1977 being something of a musical year zero,
with the Punk revolution, it was notable at the
time that Hawkwind were never dismissed as
'boring old farts' in the way that their
contemporaries were. These two articles from
Sounds illustrate how they were being received
by the music press at the time.
Left: Hawkwind (minus Dave Brock) on the
Marc Bolan Show, September 1977. L-R: Adrian
Shaw, Simon House, Bob Calvert, Simon King
"You may feel the need to vomit," moaned Hawkwind's vocalist Robert Calvert during a quick 100 metres
mental free style down a stream of consciousness. And such power Hawkwind have over their audience
that several loyal and dozy looking fans promptly obliged.
Mind you, the charismatic Calvert already had the Roundhouse audience positively eating out of his leather
glove as he spearheaded Hawkwind's 'sonic force' attempts to batter down the resistance.
As you'll appreciate a Hawkwind concert is not exactly a Palladium-cum-Mecca concert. Joe Average
would be at a loss. They are not your band with little intros about how the band wrote this number while
they were feeling really low one day on Mars. Theirs is just music, the power and volume (and the vomit).
First though, there's Calvert coming on as a cross between Lawrence of Arabia and Douglas Bader. Next to
him, wandering guitarist Dave Brock, looking for all the world like a psychopathic dentist in his white coat,
while sitting in the shadows behind old Brock was the glowering Simon House.
With the recent departure of Nik Turner, more responsibility for solo work seems to have fallen on House's
hunched shoulders and he showed himself more than capable of sustaining it.
In fact the band seemed not to have suffered at either Turner's absence or the arrival of new bassist Adrian
Shaw. The only result has been that they now use their notes to much more effect, relying less on pounding
mushiness and more on the positive direction.
Nowhere was this more obvious than on their surprising (to me anyway) choice of encore, 'I'm Waiting For
My Man' which was played with enough mobile menace to have even its composer reaching inside his bag
for smelling salts.
There was even a special coach outside which had brought the old timers up from the coast. There was
also plenty of new young fans; new wave as regards their hair and their status. Acid may no longer be in
vogue but Hawkwind soon may be.
-Christopher V. Middleton
Review of the February 1977 London Roundhouse gig:
In visions of acid
We saw through delusion
And brainbox pollution
We knew we were right
God, the fact that the psychedelic, peace and love, acid explosion took place ten (count 'em, ten) long years
ago hits home with a vengeance when you hear Hawkwind grinding their way through their own
looking-through-rose-coloured-spectacles tribute to the era. 'Days Of The Underground', the track's called, a
retrospective look-back to the time (as the band say) when people 'believed in Guevara' and Hawkwind
specifically 'tried to smother' the voices of the leaders of this country 'in sound'. Reminiscences of stoned
hippydom. Gets you right there, doesn't it?
And you'd think, really, that the inclusion of such a number on this new album, peculiarly titled 'Quark,
Strangeness And Charm', would put the icing on the cake, would only serve to confirm what people have
been thinking for some time. That is, that Hawkwind are outmoded, outdated and should, for their own good
as well as for the current punk-styled listening public's, retire to a commune in Cornwall or somewhere as
soon as possible. How wrong.
Now we can look back
at the heroes we were then
We made quite a stir then
with our sonic attack
...they sing, almost as if they were thinking of giving it all up. But I reckon, even with the present
slimmed-down, slightly less cosmic line-up, the band are still capable of making a stir, even today, even now.
'Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music' I wasn't too keen on. Fragmented, I thought, Robert Calvert
uncomfortably re-slotting into the band. 'Quark, Strangeness And Charm' is different, it flows, it's
powerful. Calvert, having adapted to his role as frontman, now pulls out the stops, his poetical-lyrical
contributions working particularly well.
Mood is close to that of my favourite Hawkwind album, 'Doremi Pasol Latido', especially the first Side,
comprising three tracks, 'Spirit Of The Age', 'Damnation Alley" and 'Fable Of A Failed Race'.
'Spirit' starts with some weird DikMik-type electronic bleeps, together with a distorted, indecipherable
conversation going on in the background. Reminded me more of the 'Faust Tapes', than anything else. Then
Hawkwind as a whole purposefully edge into the scheme of things, a typical David Brock pumping riff
riding over a steady pneumatic-thumping rhythm. Calvert's chant-vocals are robotic and tuneless, as befits
the atmosphere of the song, tales of 'android replicas', 'frozen sleep', 'clones' and 'telepathic men'.
In other words, definitive Hawkwind:
Synthesised rumblings, sounds of rain falling (?) and police siren imitations lead you into 'Damnation Alley',
chugga-chugga, something about a 'radiation wasteland'. Good and monotonous this number, with an
expressionless, cryptic chant bringing back memories of 'Time We Left'. 'Fable Of A Failed Race' concludes
the side, very Pink Floyd.
Side two is less of an entity. The title track is humorous, much in the tradition of 'Orgone Accumulator';
'Hassan-i-Sahba's convoluted riffing and murmurings of 'hashish' conjures up images of ancient Arabia
remarkably well; 'The Forge Of Vulcan' is a vehicle for keyboardist Simon House to indulge in some Patrick
Moraz-like freneticism; 'Days Of The Underground' you already know about; the closing track, 'The Iron
Dream' is an endearingly shambolic short instrumental.
I enjoyed it, and I think that Hawkwind do have a place in today's music world. OK, so they do appear to be
on the decline (I mean, not so long ago they were playing a couple -or more- consecutive nights at
Hammersmith Odeon, now they're gigging at the Music Machine), but not only will there always be a market
for the band's (arguably unique) musical ramblings / rumblings, this market is potentially much larger than
you might think. No-one plays music like Hawkwind's any more, the band have carved a niche for
themselves. It's up to them to make it wider, and 'Quark, Strangeness And Charm' is definitely a step in the
The production may be naff in parts - the band would do well, in my opinion, to try to return to the
magnificent mugginess that pervaded the aforementioned 'Doremi' album, that's how Hawkwind should
sound on record - and some of the songs may not stand up too well, but there's no reason why even
without Nik Turner, Alan Powell, Paul Rudolph et al, they shouldn't go from strength to strength in the
future. And get back to playing halls the size of the Odeon once again.
Review of the 'Quark, Strangeness And Charm' album: