|Hawkwind Cut The Mustard
This review of an all-dayer that took place in Dijon, France, in 1975, originally appeared in the NME
issue dated 02/08/75. I've edited chunks of it out as they weren't related to Hawkwind.
Sally has pigtails, designs dresses and lives just round the corner from us in Notting Hill. We ran into her
last week at the bus stop on the way to work. Eight days later we ran into her again sitting behind a
spotlight in a half empty cow palace in the middle of France. Such is rock'n'roll. Neither party is
particularly surprised. The rock biz is continually turning up a plethora of those 'oh-isn't-it-a-small-world?'
situations. Sally is working lights for Hawkwind and Man. Boss Goodman is also working lights for
Hawkwind and Man. Boss is another unexpected London face. Again, no sense of surprise on either side.
Dijon is two and a half hours by train from Paris which is an hour's flight from Heathrow. Dijon is two
hours from Switzerland and four hours train ride from the topless winterlands of San Tropez. Dijon is a
sprawling nondescript town fringed with Holiday Inns, breaker's yards and Camping Gaz distributors. It is
the most important mustard producer in all of France.
It also provides four thousand of the local 'heads' with a prolonged glimpse of the final French date of a
five-piece Anglo / French / American Thinking Man's Rock n' Roll package that in order of appearance
reads: Robert Wood (obscure English electric vibes soloist in exile), Magma (Wagnerian French rock opera),
Larry Coryell and Heavy Friend (fast-fingered acoustic/electric duo, American), Man and Hawkwind. Man
and Hawkwind comprise the basic elements of the package. In Paris they worked with Henry Cow and
Gong, whose places were taken by Magma, Wood and then. a couple of days ago, Larry Coryell, picking up
a few extra gigs as part of a series of European one-offs.
In keeping with the package tour ethos you have package tour politics. They usually consist of a hot and
long telephonic interchange between promoter, tour manager and group manager as to the priority for the
interests of the act in question, as to the prescribed Order of Appearance each night. The aforementioned is
usually ascertained legally in a contract between group (or group manager) and promoter. Ultimately the
squabble is for prime time - usually reckoned to be second-to-top-billing. In their contract Man are to play
second to Hawkwind each night. This particularly pleases Foster, their tour manager, when they hit Metz, a
town on the French/German border - because he knows that a lot of folks are going to be coming in from
Germany since, traditionally, Man's Teutonic following has always been large.
Ludo, the French promoter, has other ideas. Foster claims that he absolutely hates Man for some as yet
unfathomed reason. Foster also claims that all the roadies absolutely hate Ludo...booing and giving him a
slow handclap every time he sets foot on a stage. Ludo wants Man to go on earlier in Metz. Absolutely
insists. Foster, however, gleefully holds the trump card. A couple of nights earlier, part of Hawkwind's
P.A. (upon which the entire package had been relying) had self-aborted. Foster had come to the rescue by
replacing this part with some spare Man equipment. Ludo had forgotten or been unaware of this. "So I told
him," Foster relates in gleeful Swansea lilt, "sod you mate. Move us, an' we pull out our equipment."
Tour politics. The following night Foster, who is busy stoking up as much vengeance as he can possibly
afford in his free time, puts Ludo on the floor with a deft right-hander. Hawkwind's roadies stand and
applaud. Hawkwind, meanwhile, are readying themselves to leave their hotel, a cheesy futuristic job with
synthetic croissants in Dijon-Sud.
Nik Turner, seemingly the only one without wife-or-girlfriend-in-tow (the rest of the band figures on
departing avec spouses for the South of France the following morning), is arched over the hotel bar. The
subject of Lemmy is broached. Turner claims to have spoken to him (Lemmy) on the phone since the
mishap. He says he does not want To Make A Statement and therefore add fuel to the altercation.
Readers may recall that the catalyst for Lemmy's sudden departure was an amphetamine sulphate bust on the
Canadian / American border. No-one seems to know whether Lemmy was in fact charged. Lemmy himself
claimed that Sulphate crystals are not illegal in Canada. Turner says that according to Simon House,
Hawkwind's violinist / moogist, who spent some time in British Columbia (supposedly the most liberal
Canadian state) sulphate is illegal there. It's academic, though. Turner felt that Lemmy's bust would prevent
him from acquiring further US work permits - which would therefore jeopardise the future of the band.
But, above all, he claims that Lemmy's speed habit had gradually -and probably unwittingly on Lemmy's part-
been precluding him from fitting in with Hawkwind both on a working and social basis. Speed, he claims,
can tend to isolate the individual, rendering him excessively self-centred. And this, he claims, is what
Lemmy became. A statement which can, to an extent, be supported by reliable tales of various onstage
fracas between Lemmy and Hawkwind's drummers; one night he is supposed to have struck one of them
with his bass. Turner seems to bear no malice towards Lemmy, though. His justification is qualified by a
certain gentle compassion. Remorse, even. The new guy is, as you probably know, former Pink Fairy
guitarist Paul Rudolph.
Back to the gig. Man are ensconced in a little office serving as a dressing room backstage while Magma are
beating their collective breasts onstage. Magma make the kind of music that Ken Russell might use as a
soundtrack for the firebombing of Dresden; it's almost as if you'd expect them to stride onstage wearing
Viking helmets with horns. The drummer, Christian Vander, is rumoured to practice against a background
recording of Hitler speeches. Onstage he changes rhythm every 100th of a second, keeps his ass slightly
raised from his stool and swivels his eyeballs.
The French love all this. Anything with a bit of feedback goes down a real treat because the French have no
sense of rhythm. They neither dance nor tap their feet. They're terribly intense about it all. They listen.
And at the end of each number they applaud and sometimes even whistle. Seldom are encores demanded
and even if they are the package is too tightly scheduled to allow for them. Henry Cow are very big in Paris.
Deke Leonard looks ill; ashen. According to Foster, Man have been working solidly on the road since
February. One would not know this from the standard of live music they're putting out - and, in particular,
from the amount of energy exuded by Martin Ace (the return of the prodigal bass player). The acoustics are
terrible. And it's odd to hear Man lungeing into such weather-beaten classics as "Bananas" and "C'mon"
without a hint of recognition on the part of the audience. They acquit themselves beautifully under adverse
conditions - at one point turning their backs on an unresponsive audience, centring the energy in a
semi-circle around drummer Terry Williams. They kick ass. Employ feedback with artistry, quit the stage
for two months holiday.
Larry Coryell and unannounced Heavy Friend With Marin County Moustache make for a pleasant interlude
before H. Metal gets another embroidered outing with Hawkwind.
Hawkwind - still relying on the repetition of mid 60s pop riffs - and still ultimately tending to establish an
emotive rhythmic cement then not having the imagination to build anything worthwhile on top of it - are
really beginning to put on an effective show. Simon House seems to be taking care of the hitherto largely
neglected musical end, Nik Turner's sax is at last becoming quite audible and the drummers are achieving a
fine mesmeric quality. They were good. This one will run and run.