|Pre-DVD: Videos of the 90's
Back when I was merely *approaching* middle age, if you wanted to see Hawkwind on the small screen,
you had to get your hands on one of these!
Simultaneously, electronic noise evolves into Brainstorm, complete with a strange grating, honking noise
which seems to emulate Turner's sax - but he's not here. Joy of joys, Simon House is - his violin solo is
followed by excellent keyboards characteristic of Harvey Bainbridge, and we get a glimpse of Richard
Chadwick too, doing his take on the tribal pulse thing.
The setlist covers some surprises, such as Down Through The Night: the bassline never sounded so
sublime as in Alan Davey's hands. It's not as "open sounding" as the Space Ritual Alive version, though this
has some wonderful violin that the original didn't, of course. There was already quite a lot of mid-70's
material in the set at this time (think of 'Time We Left', which featured in the Live Legends footage filmed in
Nottingham TV studios 6 months later) but another surprise is Hassan-i-Sahba, sounding very like live
renditions of the original as far as Simon's violin is concerned (and at least there's no 'Space Is Their
Palestine' interlude in it). But the bass has disappeared from the sound and R Chad's click-influenced drum
patterns really aren't much like Simon King's... Having mentioned some of the other older material, Assault
& Battery does actually sound a lot like the subsequent version they did at Nottingham on 25/1/90. It also
has some of the clearest footage yet: but this is pretty much spoiled by having much of the lightshow
overlaid on it. They follow on with Golden Void and Alan Davey sings it - never thought I'd miss Bridgett.
Brock helps him out / saves him on the 2nd verse, though.
Back In The Box is where Bridgett does actually turn up, in clothes which might be the prototype for her
swimsuited appearance in the Live Legends filming. It's hard to be sure given the obscurantist approach to
this video with the darkness of the footage and crap effects ("Aurora Blearyalis" I call it) overlaying
everything, all the time. Arrival In Utopia is a case in point because there's enough light to support regular
footage, and the sound is excellent, segueing into You Know You're Only Dreaming, which is enough to
make you weep: possibly the strongest set HW have ever done in front of a camera, and it's been ruined.
After y.k.y.o.d., they go into Damnation Alley complete with the best ever rendition of Simon House's
excellent middle section, incorporating not only his lead violin parts but also lead guitar. During the first
encore (Needle Gun) there's a guest lead guitarist on stage, but I can't see who it is, just that theyâ€™re
playing a Strat-type guitar.** He's also there on the next number, Ejection, and not only is it the wrong
guitar for Mr. Langton, but it doesn't quite sound like him either. I wonder if this is an early appearance by
"Huw Lloyd Hillage"? (That's Jerry Richards to you and me...¦) The video closes out with an excellent
"Lost Chronicles", having lasted about an hour and a half in total.
** My thanks to Bernhard Pospiech who points out that the mystery guest guitarist is in fact Steve Bemand
Seeing the video of Hawkwind live at Treworgey Tree Fayre (their
performance took place on 29th July 1989) was an exciting prospect,
given how brilliant they were live at the time - and it was a free festival
too, so 'them in their element', you would think.
The benchmark for this kind of product / performance has to be the
original VHS release of 'Solstice at Stonehenge', which to be honest
was not all that inspired, but proved that you could wring a decent
audiovisual record out of a Hawkwind free festival performance, even
with the technology of the day. Unfortunately the ludicrously
misnamed Taste Productions have failed to do this with Treworgey
Tree Fayre, because they smothered this video in abysmally
amateurish effects. These largely consist of streamers and blotches of
purple fog, similar to (but worse than) the stuff that the BBC used to
overlay onto Dr.Who and Top Of The Pops when they were trying to
be futuristic on a budget of shillings. To be sure, the stage is not
brightly lit (I thought the awning overhead indicated they were playing
inside a tent, at first) but there was surely enough illumination overall
to have to made it work. But as it is, our first view is of purple
blotches which resolve into Alan Davey & Dave Brock on stage.
Black Elk Speaks
In the earlier cuts especially, the video footage is mostly made up of good quality footage of Hawkwind
playing live (though that's not what you're *hearing*), with lots of lightshow included. Thankfully Taste's
woeful video effects are kept to a minimum, and there is some additional linking footage of individual band
members looning around.in a way that doesn't detract at all from proceedings. The band's stage show in
this period was particularly good, with heavy use of lasers - these video segments really come across well.
And how it contrasts with the nasty after-taste of added effects...¦of which more and more is added
throughout, until the last track, Black Elk Speaks, is pretty much dominated thereby. Although, to be fair,
the stuff they added actually complements the song well.
Some of the new footage of band members has been filmed in a way that might be considered arty and
would have been genuinely innovative had its pedigree dated from 1982 rather than 1992. Often
superimposed on added effects (or vice-versa), the frame is pulled back to head-and-shoulders and unusual
lighting is used to provide unexpected juxtapositions of line and colour. Bridgett Wishart is perhaps the
main beneficiary of these decidedly "video" techniques, and in fact she largely does well out of these
appearances. The oddity of what she does sits well with the frayed-around-the-edges feel of technology
that had not been state of the art for a decade. Some of the resulting output has a real performance art air.
(Mind you, I could do without her black chinstrap makeup in Images.)
There's also some stock footage of office scenes and scurrying commuters employed in Treadmill, but
unfortunately the Taste effects are by now starting to predominate. Somehow a bit of the Live Legends
footage (the hippy ballerina) gets in here too, but I suspect there was no access to the original source!
There is one very funny effect, though, with what may be a still shot of Dave, guitar in hand: it morphs
and distorts on screen, from normal to pear-shaped, smile broadening to a foolish and fatuous grin, and the
neck of his guitar stretches, thins and droops very phallically. Well, it's very funny the first time or three
that it appears, but the joke wears thin pretty quickly thereafter.
So, visually far more successful than Treworgey Tree Fayre, where this video falls down is, paradoxically,
in the excellent audio material. I've no fault to find with it other than the fact it's something that's been very
familiar for a number of years. Maybe some of the other video releases of the early 90's will hit more bases
than this did.
By the time we get to 1992's "Promo Collection", Taste Productions
has morphed into (shudder) "Taste TV" and this opens with the
same footage of a slow motion dancer over third-rate effects that we
already saw in the Treworgey Tree Fayre video. However the good
news is, in their ascent from a lowly production company to the
flashing multimedia of TV-channeldom, Taste seem to have actually
learned a thing or two and have succeeded in not completely ruining
the material. And what material is this? Oddly, it's a mixture of new
video sources superimposed over already extant live and studio audio
material. I think all the audio is lifted from either the Palace Springs
album or from Space Bandits. This is the running order:
Out Of The Shadows
Void Of Golden Light
Acid House Of Dreams
Time We Left
Back in the Box
Another video brought to you by Taste Productions, this opens with a
rather indistinct sound mix on Angels of Death, but decent quality
footage - no silly effects and sufficient stage lighting to show us
everyone (Brock, Davey, Chadwick, Bainbridge, Wishart) and
everything (tambourine banging and a bit of erratic wobbling in the
name of dance).
The sound is actually very poor, being quite bootleggy -hissy, muted-
though I can't be sure that this isn't due to deterioration of 15 year-old
videotape. The occasional loud clunking noises sound like a cheap
microphone being knocked, but who can say. The visuals are adequate
compensation though, with some excellent use being made of cyan
lasers and smoke in the second number, Golden Void. Next is a synthy
instrumental with something suggesting Andean folk music about it.
To this Bridgett does the oddest little dance routine, juggling Indian
clubs, hold of which she never actually relinquishes. But that passes
and the song evolves into a menacing version of Harvey's Acid House
Of Dreams, and from there seamlessly into a lacerating You Shouldn't
Do That. Brilliant. All the while the lasers carve three dimensional
stargate shapes from the atmosphere: you've reached your future state.
Fire-eaters Kris and Scouse appear next, and Taste lay on a bit of their trademark purple fog as the band
crash into Out Of The Shadows, strobe lights blaring. With a number as pacey as this one, the whirling
kaleidoscope images that result are actually pretty effective. And this being 1990, the band follow it up
with the instrumental piece called Snake Dance. The segue out of this and into Night Of The Hawks, with
Harvey and Alan peering across the stage at Dave, who is crashing out guitar chords in seemingly the
wrong place, is a little awkward, but by the third line of the verse, where the ensemble vocals come in, they
are all once again locktight. Harvey seems to cover much of the ground previously dealt with by Simon
House's violin, here, with what starts as a picked-out melody evolving into waves of synth-chording while
spears of blue laser light lance everywhere on stage. There may be the more traditional Hawkwind
lightshow going on behind the band too, but we're not seeing it if so.
What could be a very good version of Back In The Box is up next, but the sound is now very poor (it had
improved considerably to this point) and the main benefit of this part of the video is seeing a close-up of
Bridgett's method acting . It's the old self-mummifying act, familiar from the Live Legends video, which
predated this by six months, and covered basically the same show - with Simon House but without the
lasers. Comparing the two videos, the band had more joie de vivre in Live Legends and are more of a
ruthless, effective rock machine here. Brock and Davey in particular seem to be in telepathic communion
when it comes to grinding out those unison riffs: real heavy metal, especially on Arrival In Utopia.
(Hurrah!) Dave is playing his Les Paul Custom, by the way, and this was before he'd taken to retiring
behind a wall of synths.
Images is a song I've always particularly liked, despite the incredulity of new fathers among us, but Bridgett
does not sing it well on this video. Whether or not you can get along with her voice is a matter of
subjective taste, but here it's just plain out of tune and nowhere worse than where she bellows her way
through the already irritating middle section. The ungainly flailing of limbs interspersed with transference
of weight from foot to foot is not going to win any prizes either. I don't know but I bet it was Alan Davey
who threatened to walk out if she wasn't removed...¦sorry, but that was *long* overdue on this evidence.
Thrashing versions of Hassan-i-Sahba and then Brainstorm are next, full of pace and power. Particularly
during the former I noticed something quite characteristic of this video, and that is the way the shots are
framed - mostly fairly close *in* to the members of the band, but not offering any close-*ups*. You rarely
see much above any of the band's heads, for example, nor is the zoom pulled back to show the entire stage
very often. This is largely successful, though the lightshow does tend to be missed, lasers apart, as a result.
Ejection finishes off the video in frenetic mood, with lasers pulsing ubiquitously, spotlights playing, fog
roiling on stage (dry ice, that is, nothing to do with 'Taste TV'), fire eaters whirling, Bridgett not letting go
of her juggling gear, Alan Davey shouting the single word "Ejection!" into the microphone for the chorus,
and Dave grimly pounding the guitar throughout.
His last words -the last words on the video- are "Don't pay your poll tax" - and if this isn't a riot in the usual
sense of the term, there is certainly an uncompromising sense of determination in the band's performance
here. There is maybe just a touch of the empty and mechanical about it, but after being in business for 21
years, this shows that they still meant business and could still do the business. A force to be reckoned
with...shame about the sound.
This opens with the Spinal Tap-like sight of the three members of the
band playing on stage from within individual translucent pyramids. A
blunder of ridiculous proportions, and yet, because this is Hawkwind,
there's an endearingly homespun touch about all this...¦the pyramids are
actually nothing more than sheets of net curtain material strung over
bundles of poles. And as we get a few minutes into the opening
number (Out Of The Shadows), the whole thing starts to work, with
coloured spotlights illuminating the pyramids from within, a couple of
male insectoid dancers, arrays of white lights on stage and a flashing
backdrop behind. (Actually there are two blokes on stage, behind
keyboards but otherwise out in the open, whom I at first took to be
dancers...¦ They're actually Salt and Midas. Someone please tell me
what band they're from...¦)
The second song in, Right To Decide, confirms the sound as being
boomy, with much room reverberation being audible on the vocals
especially. The band, however, have gone for a clanking, grinding
arrangement which retains a great deal of clarity despite the cavernous
acoustics of the venue. Richard Chadwick's drum sound in particular is
fantastic, led by a crisp, penetrating snare. As Right To Decide melds into 7 By 7 (great inclusion in the
set), Alan Davey's bass has so much treble in it, the notes he picks out in the quiet sections sound
pianoesque. And Brock's guitar growls and roars and snarls away as edgily as ever.
The Right Stuff eventually takes shape from the inter-song randomized noises, during which much of the
stage lighting is white only, which has the curious effect of monochroming rather than illuminating the
pyramids, and all that is between, around and behind them. Perhaps this is because there is a black-and-
white lightshow projection continuing across the back of the stage. As the song gets going, colour spots
flash in and out within each of the pyramids: now a mellow tangerine colour as Alan Davey's voice echoes
hoarsely around the auditorium, now a cool aquamarine as Dave rips out a meandering guitar solo in the
middle of the song. But this pyramid nonsense is really spoiling things - the band are plainly
communicating musically, but surely cannot see each other or move about at all, and the effect is to expose
a layer of immobility and artifice that we normally don't see with Hawkwind live.
As if to emphasise this, Spirit Of The Age is as coldly mechanical a rendition as you've ever heard, with
Brock's vocals being heavily effected into a bassy robotic groan on the first verse and a tremulous
truculence (somewhat Calvert-like, actually) on the second. He does play some nice harmonized lead guitar
to partly compensate for this, though, and the song starts to really motor a bit with looping keyboard
arpeggios pumped along by pulsing bass / drum sounds. The trebly Rickenbacker bass tone is very
noticeable here and works wonders as we walk into The Iron Dream riff as a way of closing it out.
Shades-of-grey rotating slides and oil-wheel effects project not only onto the backcloth but onto the net
curtain pyramids as an awful electronic cacophony builds under this monochrome scene. Simultaneously
three bursts of tetrahedron-confined blue/orange light accompany the onset of coherent blasts of music.
The band launch into Secret Agent from that year's "Electric Tepee" album. Because that of course is what
these pyramid things are and what the point of the whole ridiculous get-up is. Like the man on the radio
said at the time: "Er, yeah...¦red indians in space...¦"
The next number, Hassan-i-Sahba, is actually announced (as "Assassins of Allah", of course) and follows
the template that's by now been established, with the stage lighting diverting your attention to within the
tepees during vocal or solo passages, and outside of them at other times. And so it continues for the
remainder of this video, as the Brock-Davey-Chadwick trio work their way through Golden Void, LSD,
Blue Shift, Brainstorm and the encore: Psi Power, Time We Left, Master Of The Universe and finally,
Welcome To The Future. And it's a good thing Hawkwind *were* only a trio when they took this concept
out on the road. Had the extensive line-up that did the "1999 Party" tour adopted a similar theme, the stage
would have been so crowded with electric tepees, it would have looked like an illegal traveller
encampment. I can visualise Michael Howard spluttering in rage off to stage left, pantomime coppers and
hatchet-faced council officials bearing down from the right...¦
One effect of the band being within tepees, though, is to make this entire video quite arm's-length. No
cameras seem to be located within the tepees, and so when the focus is drawn inwards to individual band
members, they are filmed from without and therefore not in close-up at all. Mostly it is Brock on whom
the camera homes in, with Alan Davey being picked up a couple of times. Richard Chadwick is pretty
much never seen in this video. This distancing of the protagonists is of course peculiar to the video, but Iâ
€™ve previously mentioned the isolating effect of the tepees with respect to the stage dynamics - it's not
something that seems to have bothered the crowd on the night at all. Their response to each number is as
enthusiastic as you would expect of any Hawkwind crowd where the band are playing a setlist as good as
this, as well as this. But it may have unsettled the band themselves slightly: at the beginning of LSD, Alan
Davey comes to the doorway of his tepee and partway out. The Captain does likewise, maybe to see what
Alan wants ("Scuse me, could I borrow a cup of sugar?")...¦but then Alan has to scuttle back in to his
microphone as he's taking the vocals on this song. This number features some great lights sequences, with
backdrop, coloured stage lights and strange male dancer all co-ordinating brilliantly â€“ except maybe for
the latter personage, who skips and cavorts nerdily across the stage in what is probably meant to be a
sexual and shamanic fashion, painted and apparently gourded as he is. But all the way through I kept
illogically hoping the band would come out from their tepees - of course they can't because they're tied to
their keyboards, microphones, and (in Richard's case) drums, which are locked down therein. One can
imagine the roar of approval from the crowd should the tepees ascend into the lighting rig, to reveal the
inhabitants ...¦it doesn't happen! I'm obviously not the only person who wished it were so: as the gig wears
on Alan spends as much time as possible partly out of his tepee, he obviously wasn't comfortable being
inside it. (Dave...¦Dave, can I come out now? No!)
Well I could go on and on, but that's what it was like. Aurally a thundering good gig and soundtrack, but
visually, it was a good thing that the Electric Tepee concept came and went.
I think this video was made available via mail order
only, by Hawkwind Merchandising of blessed
memory, in 1999 and not for all that long - maybe 2
or 3 years. So it can never have been around in great
numbers, and the prospects of a reissue on DVD, as
with the 1990's Taste Productions videos, must
hover somewhere in the region of zero.
It covers a number of tracks that have already been
made available on other VHS / DVD releases, and
some that haven't. The opening cut is Watching The
Grass Grow from Stonehenge 1984, and this is of
course something that's already out there, on the
Solstice At Stonehenge title. No need for me to
entirely rehash what I've already said about that, but
this is a good one for Nik-watchers and admirers of
the punky vestal virgin dancers who, er, enlivened
Next up is the highlight of Hawkwind's 1986
bill-topping appearance at the Reading Festival. It's
Silver Machine with Lemmy guesting - his
gravel-throated vocals are unmistakable, but we don't
actually *see* much of him. The strange camera
angle (high overhead in the lighting rig) and fiercely
strobing light show make the band look like a collection of dazed models wandering aimlessly around a
catwalk; the audience are off in the darkness to the right, while the drums and backstage area are shrouded
in obscurity to the left as one looks at the screen. Immobile dancers and peculiar longhaired men throwing
things into the audience and posturing with motorbike handlebars round out the oddity of this as a visual
spectacle. For the most part the band stand around haphazardly, with Huw Lloyd Langton being most in
evidence, and Alan Davey plainly enjoying himself alongside his idol Lemmy - but the music pumps along at
a good enough pace. This would be the same as the recording on the Friday Night Rock Show Sessions
CD, and the visuals don't add an awful lot more to that, but it's an enjoyable clip all the same.
That same year Hawkwind played at the Bristol Custom Bike Show, and a video was released after the fact,
which included their performance of Master Of The Universe, over footage of motorbike displays and a wet
T-shirt competition culminating in the sight of several topless biker chicks. Well, there is a *bit* of footage
of Hawkwind playing, with some more strange camera angles, high over Harvey's head for example. Once
again the visuals are no great addition but this is a great version of MOTU in the way that Hawkwind
seemed to play everything in 1986 - tight, fast and very full-sounding. Check out the Chaos tour DVD or
the aforementioned Friday Night Rock Show Sessions CD for reference.
There follow two numbers from the Leeds Acid Daze festival in December 1987 - Levitation and Needle
Gun. Neither of these clips have been available elsewhere as far as I know. The footage is shot mostly
from the back of the hall, providing a full stage view, the camera zooming in towards individuals at times.
The stage lighting is predominantly in shades of orange and green, with dry ice and bright blue-white-green
lasers slicing here and there. The sound isn't pristine, having that surging quality sometimes heard on live
recordings where the sound levels are threatening to overwhelm the recording equipment. The band's sound
is also somehow less guitar-dominated than on the preceding 1986 cuts, with Harvey's keyboards occupying
a broader swathe of the audible spectrum. As matters progress the stage lighting brightens, with overhead
arrays of white spotlights and floor-level blue/white strobes pulsing more insistently. There is a lightshow
being back-projected onto the rear of the stage too, but it's overwhelmed by the stage lighting and in any
case seems to consist of not much more than rapid slide sequences of muted grey/black wavy lines.
Musically Levitation features an instrumental mid section taking the first steps towards Hawkwind's 90's
tranceisms. Needle Gun acts as a counter to this, though, being quite the most old-fashioned number that
the band were playing at the time: sounded old when it was brand new. This number also brings the
dancers to greater prominence and it looks very much like our old friends Screech Rock, with their
fantastically over-the-top costumes and convincing impressions of positively-symptomatic schizophreniform
illness. (Thanks to our neuroscience correspondent for those buzzwords, there...¦)
The Treworgey Tree Fayre took place in July 1989, and supplies the musically very decent version of Time
We Left which appears next on this video. This is from the eponymous Taste Productions tape, and that is
of course reviewed earlier on this page. Interestingly, there doesn't seem to be as much purple fog on this
excerpt as on the Treworgey video proper...¦the stage is dim and it's not the greatest footage of Hawkwind
as a result, but the perfectly blended rendition of the song more than compensates.
The Derby Festival footage is much more brightly illuminated and being from 1995 features a
psychotic-looking Ron Tree on vocals. The camera alternates between on-stage close-up shots of Ron and
sensual dancers / fire eaters, with long-range footage which shows a heaving crowd and the distant stage
ablaze with actinic lights in shades of white, violet and blue. Not much is seen of other members of the
band, though Mr. Brock's muscular riffing is very evident on the "It is written" mid-section which follows
the, IMHO less enjoyable Space-is-their-Palestine interlude. Generally the visuals are not high resolution,
and the band sounds very much like they did on the Alien 4 album, with a few voicings therefrom making
their way into this arrangement. This is a generally successful clip: file under "Good, not great". It's
followed by Space (Is Their Palestine) from a year later at the Ghent Festival. This starts out with a
fierce-looking female dancer who twirls swords and arches her back, but then appears to chew her own
toenails after one of her platform boots falls off. I'll take that over Screech Rock any day. This segment
seems to have been filmed from within the audience and so is limited in terms of the field of view. We do
see Ron once again, hunched over a microphone stand, while the dancer abandons her swords in favour of
some anatomically improbable things involving crossing her legs at the ankle behind her head. Ron writhes a
bit in sympathy, and, er, that's it, really.
The last cut here is Right To Decide from Brixton Academy in 1992. It's *not* from the "Brixton 15892"
tape, since the band are seen here on stage as per normal, not hidden inside tepees. As you would expect,
the musical performance is taut and rippling. The stage lighting is at times relatively subdued, which affords
greater prominence to the stars-and-squiggles back-projected lightshow, and quite a bit of the camera work
is done on stage, providing profile close ups of the Captain and other members of the spaceship crew (yeah,
both of them). At other points there is a riot of colour spotlights and some very effective brilliant white light
wheel effects going on behind the band. Dave at least seems to be enjoying himself, grinning away, and it's
one of the best segments here, although like all the others, it is a bit grainy. I suppose that is to be expected
given when most of this stuff was filmed, and that the light conditions were never optimal. And it's
inevitably patchy as this is a compilation spanning a period of 12 years, but this tape is worth getting if one
crosses your path.
Hawkwind USA Tour 1989-90
Another one from Hawkwind Merchandising, this was
presumably homegrown like a number of other titles they
offered at around the same time (see graphic)...¦by
comparison with the Visionary / Jettisoundz offerings, and
even those of Taste Productions, it is far from polished. But
that's not necessarily any detriment...¦one notable thing is that
the sound levels are very high without resulting in unwanted
distortion. This is good - a more professional production
probably would have had a greater degree of safety margin
built-in. This pumped-up sound is quite noticeable during the
disjointed opening sequences of band and roadies standing
about looking perplexed (and sometimes moving in what is
apparently slow motion) over a rough musical backing which
I would guess is a soundcheck. There is also the semi-comic
sight of a homespun slideshow of a number of album covers,
several of which are now definitely persona non grata...
And so onto the footage proper, which opens with Assault and
Battery / The Golden Void, both sounding as good as
Hawkwind have ever done them. While not at any kind of creative peak in terms of songwriting, Hawkwind
as a live act in 1989-90 were fantastically good, overflowing with power and musical precision. These two
numbers exemplify their utter assurance and vigour, with arrangements that are totally familiar from the
numerous live documents dating from this era. Visually, the Brock / Davey / Chadwick / Bainbridge line-up
are even lower-profile than normal, overshadowed by a huge pulsating lightshow of multicoloured
kaleidoscope images and cosmic scenery of planets, nebulae, etc.. There is one very good effect of the
band having seemingly been filmed in very polarized monochromatic tones, which are then overlaid onto the
lightshow (or vice-versa), making them seem silhouetted against galaxies etc..
Treadmill, by contrast, is filmed on a large stage in an empty hall under what seems to be plain white light:
doubtless at a soundcheck as there are road crew ambling about, and eventually even the band, too, meander
here and there around the equipment. It's no wonder that the version of Treadmill that is playing sounds
identical to that on the Palace Springs album - it's the very same, adopted here as the soundtrack to this
rather desultory footage. Halfway through it cuts over to some live visuals of crowd and stage overlaid with
oil wheel images and more of the polarized monochromatic shots of the band.
A brief impromptu interview sequence comes next, with Dave being sat on a bed in a hotel room, watching
videotape of Hawkwind live (presumably just filmed, and maybe included here!) as he responds to the
question of how he puts setlists together, how much control he has over the visuals, etc.. It seems to be
Hassan-i-Sahba playing in the background, and the questions are intercut with full segments of this before
segueing, rather splendidly, into a fabulous two minutes of "Down Through The Night". Thereafter Harvey
occupies the interview spotlight to air his views on a couple of topics, in between segments of Damnation
Alley, which again sounds like it's from Palace Springs rather than what accompanied the actual live footage
that is being shown.
More cosmic slides and alien worlds / cloudscapes are shown over an undoubtedly live "Wind Of Change"
which nevertheless stays as faithful to the original arrangement on HOTMG as it is possible to do in the
absence of Simon House and his violin. But just as you think this heralds a return to concert footage there is
instead some up-close coverage from the rehearsal room, which features a rough, but excellent "Needle
Gun", along with the usual cacophony of any rock band in that situation, between numbers. Oddly, the
visuals are very posterized in this segment - one wonders why this was done, since straightforward footage
at such an intimate range would have been very valuable. As if to match the washed-out quality of the
visuals, the band proceed to get completely snarled up in "Needle Gun" and it crashes to a halt with Dave
calling "All right, all right, enough of that!"
And then it's "Time We Left" from Palace Springs playing alongside bursts of orange stage lights and flashes
of mauve, oil-wheel back projections, etc.. As with all the other stage sequences in this video, this is pretty
grainy, low resolution and dark. Budgets, technology and lighting conditions probably explain that, as noted
previously. And that's pretty much it, with just the closing credits to follow, overlaid onto some sort of
backstage gathering with the band and a few others standing around chit-chatting inconsequentially like you
But what's this? An encore? Another section is tacked on, this time showing the band with Bridgett
Wishart semaphoring from inside an industrial NBC suit, in front of a purplish backcloth. Pretty soon stuff
is being projected onto it while the band launch into a clearer, more streamlined rendition of "Needle Gun"
than anything heard hitherto on this tape. The visual quality is different too, less focussed and more
contrasted than before - no shades of grey, just deep inky pools of blackness behind and brightly coloured
blobs closer at hand. Though the camera's viewpoint is quite distant from proceedings, giving the
impression of being located at the rear left-hand corner of the venue. The editing too is more amateurish,
with some very awkward cuts in both the opening number and in "The Golden Void" which follows. But
the soundtrack did plainly originate with the visuals rather than being tacked on from a contemporaneous
live album - though in fact it's not that much different from the live albums that cover this period in such
depth. For instance, the third number into the set, Ejection, is opened with Bridgett's awful spoken piece
which is already familiar from the California Brainstorm CD.
And then fittingly we get a somewhat frayed version of "Brainstorm" itself, with Alan Davey really coming
to the fore for almost the first time on this video. The lengthy instrumental passages here are dominated by
fierce white/violet strobing until a mellower orange glow heralds the reggae-ish middle section over which
Bridgett performs "Your Secret's Safe With Me" - one of her better moments here, though overall I feel her
shortcomings with Hawkwind can be largely ascribed to mismatch rather than to individual failings solely on
her part. Anyway, I've wandered almost as far as this segment of â€œBrainstorm", which gets back on
track with some excellent work from Alan Davey, whose bass parts lead from the front and drag the rest of
the band along in a high-octane rush for the finishing line: over which they all fall, breathless but together.
As if to underline Alan's burgeoning domination of proceedings, his song "Wings" is featured next. To be
honest I thought Bedouin did it better, with more -soaring- lead guitar, and fewer layers of keyboard than
are here. Visually the backdrop is a steady blue with bird silhouettes,and Bridgett throws the odd literally
statuesque shape - fortunately for her there were no pigeons in the vicinity to lend further verisimilitude.
(The song is not called *Rats With* Wings, after all...¦) Proceedings liven up with "Out of The Shadows",
and Dave comes to the fore with his guitar sound riding high in the mix and the camera even closing in on
him during the protracted first verse. The footlights start to dominate during the instrumental section which
follows, and the band here give a great demonstration of playing it structurally loose, seeing as this is
basically just a jam, but in terms of arrangement they are tight as a drum.
During "Seventh Star" Bridgett does some effective whirling of bright hand-held flashlights, emulating or
evoking the fire eaters who seemed to be obligatory fixtures of UK shows at the time. The lightshow
echoes what Bridgett is doing, with circular ripples of white light across the otherwise darkened backdrop.
Meanwhile Dave and Harvey are doing the de rigeur lead parts, and as expected Night Of The Hawks
emerges on cue...¦the stage is in practically complete darkness by this point. That and the overfamiliarity of
the material and arrangement make this a relatively uninteresting segment of the video, even allowing for
Bridgett's revolting but pointless horned demon / cat mask. Only a muscular two-chord coda (along "Spirit
Of The Age" lines) does anything novel. Fortunately Bridgett's next mask is a good deal better and comes
out while one of Harvey's synthscapes is grinding away disturbingly. In still shots I've likened this particular
mask to the visage of Baronness Thatcher: but in it, Bridgett also manages to look like the nightmare teacher
figure in the video of Pink Floyd's "The Wall". The mood remains dark, even if the lightshow does not, with
the band moving into "Back In The Box". This would be one of Bridgett's better renditions of this song, her
restrained vocals nicely set off by some staccato dance and a strangely insectoid alien baldy costume. But
then the double act with Harvey happens along and it's complete rubbish in my view. I'll say no more about
Finally Hassan-i-Sahba emerges to deliver a welcome slice of ambient-free blanga, and Harvey in particular
really strengthens the middle section with some clarion chords just ahead of the "It is written" passage.
Meanwhile the lightshow generates parietal lobe shapes of crystalline mirrored geometries, if that means
anything, and after a quick introduction of the band members by Dave, they launch into what feels like the
last number of the main part of the set: Images...¦and so it proves. The staccato bridge is done brilliantly,
each chord is a punch slammed to the midriff, but as always with this song, focus is lost during the
formless middle section...¦not even the lightshow is doing anything other than displaying an unmoving green
and yellow slide as Bridgett does her crap vocal bit...¦ But at last the spaceship gets moving again, with
Dave throwing some nice 6th/7th chord pairs to add some good old-fashioned rock and roll credentials
which round the set off excellently.
They come back out for an encore, of course, and surprisingly, it's "Reefer Madness." Or maybe not
surprisingly, recalling the California Brainstorm set. The lights are used most effectively of all here, with
strobes, coloured stage lighting and shimmering monochrome lightshow all dovetailing very effectively. For
some reason Bridgett is in bearded male drag here, and takes centre stage for the "stole my stash"
monologue, so there's the cloud to go with that particular silver lining.
Anyhow, the video ends there, which is a good move as attention is starting to flag - the thing is two-and-
half hours long in total, with the structural incoherence of the first hour making it quite a disjointed
experience to sit and watch the entire tape at a single sitting. The last hour and a half being from a single set
does bring it all back together, but with the quality not being that far above bootleg, it doesn't quite stand up
to some of the other 90's videotapes, and certainly not to the professionally produced standards of later
DVD's. On the plus side you do get to hear the band at a time when they were unstoppable live (including
those tracks where the audio has been lifted from Palace Springs!) - but there is a plethora of contemporary
live albums that are as good or better. Overall then, this one is for kompletists only IMHO.
Hawkwind Video Collection 1979-89
Subtitled "Concerts, Festivals, Private Parties", this
was a title offered by Hawkwind Merchandising in
the 90's, and not via any other outlet as far as I
recall. As the title and subtitle indicate, it's a
hodgepodge of various clips with consequent
variation in quality. In fact, it's more or less all
downhill from the opening segment, which is a
topnotch clip of the band playing World Of Tiers in a
TV studio in 1980 or so - a rarity in that Ginger
Baker is seen behind the kit. It's so good I've made it
available on my Free Hawkwind Downloads page!
After this comes a run of concert clips from the very
early 80's, mostly quite dark and indistinct, and
starting off with Tim Blake's Lighthouse, from 1979:
which sounds good, but shows us little more than a
laser or spotlight set up on Tim's keyboard rig. This
ends precipitately and we move straight into a
somewhat bootleggy sounding Shot Down In The
Night, with the camera zoomed in on the back
projections behind the band. These consist of
monochrome 1930's cartoons, which allied to the
squishy sound make this particular clip not worth
bothering with, until about halfway through the
instrumental midesection, when the camera pulls back to show the entire stage. However the recording of
the song stops abruptly at that point, taking us into Brainstorm instead - doubtless from the same gig as
there's no change in the sound or picture quality. The visuals are indistinct but concentrate on the stage -
three strobes and spiralling monochrome back projections, though there are intermittent flashes of blue and
orange stage lighting. Huw is very evident from the copious amounts of lead guitar, and the rest of the band
consists of Dave Brock, Harvey Bainbridge on bass and Martin Griffin on drums: the label seems to indicate
this segment is from 1981, so that fits. The music is fast and tight but a little lacking in depth without a
dedicated keyboard player on stage: taut, but brittle, perhaps.
The same line-up next serves up Silver Machine, and it's aurally familiar, this exact recording having
appeared on a number of compilations, notably on the Hawkwind Collection - which I see from the
Hawkwind Codex is actually version 8L. Unfortunately the stage is quite dark in this number, so there's not
much more to see than some uninteresting back projections. But they segue into Master Of The Universe,
and for once the stage is well lit, with coloured spotlights and dry ice going full blast - as do the band: this is
a slamming early 80's rendition of the old classic, well suited to the two-guitars-bass-drums line-up. Best
thing on the tape so far!
The selections on the tape are in fact laid out in chronological sequence, and a handful of tracks from the
1982 Choose Your Masques tour are up next. The title track is followed by Solitary Mind Games and then
Waiting For Tomorrow - all pretty Huw-dominated. Visually, the stage tends to be dark, with rhythmic
flashes of orange, green and mauve, and the bank of 16 TV screens mounted high above the drum kit at the
back centre of the stage. The sound is pretty good (although somewhat fuzzed throughout by having been
recorded on an early 80's camcorder) with some very effective reverb on Dave's vocals in particular. Nik
contributes some excellent flute to Solitary Mind Games, in which we also get some slo-mo close-ups
which are unfortunately quite blurry. The coverage of Waiting For Tomorrow is shot from more of a
face-on angle, and pulled a little further back - this is actually more effective. Nik does some tasty sax here
too, and in fact this is musically one of the strongest performances of this particular song that I've heard.
Harvey pumps it out on the bass and Huw's little lead guitar figures are very strong. He's in excellent voice,
From 1983 comes "Master Of the Brainverse", a rehearsal clip featuring Nik Turner, which again I've made
available as a clip on the Free Hawkwind Downloads page, so there's no need to say any more about it
here. It's followed by the execrable Ghost Dance. This and the succeeding tracks (Sonic Attack and
Coded Languages) are, according to the video cover, from the 1983 tour which featured the same stage set
as the previous year's, on this evidence. Once again the footage is dark, and the music chaotic - Nik is by
now really fronting the band and getting into that stuff that I personally find very tiresome...¦it's only when
Dave takes the microphone for Psi Power that it really feels like the proper Hawkwind and not some version
of ICU. Perhaps the brighter stage lighting helps - plenty of blue, yellow and orange.
The next chunk is unambiguously from the 1985 Chronicle Of The Black Sword tour. The camera attempts
to zoom in on Tony Crerar's and Kris Tait's dance routine during "Choose Your Masques" but there's not
enough ambient light for this to work very well. Then there is the Elric Fight Sequence, which always was
rather unfortunate, so it's a good thing that we move swiftly on to the 1986 Bristol Custom Bike show.
This was previously seen (and written about) on the Festival 1984-96 tape - so we fast forward to the
Reading Festival 1986, from which we get a brief bit of Assault and Battery, plus Assassins of Allah. In the
earlier review of the Festivals 84-96 video, I mentioned the strange camera angle used at this performance,
and the fact that the musical recording also made it onto the Friday Night Rock Show Sessions album, so
there's not much more to add here.
Magnu, Angels of Death and Lost Chronicles hail from some 1987 gig, and the video quality definitely takes
a turn for the better here, although the excessive focus on the back projection is tedious (- it's the same dull
stuff that I described in my review of the 1986 Chaos DVD). Needle Gun, which comes next, is I think
the same as on the Festival 84-96 tape, i.e. from the Leeds Acid Daze gig with Screech Rock dancers. It's
a pity the superior picture and audio quality serves only to highlight their, umm, act!
The next sequence finds us in the rehearsal room in 1988. Harvey plays a Moog and clowns for the
camera, with others such as Huw and Richard Chadwick wandering around making cups of tea etc.. Hung
on the wall behind Harvey are some bona fide Hawkwind artefacts such as an enormous Acid Daze poster
and the eight-arrowed shield from those ridiculous COTBS promo shots. Despite the constant din being
made by H.Bainbridge esq., Huw seems to be engrossed in writing out a shopping list. And then...¦we segue
to Dreamworker. This is a live clip from 1988, and the camera dwells on the lightshow being projected
behind the band - space scenes mostly, and quite well suited to this downbeat, understated material.
(Which oddly, seems to have Nik Turner's voice reciting the lyrics).
The final segment on the tape comes from a private party in 1989. The line-up, jammed together in the
corner of a room rather than up on a stage, is Dave Brock, Harvey Bainbridge, Alan Davey and Richard
Chadwick. They're fairly well lit - there's no light show as such, just a couple of different colour lights on
the band, one of which seems to pulse in a fixed pattern. The band run through versions of Assault &
Battery / Golden Void, Treadmill, Levitation, Damnation Alley, Needle Gun, Brainstorm and Angels of
Death. It's musically a very solid performance, without frills, but meaty-sounding: and the crowd, dancing
with abandon and clustered around the band (Alan Davey is pretty much surrounded) are plainly enjoying
themselves. Lucky b******s :-)
So the conclusion here is very much the same as for the Festivals 1984-96 video: it's bitty and patchy, a lot
of it is pretty low quality, but worth having if you're a seriously dedicated, i.e. hairy-arsed, Hawkwind fan.
Briefly made available by Hawkwind Merchandising
in the mid-1980s, this bootleg-quality video starts off
with the green-tinged grainy footage that has been
more widely excerpted as 'Master Of the
Brainverse'. This was featured on the "Hawkwind
Video Collection 1979-1989" as was the succeeding
sequence of Huw sitting on the stage and Nik
clowning around whilst signing stuff for fans in the
festival surrounds - the festival being the Motorcycle
Action Group (M.A.G.) bash at Cricket St.Thomas
on 4th June 1983. Master Of The Brainverse also
features plenty of Nik clowning for the camera in the
rehearsal studio - as well as Harvey's falling down
behind the keyboards act. I wonder if he does this in
Then there's a beautiful boobs competition, wherein
12 young ladies get up on a darkened stage and strip
off their shirts to the bayed delight of the male crowd.
I'm all for this sort of thing and it's very annoying that the footage is so grainy - as a dispassionate observer
I would love to be able to confirm that the audience's approval was merited in each individual case. But I
really have no idea.
Finally onto the real reason for watching this, and that's Hawkwind live, tackling 'Dust Of Time'. It's early
80's bootleg quality in that you can't really make out any detail other than some blobs on stage that are
lighter- coloured than the homogenous fog making up the remainder of the picture. The filming looks like it
was done some way back from the stage, with the zoom fully engaged to home in on the central area,
perhaps some fifteen feet's width of it being within the camera's field of view. The cameraman does
compensate for this by doing a few slow-mo pans to take in other things going on, for example Nik's sax
solo in the next song up, 'Waiting For Tomorrow'. The white-jacketed Huw can be distinguished by the
fact that he's at the mic, and Harvey is also recognisable. But that's about it. What is decent enough is the
audio quality, which despite suffering a couple of drop-outs here and there is up to what you would expect
of a top-notch audience recording of the period, or better. It looks very much as though the entire video
was shot by a single camera located at the mixing desk, and the fact that the sound is so much better than
the visuals makes me wonder if the audio isn't actually from the desk itself.
Next is the execrable 'Ghost Dance', which is mercifully abridged and supplanted by a surprisingly fast and
thrashy 'Psychedelic Warlords'. You would think this has all the hallmarks of Nik's influences on the band
during his 1982-84 stint with them - but it's Huwie who takes the lead vocals. In the instrumental workout
during the middle of this song the camera zooms out to show Dave stalking across the stage to join the
others (Nik, Huw Harvey) out front, and there's plainly a full-blown lightshow belting away behind the band
too - I recognise the "Shroud Of Turin" face being back-projected behind the band, but the dingy green
monotone of the picture quality basically robs the visuals of all interest. It's important to note that this isn't
a criticism but a description of the limitations of the available technology at the time; this was, after all, only
the second ever Hawkwind video to be released (the 1982 Choose Your Masques tour video being the first).
'Utopia 84' follows and it's the same dirgey rant you've all heard on the Zones album - it cuts straight into
'Angels Of Death' which showcases, not for the first time on this tape, the superb form Huw Lloyd
Langton was in at the time. And this number is as sharp and punchy as Huw's soloing is incisive - the band
as a whole were cooking that night, and it underlines the pity that 1983 was such a quiet year for
Hawkwind, with their live work being curtailed by personal upheaval. Dave does admittedly fluff the
beginning of the next number, 'Motorway City', but straightens himself out before the rest of the band
come in and crash their way through this one very satisfyingly. They even make a decent fist of 'Silver
Machine', though the audio signal goes walkabout in the middle of it - and not at quite the right time to
obscure Nik's verbal meanderings. They rescue the song by getting back into the main musical theme of it
for a final verse and chorus, which even features a decent sax solo from Nik. Another notable thing about
this is that the stage lighting suddenly seems to get brighter, lending greater definition and even some colour
to the visuals on the tape.
The band did not seem to go off stage at any time but this has the feel of an encore as Nik asks the
audience whether they want any more, before 'Brainstorm' is announced. A right old synthy mess it is too,
to begin with, the bleeps and farts only subsiding once the Captain rips out the familiar chord sequence to
kick off the song proper. Once again it's classic Hawkwind that starts and finishes strongly but is let down
by a somewhat weak and amorphous middle section. They do actually go off stage at the end of this, so
that is the end of the main part of the set - and then Nik draws the winning raffle ticket for the prize of a
bike, which you don't see at every Hawkwind gig...unfortunately.
The encore gets underway with 'Ejection', which Nik tells us is a dance tune, and the band certainly play it
with enough pace and bounce to make it so. This continues as the song diverts directly, medley-style, into
an abbreviated 'Shot Down In The Night', and thence into 'Master Of The Universe'. Up until this point the
"medley" had been very focused but much impetus is lost as MotU wanders into another formless mid-song
miasma which seems to last well over ten minutes. Where's the fast forward? And it's needed again after
MotU finishes because there's yet more raffling from Nik before the band finally shamble back on stage, to
Nik's intensely irritating parroted repetition of "Are you feeling better now?", to round proceedings off with
'Sonic Attack' (performed in the style of the 1981 remake) and 'Death Trap'. Once again Sonic Attack is
allowed to drift all over the place is loses all cohesion. Death Trap does it too, if not as badly.
At the end of the tape are a couple more snippets of rehearsal footage from Rockfield Studios. This
comprises two separate segments of the band messing around between numbers, and to be honest, would
not even be worth offering as a free download.
Overall then, a valuable record of a one-off occasion, that sees the band playing an early 80's festival and
sounding splendid in so doing. But the tape's visual qualities are severely compromised by the primitive
technology that was available and affordable at the time, and suffers further from a lack of editing - there's
too much crap included in it and some of the numbers the band plays could really have done with being
edited down. But this was an amateur effort and I doubt any editing took place at all, so perhaps the idea is
unrealistic. Probably as unrealistic as the notion of this ever getting a reissue on DVD, since it offers
such a constrained viewing experience.