|« Hawkwind, Les Maîtres de l'Univers »
Listen with your heart, open your mind, see with your spirit, understand with your eyes. This is the music of
In the darkness of the stage, the rumbles of the bass and the honks of the synths issue an urgent appeal,
fading gradually as the other instruments descend from very high or ascend from very low to herald a new
journey. The music is uninterrupted for long periods, when the breath of space itself will have passed
through the room.
"The music of Hawkwind allows you to see yourself for who you are." Hawkwind show no sign of
gratitude. Their music demands your total participation. If you are afraid of discovering yourself, you wonâ
€™t like them.
There are many reasons for the rock-buying public to accept them - the hedonistic dancing of Stacia, the
musicians always hanging back in the gloom and never coming forward to confront you - *you* have to buy
into their vision. Not to mention the fact that the scene is intercut with the flashes of strobe lighting, in front
of a wonderful lightshow (a woman-flower shrinking, then engulfing the huge screen in time with the
music). This is a true spectacle. The mission of the crew of the spaceship Hawkwind is to ensure your lift-
off. Don't hang back because they're not going to beg you to embark. It's down to you to get on board, to
take the step, to dare to place yourself within the dreams projected onto the screen, to move your body to the
rhythm and the pulses of the music.
What kind of music? It has been described as totally rock music (hard rock, even) as well as space rock (a
sketchy description), but these labels don't adhere very well to Hawkwind - the more that's said, the easier it
becomes to describe. To tell you what they are like (if you have never had occasion to hear Hawkwind) take
a heavier, but less humorous Gong, with more instrumental passages, and plenty of "take-offs". Or, better,
imagine Amon DÃ¼Ã¼l II, from the depths of their tonal range, finding the means of playing 3/4 time in a
It's no coincidence that space is one of the favourite subjects of the Mothership. A very high-pitched synth
opens the doors of the universe before you. You almost feel cold, you don't know what to do in the face of
this immensity, when suddenly, guitar chords shake the fabric of space and Hawkwind burst out before you.
At last the growling of the bass comes in: the Hawkwind sound. In fact, there are two Hawkwind sounds,
differing according to the electronic quotient at any given moment. With Del Dettmar (In Search Of Space
and Hall Of The Mountain Grill) the synths are not vague growls, but diminuendo, glissando expressions of
the perpetual movement of space. The bass becomes the wind that carries you, while time itself is sliced up
by the rumbles and rhythm of the drums. In "Master Of The Universe", all of space seems to be kept in
motion by Simon King's drum barrages.
And then, intervening in the deeps created by the synth and the rhythm (bass and drums), are the two
founders of the group, Nik Turner and Dave Brock. A guitarist with a blues background, Dave Brock
proceeds with jerky, acid chords, then takes off and transports the vessel in a succession of ascents and
descents, which he has made a consummate art; he never stays in one place. Always in balance from one
measure to the next, between the guitar and the bass there is a constant evolution of modes (minor, major,
7/4) which generate constant modifications of mood.
The sax of Nik Turner (long ago a guitarist, and since happily converted) evolves and twists between the
spaces opened by the guitar and bass. Listen to "Upside Down" and if you don't see Nik Turner and his
grimaces cavorting before your eyes, you need to buy the record! The double solo of guitar and sax on
Brainstorm (not counting the bass, which plays above and below the root note on all the themes) having
seared your auditory canals, Baron Brock will let you breathe for a few seconds with a series of lusty chords
before the vocal incantations send you out of this world.
Under the influence of Simon House (second and current synth player in the band) the sound has been
considerably modified. First on 'Hall Of The Mountain Grill', and then completely on the release of â
€˜Warrior On The Edge Of Time', the synth space noises have given way to vast sweeps of mellotron, which
have evolved from the luminous 'Wind Of Change' to the metallic brightness of 'Assault and Battery'.
The band's sound is becoming rockier and (is this coincidence?) they have started to become better known in
our beloved France. Too late...Hawkwind have actually decayed. The departure of the electronics wizard
DikMik, following the uncertain 'Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music', the exit of Lemmy, master bassist of
the Space Ritual, and finally Nik Turner being shown the door, have over the last two years transformed the
Spaceship into an electronic rock machine. The apogee of the band has been subsumed into the traditional 1-
2-3-4 of rock'n'roll.
What remains, from the flawless albums (from the eponymous first, to Hall Of The Mountain Grill)? First of
all, the mythology of an uncompromising band ("battle hymns and space chants"), the lyrics stuffed full of
imagery: the prophecy of the collapse of our mechanical world (on "In Search Of Space"), people pushed into
madness by the violence of the world and their insane thirst for peace, of people forever in search of
equilibrium between Order and Chaos. As much themes influenced by Michael Moorcock (one of the
authors and composers on board the Spaceship Hawkwind, and long-time leader of "The Deep Fixâ€�), one
of the most famous science fiction authors of the last decade. I would not consider it too much to urge you
to check out Moorcock at any library. That might give you a jolt and convert you to science fiction.
The cosmic sagas of "Space Ritual" and "Doremi Fasol Latido" are a real cry of fear and incomprehension in
the face of the universe. The Gods are insane, hate and beauty are their mistresses. Hawkwind is more than
a band, they are a crew making a journey in which we see ourselves, with our burdens of cowardice, regret
and beauty. The incantatory vocals allied with the sacred music of Hawkwind reminds us that what is within
you and what is around you are two similar things. And these sagas unfold themselves as much in our heads
and in our hearts as in space.
Hawkwind have also established a tentative integration of numerous disciplines into one single entity.
Invocations, dance, poetry, science fiction, lightshows, and films are woven into one ferment, just as each
one of the notes that make up the compositions is necessary to the music. The shorter pieces are models of
the genre. Sometimes inaccessible dreams (10 Seconds Of Forever), sometimes pure doses of fear (Sonic
Attack, The Watcher), sometime appeals to get up and go (Earth Calling).
And lastly a prophecy, in case you are not yet ready to come on board the Spaceship Hawkwind:
"And in the fullness of time, the prophecy must be fulfilled, and the Hawklords shall return to smite the land.
And the dark forces shall be scourged, the cities razed and made into parks. Peace shall come to everyone.
For is it not written that the sword is key to heaven and hell?"
P.S. Hawkwind are in the studio, recording a new album. Onward flies the Hawk?
This untitled 1978 article from issue 10 of the
French magazine Rock en Stock has been loosely
translated by yours truly (with the help of a website
called freetranslation.com, it must be said!)
All such translations have to be pretty loose as
French idioms and means of expression are
completely unlike those used in English. And I
invented the title of this piece. Basically this article
seems to be a Hawkwind primer for a French
readership, but is not uncritical.
Right: this photo accompanied the article, and I think
shows Dave Brock and Bob Calvert in front of Atomhenge sometime during 1976-77