The excitement of getting Imported records and Fanzine Momentos as mentioned in pt 2 of this series still carries a Joyful weight today. Now imagine what you would never expect to fall into your world in that You discover yourself in front of the very people you have considered Mystical and elusive. The Magic you felt with the vinyl in your hands is suddenly and unexpectedly printed on a ticket in your hand. The Live experience of a Hawkwind show is life-changing musically, and the events that happen before during, and after with your audience brotherhood can sometimes be even more worth the price of admission. You are entering the Twilight Zone. Anything can happen and often does. The finest works of fiction pale in comparison to the realities you are invited into.
As has often been the case with me a sudden passing glance through a newspaper or drive past a venue will set something in motion you never forget.
A Very small advertisement in print only said “Stache’s and Little Brothers present “Nik Turner’s Hawkwind” Tonight. Telephone, Ring Ring “Don? Jimmy, Nik Turner is in a bar on campus tonight. I’m coming to your house now see you in an hour.”
On a bitter cold Early February night in 1994 with some of the world-famous Ohio Black Ice on the Roads, we land in a place known for its Underground music not much Bigger than your local pub anywhere. The Place where you can smell the stale beer and the writings is not just confined to the bathroom wall. This we knew would be Very Special, but how special was not on our Radar just yet.
We found a projection screen behind the Drumkit and These Large “GREEN” Amps on stage and were about to see instant Madness and be converted to a Band we had never heard of. That Band was called “SLEEP”. Images of outer space were now rolling and Three Weathered young men came onto the stage with no words. They Unleashed Part of a future song called “Dopesmoker” and I literally would have to say they were the Loudest Band I have heard to this day. DOOM, Sabbath, Chanted vocals, and unrelenting power. The Perfect Choice to Open on a Nik Tour. I have been to two other Sleep shows and hope to see more post-Covid. They are their own Animal, a three-headed Beast.
Now comes The time. The Thing we thought not possible and Luckily for us a small crowd as we are within a few feet of History. Black Clad bodysuit with dayglo symbols painted on it, the Half Dreadlock Half Unicorn hair and Painted Dayglo visor is RIGHT THERE. I Immediately realize as the sounds of “Ejection” are crashing through us that he can not see us. He’s seeing the colors Painted on his Visor and is illuminated by Black Lights. He Breaks into the first Saxophone exploration while I’m processing all this and realize Del Dettmar is playing a double bit AXE with a pickup and one String. I don’t mean the terminology of a guitar is an axe. I mean he’s GOT AN AXE! The good Dr. Don and I are calling to each other predictions of the songs and we are getting them. Most Hawkwind Classics and some Inner City Units gems as well. Fun is not the word. Amazement sells it short.
Then …I find the Truth of the statement “There’s One in Every Crowd.”
The Good Dr. is very animated and having more fun than anyone. This is his general nature. It is not a bother to anyone..except “The Jock”. This guy was most likely a football player in high school, and is now an out-of-shape balding Certified Public accountant with a psychopathic wife and a mortgage and Car payment beyond his means and is miserable and locks himself in the bedroom closet and cries secretly. He has no interest in this music and has come out of trouble. I am 22 years old and in my prime. I have a history of being very passive and nonconfrontational. This is all about to change. I feel a tap on my shoulder and turn around and am told by “The Jock” “Tell your buddy to settle down”. I smile and say nothing and turn back to watch the band. Tap Tap again “I told you to tell him to calm down.” “Well man ya see it’s like this, we are having fun tonight with the exception of you. That man does nothing but work and he is going to continue to enjoy himself come to Hell or High Water.”
I take the short trip to get another bottle of beer, one because I liked beer and two this might escalate and since I can’t get Del’s woodchopper I need something to steady the nerves and also double as a tool should it be needed. 3rd tap on the shoulder and I didn’t even blink, I turn and look him dead in the eyes and issue the proclamation” I’m DONE with you. IF you open your mouth I’m going to bash your skull in and then throw your washed-up ass out the front door and into oncoming traffic….Have we now reached an understanding that you are 30 seconds from death if you don’t make yourself disappear from my world?” Problem solved. Still in the Books as one of the best musical moments in life. In the passing days, I thought well that kinda thing will never happen again. Not so.
Fast forward to 1995 I am Getting Married and see that Dave Brock’s version of Hawkwind is Playing Cleveland Ohio that week. This is another Miracle because I not only can see this group, I know the promoter and after a quick call, we are not only going to the gig at the Agora but backstage before the show. For reason’s unknown the band meet and Greet was only attended by Bassist Alan Davey so a brief one-sided conversation ensued. I was the only one speaking as if I was being looked through not looked at. Psychedelics? Well no, no not in that band. Regardless Brock, Davey, Richard Chadwick, and new member frontman Ron Tree put on a concert that could only be described as perfect, Solar light show was perfectly chosen to work that tour and after a 3 hour Drive home I am again thinking “well that was another once in a lifetime.” My First Wife and I are married a few days later and off on our own.. Not quite finding exactly what we wanted to do I half-jokingly said “Hawkwind is in Chicago tomorrow night.” She replied, “I have an aunt very close outside Chicago I’d love to see, Let’s do it.” Hawkwind Honeymoon. Park West we are on the way.
This was to be not only a chance to really get in the zone of the band, and pay closer attention to detail about How they worked as a unit. It was also a collection of experiences and a study in human behavior. Earlier that day I was being physically thrown out of the Sears Tower and into it with a Police officer, not because I did anything because this was the moment the Oklahoma City Bombing happened and he wasn’t making himself clear enough. I avoided arrest because of his behavior, not mine.
There was some question would this show still happen? So we decided to eat and then survey the situation at the Venue. April 19th was a tragic day but in Chicago, the sun was shining and the freaks were gathering in the queue. Then we met our new friends for an hour. They stepped up in line behind us and they were the odd couple for sure. Picture Jim Martin from the band “Faith No More” and you have the visual on the husband. Almost 7 ft tall, Motorhead Tattoo on his forearm, Crazy eyes.
He is doing the Speedfreak boogie armed with a 5th of Jack Daniels and his wife was roughly 5 ft tall and had to have been on enough downers to kill a horse, Recall the Girl from the film “Up in Smoke” and this is fairly accurate visually and in speech. They were actually very cool people. We had timed it that the Police officer took approximately 5 mins to survey the crowd by walking completely around the building, so Jim Martin and I passed the Jack back and forth and had some botanical amusement on the sly about every four minutes. The conversation was about being newlyweds with Lady Jim Martin saying” Maaaan thaaaaaat is soooooo coooool, Yerrrrrrr from mmmm Ohiooooooo?????” Meanwhile he at 173 miles per hour “Have you gone to the petting zoo? No? Oh, God-man. Tell ya what we’ll take you tomorrow because YOU HAVE TO GO TO THE PETTING ZOOOOOOO!”” PETTING ZOOOOOOO!!!
No folks you can’t make this stuff up. The Line progresses and we are moving into the Hall And we thought …ok they are gone now, as pleasant as they were, it got to be a little much.
WRONG. Hey, have the seats right next to us with 2 empty seats being our distance. What we did not know was this reunion was to be short-lived, as they had made a plan and were going to achieve this plan no matter the cost. Hawkwind takes the stage in all their Glory once again and erupts in “Master of the Universe” song one. I get elbowed by my wife and told to look to our right.
Their plan became clear to me and they were fully involved. You see the plan was to shall we say “Have Relations” and peak during the heights of the chaos of this song. Well, It’s ironic that I’ve been under Psychiatric care ever since, and they would have achieved this mission were it not for the 2 Chicago Police officers who proceeded to Drag them by the hair out of the building and had no interest in collecting their clothes. Yet another Hawkwind classic show with bonus features and now we left downhearted only in that the Petting Zoo was not meant to be.
I finally met Nik Turner in Cullman, Alabama in 2003 after asking the Promoter if I traveled 500 miles would he make that happen. Nik and I have been friends since that evening and The last time we spoke face to face was during the “Space Gypsy Tour” at Cleveland’s Beachland Ballroom in 2013. Always a Gentleman to me.
There has been the same division as Roger Waters and Pink Floyd with Syd Barret, Brock on one side and Nik on the other for a considerable period. I hate to see this but I also respect both of their Reasons and Visions and I hope the prevailing thought of fans is that we all have had a great gift, so many of us it’s been a large part of our Lives.
Any incarnation of The band is of Value and those of us who have been lucky to see any of it are fortunate for it. There is nothing like that music, those songs especially live in the moment. The Best part is it is still ongoing, the legacy is still open-ended and active which I will explore in the final part of this series. To be continued…….