I was a teenage Hawkwind fan

 
 
 
I was a teenage Hawkfan
 
Losing your gig virginity is a special time in your life, a rite of passage you will always remember, even if only fleeting details remain as the years pass.  And unlike the reproductive version, you can lose your gig virginity several times over ”“ in my case, the first, real-life, in-the-flesh band I saw were called White Light at a school disco in 1975, a vaguely prog rock outfit who briefly featured my mate Paul Bennett (older brother of Andy Bennett, from (yes you guessed correctly) those Iceland rocking indie gods ”˜Bennett’).  But in truth it didn’t feel like a gig ”“ to keep the vague (and fast unravelling) virginity metaphor going it was more like getting to second base, a quick fumble in the dark.
 
It would be another year before I properly popped my gig cherry.  Just as I was getting all excited, sweaty and hormonal about punk – being 16 and an avid consumer of NME and Sounds ”“ I got a chance to go to my first ”˜real’ gig, a proper band in  a proper venue, no less.  The mighty (and much maligned at the time) Hawkwind were touring the ”˜Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music’ LP with the stunning Atomhenge stage set.   And during September the tour was going to Guildford Civic Hall, about half hour from where I lived.  Result!
 
A neighbour was roped in to share the event (another Tim, a year older than me, and also a Hawkfan since I had lent him my Space Ritual live set a year earlier).  More importantly, his parents had a car, (my family didn’t”¦.) so he was also wheels there and back.
 
Tickets were brought from the box office and anticipation grew as the great day got closer.  Now Hawkwind circa 1976 were not quite the inter-stellar, fire-breathing space-rats that produced the aforementioned Space Ritual, Doremi and Warrior on the Edge of Time albums”¦ Lemmy had been kicked out for one thing, Dik Mik and his audio generators were also long gone.  But they did have former Pink Fairy Paul Rudolph on bass, the two drummer attack of Simon King and Alan Powell, and the brilliantly theatrical Bob Calvert on lead vocals.  Plus long time Starfarers Dave Brock and Nik Turner and the multi-talented Simon House on keyboards, violin and anything else appropriate.
 
On the night itself, entering the darkened environs of the Guildford Civic was like stepping into another world.  A world of denim, leathers and patchouli oil, long hair and Brut aftershave mingling with the sweet smell of pot.  But actually I was the alien here – I was already mutating into a vague approximation of punk, I had short hair and had been playing Eddie & the Hotrods Live at the Marquee EP over and over again on my bedroom Dansette”¦ I felt different from these people even if we were all about to worship at the same altar of space-rock”¦
 

 
Now memory plays funny tricks on you.  I remember a huge crowd, a massive stage, with the seven-strong Hawklords mere specs beneath the massive Atomhenge edifice.  Now, I know the Civic isn’t that big really”¦. It holds about 800 tops and the stage is about four feet high ”“ I played there myself several years later with my band Handsome Bastards and you could fall into the pit and not get a bruise.
 
In fact, they couldn’t get all of the Atomhenge set in, but it didn’t matter.  They looked great”¦Calvert dressed like a WW1 fighter pilot complete with goggles, Brock modelling a lab coat with an intricate luminous hawk design on the back, Nik Turner in a spacesuit while the slide show and strobe lighting took the skin off your face.  
 
Calvert disappeared during a noodley instrumental and returned in a full Victorian dress coat and top hat for Steppenwolf, later changing again into Lawrence of Arabia garb for Assassins of Allah.  The drummers could have triggered an earthquake early-warning system and Nik Turner squeaked and skronked his sax like some ancient jazz devil. The volume was overpowering, and yes I put my head in the bass bins just so I could say I’d done it”¦. I’m pretty sure they played Brainstorm and Master of the Universe, but my memory could be playing tricks.
 
The following day I couldn’t stop burbling on about it to my college mates, none of whom understood, with one particularly irritating colleague trying to top my near evangelical outpourings by regaling us about how he had just seen Elton John at Wembley Arena or some other aircraft hanger sized venue”¦.
 
A few weeks later, Hawkwind chucked out Nik Turner and second drummer Alan Powell and toured again with the new streamlined outfit”¦ I saw them again in December 76 at Bracknell Sports Centre (that renowned rock venue) where I heard Spirit of the Age for the first time  – I’ll never forget the accompanying light show, with a pulsing, sequenced image of a girls face imposed over a flower as Calvert intoned his tale of clones and android-replica sex somewhere deep in space”¦
 
By 1977, it was all punk this, punk that (another gig virginity, of course, the first punk gig) and I lost touch with the live Hawkwind experience until the early 90s.  With only Brock remaining from the glory days and an over-reliance on sequencers and trance beats it wasn’t what I remembered and I haven’t been back to see them since”¦ some memories are best left in the past I guess.
 
Tim Naylor
May 2011

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5 comments on “I was a teenage Hawkwind fan”

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  1. I can beat you on That One ! 1974!…Wolverhampton Civic Hall, Lemmy on Bass, Calvert and Moorcock onstage, Dik Mik, etc..The Full Light show and Stacia! What a gig to be your 1st one! Sonic Attack! retinas burnt out by Strobes, My First Newcy Brown, and My First sight of The Naked female form! AWESOME! I was 13…and all this For £1.25!… I never did recover after that…

  2. Good piece. It’s often been said that if Hawkwind were German their position in the world of out rock would be very different. Calvert was a great front man – I saw him 2 weeks before he died at the Nag’s Head, Wycombe – and he really made them later with the more new wave Quark album and Hawklords stuff.
    As it happens Nik Turner’s Space Ritual outfit are very good. None of that horrible synth trance that Brock favours just Motorik riffage and oscillators on a low budget. And they do Steppenwolf… The old school West London renegades do it with great dignity too. Quite joyous in a way.

    • 100 per cent true richard…the way people rewrite history is bizarre. Hawkwind and Can were both breaking new ground at the same time. For my money Hawkwind are the greatest of the pre- punk underground…

  3. Mike quarkrok

    I enjoyed the article – the title sounds like a Primal Scream song! I guess the Hawks can be off-putting if you think of the over-hippy fan/gig experience (first gig was BAD dragged along by a mate, HW first was Stonehenge 83!) but what originators. If all the Danny Bakers, Jello Biafras and Peter Hooks had continued to go to the live experience maybe it wouldn’t have become dominated by Motorheadbangers and adimtting to liking Hawkwind wouln’t be such a taboo.

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