Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

The Greatest Crossover Event In The History Of The Innertubes

I know what you want, Enthusiasts. I know what you crave. Deep down inside, in parts of you that you don’t show to strangers, buried under that memories of what that optometrist did to you with the frozen hot dog. I know you, motherfuckers

You want a Hawkwind story from Corry342 over at the indispensable Lost Live Dead (featuring a special appearance from the Time Sheath!)

Back in 1978, it was easier to read about music then hear it. You could read Rolling Stone or other magazines and they would have record reviews and stuff, but for obscure music, if you didn’t actually know anyone who had an album, and it wasn’t played on the radio, it was just a mystery. I knew about Hawkwind, because I had read about them, but in fact had never heard them.
I had bought an album for 50 cents at a used record store for reasons I forget, called Sea Shanties, by High Tide. It was loud and very strange. That was good enough for us. High Tide had an electric violinist named Simon House. Back in the day, you had to memorize backs of albums, so that if anyone turned up on another album, it was a breadcrumb to indicate possible interest, since it was never going to be played, and you had to guess that a record might be worth buying. This was particularly true of English bands, you couldn’t ask someone in Berkeley  “have you ever seen the Keef Hartley Band?” because they hadn’t.
In 1978 I was in college with no money and no car. My best friend had a car (also, sadly, a job) but he lived in another town. So in order to do things, we needed to plan, with our meager funds and difficult logistics.  In 1977, Hawkwind had released an album called Quark, Strangeness and Charm. A few songs were even played on the local FM station, KSAN (for those keeping score at home, the songs were the title track and “Spirit Of The Age”). They sounded pretty good.
I looked at the record in a Berkeley record store–I couldn’t afford to buy it, it was about 178th on my list of vitally needed records and remember, I had no money–and I noticed that Simon House was on the album. This was a sort of benediction.
Come March of 1978, and Hawkwind are touring the States. They would be playing the Old Waldorf in San Francisco on the weekend of March 27-28. I persuaded my Friend that we had to go to this, to see the mysterious Hawkwind and the intriguing Simon House. Friend was All In. He would drive up to Berkeley and we would go over to SF. The Old Waldorf was the “upscale” rock club, with intimidatingly pretty waitresses and a 2-drink minimum. More importantly, it was a (faux) restaurant, so you could get in without a fake id if you would just buy expensive soft drinks. Seemed like a good deal.
I told my only College Friend who would care about such things, and he was super-excited (Hawkwind were just a rumor to him too), so Friend cheerily agreed to bring College Friend along for the ride. Good times. College Friend was from Fresno, and he had a hometown friend, whom we will call “Dave” (his name). Dave and College Friend (and College Friend’s brother) were the only people in Fresno who liked music that wasn’t Black Oak Arkansas (according to them), so Dave drove up from Fresno and met us. Better times.
Come the day. We got to the Old Waldorf early, because if you go to a show with me, I leave nothing to chance, and anyway I want to see every opening act. This night it was a Hayward, CA (possibly Fremont) called Nimbus who had been around for a while, as I had seen their name on newspaper listings. Of course I had never heard them, they didn’t even have a record and I wasn’t old enough to go to clubs.
OK, enthusiasts, it was different then. It’s true that Weed was cheaper in those days, and the $20 an ounce stuff was better than the $12 Mexican headache stuff from high school. But, honestly, we were in the unenlightened age. I wasn’t old enough to drink beer, so I had to settle for what was available (along with my expensive soft drink).
Fresno, California, however, as some of you may know, was an agricultural town. There were farms. They grew stuff. They knew how plants worked. Dave, it seems, had some friends, agricultural friends, who really knew how to grow things. My Friend and College Friend had each had a joint with them, I’m sure we smoked them on the way over the Bay Bridge. A nice little buzz.
As soon as the lights went out from Nimbus–this was 1978, remember everybody in the club is chain smoking cigarettes non-stop–everyone lights up a j.The etiquette was that you had to offer to share, that was how it worked. Dave graciously waved off Friend and College Friend’s offerings, and College Friend assured us “Dave has really good stuff.”
Knowing what I know now, it was like time travel. You know that killer curated home -grown that you had in about 1994? Here it was, 16 years earlier. We were not prepared. Friend and College Friend could just barely deal, but I had two hits and was melted down. I sort of remember Nimbus.
For music, I have a pretty digital memory. I can often remember musical events exactly as they happened from decades earlier, and I know I remembered them correctly because the tapes turned up. So my memory is good. Hawkwind? Not a clue, can’t tell you. The only thing I could recollect was that there was no electric violinist, so Simon House must not have been with the band. In fact, he had left Hawkwind (on good terms) to go tour with David Bowie. But it was 1978, this wasn’t reported, or anything, I only figured it out later from reading the backs of albums.
Hawkwind broke up after this tour, lead singer Bob Calvert left the band. Of course, they got back together again the year after, and have been breaking up and getting back together again ever since. I’ve even bought a few Hawkwind albums. I turned 21 in a little while, and then I could just drink beer, as intended, so I did not realize until the mid-90s that weed cultivation had finally caught up with Dave and the Fresno farmers.
My Friend got us home (no clue how), Dave got home too. My Friend is still my Friend, haven’t seen my College Friend since college, nor frankly Dave. I hope he’s well.
So to summarize, I saw Hawkwind in San Francisco on March 27 or 28 1978 but I can’t tell you anything about it, due to unanticipated Time Travel.

Never say I don’t take care of you.

8 Comments

  1. JES

    GASP!!

  2. JES

    (P.S. As the namer of the BLANGA . . . https://jericsmith.com/2012/05/07/blanga-the-story/ . . . I would enjoy Thoughts on Hawkwind EVEN MORE than Thoughts on Bad Co).

    (P.P.S. I suspect they have similar probabilities of occurence . . . .)

  3. MJK

    Tacitus, Herodotus, Corry 342. And not necessarily in that order, but I digress.

    • Corry342

      Extremely flattering. But no Thucydides in the sequence?

      • MJK

        Corry you deserve all the praise and then some. For guys like me who find this stuff endlessly entertaining the detail, knowledge and shear volume of the pieces you write are unrivaled by anything else that I’ve seen on the internet. These stories deserve to live on and be remembered for the important place in music history they belong. Well done sir. And Mr On the Dead, mazel tov for putting Corry’s work out there, and for all the great work you do as well.

  4. Tor Haxson

    Unlike Corey, I remember my 93 Hawkwind Show, “Nik Turner’s Hawkwind”
    Brock and Nick were suing each other over the name.

    I remember quite a bit of it, there was a knife pulled, I can still see it through the smoke and the strobe light.

    Like “Hey this is cool” …
    “that strobe light is disorienting” ……
    “Helios Creed day glo mustache is not really a great effect”……
    “Oh cool, he is playing an axe, literally an axe” …..
    “Oh shit that jerk who is pissing everyone off, just pulled out a knife”

    My suspicion of guys with Scorpion neck tattoos remains to this day, the guy murdered someone a few months later.

    More positive notes..
    Sleep opened, and they literally blew my mind..

  5. JES

    The guy with the axe would have been Del Dettmar, one of the synth players from the Space Ritual glory days. I love what Nik did with ICU and other projects in his own name, but hate his efforts to undermine the facts (legal and moral) that Brock’s Hawkwind will always be the real one . . . . New album “Carnivorous” just out this week, in fact. BLANGA on!

  6. corry342

    I linked my Friend to this post. Here’s his comment:
    “If I struggle, I vaguely recall a really bass-heavy sound, a cacophony of instruments, and lots of people on stage (which in those pre-Arcade Fire days meant “something more than five”). As a Michael Moorcock fan I knew about Hawkwind, and I think I even had one of their live albums by that point, but that evening is pretty blank.”
    So our memories fit together, to the extent that a pair of voids equal one larger void…

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