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Hawkwind in the 70s October 31, 2020

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This from the author of the new Days of the Underground book on Hawkwind compiles all the footage of Hawkwind from the 1970s. Stand out moments, surely Robert Calvert singing Quark Strangeness and Charm on Marc Bolan’s show.

Hawkwind… October 31, 2020

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Sometime in the very early 1980s I was having a conversation with the friend of a friend about music. I mentioned that I liked Hawkwind which drew a response along the lines ‘they just sound like Pink Floyd’.

Did they really sound like Pink Floyd? Possibly so on a number of tracks in the early 1980s (most clearly to my mind on the album Levitation where Ginger Baker was on drums). But their approach, energy and so on was quite different to Floyd (a band I’m not overly fond of to be honest).

I’ve long argued, and rockroots too, that the Ladbroke Grove scene of the early 1970s which included Hawkwind, the Pink Fairies and others was a much more radical proposition than many of its contemporaries, so it is good to read this in the Guardian (which SonofStan picked up on too)…news of a new book (the first edition sold out in the blink of an eye, I’m waiting to see when the second arrives)…

This is Hawkwind in all their scuzzy, interstellar glory, the underground’s biggest band promoting their new single – less than a year later, and with a million copies of it sold, they’ll be headlining Wembley. It tends to be forgotten just how big this band of west London renegades were in the 1970s, playing to audiences of thousands wherever they went. They’re misremembered now, and were often misrepresented at the time, but as I discovered when writing a book about them, Hawkwind’s story amounts to an alternative narrative for 70s music culture – very different to the one that’s lazily trotted out by scene historians.

The idea they were hippies was understandable but incorrect:

a quick listen to their legendary 1973 live album Space Ritual should immediately disabuse anybody of that notion, a ferocious torrent of noise and “a black fucking nightmare” (as Lemmy, the man who sang Silver Machine, memorably put it), where Hawkwind channel the paranoid, apocalyptic vibe of the 70s more convincingly than any of their contemporaries.

In part because they had a fascination with the future.

In fact, while prog rock bands such as Emerson, Lake & Palmer thought they were reinventing popular music by aligning it more closely with the classical canon, Hawkwind were genuinely future-facing and completely unbothered by ideas of tradition or authenticity. Michael Moorcock, the firebrand science-fiction author who often appeared with the band, described them as “barbarians with electronics”, unafraid of technology and what it could do. We wouldn’t bat an eyelid these days at a band that featured avowed “non-musicians”, but Hawkwind’s lack of interest in virtuosity irked the music press, who routinely criticised them for “bashing their riffs around for several minutes on end with no appreciable textural variation” (per the NME).

Across a career where they’ve released 33 studio albums, 11 live albums proper (none of which I’ve listened to), and a raft of compilations, around 34 albums of unissued archive materials, live cuts and so on plus sundry others they’ve been great, good, bad and indifferent in varying measures, often on the same album – unfortunately at times within the same song.

But somehow the mixture of guitars, electronica (though we surely didn’t call it that back in the day), punk, heavy rock and so on has remained – well… potent (indeed mentioned them in This Weekend some time back).

Now largely forgotten are their links with motorik and new wave, more well known is their proto-punk aspect (it helped that Lemmy sang and played bass with them prior to starting Motorhead) and clearly there’s the way in which they easily aligned with rave culture, adopting elements of trance to their sound, albeit for a band who reveled in electronica almost from the off that was no great ask. In 1989 Bridget Wishart came onboard as lead vocalist for a couple of years. As to their concerns, well spacerock is an all embracing sort of an area, but with a lyrical focus on science fiction, particularly new wave science fiction of the 1960s and after no surprise that they would tap Ballard amongst others. Or that – as noted here – the Cold War would feature prominently. But then this is a band so wedded to ‘free festivals’ being free that…

Ironically, Hawkwind’s commitment to playing free festivals made it difficult for them to reconcile with the fact that Glastonbury was now a paying one, so while they did appear in later years, they did so unofficially, playing for free in the “travellers’ field” (Clerk, 2004, p. 241). Clearly though, these aspects of their performing career can be set against the backdrop of the Cold War, and serve to highlight the interaction between popular culture and then-current concerns.

There was also an interesting class aspect – this from the Guardian article:

The press also characterised the band’s audience as dyed in the wool hippies “replete with grubby Afghan jackets”, said Melody Maker – but they couldn’t have been more wrong. While there would certainly be plenty of greatcoats at their gigs, Hawkwind’s core fanbase were young working-class men, unimpressed by the pseudo-classicism of prog and bored by rock elders such as the Stones and the Who. They came to experience something they couldn’t get anywhere else.

With a range of people in their orbit – indeed practically in the band, including Michael Moorcock and Barney Bubbles (whose influence on New Wave and post-punk design only became appreciated in the last decade more widely) and a changing line-up that saw people like Nik Turner, Robert Calvert and others leave and return and leave and return but which somehow managed to keep them invigorated it’s hardly surprising that they had an influence well beyond their supposed comfort zone. Read John Robb’s oral history of British punk and it’s remarkable how often their name crops up.

With their mood of anarchic possibility, Hawkwind gigs were a breeding ground for young punks everywhere, those “dedicated teenagers” coming of age and striking out on their own. John Lydon was a regular presence at their gigs in the early 70s, and was taken under Calvert’s wing at the height of Sex Pistols mania, with the self-proclaimed antichrist attending the singer’s wedding reception. Coming out of the same Ladbroke Grove milieu, Joe Strummer and Mick Jones of the Clash had grown up in Hawkwind’s world, while Brian James and Captain Sensible of the Damned were also fans.

And;

It wasn’t just the noise of Hawkwind that excited and inspired this new generation – though Dave Brock’s distinctive choppy guitar style certainly influenced them – but their attitude as well. Hawkwind showed that you didn’t have to play by the rules of the music industry; you really could do it yourself. As Joy Division and New Order’s Stephen Morris has said: “Punk rock started because in every small town there was somebody who liked Hawkwind.” Rather than just a footnote in the history of punk, Hawkwind are an integral part of its creation story.

There’s an eco-system around them that includes a range of bands like Hawklords, Nik Turner’s various vehicles and so on. Relations between the various camps isn’t necessarily a tribute to peace and love and understanding, though Hawklords and Turner get on well together. Then again across half a century that’s to be expected. But then I doubt back in the early 80s that I ever envisaged a situation in the second decade of the twenty-first century that they and those in that eco-sphere would still be releasing albums…

This Weekend I’ll Mostly be Listening to… Hawkwind Light Orchestra – Carnivorous October 31, 2020

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Carnivorous, coronavirus…Released this month, the same month, practically the same weekend, I arrived in my mid-50s was this, Hawkwind spin-off – or more accurately pared down version of Hawkwind – Hawkwind Light Orchestra. Comprising of three members of the current incarnation of Hawkwind – Dave Brock, drummer Richard Chadwick and various instruments played by Magnus Martinthis is their second album. More on Hawkwind in another post later today, but fair to say that if you like Hawkwind you will probably like this quite a lot and if you don’t your probably won’t. To my ears HLO is actually a slightly harder edged proposition than the main group – but that is purely a subjective opinion. It is, as might be expected, a mix of somewhat motorik inflected heavy rock, ambient soundscapes, electronica – some samples well deployed, and pretty much everything that Hawkwind and various adjacent groups have been offering, arguably since their first outing in 1969. The production and sound is oddly smeared, which I kind of like – there’s a looseness to it. And needless to say there’s a Sonic Attack style track too in the shape of Lockdown (Keep Calm) which while hyperbolic is entertaining.

With a title referencing coronavirus the album touches on that amongst other issues – veganism, overpopulation, ecological and societal collapse, though in quite a deft way. Music for the times we’re in.

Some other tracks from their previous album here too – Stellar Variations from 2013 which has a more techno/rock/trance orientation (and on “4 legs good, 2 legs bad” sound uncannily like Shriekback in parts)…

Signs of Hope – A continuing series October 30, 2020

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Gewerkschaftler suggested this recently:

I suggest this blog should have a regular (weekly) slot where people can post happenings at the personal or political level that gives them hope that we’re perhaps not going to hell in a handbasket as quickly as we thought. Or as the phlegmatic Germans put it “hope dies last”.

Any contributions this week?

A general strike in the US? October 30, 2020

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Seems inconceivable and yet…

US unions have begun discussing the idea of a general strike if Donald Trump refuses to accept an election results showing a Joe Biden victory. Such a move would be unprecedented in the modern era. There has not been a general strike in the United States since 1946 – and that was restricted to Oakland, California.

Does it seem likely that Trump would really refuse to accept such an outcome? Or more significantly, would the apparatus around government allow that to occur?

Campaigning in populism, governing in the right of centre… October 30, 2020

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Andy Beckett has an useful overview of contemporary right populism. And one key point that needs to be stated time and again:

Having claimed to represent the people against the elite, populism also loses some of its credibility and vitality when populist premiers create their own versions of the establishment. The always-centralising, often complacent governments led by Trump and Boris Johnson look ever less like insurgencies and more like circles of cronies. They’ve made populism feel less novel and iconoclastic by pursuing traditional rightwing policies, such as outsourcing state functions to corporations and cutting taxes for the rich.

Pick example after example of right populists and it is remarkable how they conform to the nostrums of the right when in government. Of course the clue is in the name some may say, but the scattergun approach of populists, particularly in the way they pitch themselves as being different to previously existing formations and sections of the right, does point up a contradiction in their approach.

Perhaps this reality may bring home to those who place their trust in such quarters that such populisms of the right are – quite literally – business as usual with little or no deviation in that respect from previous approaches. Indeed the key difference could be said to be rhetoric, even in government. But that, as Beckett notes, only takes one so far.

Having been in government and in some instances failed abysmally in areas as basic as health and security of citizens then the gap between rhetoric and reality is quite clear. Which is not to say that right populism’s moment is over. Perhaps Trump will win another term, the course of events in the UK has yet to be determined and there are others near and far.

But as Beckett notes, populism has, in a sense, entered its own middle-age. And that must make for some differences ahead.

More that divides them October 30, 2020

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A most insightful post on 538 about the divisions within the major US political parties can be found here. Two polls, one by the NYT and one by PRRI offer information that suggests the Republicans in particular are divided by the present political dispensation, and sharply so too. To the extent that one has to wonder why they continue as a bloc to support Trump. The PRRI findings can be found here, but here’s a few selections.

Impact of Trump’s Behavior

More than six in ten Americans (63%) believe that Trump has damaged the dignity of the pres-idency, including 27% of Republicans, 68% of independents, and 89% of Democrats. This rep-resents a decrease from the 69% who agreed with this statement in 2018. Republicans who most trust Fox News (9%) are much less likely than those who trust another source most (38%) to agree. More than one in four Americans who plan to vote for Trump (28%) say he has damaged the dignity of the presidency. Almost nine in ten of those who plan to vote for Joe Biden (89%) agree. White evangelical Protestants are the least likely among religious groups to say that Trump has damaged the dignity of the presidency. Just over one-third of this group (36%) agree, and even fewer white evangelical Protestants who identify as Republicans (20%) think Trump has harmed the office of the presidency. Majorities of every other religious group say the current president has indeed damaged the dignity of the office.

And:

More than two-thirds of Americans (68%) wish Trump’s speech and behavior were consistent with those of previous presidents, similar to 2018 (69%) and slightly lower than in 2019 (73%). The par-tisan divide is still wide, but it is notable that close to half of Republicans (46%) wish that Trump would act more like his predecessors. Large majorities of independents (72%) and Democrats (84%) agree. Republicans have become less likely to say this than they were in 2018 (57%). Demo-crats and independents have held steady over time.

And:

A majority of Americans (57%) say Trump’s decisions and behavior as president have encouraged white supremacist groups. This is mostly unchanged since 2019 (57%) and 2018 (54%). A small percentage (7%) say Trump has discouraged white supremacist groups, and 35% say his actions have had no impact either way. Opinions among partisans have been stable on this question. Less than one in five Republicans (18%) say Trump’s behavior has encouraged white supremacist groups, compared to 59% of inde-pendents and 88% of Democrats. Republicans who trust a non–Fox News source most are much more likely than those who trust Fox News most to say Trump has encouraged white supremacist groups (28% vs. 3%). White evangelical Protestants stand out again. Only one in four say Trump has encouraged white supremacist groups (26%), compared to 44% of Hispanic Protestants, 45% of white mainline Prot-estants, and 49% of white Catholics. All other religious groups have majorities who say Trump has encouraged white supremacist groups.

This perhaps is most telling:

Trump vs. Biden Authoritarianism and Moral Character:

What Americans Want to See in Their LeadersA sizable minority of Americans still agree with the statement “Because things have gotten so far off track in this country, we need a leader who is willing to break some rules if that’s what it takes to set things right.” More than four in ten mostly or completely agree with the statement (44%), while a majority disagree (55%). These numbers are unchanged from 2016 and 2017. Similar to 2016 and 2017, a majority of Republicans (57%) mostly or strongly agree that we need a leader willing to break some rules, compared to 43% of independents and 36% of Democrats. Republi-cans who trust Fox News most (55%) are not significantly less likely than non–Fox News Republi-cans (60%) to agree with the statement. Similarly, white evangelical Protestant Republicans (55%) are not significantly less likely than other Republicans (59%) to agree.


There’s a lot more. Well worth a read.

The most radical of them all… October 29, 2020

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The Examiner has a piece on a former Minister’s account of the last Cabinet. That would be Shane Ross. Who writes…

The deep dysfunction at the heart of the Kenny Government is laid bare in the book and Mr Ross recounts telling Mr McGrath on their way into their first Cabinet meeting “that you and I are probably propping up the most conservative government in the history of the State”.

And:

“Looking around the table was a sobering experience. The gang in the room contained not a single radical voice. It was a mixture of dyed-in-the-wool Fine Gael families, teachers, privately educated prima donnas and the odd farmer,” he writes.

And;

“Over his 40 years in the Dáil, Enda Kenny had never rocked a single boat. He was instinctively on the conservative wing of the party. His father had been a close friend and political ally of Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave, a man whose views were always on the right of the political spectrum,” he adds.

Apparently:

He said they needed to make up their minds quickly whether we would be Trojan horses in this political coalition or converts to conservatism. It was not a dilemma they ever really sorted out.

Well there’s a surprise…


Apparently FG are none too pleased with the memoir being published.

File under: you’ve got to wonder… October 29, 2020

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…about the thought processes of someone who could do this.

Tory MP Ben Bradley, who this week voted against extending free school meals for deprived children during the holidays until Easter 2021, said the since-deleted post had been taken out of context In it, he wrote: “At one school in Mansfield 75% of kids have a social worker, 25% of parents are illiterate. Their estate is the centre of the area’s crime. “One kid lives in a crack den, another in a brothel. These are the kids that most need our help, extending FSM doesn’t reach these kids.”

And:

Bradley then replied to a tweet in which another user said “£20 cash direct to a crack den and brothel really sounds like way forward with this one”, writing: “That’s what FSM vouchers in the summer effectively did …”

Yeah. Because they’re so clearly linked.

Not unconnected a straw in the wind about sentiment in the ‘new’ Tory leaning working class constituencies…for example one person who voted Tory last time around notes:

“They don’t seem to understand the difficulties people like myself have,” she said, adding that she had also been dismayed that the party had rejected a motion to continue offering free school meals during holidays until Easter 2021. “We got the vouchers in the summer, it was a real help.”

And:

The “red wall” constituency of Heywood and Middleton was one of dozens of formerly safe Labour seats across the Midlands and the north to turn blue in the last election – returning a majority of just 663 for the Conservative MP Chris Clarkson.But with the standoff between northern leaders and the government over the financial support available for areas under coronavirus restrictions, and the row over extending the availability of free school meals, some have begun to wonder how long the party’s newfound support will last.

If the likes of Bradley keep going, not long is the answer.

That latest SBP/RedC poll October 29, 2020

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In a way the latest poll landed with little or no fuss. And why would there be? One could run the observations on the last poll almost verbatim and they would apply just as well.

FG 37 +2

SF 27 NC

FF 11 +1

IND 8 -2

GP 6 NC

SD 3 -1

LP 2 NC

SOL-PBP 2 NC

AONTU 2 NC

OTHER PARTIES 1%

Okay, that FG figure is reaching up to 40%. Could they do it? Difficult to say.
But even that 2% for FG is fairly marginal. Still, the continuingly grim ratings for FF are something else. As noted in the SBP, there was a budget and it had no effect at all. Then again stability makes sense in that there’s a greater and at least partly existential issue of the day.

The figures on FF’s vote and where it has gone since February 2020 (a different age – eh?) points to a quarter going to FG, 18% undecided, 13% to SF and 7% split almost equally between other parties and Inds. I was surprised at that 3% for Inds and then it struck me that those who would vote for Inds had largely already left FF and were supporting them already.

As to the 18%, as noted in comments, there’s going to be some battle over them and where they go, whether back to FF, on to FG or to SF or parts elsewhere.

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