|Hawkwind Revisited, September 1992
This piece appeared in the September 1992 issue of Record Collector and served as the introduction to
a much longer article called The Discographer's Nightmare - which charted the sorry tale of dodgy
compilations etc from the mid-80's to the early 90's. I haven't put that here as it is very much aimed at
record collectors. In contrast to what follows - and the most interesting thing about it is the time it was
written, as it is exactly contemporary with Hawkwind's boost in popularity from the E-generation ravers
Only a handful of bands in rock history have embodied the values of a whole sub-culture. The Who,
for example, appear in the history books as the archetypal pill-popping mods from the 60's. And, a
decade later the Sex Pistols provided a public focus for punk's in-yer-face attitude and aggression.
Hawkwind, meanwhile, have come to represent a more enduring social sub-set which has arguably
spawned some of the most vital underground music since the new wave: the festival-going 'crusties'.
Avoiding the worst excesses of progressive rock that ruined many of their contemporaries, Hawkwind
(along with Gong and Can) first caught the public's attention in the early 70's with their unique fusion of
psychedelia and hard rock, which has remained largely unchanged throughout their careeer. Although
this dynamic brand of 'space rock' -with its liberal sprinkling of late 60's alternative philosophy- had its
heyday nearly 20 years ago, the growing interest in their 'new-age' approach to life has made them one
of the most enduring acts from that era.
Hawkwind initially gained a following of travellers, bikers and festival-goers by regularly headlining 'free
festivals' throughout the 70's and early 80's, and it is arguably the dramatic rise in the popularity of such
events over the last five years that has brought the 'Wind back into vogue. The music press has labelled
the musical fringe of the current festival-goers 'crusties', applying the term to outfits ranging from the
Levellers and RDF to Ozric Tentacles and the Magic Mushroom Band. Musically these acts are quite
different, but what they share is a dismissal of the conformist values of the Thatcherite 80's, an
occasional pro- soft drugs stance and a sympathy for the peace-and-environment arenas of the yearly
Stonehenge and Glastonbury extravaganzas. For Hawkwind, this has meant blossoming attendances,
for example at their annual all-nighter at the Brixton Academy, and a reappraisal of their musical heritage.
While we covered the band's basic history back in June 1985 (RC 70), this month we bring that story
up to date, and unravel the bewildering array of compilations and archive recordings that has made
collecting Hawkwind on disc such a minefield for the beginner. We also spotlight the work of two
sometime fellow-travellers, science fiction writer and lyricist Michael Moorcock and the late Robert
Calvert, and catch up with Dave Brock, the band's only original remaining member.
Before we get embroiled in the minutae of Hawkwind's career, it's worth singling out a few highlights
for those yet to dive headlong into the 100+ albums that have been issued under the band's name. The
best starting point, as is the case with so many rock acts, has to be the early albums, particularly those
issued by United Artists during the first half of the 70's. After a tentative start with 1970's self-titled
debut, Hawkwind's sci-fi credentials crystallised around the "In Search Of Space" album, where songs
like "Brainstorm" fused simple chord structures with an experimental, extra-terrestrial sheen provided by
Dik Mik's audio generator and Nik Turner's heavily treated sax playing.
The 'Silver Machine' single condensed the group's style into a four-minute nutshell, introducing
Lemmy's distinctive minimalist basslines and vocal lines to a world then obsessed with technical
wizardry and classical niceties. For an hour-and-a-half snapshot of the group's sonic attack, try "Space
Ritual Alive", a popular in-concert set issued in 1973, or Windsong's "BBC Radio 1 Live In Concert",
perhaps the finest archive 'Wind release yet to appear.
"Doremi Fasol Latido", "Hall Of the Mountain Grill" and "Warrior On The Edge Of Time", dating from
1972-75 are all highly rated by fans, while "Stasis: The United Artists Years" compilation is a useful
introduction to the period. The rough edges to the band's music were gradually ironed out after
"Doremi", though aficionados still swear by later albums like "Quark Strangeness and Charm" and
"Levitation". And the fact that, after over twenty years, the group can still turn out strong sets such as
this year's "Electric Tepee" indicates that, unlike so many of their contemporaries, Hawkwind's style and
image was strong enough to ward off new threats when the prevailing musical climate changed. Who
says psychedelic warlords are destined to disappear in smoke?
|It's Horkwind playing one of them-there raves! Thanks to Nick Lee for the photo