|Starbound on a Silver Machine
This magazine article is from an unknown publication but dates from 1996 - unlike the photo below,
which is from the 1979 tour and features (L-R) Huw Lloyd Langton, Harvey Bainbridge and Dave Brock
During the early Seventies, while the spirit of optimism and hippie idealism -so much a part of late-Sixties
rock- began to evaporate, Hawkwind kept the 'freak flag' flying. The group played whenever and wherever
they could, especially at free gigs and community benefits, and rapidly established a reputation as the last of
the "underground" bands. Initially, Hawkwind's music and presentation was based heavily on the early
'space-rock' of Pink Floyd: audiences were drawn by the group's experiments with lighting and other
effects, their long, loud and dense improvisations around basic riffs and their interest in fantasy, science
fiction and other 'alternative' forms of culture. Their reputation was fanned by the attentions of the gutter
press - and the band did little to try and shake off the dope-crazed, spaced-out image.
Hawkwind were formed, as Group X, in 1969 by Dave Brock (guitar, vocals), Nik Turner (sax, vocals) and
Mick Slattery (guitar), who were all ex-members of various obscure London underground outfits. With
bassist John Harrison, drummer Terry Ollis and Dik Mik, who provided fairly rudimentary electronics, they
played their first gig (a 10-minute jam) at All Saints Hall, Notting Hill, in the autumn. On the strength of this
and a demo tape, they signed to Clearwater Productions; their new management negotiated a recording deal
with United Artists in November, by which time the band had become Hawkwind.
The group's first album, Hawkwind, appeared in the following summer, but it was at the Isle of Wight
Festival in August that the group first came to public attention. As a protest against the Festival's high
admission charges, the band staged a free gig outside the fences and Nik Turner attracted media attention by
painting his face silver.
By 1971, Hawkwind had built up a large live following; their second album, In Search Of Space, made a
minor showing in the UK LP charts while their status as leaders of the dwindling hippie movement was
further enhanced by their appearance at the Glastonbury Fayre in June. Dave Brock was ill and thus unable
to play at Glastonbury - his place was taken by Bob Calvert, self-styled 'space-age oral poet' (who was to
become a full-time band member the following year) and Hawkwind were joined on stage by voluptuous
Later in the year, Ian 'Lemmy' Kilminster (ex-Rocking Vicars, Sam Gopal and Opal Butterfly) joined the
band on bass and vocals, adding enormously to Hawkwind's drive, energy and image. Then, on 13
February 1972, Hawkwind appeared at what was to be, for them, a significant benefit gig at the
Roundhouse in aid of alternative music organization Greasy Truckers. A live album, Greasy Truckers
Party, featuring Hawkwind, Global Village Trucking Company and other 'left-field' acts of the day was
recorded at the event, and from the outtakes emerged a Hawkwind single, 'Silver Machine'. Written by
Brock and Calvert, it was little more than basic, albeit intense, heavy metal; nevertheless it picked up airplay
and reached Number 3 in the UK charts in July of that year.
The success of 'Silver Machine' enabled Hawkwind to mount their mammoth Space Ritual tour which,
complete with an amazing liquid light show, proved to be their most ambitious project and the clearest
expression of their musical direction and spirit so far. A third album, Doremi Fasol Latido (1972) was
released to public and critical acclaim in November, while a live double album of the tour, Space Ritual,
released in May 1973, reached Number 9 in the LP charts.
In August, the follow-up single to 'Silver Machine', 'Urban Guerilla', was released. It began to climb the UK
charts, but had reached no higher than Number 39 when United Artists withdrew it from circulation - there
had recently been a spate of terrorist bombings in London and the song's subject-matter was therefore
considered, by some, to be in questionable taste.
Not that Hawkwind were about to sever their connections with outer space: Warriors On The Edge Of Time
(1975) featured the voice of science-fiction writer Michael Moorcock, a long-time admirer of the group,
while lights and experimentation were to remain very much on the menu. Nonetheless, they were beginning
to tone down the image somewhat; when Lemmy was arrested on suspicion of possession of cocaine
during an American tour in May 1975, the band, afraid of jeopardising their chances in the States, sacked
him and flew in Paul Rudolph (formerly of the Deviants and the Pink Fairies) as a replacement.
The following year, having changed labels from UA to Charisma, they recorded Astounding Sounds,
Amazing Music and toured with their new Atomhenge lightshow to promote it. For some time now, the
Hawkwind sound had been changing, becoming clearer and cleaner while their numbers were growing
shorter and tighter. However, these changes produced strains and led to Turner, Rudolph and Powell (the
band's new drummer) being fired. A remodelled Hawkwind -Brock, Calvert, Simon King (drums), Adrian
Shaw (bass) and Simon House (keyboards)- made a debut appearance at London's Roundhouse in February
1977 and a second Charisma album, Quark, Strangeness And Charm, released in June, reached Number 30
in the LP charts.
Early in 1978, however, Brock, unhappy with the band's direction, decided to disband Hawkwind and
assemble a new outfit, Hawklords, with Calvert. The new group put out just one LP, 25 Years On (1978),
before friction forced Calvert out.
In September 1979, a new Hawkwind, consisting of Brock, Simon King, Harvey Bainbridge (bass), Huw
Lloyd Langton (guitar) and Tim Blake (keyboards), came into being and played their first gig headlining the
Futurama Festival in Leeds, where they used laser lighting for the first time. The early Eighties saw the
group continuing to change line-ups but still recording and drawing a loyal following of new, younger fans.
Although many still regarded them as some kind of hippie hangover, after nearly 15 years of existence they
had adjusted to the modern world both in their lyrics and in their presentation, where liquid lightshows
combined with modern technological backdrops. As Michael Moorcock said in the Eighties: 'Nearly all their
best stuff has been concerned with the city and technology... One of the main reasons why Hawkwind are
still going strong these days is because the current scene has caught up with them.'