|Gone with the Hawkwind
From Let It Rock, July 1973. The gig reviewed here subsequently resulted in the 'Bring Me The Head Of
Yuri Gagarin' live album - which might provide some explanation of the tenor of the article :-)
The Empire Pool, Wembley is very large. It's possible to get about eight thousand people in there. On Whit
Sunday about seven thousand paid large sums of money to go to the Hawkwind Party, featuring Deke
Leonard and Iceberg, Magic Michael, Sutherland Brothers & Quiver, and of course, Hawkwind.
A few confessions are in order. I didn't actually get there till about quarter to six and I left at quarter to ten.
The Show started at four and went on till ten, I believe. During much of one set, by a group of Pink Fairies
who for contractual reasons were labelled Danny and the Racing Cars, I was talking to a very amiable bloke
from United Artists and drinking out of a plastic beaker. I heard them doing (I think) "Waiting for My Man"
- the old Velvet Underground number. It is difficult to be sure, since much of the song was washing back
over you in a soundwave while you were still waiting for their man. They were very loud though. I didn't
hear much of Magic Michael either, but he didn't appear to be very popular because you could hear seven
thousand pairs of feet stamping throughout his act and many cries of "Off! Off!"
"He makes it up as he goes along, you see," someone said. "From the audience, it's a very narrow line he
walks between success and failure."
He appeared to have fallen off.
The Empire Pool is a horrible place. All concrete and hot dog stands, like a warehouse left over from the
Berlin Airlift. The seven thousand who showed up were dressed in the colourful garb of latterday disciples
of Scott McKenzie. Many were wearing Hawkwind tee-shirts with combat jackets covered with symbols
inspired by various acts of genocide of the last thirty years. They seemed decent enough people to me.
"The attendants are behaving like PIGS" said a visitor from Cambridge. "I saw Hawkwind and the Fairies in
a field in East Anglia - and they were bloody good. But the attendants here were pushing a bloke around and
he hadn't done anything."
"I come to these all the time" said an attendant. "I was doing David Bowie at Earls Court last week. Couldn't
understand it, awful I thought. The Pink Floyd were good when I saw them. The only trouble I've ever
known was when the Jackson Five did the Pool, lots of little thirteen year-olds scrambling over the barriers.
But the people at this sort of thing are always well-behaved."
Outside the main hall various stalls had been set up. Hawkwind Space Ritual stalls were selling large posters
of undressed women in galactic poses, and appropriate books. Laing, Chomsky, William Blake, VD guides,
Road to Wigan Pier, old copies of Oz. Opposite, Stan Demidjuik, veteran of many an Oz, was running his
Portobello Rd. revolutionary bookstall. His formerly long hair had been shorn into a neat, well brushed style.
"The hippies aren't buying, I'm here because I've known Hawkwind a long time."
The hippies weren't buying because they were too young to know they were supposed to be buying.
The whole afternoon was resonant of some horrible remembrance of 67-69. A few of the people who had
been around then were recapturing some of the old feelings. Only they weren't. If the time had any
significance it had been then. Now it's like watching a tribe performing a rain dance on the floor of the Ford
body plant at Dagenham. Whether it rains or shines the Cortinas are going to keep on coming. What political
content the rituals ever had has disappeared, and all that's left is appalling mumbo-jumbo culled from bargain
basement hobbits plus oriental mysticism from St. Michael.
Some of the money from the gig was to go to IT so it was fitting that the programme should come from the
same concern. The centre page spread was called 'Once Upon a Space', written by Bob Calvert.
"Once upon a space, in the deepest reaches of outer time, there came a something, out of nothing, into
nowhere. By some freak of chance it somehow landed on Earth, where it lay amorphous in the mud for
years. Until the rains came and washed it into the drains... an embryonic blob of consciousness... an
unknown thing, a supernatural, extra terrestrial, alien thing... once upon a time... cybernetic castle... a great
honking hawk-beaked being... metal moguls... venusian space bassist... wild enthusiastic greetings... room
appears to be in Outer Space... travelled vast spaces... puff of blinding darkness... demonstrate the
minceability of frail verbiage... dark forest to find a stick beater among the Elves... Druid... Priest like
creature... humorous tilt... Magickry... clenched breath... blasted off."
So the appalling garbage of Ladbroke Grove lives on in the deep space of alien bank-balances. Through
scratchy pictures of bum space-shots perhaps a Man will take us from the tawdry reality of Wembley to a
Napalm factory deep in the heart of Middle Earth.
The main hall is dark, spotlights pick out the group playing on stage. It is the end of the Quiver/ Sutherland
Brothers set. They play competent rock and are asked to do an encore through the haze of joss sticks.
"We'll do a number we wrote called 'Believe in Music'. Hope everyone's dropping their acid now!"
No one appeared to be dropping anything except matches, programmes, smarties.
A voice, reminiscent of J. Peel makes an announcement. The stage glimmers, a huge white screen has some
obscure mystical symbol jerking around it as the projectionist attempts to tune himself in to deep space.
"You have twenty minutes to prepare yourself" says voice. "Physical conditions will be normal, mental
conditions subject to change." The PA plays what appears to be a Mantovani version of "Paint It Black" with
In a good English tradition the arrival of the silver machine at Wembley was in fact twenty minutes late. The
screen registered images, a mask, the embryo from '2001' the Earth from an American Spacecraft, an
astrological sign, they bounced to and fro. Hawkwind pounded away. They could play their instruments
competently I thought. "Hello everybody. Having a nice time?" said a voice from the stage.
"No day or night, the world only knows, this is Hawkwind. We are back in the shell. We have invented
offsprings, we are much concerned about our embryos within the eggs. Perhaps someone will break the
egg, feeling hungry, and crack it into the pan, and eat it with a pinch of salt... We were born to burn as far
as we can learn."
Far away, across the eons of space-time of Empire Pool a girl dances, in the manner of a pan person. The
voice assumes the style of Olivier's Richard III... "...a city of telephones and servile clerks!" The poor old
petit-bourgeois always seem to get it in the neck on these occasions. A serious case of self-hatred. "...I
would plunge my knife deep into the gold-fronted commissionaire."
Outside, the attendants, looking like the special police from Clockwork Orange, fold away the unsold ITs
they have been hawking.
In the car park. a yellow bus is decorated in the bright colours of the Jesus people. "Why don't you come
in?" says an American girl, with long dark hair. "Have you heard a song called American Pie? The music has
died you know. And when it ends people are left alone, and scared. Have you met Jesus Christ?"
"Not recently, no."
They gather round a candle, and pick up a guitar. "Would you like to hear a song?"
"I've heard all the songs I want to, thank you."
"Our people are in there talking to people."
Exit from bus.
Hawkwind probably means well. IT means well, everybody means well. What they succeeded in creating
with their dead stoned philosophy, and attempts at Space-Shots is not some cousin not of peace and light,
communes and Ladbroke Grove, but Adolf Hitler on an acid trip.
|Above: this accompanied the original. L-R Dik Mik, Del Dettmar, Simon King, Dave Brock, Nik Turner,
Lemmy. Add in Stacia and Bob Calvert & you would have the 'classic' Space Ritual line-up