|Hawkwind In Jail
This article first appeared in the 17/2/73 issue of Melody Maker...
you wanted the toilet the first thing you looked for was a warden and a key. The venue was a
lozenge-shaped assembly hall. The high ceiling and walls were naked but for a frail dressing of
non-committal pastel paint, and there were rows of simple wooden chairs awaiting an audience. The
light show scaffolding masked a pipe organ, and at the other end of the hall the stage set was sitting
dormant waiting for action. The Space Ritual symbols, banners and emblems were on display. Behind
the stage area were a couple of rooms that could be used for changing clothes. Stacia was transforming
herself into an inter-galactic priestess, the rest of the group were talking and walking, and an inmate was
serving tea and sandwiches. On the wall hung a calendar of "Golden Thoughts" provided by some Bible
promotion society called the Trinitarians. The golden thought for the day was; "Take my yoke upon you,
and learn of me" - Matt II 29.
The audience began filing through the entrance and sitting in complete, gapless rows. They were dressed
in grey, and they had serious faces. One or two of the younger ones talked at each other. Most people
stared at the stage as the roadies made their final checks. In the ranks, the rule seemed to be that the
older you were the less you moved, including tongue.
Some were in their fifties. They might have been inside for ten or fifteen years. Why should they want to
come and see Hawkwind, who sang about the freedom of Space and who, in comparison with prison
life, must have looked as if they'd just flown out of it? They waited silently, immune to the pre-lift-off
swooshes and gurgles of the Space Ritual. There wasn't much resemblance to Cash at San Quentin.
Lift-off. The group was on stage and a heavy rhythm pounded from the speakers. These were sounds
that your own parents wouldn't endure, so what were the chances for this little trip through time, in a
place where clocks stood still in grey uniformity.
It must have been around the time that Stacia first came on that the sound of whistling filtered through to
the front, that people started standing up, and beating time with their feet and hands, that any fears that
age might prove a barrier disappeared. They might have come only to break their monotony, but the
motive was by then unimportant.
Stacia didn't introduce her usual bare-breasted routine. But she danced and spun and mimed until every
stony face was involved. Hawkwind's sound - equipment and ability - has advanced remarkably during
the last few months, and their light show has travelled with them. Its scenes of lunar landscapes,
planets, stars, ships and spacemen made an impression, judging from comments overheard.
The rockiest number - " Orgone Accumulator " - got the loudest whistles. It was just a straight rocker
with weird words, and the people didn't need to be told. The lyrics weren't always clear, but they were
available in the Space Ritual booklet distributed around the seats before the show. Some of the concepts
seemed totally alien to that hall and what supported it. Astrophonic metawaves, ley lines and roboscribes
would even receive uncomprehending expressions outside those walls.
The end of the ritual was fast approaching. The group went into "Psychedelic Warlords"... "We're sick of
politicians, harrassment and laws, all we do is get screwed up by other people's flaws. The world's
turned upside down now, we've got nothing else to do except live in concrete jungles that just block up
Finally into "The Watcher." Nik Turner's grim metallic tones echoed the final message to the Blue Planet.
The prisoners yell for more, but time has run dry. The main lights went on and the people filed out in
orderly chains whence they came. It was like meeting someone on the brow of a rounded hill, neither one
of you having much idea where the other came from. Backstage four inmates were collecting
autographs, and a couple of warders were asking questions about the lightshow. Some of us wanted to
go, not because the building was repressive but because it was sterile.
We looked for the warder with the key.
It's a sluggish grey English evening, nearly five,
and the rush hour droning on like a spiteful dream.
Except where we're going they probably wouldn't
remember much about traffic. Some of them might
even feel lost a few hundred feet from their own
front door. But they don't have much call to go out
these days, so perhaps it doesn't matter.
A van approaches through the surrounding
labyrinth of streets. There's no direct route from
the main road. It's a case of driving in ever
decreasing rectangles until finally you emerge in
front of one of the most famous doors in London.
The vast brown semi-gloss slab that you see has in
its time opened for some of England's most famous
criminals, including some of the Great Train
Robbers. Figures leave the van and walk
self-consciously towards the barren, constrained
architecture of the prison walls. A guard patrols
twenty or thirty feet from the entrance. At their
approach he tugs his alsatian, and it sullenly
consents to stand behind him. A small segment
opens in the main door, and there are more guards.
Names are taken. Nik Turner, Dave Brock,
Lemmy, DikMik, Simon King, Del, Bob Calvert,
Stacia... It's like leaving your identity at the door.
To be collected.
The procedure is brisk and well practiced. Very
little time passes before being led through a set of
cage bars, and Hawkwind are inside. There was
little to see, no more than a primary school regular
could imagine. Bare tarmac, smog stained brick
walls and windows that defied the sun. Not that
there was a sun to be seen that day. A warden - a
screw, as the residents say - walked in front with a
bunch of keys. There are keys for everything. If