|In The Beginning...
This comes from issue 9 of a magazine called I/E, published in 1995, but actually
originated in a book called Space Daze, which I reviewed on the Hawkwind Books page
Above: these none-too-brilliant 1993 vintage photos accompanied this extract in the 1995 magazine reprinting
In the beginning, there was Hawkwind.
Not quite in the very beginning, of course; sundry creation myths notwithstanding, nothing springs from
absolutely nothing. In terms of space rock though, while, without Hawkwind, there would still have been
'space' and 'rock,' and maybe some people would have put them together and said "ah, this must be what
we mean", Hawkwind was never simply "put together". Neither, though adherents of what we today call
space rock can argue all night about its ingredients, can they be removed from the equation.
What, after all, is space rock? To the earliest Hawkwind fans, who saw the adverts in the music press
which advertised their first, eponymous, album beneath the banner SPACE ROCK, it encompassed
everything from the blues-driven throb of "Hurry On Sundown", to the spectral echoes of "Paranoia" (parts
one and two, divisible only when you got up to change the record; on CD the break's just an irritant), and
on to the full-blooded freak-out of "Seeing It As You Really Are," ten minutes of eerie electronics-except the
sounds are all organic, and what you hear whispering, howling and hooting in your head is not necessarily
what you have going on in your ears. Space rock thus became all these things, and it was only later, once
other musicians had borrowed its elements, isolated them and developed them as single strands, that maybe
the basics became a little blurred.
"If you get the times and the dates right, you'll probably find that the Pink Fairies really were the beginning
of space rock as it became known," insists Twink, a founding Fairy and occasional Hawkwind drummer.
But, if the Pink Fairies were space rock, where did that leave Tangerine Dream? And if you consider Gong,
can you still count Can?
Hawkwind have the answers, for Hawkwind encountered the questions before their critics were even
questioning. "Originally, we just wanted to freak people out," Dave Brock admitted in 1971. "We used to
portray different trips, and because of our own experiences, we knew exactly how to get through to
people." Maybe the International Times got it right, back at the dawn of Hawkwind's career: "The mood's
the thing, and Hawkwind are superb at creating an atmosphere. They've often been compared to the Pink
Floyd, which is perhaps unfair, as Hawkwind are basically funkier than the Floyd have ever been. Also, they
have a sense of humor that Waters and company seem to lack-musically at least."
It was that ability, that funkiness, and that humor, which allowed Hawkwind to get away with all that they
did. Saxophonist Nik Turner was a free jazzman, whose head had been turned by the freak form cacophony
of the German commune band Amon DÃ¼Ã¼l. Guitarist Dave Brock was a former busker, rooted in a
bluesiness which never permitted him to stray too far from rock'n'roll. Electronics wizard Dik Mik, who
joined midway between Hawkwind's first and second albums, was a former drummer, so he understood the
vitality of rhythm, even if no one understood what he did with it.
Other musicians came and went, a curse which Hawkwind have since grown to relish. Original bassist John
Harrison was replaced by Thomas Crimble from festival favorites Skin Alley; by the time of Hawkwind's
second album, In Search of Space, he'd already stepped aside for Amon DÃ¼Ã¼l II's Dave Anderson. First
album guitarist Huw Lloyd Langton went out one day in 1970 and didn't come back for another eleven
years. Drummer Terry Ollis fucked his arm up doing acid one day, was replaced on different occasions by
Twink and the Pretty Things' Viv Prince, came back feeling better, was joined for a short time by second
drummer Simon House, and then quit altogether.
Then, when Dik Mik left, Hawkwind's soundman, Del Dettmar, replaced him. When Dik Mik returned,
Dettmar stayed on as well. There was no room for ego in Hawkwind, and when it did finally raise its head
one day, the solution was simple. "Dave Anderson started turning up to gigs in his sports car, while the rest
of us lived and travelled in a van," Dave Brock remembered. The group began plotting his downfall... not
least of all because a sports car was somewhat airier than a bright yellow British Rail parcels van full of
clothes and smelly socks. In the end, the band just made life so uncomfortable for Anderson that he quit,
and in came Dik Mik's flatmate, a speed freak bassist named Ian Kilminster, aka Lemmy the Lurch.
Lemmy had quite the musical past, passing from beat boom hopefuls the Rockin' Vickers, through Sam
Gopal's Dream, a tangled mass of Indian tablas and Lemmy's Chuck Berry-isms, and on to the dying
flutterings of Opal Butterfly, a band which managed to combine the worst of Vanilla Fudge with the worst
of Iron Butterfly, but at their best still retain a smidgeon of period charm. One rumour reckons the rest of
Hawkwind weren't sure if he should join them or not, and only let him in on six months' probation. He
ended up staying for close to five years.
In Search of Space, the second Hawkwind album (recorded while Dave Anderson was still in the band),
was released in 1971. In an age of elaborate packaging-Roger Dean was turning out his first floating islands
for Yes; Amon DÃ¼Ã¼l II were showing the view from a space rocket's flight deck-/n Search of Space
took no prisoners. Within designer Barney Bubbles' oddly cut gatefold sleeve lay 42 minutes of music, and a
flight log which rocketed from six days out in 1970 to the crystal grasslands of 19th century Venus, the
burned out husk of late 1980s' earth, and thereafter, into infinity. Like its predecessor, Space was recorded
live in the studio, Brock simply delivering an idea or a riff, and the rest of the band simply building from
there. "We were taking a lot of LSD at the time," says Nik Turner. "It helped."
There was no time for retakes, but more importantly, there was no need for them. Hawkwind's reputation
was forged outside the studio, at free concerts for the inmates of Wormwood Scrubs prison, outside the
gates at the Isle of Wight and Bath festivals, anywhere they could set up and play... that, after all, was how
they started life in the first place. "When I first met the guys who formed the band, Dave Brock, Mick
Slattery and a couple of others," recalls Turner, "I was working in Holland on a rock'n'roll circus called
Tent '67. They had a band called Dr Brock's Famous Cure, which played in the tent." Turner was working
as a roustabout at the time, but he kept in touch, and when the others began discussing forming a new
band, Turner offered to become their road manager, "because I had a van, a green Ford Thames. Then I
went to their first rehearsal and said 'oh, I've got my sax with me'; they said 'let's hear you play'...they
thought it was wonderful, so I was immediately in the band."
It was later that same evening that Group X-as the band hurriedly christened itself-played its first gig, at All
Saints Hall in Notting Hill, on January 28th, 1970. "It was put on by Clearwater productions, which was
organized by Doug Smith. We just went down and barnstormed it." Working quickly, Smith secured
Hawkwind a deal with United Artists, a label which was then just beginning to make its mark on both the
UK and the German underground.
Group X became Hawkwind Zoo, which became Hawkwind, but their philosophy never wavered-free
shows and long jams. If their financial sense was poor, however, Hawkwind's reputation could only profit.
"We had a reputation for playing until the plugs were pulled on us," says Del Dettmar. "So a lot of times, the
headline band would want to go on first, get it over with and not have to worry about us. People would then
come along, see us going on last, and think we were the headliners. That really helped build up the name!"
Necessity eventually caused Hawkwind to draw back a little from the free festival arena, particularly after
they became renowned for the sheer scale of their live performances.
As 1971 progressed, Hawkwind's own attitudes were changing. "Personally I'm surprised we've got so far,"
Nik Turner admitted as Hawkwind prepared to record their third album. "I never thought our music would
appeal to anybody, simply because we've never pandered to public taste, never compromised, and just
played exactly what we wanted. By a happy accident, people seem to dig it."
It was then at the Roundhouse club in north London that Turner met up again with Bob Calvert, a South
African born poet whom he had known for a few years. Calvert was an SF freak, whose performances
already incorporated many of the themes which Hawkwind, through their music at least, were themselves
A union between the two seemed inevitable, particularly after Turner described Hawkwind's sound to
Calvert. "It struck me as being the perfect description of the music I myself was playing at the time,"
Calvert later explained. Hitherto, he admitted, "I assumed that [Hawkwind] were just another heavy rock
band." He immediately set to work on the logbook which would be presented free with the Space album.
Calvert's earliest performances alongside Hawkwind were casual walk-on parts whenever their paths
crossed. Early in 1972, he became a member, throwing himself full-time into composing for the group, in
addition to introducing many of the concepts which, in the hands of Turner and Brock, would finally unite
Hawkwind's space rock with the space Lyrics their extended freak-outs demanded. "Space Is Deep", "Time
We Left This World Today" and "Lord of Light" (its title borrowed from a Roger Zelazny novel), highlights
the group's third album, Doremi Fasol Latido, and unmistakably bear Calvert's Imprimatur.
If any single event crystallized both Hawkwind's reputation and cemented their future, however, it was the
Greasy Truckers Party at the Roundhouse, on February 13th, 1972. Hawkwind's entire set that night was
recorded for release across the Greasy Truckers charity benefit record (two songs, "Born to Go" and
"Master of the Universe") and a triple album honoring the previous summer's Glastonbury Fayre
festival-Welcome to the Future" and "Silver Machine," the first Calvert/Brock (a.k.a. S.McManus)
composition to see vinyl. "Silver Machine" was released as a single in June, 1972, and promptly gave the
band their first ever British hit, not only altering their audience, but also what they could offer that audience.
On November 8th, 1972, at the Norwich Corn Exchange, Hawkwind kicked off the most adventurous tour
of their careers, a full scale cosmic extravaganza called the Space Ritual. Several shows on the tour were
recorded, with highlights of two, in Liverpool and Brixton, released the following year as the Space Ritual
double album. The record had its faults-the sonic limitations of the vinyl medium excised chunks of two
songs, as well as the mesmeric encore of "You Shouldn't Do That", "Seeing It As You Really Are" and
"Silver Machine." Absent, too, was a sense of the sheer dynamism of the show, the band totally sublimated
by the lights-squad car strobes, blistered neon, colors the audiences had never before imagined; the slide
show-stark planets, bleak landscapes, harsh metallic objects passing through the icy void; the stage
set-enormous speakers built into cardboard tubes, brought to life by Barney Bubbles' luminous designs.
But still...UA's ads called the album "88 minutes of brain damage," and they weren't kidding. Space Ritual
was unearthly, unequivocal, unerring, a solid roar into which the individual instruments simply blended until
guitar was indistinguishable from saxophone, flute from bass, rocket roar from engine throb, through which
Dik Mik's pinprick whistles catapulted from the passenger hold like space dust. The inky void of outer
space beckoned, the crushing weight, of countless light years...of travel, and of music. It was just four
years since man first walked on the moon, perhaps four million since he first dreamed of doing so.
Somewhere in between, though, he had set those dreams to music, and if the Space Ritual was the
culmination of those dreams so far, then the baggage in Hawkwind's cargo hold was even heavier than they