Yeah, the first time was one "Ooh La La!" on a single called "The Seven Deadly Finns." Somewhere in the vaults at Island, there is an early seventies video of me and Polly Eltes performing my guitar Kama Sutra (cheesy moves from arena rock), edited to the typewriter sound on "Taking Tiger Mountain," then played back on a pyramid of old TV sets with Eno in a beret standing in front singing his vocal. This was pre-MTV. I would love to see it again; it must be hilarious.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
From Judy Nylon's 3:00 A.M. Magazine interview:
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Marc Bolan and Hawkwind/"For the group that should have written Star Wars and didn't"/Ruminations on Devo, Neu! and Hippies
The Hawklords Riddle (Melody Maker, November 13th, 1978. Robert Calvert: " "I want to do a piece of music that reflects schizophrenic mania, rather like the Velvet Underground's 'Murder Mystery'."!!
Mike Davies talks to Bob Calvert and Michael Moorcock
Q: Are we not hippies? A: We are not Devo, either
This article was not originally conceived as an apology for Hawkwind (or the Hawklords, as they're now styled). However, David Blake's review of their Hammersmith show, carried in Melody Maker a couple of weeks back, forced a modification of approach, because it seemed to crystallise many of the prejudices and misconceptions that the media have about the band.
Although not a long-standing admirer of their music, especially in the days of the ear-blasting Sci-Fi rock, I have always felt that their concepts and ideals are more than worthy of support, especially since the release of "Quark, Strangeness and Charm" last year. I point this out merely to show that this isn't a devoted fan mouthing off about their total cosmic awareness, but somebody who is infuriated by blind put-downs of a very original and deeply thought-out concept.
Let's examine the two main slagging-off points of the review. First, the tired old cliche of 'faded hippies' was thrown, not only at the band, but also at the audience - which was depicted as a bunch of drug-smashed, drunken unwashed louts. That was compounded by the accusation of ripping off Devo's use of industrial themes and dramatic movements. What the reviewer failed to notice was the fact that the audience went absolutely bananas, and gave the band the kind of reception that hasn't been seen at Hammersmith for many a gig.
When I spoke to Bob Calvert and Dave Brock I was able to raise the points made in the review and take a more objective view. I was also able to talk to author Michael Moorcock who has had a close association with the band since its' inception. The Devo connection is not a totally irrelevant point to make in view of Calvert's involvement with the industrial concepts that loom so large in the present stage set, but even on a basic level that could be discounted by parallels of thought: it is not impossible for two people to have the same ideas independently.
More telling is the fact that Hawkwind have been involved with industrialisation and technology for far longer than Devo have been wearing surgical masks, etc.. Without wishing to answer Blake on his own level, it should still be pointed out that, back in 1973-74 one of Hawkwind's biggest strongholds in America was was the area around Akron, and the band played there six or seven times. Chicken or egg? The "metaphysical factory" theme of the current album, and the stage settings, are merely an extension of the early space celebrations that Hawkwind were involved in during their middle period, a joyful awareness of the machine age glorified in their classic "Silver Machine" single, and which is self-evident in their use of industrial overtones on numbers like "Forge of Vulcan" on the "Quark" album. To ease out a few more comparisons, there is an overtly Germanic tone to the Hawkwind/Hawklords history, moving from an almost Wagnerian approach in the "Space Ritual" to a Metropolis scenario for the current show.
That German connection could also be applied to the cold starkness of Devo, yet it's more than likely that the sources differ. Calvert points out that "a lot of German bands like Neu and Kraftwerk have been influenced by early Hawkwind lyrics. Dave Brock, in fact, wrote the sleeve notes for Neu's first album." It's interesting to see that Buzzcock's Pete Shelley continues a tradition by adding his observations to the recent Can double re-issue. Actually the coldness of the industrial/factory approach owes far more to Bertold Brecht than it does to the Akronites.
Bob Calvert: "I was inspired by Brecht's 'sprechtesang' -speech song- which gives a very Germanic feel to our machine-gun lyrics." Brecht is very much a city writer, and one can hear the influences showing through in the music, just as they acknowledged a debt to Hesse in "Steppenwolf" on the "Amazing Sounds" (sic) album: "A lot of people who live in cities are influenced by what goes on within them, but we're influenced by the cities themselves".
Next, there's the point about the use of movement. Calvert again is bitter about that. "Last year one of the papers, I think it may have been Melody Maker, said that if one got bored with the music 'you can always watch Bob Calvert's inimitable movements'." Now it seems that those same movements are being interpreted with a curious use of hindsight. Certainly there are influences in the use of movement and dance, one of the most important in both Calvert's own movements and the choreography of the dancers being that of the Japanese Noh theatre which Calvert readily admits. "I go to fringe theatre quite a lot, more than to rock concerts. I don't listen to albums, much either; I try to keep my musical influences pure, both consciously and sub-consciously."
The venomous backlash against the whole concept of 'hippiedom' and the ideals it embraced is hard to understand. As Brinsley Schwarz sang, "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace Love and Understanding"? Surely certain ideals are not outmoded, even if the exterior fashions may be. In many ways, the punk explosion owes a lot to the same awareness that prompted the initial hippie movement, and if Sham 69's "If The Kids Are United" isn't a '78 version of "Woodstock", what is it? Nor does the audience composition bear out the image of 30 year-old long-locked drug fiends; a vast proportion of the crowd at the Hawklords' Birmingham gig were in the 14-19 bracket, and they have as much to do with Scott McKenzie and Donovan as do Siouxsie and the Banshees.
Michael Moorcock has been involved with the band since he was dragged along to see a very early gig. He has written for them and has worked with them onstage. His own books have always tended to pre-date the times, especially the Jerry Cornelius sequence, and they deal with technology and the city in the same fashion as Hawkwind. He is firmly convinced of the conitnuing relevance of the band. "One reason why Hawkwind are still going strong these days is because the current scene has caught up with them. One of the reasons I conceived the Cornelius books was to try and make technology ordinary - that's what I liked about watching DikMik and Del Dettmar in the early days. That's why I liked Hawkwind, because they weren't anti-technology, they celebrated it - unlike a lot of science-fiction writers and performers. "When I first saw them they seemed like barbarians who'd got hold of a load of electrical gear; instead of being self-conscious and pseudo-intellectual, they were actually *of* the electronic age. They weren't impressed by their own gear.
"This was at the height of the swinging Sixties, and popular culture was attaining a level of excellence it had only ever hinted at before, it was becoming concerned with real things. It gave the lie to the Richard Hoggett thesis, in Uses and Literacy, that you can't be good *and* popular. "You had a sudden sense of renaissance in genuine popular art, and you could actually make a living at it, and you were working in areas where people weren't looking over your shoulder all the time. "I think that's what's gone wrong with rock'n'roll now; there's far too much attention being paid to it, too much criticism. It explains the whole punk movment, shifting away from areas where standards were being applied, as a reaction. It celebrates the city too, as does Hawkwind. I think nearly all their best stuff has been connected with the city and technology."
Bob Calvert warms to the suggestion that the band are completely of their time, yet is reluctant to see them as prophets. I suggested that in a lot of respects they were a teleprint band. "Yes, it is like that, I think we're probably more influenced by the news than anything else. At one time we were actually talking about having a point in the set where we could perform a spontaneous item directly influenced by a major news event. "In '25 Years', which is about the small man, the average person's plight, there's a point where I read what's in the Daily Mirror on the day we're doing it. That's teleprint music, and what's very interesting is that we often pre-date events. 'Urban Guerilla' was released just before the concerted IRA attacks on London and it's still relevant today. One does wonder about how much psychic influence is at work." "Henry Miller used to think of the artist as an antenna. It's the same with 'Psi-Power' - these things are emerging now as more than just hippie mystic concerns. It's fact, I'm not saying that we're prophets or anything. "I felt that the early band was expressing what was going on, with the whole space programme, and the concern with communication and industry. That's what people living now should be concerned about. It's no good coming on with a show about a revolutionary in the Peruvian mountains.
"In spite of the New Wave, people are still singing about problems with their girlfriends. That's not enough. William Burroughs was right when he said that if man is going to become a space age creature, he has to drop a lot of ties. The punk thing didn't do enough. Literature and other forms of art have abandoned those restricting and limited fields of vision. "I want to do a piece of music that reflects schizophrenic mania, rather like the Velvet Underground's 'Murder Mystery'. Modern writers use their materials in a far more adventurous way than modern musicians do. I think what we're trying to do is a form of modern art, rather than providing a cosmetic effect. We're trying to make music that actually reflects the way we feel about the world." The material in the current set, drawn from early works as well as the present album, and the as-yet-unreleased 'PXR5', shows their concern with the present day rather than the uncertain future; as Moorcock says "the future is such an obscene idea". Listen to '25 Years', 'The Age of the Micro-Man' ("who sees the detail but never the plan") , 'Automation', or the haunting 'The Dead Dreams of the Cold War Kid', all from the current album, or long-established stage numbers like "Robot" and "High Rise" for proof of their commitment.
The success of their concerts clearly indicates that the Hawklords could well survive without another word being written about them - as Kid Strange said "those who know, know" - but perhaps the observations of Calvert and Moorcock have cleared away a few misconceptions and unclouded a few prejudices. The Hawklords aren't a bunch of crazed anachronisms; sure, they have influences, but let's at least recognize those influences for what they are and not place the burden of the media's current pet concept on musicians who've been developing their ideas for several years, and who have probably given more to the New Music than they've taken from it.
Monday, May 6, 2013
"What the Velvets Never Were, and What Dylan Never Could Be, All This and More is Television" - Alan Betrock, 1974 [repost from 2011]
Rummaging in the barn, I never know what may turn up. This is what I found out today: by early 1974, Alan Betrock had already identified the greatness of Richard Hell-era Television and its historical import during the band's initial residency at CBGBs. Writing in the May 1974 issue of Phonograph Record, in a multiple-page spread featuring at least 15 writers discussing local venues and clubs, Betrock manages to give the highest praise possible to Television, as well as giving ink space to Andy Shernoff of the Dictators! Mind you, none of the other writers provide band commentary except for Betrock or even feel it appropriate. Somehow I think Betrock knew what kind of easter eggs he was planting for future historians - the man knew it all along as we have written about before here and here! Pantsios unfortunately does not score too well as I sit with cup of tea in hand scratching my beard in late 2011. Sadly, she gives no mention to either Rocket from the Tombs or Mirrors in the CLE write-up, though she manages to slag Left End not once but TWICE in the issue. Though this is the shortest of excerpts, Betrock says enough about Television and CBGBs:
Friday, April 26, 2013
"The easiest blues move ever": Thurston Moore, Robert Quine, Guitar Player Magazine and the Natchez Burning
Thurston has always been a great storyteller. This one is no exception. I was pretty excited when Hell (and Quine) were pulled into the SY orbit. The anecdote is short and via flowers crack concrete. In a recent Vice interview, Hell has said of the Dim Stars:
It was a total of one month. I like all those guys, and originally, we were gonna go in and have this one session and make a single out of it and it sounded like a kick. If I could just make a record every 18 months and there were no other responsibilities or obligations but as a musician, that would be great; I’d love to do that. It’s just that I don’t want to have the life of a rock ’n’ roll musician where I’m out touring all the time and I’d have to pay a band and deal with all the promotion and the music industry. It’s all that peripheral stuff, but I love making records.Now if we can get a mash up of Quine playing with the Byrds circa 1969-1970:
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Are Those Iggy Stooge - Judee Sill Rumors True?/"Kinda Chipmunky"/"Where I Came From I Was a Legend" [repost from March 2011]
I had never really given it much thought, but I guess we can thank the alignment of Judee Sill and Iggy Stooge with providing the title of the Dead Boys' debut "Young, Loud & Snotty." Is it some mere coincidence that Iggy provided the phrase in early 1973 and one of his biggest disciples - he of the apocryphal peanut butter handling and rated second only to Jim Morrison as rock vocal stylist by Mr. Pop - usurps the term for the lp. Maybe Cheetah Chrome can confirm that the phrase was from Iggy - I'm guessing in a contemporaneous interview it may say so. [ed. - thank you Cheetah for confirming back in 2011]. And to think Judee Sill triggered it in a contemptuous putdown, possibly by the very OGWT performance posted here a few months back. Time machine me back to the double bill of Roy Harper and Judee.
Thursday, April 4, 2013
Giving the Battalion of Saints, and the spiritual mentor of both bands - Motorhead - a run for their money at the same time, true metal madness from Caracas, February 1980, one month before the introduction of colour television in Venezuela. An almost Ginn/Sharrock-esque solo is in there as well at 1:26. Thanks to Eddie for the tip: Now, the similarities are pretty strong in execution but the low tech Cheese Factory takes the prize even though this may have been the Crue's best moment - was there an equivalent to the Strip in La Castellana or Altamira in Caracas?
Saturday, March 23, 2013
Love Over Gold Part II: Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band "Beat Club Session," Bremen, Germany, June 24, 1972
As I have said before, the "Clear Spot"/"Spotlight Kid" 3 cd outtake set is one of the holy grails up there with the "Funhouse" boxset (if you like that particular era of the Magic Band - who doesn't really). The Beat Club clip of "I'm Gonna Booglarize You Baby" taped when the Magic Band was on their 1972 European summer tour has been a favourite for decades now, from crappy VHS tapes of upteenth generations to the fantastic quality of the clip below with an introduction that I only have just seen. What I had not seen but hoped had existed were the other three songs recorded that day. Now we can see Mark Boston's solo bass on the signature "Mascara Snake," Golden Birdies," all time fave "Click Clack" and the Captain in a Nudie suit jacket and satin pants (the outfits! on the entire band), all recorded on June, 24, 1972. Warren Ellis seems to be currently channeling Elliot Ingber's 1972 style crossed with the Captain's threads more than any particular member of the Band: