|Festival Eye, Summer 89
The title above refers to the publication and issue in which this first appeared. It was originally and rather
boringly titled "In Search Of Space", like so many other articles about Hawkwind. This one has a poignant
side to it, given what was to go down about a year after it came out (cf: the lyrics to "Festivals") - and after
reading this, it's clear that the writing was already on the wall...
waiting to hear what was going on... And this little VW van turned up with drums on top and they got all
their stuff out and starting playing. It was about three in the morning when we played. We got our strobe
out... and they had some UV lights... and you did fire eating, didn't you?"
Kris: "Yeah! That was the night before the solstice 'cos the next night we went to Cholderton and walked
down to the Stones."
Dave: "And all of a sudden a police van came and we saw them all put their helmets on and the back door
opened... I was looking over my shoulder playing my guitar. Everything seemed to stop and go into slow
motion... And the guy wanted to get out and they pulled him back in and just drove off. I think they were
going to get out and stop it. It was very bewildering that they should drive into this lay-by... and there's a
little festival going on... It's so resilient to do it... "
Kris: "They didn't realise there were so many people there. They drove in and there weren't many vehicles
'cos the vehicles were all down different lay-bys. When they drove in the people on the bank stood up and
they must have thought 'God, there's quite a few people here, really'. Then they shut the doors, took their
helmets off and drove away quickly!"
Dave: "The one thing with things like Stonehenge is the resilience to do something like that. I mean people
FE: What I always found strange about Stonehenge was that here it all was, and it was just the sum total of
everybody getting up off their arse and doing something...
Dave: "And going there... I think tt's really just going there. I've been doing it for years."
FE: What do you think about what happened at Stonehenge on the night of the solstice last year?
Dave: "The strangest thing was the helicopters flying around shining searchlights saying 'you must leave'...".
FE: You put that on the TAT album didn't you...
Dave: "Yeah. that's right. I hope it's not like that again really. Its a waste of money... just the them and us
syndrome... Apart from all of that, the same problems over the years have occurred about parking up in
places. Years and years ago - I mean, even from the holiday-makers' point of view - they take their caravans
off and they want to stop in lay-bys overnight and quite often, especially during the summer, you find that
loads of lay-bys have got shale and gravel all over them to stop anybody staying there. There was no sort of
paranoia like there is today. A lot of the problem lies with the way people think about it now."
FE: How did the free festival thing get started?
Dave: "Just alternatives... I remember doing Bickershall which I thought was terrible 'cos that was like a
concentration camp. It was all full up with corrugated iron round the outside. I thought well what's the point
of going to something like that. Eh? It's crazy. Enclosed...
"I mean the only good thing that comes out of paying festivals is on the perimeters really, where you can
have your free festivals, which is where it all developed from. From that it got to having free festivals all
over the joint. The authorities don't like things like that, do they, because it's not part of the system.
"But I do wish that lots of bands -lots of bands that earn lots of money have quite a lot of power- could be a
lot more involved with the public that go to see them. There's a vast amount of power that people could
"It's the same even in Hawkwind. Over the years that we've done it there's been different people in the band
who really don't want to go to a festival. They don't want to put up with living in a van and shitting in a hole.
They're so used to having running water they don't know what to do when they haven't got it."
FE: But that's a problem that goes right through society.
Dave: "Yeah, it's true. But if you go to third world countries it's easy to adapt."
Kris: "It's easier to adapt to third world countries than it is to coming back from third world countries to the
western world. 'Cos then you really see all the decadence. It's terrible."
Dave: "There's so much of everything, isn't there. People don't realise ... they accept it all. They think it's all
part of their life. And they can't do without their record player, or CDs, or anything like that. But then it's all
FE: But then there's people that would say: 'Well, if you take that attitude to it what about this big show that
you do with all the lasers and everything...'
Dave: "The costly shows... the white elephants... It's to keep going. And it is nice to put a show on. I mean,
when I used to go and see Arthur Rrown ... Arthur Brown always used to put a good show on. Every year
you'd go and see something different. It's nice to have a show to take on the road to do that. At the same
time it's a problem getting a van together and getting members of the band to all be involved in going off and
playing at a free festival."
FE: What do you make of the recent publicity about the environmental problems the world is facing?
Dave: "I think we're just microbes... the human race is just living on this globe that once was really healthy
and all of a sudden we're all boring our way in and eating it away. It's like Kris said, when you go to third
world countries and you suddenly come back to all this. And you see it all - it's a crazy old world. Western
civilisation - where you can sit on a nice toilet and have soft toilet paper. Which is very pleasant. It's nice to
have certain luxuries I must admit. But then you can adapt. I can adapt... it doesn't bother me."
FE: Do you reckon that enough of society is going to adapt before we've chopped down all the rain forests?
Dave: "No, no, no."
FE: What do you think the next fifty years will be like?
Dave: "Quite chaotic, I should imagine, because all the third world countries want what western civilisation
has now... the haves and the have-nots... I mean you can be in the African jungle with a transistor radio
listening to a rock station - it's so strange. And the natives want transistor radios in their huts and the steps
start stepping up and they lose touch with growing things and learning what's what - cultivation... looking
after the land. So who knows...
FE: Like when you get a telly out in India and you get 35 people clustered round it watching it.
Dave: "It's exactly like cinema in the 30s and 40s, really. Everyone used to queue up to go to the cinema to
escape, to watch a big film. Everybody's got that in their own rooms now... their telly's. We've got a telly...
don't watch it all the time though."
FE: I haven't got a telly - I've got a computer instead!
Dave: "That's probably worse 'cos you have to sit there ages fiddling around! It's useful if you're using it
for work. But you've got to read up on these things to get them sussed out. It's like all these synthesised
keyboards that we've got that we link up. And you have to keep referring back to your manual when
something goes wrong! You've got the basic concept of it all but then you have to go back to reading it up. I
did prefer just having knobs to twiddle... the element of chance... the element of chance is always much
better, I think."
FE: There's supposed lo be a move away from computerised stuff to acoustic instruments. Do you think
that's going to catch on?
Dave: "No, not at all. It's business isn't it. The whole music industry is based on oil. That's where records
are made. You can see this huge great industry that's geared now to electronic instruments. I mean all the
newest keyboards have already been wiped out. It's like a ladder isn't it. They've already got the third step
up.. the 'excellent' model... and they put the next model out so that all the people that have got the first one
have to sell that and get the next one and the next one. You know what I mean. That's how it's all geared up
so I'm sure acoustic guitars and so on... the electronic music industry would never allow it to happen..."
FE: But how can they stop it?
Dave: "Publicity, I suppose. Think about all the advertising in all the music magazines. I never buy music
papers. When I see them laying around, I pick them up and it's like the same thing you might have read three
years ago... And it's the latest model... This is the one... This one only costs five thousand pounds, reduced
now to two and a half!"
FE: But getting records out does involve a lot of hi-tech stuff, doesn't it?
Dave: "The record industry's geared to putting you in studios where you spend loads of money so the actual
musician never really sees any royalties come out of an album, cos... you know, they have their deals with
studios... and record labels... I mean they can do anything...
"There are so many good bands around. We get some wonderful tapes sent to us from some really good
bands. But I send them on to record labels and they just... chuck 'em out. People spend days and months
working these things out ... But, still, that's what we did. I think it's luck really... We just happened to be at
the right place at the right time."
FE: What do you think are the chances of getting a festival together at Stonehenge this year?
Dave: "Well... same as last year really. Something will happen somewhere. Maybe just a few days and that's
it. I think maybe in another two or three years... eventually... the wheel will turn and there'll be a more
relaxed attitude towards it."
FE: I suppose it's a question of convincing the police that it's better to let it happen than not, and of people
who go, realising that to make it work they have to look after it and love it...
Dave: "It's that difficult situation of anarchy and law and order. A lot of people want anarchy but then it's
back to the same old syndrome of the haves and the have-nots. Quite often anarchy's greed, isn't it. You've
got to have some sort of order no matter where you are... any sort of tribal meetings or whatever... Even
natives now, they have a sort of order inside the tribe where, OK, you've always got to have somebody that's
responsible for something that's going on.
"I mean Ribblehead was a real piss-off. People were getting stuff nicked all over the joint. If you can't go to
a festival where you can leave your van unlocked or whatever... Years ago there never used to be all the
scenes of nicking that go on now. I mean you could leave stuff laying around and you wouldn't get people
pilfering it or trying to get in the van... having a look in the window to see if there's anybody in there so that
they can go in and nick stuff."
FE: Why do you think it changed? What happened?
Dave: "It's the same as anything. It goes into sort of... corruption. People lose respect for each other. And
so a lot of people just couldn't give a f*** what goes on.
"And then if they get hit over the head with an iron bar that's their hard luck - but they run to the police. Can
you believe it? You get some people that are into anarchy and when all of a sudden it gets out of hand they
run to the opposite side. Because you've got to have some sort of order, I reckon. So that people can bring
their kids and go about their business."
"The whole idea of it is to have a nice time, to relax, meet up with loads of friends and generally have a good
time without f***ing vehicles steaming round and knocking kids over.
"I mean there's not so many kids. People used to always take their kids to festivals. There's not so much of
that now. Except certain ones, you know what I mean, there's certain festivals that people think 'Oh yeah,
let's take the kids there, 'cos it'll be alright.'"
FE: What about this thing about the 'brew crew'. A lot of people seem to hare invented this group of people
and stuck a label on them.
Dave: "Then you get a certain sort of people who want to be associated as being the 'brew crew', if you see
what I mean. It's like... You get that. I noticed ... I can't remember which festival it was... there was a load
of them all f***ing falling around... And a load of bikers turned up and they all scuttled off.
"In a way I look at it like an indian encampment where you get people riding their horses through. You've got
the braves and the warriors and different tribal elders and all this whole pecking order. And you get loads of
the reckless and wild people who couldn't care a f*** getting involved in all these scenes. But that's when
the indians used to have their tribal members who'd come round and knock a few heads together and they'd
all stop. OK, you go so far and that's it."
FE: A lot of travellers do seem to identify with North American Indians, particularly the Hopis and their
Dave: "It's that sort of romantic sort of lifestyle... It's not really romantic living in a van and getting hustled
to move. I mean a lot of... I suppose teenagers that don't actually live that lifestyle... look at it from the other
side as being romantic living in this van... must be wonderful to just drive around... They don't think how
you have to get your diesel or whatever. And having to clean the thing out. And getting things breaking
down. They don't see all of that. It's like the indians, it's given that romantic idea of riding horses and not
having to live, and shit in holes, and hunt, and have to skin animals, and dig roots, and... do all of that... and
have lice... That's what goes on isn't it really... They won't be able to go for their bath every few days there!"
"You look at some of them at a festival who are really f***ing dirty because they want to be looked at. They
want to say 'look at me everybody'..."
Kris: "The 'crusties'!"
Dave: "I mean you don't have to be like it at all. You can clean yourself with a saucepan of water... have a
shower... well, not a shower, you just pour it over your head. And wash yourself."
FE: Do you ever resent the fact that if you're at a free festival people are going to expect you to play?
Dave: "If you feel like playing, you play. I just like going there to have a good time. It's really a f***ing
hustle having to play sometimes. You know, you get too stoned or you're on too late and you're untogether
and you bumble around."
FE: It's nice when you can spend the whole summer on the move...
Dave: "On the move, yeah... it is nice to go from one to the other, last year weren't too bad. We did actually
do it. There was one week after another going from one site to another. It was alright. There were a lot of
festivals. There was a lot of good ones too. I hope it's the same this year."
Of all the big-name hands, none has done more
for the free festival cause than Hawkwind. In
many ways more of a family than a band, this year
Hawkwind celebrates twenty years of psychedelic
space rock and a career which has seen more than
thirty changes in the line-up. Throughout that
time the one constant factor has been Dave Brock.
Festival Eye visited Dave and Kris at their home
in Devon to talk about festivals, the band, and the
state of the world...
FE: Most people who tried to get to Stonehenge last
summer seem to have a story about their experiences.
What do you remember about it?
Dave: "We went up there and stopped off in the lay-
by on the A36 past Hanging Langford for a couple of
days. There were loads of trucks all parked up there
31st March 2007: I've belatedly come across a
companion piece to the above, which appeared in the
same issue of Festival Eye and was written by Trevor
Hughes. A reduced scan of the page is to the right - I
would have put it here "as is" but I couldn't get the
resulting jpg to be smaller than 200Kb. So I captured
the text instead:
Spirit Of The Age
For many years Trevor Hughes has been publishing
news about Hawkwind in newsletters and magazines.
Here, he charts the history of the band, describes their
dedication to free festivals, and pays tribute to Robert
Calvert who died last year.
Days Of The Underground
"In visions of acid, we saw through delusion and
Brainbox Pollution...We knew we were right."
From their initial conception in '69, Hawkwind played
at all of the People's Free Festivals. With a multitude
of line-ups revolving around a nucleus of Brock,
Turner, Dik Mik & Ollis, they progressed a long way from the All Saints Hall in Notting Hill Gate.In August
'70 they'd played free outside the Isle Of Wight Festival, much to the delight of Jimi Hendrix. Late '71 and
their ranks swelled with the addition of roadie Lemmy ("Lemmee 'ave a go on that bass") and resident
poet/writer Robert Calvert. This led to the creation of their most successful album to date, the
science-fiction opera "Space Ritual" (a mantric trip to the outer /innermost reaches of space, primarily
written by Bob and Moorcock). I've vague memories of their '72/'73/'74 sets at the Windsor People's Free
Festivals, but not strong enough to comment.
Hawkwind were again present when the People's Free Festival moved from the Queen's back garden to the
Watchfield Ministry of Defence fields in August '75, following the obscene trashing inflicted on a
couple-thousand of us at Windsor the year before. Along with Gong, the Stranglers and many other
legends, they played to thousands.
In 1976, most energies began focussing on Wiltshire, its Ley lines and Megalithic monument. A new
The Stone Age
"9 to 5 or 10 till 6... Up to the city, then back to the styx" (Calvert '77)
Stonehenge '77 and my memories become clearer. The site had grown and there were thousands and
thousands of us, bands everywhere, constantly. The Stones united us strongly.
I recall one afternoon noticing this slim shorthaired character in black leathers storming up and down near
the stage freaking out at people. I watched for a while...the figure emitted a strange, menacing vibe. I tried
to figure out what he was on - I certainly didn't want any! None the wiser, I got bored and drifted off,
studying the daily site letter I'd been told to pass on: Tim Blake, then Hawkwind - not long now...
Returning to the stage later, I found an illuminated Atomhenge overshadowing the PA. It was glowing red
from thousands of light bulbs inside the four large pillars - this had given the crowd quite a shock as it had
been dead throughout Tim's solo synth set. To quote one of the people operating it: "Nobody knew that it lit
up and the whole audience went "whaaahh!"
The structure pulsed eerily, building and subsiding in intensity as if it might explode at any point. Brock,
Calvert, House, King & Shaw took the stage and gave us one of the best sets imaginable. They gave their all
for two hours with virtuoso performances from all involved, when the inevitable happened - the generator
ran out of diesel. Calvert and House continued with rather less amplification, and we were treated to
mellotron solos following Bob's readings of poetic madness and improvised feedback. By then I'd realised
that the strange character flying at everyone previously was in fact Capt. R.N. Calvert of the Spaceship
Hawkwind, who I'd only seen under strobes from a distance in the past.
The next year marked a change in name and direction for the Hawks, with Brock and Calvert at the helm,
spearheading a new band, the Hawklords. This involved a major line-up change (enter Bainbridge, Griffin &
Swindells) and a more professional approach to their "job": which proved to be equally constructive and
destructive. It lasted 19 months, then Bob split, sadly nevermore to complement their ranks at the Festivals
Hawkwind / Snorkwind / Hawkdog / Agents Of Chaos...the Hawks continued to play at each Stonehenge
Festival, in various disguises, and I feel they'll continue to do so as long as the spirit and fun remains.
The Calvert Heritage
"The Police are massing in their riot gear. They got pick-axe handles, and it's very clear... They're just
strike-breakers working for the Government." (Calvert '81)
Bob died of a heart attack on the 14th of August 1988, aged 41. We are left a legacy of wonderful pieces
that reflect turbulent years.
He'd been on the verge of rejoining the Hawks for their 20th anniversary tour and had begun writing a
concept based on Stonehenge June '88: "The idea's occurred," he said, "to write a play about the
controversy, featuring convoy people, riot police, land-owners and English Heritage. Also Ancient Britons,
on a stage silhouetting the Stones. Electronic music and songs plus movement and dialogue in prose and
verse, working title 'English Heritage'. Perhaps I could persuade EH to let me stage it at the 'henge next
summer - I mean, plays are culture aren't they?"
Two years before when he'd gigged at the Clarendon with Krankschaft, someone jumped on stage and
shouted: "Are you all goin' to go to Stonehenge on June 1st? Every one of you be there or be fuckin'
square". Bob stood by, then replied: "Yes, well, I would say please yourselves, you know. If you want to be
there and get your heads broken by police, it's a very good idea. But there's got to be a better way of
organising it than just standing there letting the police smash you with their truncheons. If you want to do
that, it's up to you. I'm not going to do that. I'm going to agitate behind the scenes".
Bob had been plagued by illness over the years, but had continued writing / recording with friends like
Adrian Wagner, Viv Stanshall, Nik Turner, Pete Pavli, Rat Scabies, Bethnal, Dead Fred, Steve Pond, Dave
Anderson, and finally the Starfighters. He rarely ventured out of London until retreating to his home-town
Ramsgate in '82, following his masterful shows at Theatrespace and the Arts Theatre.
His sketches parodied Western thinking and questioned laws. He was a relentless fighter for civil liberties
and human rights, a sub-urban guerilla for the underdog, armed with the most potent of all weapons against
the State - a sharp uncorrupted mind and unshakable resolve.
"Future generations are relying on us. It's a world we made incubus" (Brock '81)
Hawkwind were amongst the thousand-odd trapped by the Police on the A36 the day before the Solstice in
'86. Following the 500 arrests, Brock wrote:
"We just managed to escape that day. When people were being marched past us in handcuffs in a pincer
movement, I just started the van and drove through the police then stopped in a lay-by down the road. We
were then scrutinized by a helicopter at tree-top height for a while. We drove to Shrewton where we joined
up with a bus, van and a couple of cars. After stopping on MOD land, we got an escort of three police cars
and two vans. It was getting dark so we parked up in a field. What a waste of public money. We were on
MOD land just used for tanks...there were some wonderful spots for a Festival".
Hawkwind have played several benefits so far this year, and the negotiations with authorities continue.
Stonehenge? Who knows?
Further reading: Monthly Hawkletters - free (SAE); "Robert Calvert 1945-88: The Hawkfrendz Tribute" Â£l;
"Born To Go; The Hawkfamily Tribute" Â£1: "Stonehenge Who Knows" (June '89) 50p; "Stonehenge 1988"
50p, "1986" 50p; "1985" 50p. Zephyr Hawksales, PO Box 6, Liscard, Wallasey, Merseyside, L4S 4SJ.