|Freedom Freaks at the Sex Olympics
This page combines two articles from the 30/9/72 issue of the NME. The first piece was originally
titled "Hawkwind: some facts from the freedom freaks" with a quoted byline mentioning the "Windsor
Sex Olympics" which one assumes was some sort of Establishment-threatening happening. The
second piece is a review of the 1972 Windsor Free Festival
The photo below is from the Windsor Free Festivals Archive and is by an unknown photographer,
having first appeared in Maya
Hawkwind are one of the very few "Underground" bands to make the big time almost entirely on their own
terms, without any real concessions to the Media who like to believe they "make or break 'em". Even the
band's "Silver Machine" single seemed to escape rather than be released.
Hawkwind blend the appeal of science fantasy with some very straightforward and down-to earth attitudes
about individual freedom in a business which is always only too anxious to commercialise. They first made
news at an early Isle of Wight Festival, when they played some distance away from the festival site in an
open field, for free, to those who had no tickets or no money.
Apart from Nik Turner, who is pleasantly benign off stage and goes occasionally berserk on stage, burbling
like a crazy man into his sax, the members are not immediately identifiable as individuals. This collective
image has had its advantages, for at times there has been a tendency for various members to lose their minds
and miss gigs, so drummers would transfer with glee to guitar or whatever at the last minute and few would
realise the line-up changes or musical discrepancies. To say that Hawkwind's attitude is casual is an
understatement, but even so, through all the haphazard and undisciplined approach there has emerged a sort
of continuity built around their on-stage space trip.
This has produced a unique and original act. They are very much musicians of their time and they give their
audiences what they receive. I've seen two or three Hawkwind gigs now, and each time the experience was
different. At times they can be incredibly tedious. Then they break into a flurry of musical activity which
leaves you mentally gaping. The whole thing has a hypnotic, almost dream-like quality.
The first time I saw the band was shortly after their album, "In Search Of Space", last October. It was at
Ewell Tech. There was the amazing naked painted lady Stacia and the light show to end all light shows, or so
it seemed. Swirling psychedelic designs on floor and ceiling, interspersed with flickering strobe and heavy
pulsating bass rhythms which in turn were broken with screeching synthesizer and babbling sax. Most
obviously it was a trip. It was also a space trip. Sci-fi writer Michael Moorcock had got in there somehow,
and Bob Calvert -who wrote "Silver Machine"- had some considerable influence. On another occasion he
added his poetic reading to the proceedings.
Audience reaction was one of total absorption - total involvement - they were inside listening out. The only
other time I have seen such total commitment was in San Francisco when Airplane were doing "White
Rabbit" and their light show was projected on gigantic screens on all sides. Somehow Hawkwind get that
kind of 360 degree aura and it had to be seen, to be felt, to be believed. In an atmosphere like that it's almost
impossible to believe that Donny Osmond exists, but then for Hawkwind's audience he probably does not.
Apart from the actual concept and fantasy, it is left to Turner to provide most of the action, and he can
appear an awesome sight in full cry with his red mane flowing, lurching around blowing his blunt
instrument. Like most of the more menacing figures on stage today he is a 'turnaround' off stage -
quietly-spoken and idealistic. A dreamer of a better world. Hopefully he can make the changes before it
changes him. An honest individual.
"Of course we've taken acid in the past, and our first album was really a collection of good trips and bad
trips," said Nik. "There was nothing ambiguous about it. It was just about our experience. We're [not]
trying to advocate LSD or put it down. It's simply something which we think everyone should have the
right to decide about. It gave us something and it might help others - but it should be taken with care and
respect for your body. We don't advocate drugs by word or action. All we advocate is the right to choose.
We're constantly being put into some kind of category, but we're not the people's band, or a working man's
band, or a science fiction band - we're just a band. The only politics we are into are the politics of freedom."
"I still like to play for free and I like the idea of free music. I wanted to play the Windsor Sex Olympics thing
recently for nothing but only half the band got there. It's a subject of disagreement in the band at the
moment. Dave wants to get some rehearsals done and I want us to do things like that festival. What's left of
the Underground is worth preserving: I'd like to do more free gigs. But one problem is that we have debts of
our own to pay off, yet - we were quite heavily in debt before the recent success. We really have made it
the hard way. The only reason certain papers have acknowledged us at all is because we have made such an
impression that they can't ignore us - our following is so big."
"I suppose our naivety makes us easy marks in some ways but I'm not really worried about people ripping us
off. If they want to do that, let them. You don't gain by it in the end. We had about Â£8,000 worth of
equipment stolen from a van which was parked outside our roadie's house in Ilford a few months ago, and
we weren't insured. If someone needs the equipment more than us then they can have it; and if we're daft
enough not to insure it then it's our fault. If people want to rip us off they can, they won't win in the end."
The danger with success for any band with Hawkwind's free-wheeling attitude is that they almost inevitably
get sucked into the Machine and begin compromising their intentions. "We like to turn people on but we like
to do it our own way," said Nik. "We want to use the Media and not end up being used by it. The only
reason we did 'Top Of The Pops' was because we could do it our way and it was filmed live. If we had been
asked to go into the studio with the plastic grins and mime we couldn't have done it. As long as it serves a
function it's cool, but we don't want a reputation built upon hype. We must try to retain our ideals and
principles and not start believing in our own publicity. We want people to come and see us and decide for
themselves. Some will come and say 'that's a lot of shit' or 'I don't like that', but a lot are coming and
enjoying themselves, so that's cool. I just want people to come to our gigs and have a good time. Some
people might come to see Stacia because she's got big tits, but that's a bit sad because she's got a lot more
going for her. If they're turned on by big tits that's fine but I don't think anyone is going to pay 15 bob just
to see a pair of tits."
"Anyway it's a whole lot sadder to me that someone should come and see us just because we've been on
'Top Of The Pops' - but there again if they get into what we are doing because of that maybe it's O.K."
What does Nik think the audience get out of Hawkwind's music?
"If people are mentally free then they can get into the meditation side of it and if people are hung up they
might get more hung up - but they might realise that they're hung up and try to get themselves out of it.
That's what it's all about, I think."
The signs were there once again at what was in effect just another one-day festival that a bummer was to be
had by one and all. The weather was cold and grim, there were a large number of Hell's Angels making their
presence felt throughout the site, hordes of exceptionally swarthy orientals in shades appeared to be
organising the whole thing and a lot of the bands previously billed hadn't turned up. Quicksilver had decided
some weeks before that they weren't coming over to Britain, while the MC5 reportedly had not been offered
enough money for the gig.
So what did that leave us with? Well, there was the pride of Ladbroke Grove, the Pink Fairies, Arthur
Brown's Kingdom Come for anyone who favoured a particularly inane set of theatrics, the Pretty Things and
Jesus's very own sunbeams, Hawkwind (Jesus's other sunbeams had naturally rolled up in their bus,
brimming with joy and eagerness to spread the word of God to yet another god-forsaken bunch of benign
degenerates posing as rock fanatics).
I had just been informed that there was no beer tent, and that the nearest phone-box was half a mile away,
when my whole being experienced a sudden sinking feeling of nausea as I turned to witness the group on
stage. Their name is Mahatma Kane Jeeves and that should serve as a public warning. After them came the
Pink Fairies, who have seen better days but can still rock out better than most. Paul Randolph, the original
guitarist, had left some months ago, and Russell and Sandy have since enlisted the aid of Mick Wayne, a
more than adequate guitarist but scarcely a front-man. Never mind: bassist Sandy still struts the stage in his
cool, if confused stance, Russell beats his skins with openly demented glee and the band still play "Do It!"
and "Johnny B. Goode". So what more do you want, punk!
The Pretty Things, who must have been around for ever, drew the first standing ovation of the day. Yours
passionately was seen to yawn during selected parts of their set though I admitted to jigging with a certain
abandon to an encore of "Route 66". A final thought: Could Pretty's vocalist Phil May (who's been with them
from the beginning) become the English Mark Farmer?
And then there was a flash in the sky and a hand reached out and switched on the luminous sign amid the
heavens which read "Hawkwind". And it was good. There's nothing like a blast of the good old psychedelic
experience when you're getting cramp in the limbs and you've just got the remains of a discarded hot-dog all
over your latest pair of snakeskin boots. Hawkwind enjoyed it. I enjoyed it, the kids could relate to it, and it
must be the first time that Nik Turner's woodwind tootling could be heard above the awesome cacophony.
Sounded mighty good, Nikky.
All of which left poor Arthur Brown with 10 minutes to perform in, as the power was turned off just after
10. I've never been that enamoured by Brown's antics but there were surely those around who wished to
view the spectacle of Arthur making an artless fool of himself, and so to them my condolences. In retrospect
Windsor could have shaped up to be a one-day Phun City (remember that great "cheap thrills" festival?) but
this is 1972 and the dream has long been over (at least that's what everyone's been telling me.)