Sounds – July 1972
Hawkwind, back from some continental and English cruising, had dropped by at their record company and were looking amiable and relaxed, though threatening to duff up the SOUNDS man who they reckoned had slagged them off for their performance at the battle of Bickershaw. Fortunately, I had a cast-iron alibi as I had not arrived when they played their set, so it was back to laughs.
Now the sight of your friendly neighbourhood head band striking poses amongst the dancing girls of “Top Of The Pops” may indeed seem a far-fetched idea. But Hawkwind, to their surprise, have discovered that the “Silver Machine” single -a sort of advance taste of their dramatic space opera project- is actually creeping (not yet zooming) into the charts. Plus our major rock and roll programme viewing an appearance from the band with a favourable eye that really was too much.
They did not feel that it was quite their mark and anyway, a group which relies on audience reaction and uses a lot of complicated electronic effects could so easily die the death in the strictly controlled atmosphere of a TV recording studio. So what they settled on was a film taken at a live gig. Last week saw them heading for Dunstable with a camera crew in tow to record their TV spot, inside the acoustically brilliant wooden eggshell of the town’s Queensway Hall. The results you will have to wait for.
Not that Hawkwind are making a last desperate rush to the hurdle of stardom. Nik still figures that if he’s got enough bread not to have to think about it anymore, he’s OK. And as for fame, well everybody recognizes Hawkwind, don’t they? You could hardly miss Nik in his space-captain leather outfit and Tartar beard. What is more important, they are still a working band and put in the hours on the road, on good nights and on bad nights, exhilarated or brought-down, in Dunstable or Dusseldorf or wherever else freaks are gathered together to catch some music. Recently they tripped around Europe taking in Amsterdam, Berlin and Rome followed by a quick visit to Denmark. As usual they had returned
with a mixture of good and bad impressions adding up to an entertaining collection of histories.
Amsterdam saw them on the opening night of the tour at the famous Paradiso, “not what it used to be, a lot of people have a very low opinion of it now” says Nik, “although it’s still a nice gig” A new gig has started there called the Milky Way and the band describe it with a disbelieving laugh as “a government-run place for heads.
Then on to a late-nighter in Dusseldorf, five in the morning at a festival in a covered stadium. ”We were working at a different time-level, everybody was lying down in sleeping bags on this huge great floor, there was hardly anybody standing up. It was like going to a normal gig where everybody was laying down” comments Del, stirring himself like a bearded dormouse from his corner. Then they trucked on through to Berlin, and a little tourism on the side for some who made it to Leipzig in East Germany all red flags out and Free Angela Davis posters, according to Dave. Del was doing the driving of one of the cars and with conflicting opinions from his couple of navigators succeeded several times in missing the through autobahn and landing up in the open countryside where the East Germans stand and stare at any passing car. They found Hawkwind quite a spectacular sideshow, too.
Meanwhile Nik had taken another car and gone ahead to Berlin, met up with old friends and when the whole band was finally gathered together in one place, quite a party was had with the Can; and then on down to Rome. A brief silence, then as one man everybody in the room gives a reflective “yeah” and bursts out laughing.
“We played this huge pop festival, and there were thousands and thousands of people there and it was really hot. No chicks, and they really go berserk over there”, about fifty, a hundred guys chased Stacia after she finished dancing, she jumped into the car and all those who were pursuing her started rocking it, trying to get in at her, we all carried coshes in our back pockets, ‘cos they’re very excitable out there, you know, so many guys kept getting up on stage and ripping gear off”, tells Dave, who certainly does not look like a seven-stone weakling. ”All the gear on the stage was nailed down” puts in Del from the floor. They still seem to remember enjoying the gig, though, not least because the local
communist party paper had written them up as the heroes of the show.
Apart from the mammoth show in Rome, small audiences awaited them elsewhere in Italy and there was only one moment when disaster looked near, when the roadies phoned through an hour before a gig in Trieste to tell the band that the van with all the equipment was broken down a few hundred miles down the road. So with that flair for improvisation, they borrowed the Italian support band’s toy PA and still put on a show. They blew it up finally, but not before everyone had had a good time.
Back to England and the silver screen. ”Silver Machine” is just a foretaste of the whole space opera, which is still in the planning stage. But it’s definitely going to be a live show, as they don’t feel that records are as useful a means of communication as the live appearance. There is talk about recording it live which will surely be a feat of engineering but at the moment the band is into holidaying after their
Hopefully Bob Calvert the Space Poet will have his head together soon and will rejoin the band. Meantime it’s he who has the most nearly complete project under way. It will be known as Captain Lockheed and his Starfighters – the ones that crashed with appalling regularity. The cash is to go to the widows of the pilots who died: “Bob feels himself to be the one-winged hero, that’s his trip” says Nik, and helping him out in his thoughts as he spirals down to the ground will be Viv Stanshall, Arthur Brown and Paul Fairy.
Which way for Hawkwind, then?
A Plastic Fragment Hawkwind Press Cutting