|Cosmic Calypso and Sonic Surprise
This article first appeared in the NME on 11/11/72
Unless you're deaf, dumb and blind or, alternatively,
haven't been keeping up with the music press, you
will know that Hawkwind embark this week upon
their fabled Space Ritual, once a germ in the brain of
Captain Robert Calvert and now a full-blown
spectacular, around the country.
Now the question you will doubtless be asking is...
will this great creation, surely the most adventurous
project that the Sonic Assassins have constructed in
their career so far, change the world as we know it?
Or, perhaps more realistically, how will a bunch of
lovable freaks like Hawkwind, so renowned for their
untogetherness, keep it together?
I can't supply you with all the answers, hut yours
devotedly did venture down to rehearsals at Jubilee Studios in cosmic Covent Garden by the site of the old
U.F.O. experiments to attempt to pick up on the flow of the proceedings.
Once inside, I perceived certain members of the band vaguely attempting a rehearsal; Dave Brock, cutting a
fine figure in an Afghan coat, was seated on an amplifier playing around on his beloved custom-built guitar,
while Nik Turner seemed also intent on pursuing his musical studies. DikMik had fallen asleep by some
speakers, while wandering poet Calvert, back in the merry throng once again, looked earnestly confused.
At the appearance of a newcomer, things came to a halt and I found myself interviewing bassist Lemmy the
Lurch. The first item of news is that the famous bass-player has purchased 'new knobs' for his Â£25
instrument (actually, it was Â£27.50p but Â£25 is a rounder sum and, anyway, Lemmy still hasn't paid
anything for it).
I probed deeper; how were rehearsals going? Some mumblings to the effect that things were coming
together. The night before, the scene had deteriorated into a party, while manager Doug Smith was
conspicuous in his absence owing to his belief that the cosmic combo would perhaps get things together
better without his constant hustling for them to constructively rehearse.
The whole concept for the Space Ritual is apparently based around Robert Calvert's idea of a spaceship
which loses control, with the songs built around its adventures lost in space. The emphasis is on an
adventure rather than a moral thesis. The idea is one the band have been toying with for a year now,
beginning as a fantasy which United Artists, their record company, were none too keen to finance (first
conception was for an inflatable plastic dome to be taken around the country and setup like a circus, so
building up a total environmental setting complete with multi-screen projectors showing all manner of
films). Now that "Silver Machine" has pointed to their commercial mass appeal, the fantasy has become a
reality (complete with all the compromises such a transaction produces) and here they all are, ready to go.
The whole spectacle will last roughly two hours complete with all new songs except for "Born to Go"
(recorded for posterity on the "Greasy Truckers" album) and "Brainstorm" (to be found in 12 minute form
on the new "Doremi Fasol Latido" album, available on November 10). All the new numbers will eventually
find their way onto the Space Ritual double album, probably to be recorded live.
Aficionados of the supreme three-chord bliss of Hawkwind need not be worried by these new ideas - the
music will be served up with that lovable raw "joie de vivre" that's been the band's trademark since the
Already a new dancer, Renee, has been brought in. A veteran psychedelic performer for bands like the
Quicksilver Messenger Service (between '66 and '68) and the Jefferson Airplane for two years, Miss Renee
possesses an uncanny control of her limbs and is an undoubted asset to the band's line-up. Stacia, the
resident dancer, will probably not take to the road with the Ritual. Her reasons stem from a personal desire
to improve her dancing talents which means she will spend the time practicing with an instructor. Still, it's
all very much in the air at the moment, and there's yet a chance that Stacia will be performing during the
time the show is on the road.
The new album "Doremi Fasol Latido" (title along with cover concept courtesy Barney Bubbles,
master-mind behind the "In Search Of Space" sleeve and the "Glastonbury" package among many other
creations) is an extension and further definition of the band's talents so far. The first side features
"Brainstorm", a natural single which the band perhaps wisely refuse to release, fearing the label that comes
with successful singles releases. A live favourite, it sounds remarkably powerful from the acetate, as does
"Space", a Dave Brock odyssey with a would-you-believe strange calypso beat. I wouldn't either, but there
it is, and it sounds good too (note for all those who call Hawkwind a three chord band: this number has at
least six chords with a couple of minors thrown in for good measure, so that's a bonus in itself).
The second side has "We Are Always Watching You", more cosmic paranoia, and "The Watcher", a Lemmy
composition in which yours devotedly detected a slight Troggs influence. The package is particularly fine :
a gate-fold with the new Hawkwind "insignia" on the cover and a design of the band drawn as ancient
Vikings. Reports say the record has an advance of 80,000.
So there we all were, discussing the weather and other such trivia when the band felt it was time for a
Trooping into the main room, the band set up slowly and began with a fine version of "Born To Go".
Previously I had tried to ascertain certain details such as what costumes the band would be wearing -
"Levis", retorted the charming and elegant drummer, Simon King. I must admit that the thought of such
masculine (no AC-DCs here, kids) degenerates as Hawkwind dressed in asexual space drag did appear a
trifle absurd, but one never knows just how fame can affect a band, even one as unpretentious as the Sonic
The lighting would be the main consideration, it seemed, while such schemes as placing elfin-like
mellotron-player Del Dettmar on a six-foot high projection which turned round constantly had not been
welcomed by certain parties and was thus dropped. Robert Calvert's role in the Space Ritual will be
basically as poet - he will appear at specific points in the event to recite his work and will perform on just
When I left, the band had taken on their characteristic roles once again. Nik Turner was trying to
coordinate the proceedings with only Dave Brock to support him, Del was silently musing behind his
recorder, Simon's gangly frame was seen around his drumkit, Lemmy had disappeared and DikMik looked
as if he was going to fall over (DikMik actually never falls over, he only looks as if he's going to).
Even now in rock music there's always room for at least one good psychedelic band and that is where
Hawkwind score. Don't expect the Space Ritual to be a grandiose musical experience in the tradition of the
Pink Floyd mating itself with the London Philharmonic. Don't expect mind-blitzed corpses to be dragged
from venues wrecked by the profound cerebral damage of the spectacle. In fact, don't expect anything.
The band don't really know how the project is going to shape itself.
Anyway, you ought to know that surprises are always more fun.