, Man, Henry Cow and one Robert Wood (a very strange gentleman whose contribution to the event consists of a display of dubious pyrotechnics on electric vibes).
This is no isolated event, but one concert in a French tour – Magma were originally in it but they pulled out – which has seen our aforementioned bands snaking their way northwards to the rains of Paris from the calm sunshine of southern France.
None of them seem to be enjoying the tour to any great extent. There’s a universal dislike of all things French. There’s been an acute lack of organisation throughout. Backstage at La Gare de la Bastille, the musicians from the various bands stroll around casually, killing time.
Simon King seems particularly restless, even though a new calm has settled over Hawkwind with the departure of Lemmy and the enlistment of Paul Rudolph as resident bassist.
Although Hawkwind have been winning over a new Continental audience as a result of this tour, Simon remains confused by the general reaction of the French to both Hawkwind and the other bands.
Rudolph is an amiable Canadian, who’s known Hawkwind since he came to Britain to join the Deviants in 1969. A friend of his, with whom held played in a High School Marching Band, was in England already, playing with the Deviants.
“He just invited me over,” recalls Paul somewhat hazily. “I didn’t even know whether they wanted a lead guitarist or a bass player. I’d made some money from working in nightclubs, so I packed my guitar and bass and caught the next flight.”
Paul headed for San Francisco with the two other members of the band, and their two roadies. During the months they were on the West Coast they played a total of four gigs, which meant that “We were hardly keeping the wolf from the door.
“In fact, we were starving. We eventually moved back to Montreal, where we spent Christmas . . . hot dogs and Coke for Christmas dinner . . . boy, were we hungry. But I believed that we could pull through.”
The remnants of the Deviants staggered back to England in the New Year to form the Pink Fairies with sometimes Pretty Things drummer Twink. “We shared the same kind of reputation as Hawkwind. The same kind of popularity, or non-popularity, as it were. You couldn’t really separate our audiences.”
Where Hawkwind went on to consolidate some measure of success, the Fairies came apart at the seams, and in so doing entered a kind of hall of legend.
After The Pink Fairies limped into oblivion, Rudolph became, to all eyes, virtually inactive, There were odd gigs at Dingwalls. A brief sojourn with Carole Grimes and Uncle Dog. An attempt to put a band together with some guys from May Blitz . . . “we auditioned maybe a hundred drummers.
“We had no money, and we couldn’t find one drummer who was willing to commit himself when we were in that position.”
It was at Uncle Dog’s penultimate gig at a pub in Portobello Road that Brian Eno, who was in tow with John Punter (an old friend of Rudolph’s and, of course guitarist on Bryan Ferry’s solo exploits) was rather taken by Rudolph’s style of playing and invited him to participate on “Here Come The Warm Jets.”
“He’s got such a beautiful pair of ears,” smiles Rudolph. “His method of using the unorthodox was so enlightening. When he suggests something in the studio, you can see the engineer’s face just DROP.
“But he knows what it’s all about . . . he certainly made me feel a lot differently about working in a studio. Now I’m attuning my ears and brain to a studio situation.”
Meanwhile, Man are well into their second number, building to an awesome peak, when the stage doors are violently flung open. There’s some kind of explosion. Tear gas.
Your reporter gets a face-full, catches sight of Stacia reeling back, and, heart stops, dozens of maniac French musique libre guerrillas . . . well, very stoned lunatics . . . swarm through a breach In the ranks, smashing equipment as they hurtle onwards.
The French security springs to life, with totally blind brutality. Y’see these guys come prepared. They all have these vicious lengths of wood shoved up the sleeves of their combat jackets.
The average hippies head has a tendency to crack open very easily when one of these staves is clapped down upon it with any degree of force. There are a lot of cracked heads.
The gig this evening, with its strained atmosphere and overriding tension, adds an extra dimension to Hawkwind’s performance, but more than that . . . we-e-ell, they actually are sounding much better.
The sound is clearer, more efficient. And whatever one’s essential antipathy, they do sound impressive at times.
Rudolph clings more to the careering rhythm machine of King and Powell, which means that Dave Brock can ease back a little. The overall sound, then, is not so distractingly dominated by his surrogate Sterling Morrison guitar vamps.
The most important development, though, is that Simon House is no longer relegated to such a subordinate role. His keyboard and violin playing has become increasingly more assertive over these last few months since Hawkwind’s last British tour.
Hawkwind leave the stage after an encore which sounds more or less like an action replay of what they’ve been playing for the last twenty minutes, the house lights go up, when a very imposing figure marches to the front of the stage to address the audience.
Oh-oh. C’est Magma’s Christian’ Vander. He’s explaining the non-appearance of Magma, inferring that if they , . . THE PEOPLE . . . want them to play, then play they will.
“I wish I’d seen him,” says Paul Rudolph the next day. “I’d have dragged him off that stage.”
A Plastic Fragment Hawkwind Press Cutting