Another strange year with another explosion of musical activity, reaching out in all directions. I bought “Fish Rising” by Steve Hillage and just for a while, I toyed with the idea of going fishing again – something I’d not done since I was about 8 years old. But then I remembered the ridiculously early mornings with my dad and brother, huddled under a soggy umbrella, sheltering from the lashing rain and eating cold bacon sandwiches. Fishing was not for me!
Despite the continuing love affair with all-things-Gong, my taste in music didn’t stop there. I regularly went to the City Hall in Sheffield to see everybody and anybody who was on. I saw Ian Hunter with my hero from a couple of years ago, Mick Ronson. They basically played bar-room Rhythm and Blues, though with “Slaughter On Tenth Avenue” I did get to hear that fabulous Ronson guitar sound. Others I went to watch were:
Uriah Heep – heavy rock – was a bit bored actually but grabbed a drum stick when the drummer threw it out at the end of the gig.
Gentle Giant – really clever prog-rock – lots of twiddle – too clinical for my liking.
Camel -they played “The Snow Goose” album. I loved the music and for the first time ever, was enthralled by the drummer who was a genuine musician. They also had a backdrop which at one point was supposed to show the snow goose flying gracefully but the roller kept getting stuck so the poor bird kind of jerked along instead!
Alice Cooper – mum and dad took my brother and I to Liverpool for that one – total theatre and great songs.
Lynyrd Skynyrd – good old Southern rhythm and blues with fantastic twin guitars. My brother had gone off to university by this time so I went on my own but arranged to meet up with friends in town. When I got off the bus I walked over to Snig Hill to meet them and there was another bus just pulling in. A group of long haired kids, whom I’d never seen before, got off and all it took was a look between us, a quick, “Are you going to see Lynyrd Skynyrd?” and off we went together. Us “hairies” were still a minority and there was a natural camaraderie.
Into this melting pot of musical styles came Hawkwind. I remembered the single “Silver Machine” from a few years before and was vaguely aware that they were still around but I’d never bought anything of theirs. In the run up to our ‘O’ Levels we were occasionally given exam study leave and were allowed to go home if it was an afternoon session. On one particular afternoon, David Pickles said we could go to his house as his mum was out at work. He lived off Ecclesall Road in a very Bohemian type of house. His dad was an actor who lived in London and had been in an episode of Coronation Street once (knocked down by a bus I think!) so was very nearly famous, and his mum did lots of arty stuff. They had a three storey house that had a country-style kitchen with a stone floor, a huge wooden table in the middle and dried flowers hanging up over the Aga. It was completely different from anything I’d ever been used to. We had a cup of tea, smoked some banana skin joints (his mum smoked so wouldn’t have noticed the smell) then went to his room to listen to “Space Ritual”. The album had been out for a couple of years already but he’d only just got it and I’d not heard it.
Everything about it was a shock to the system! The front cover had a colourful, Art Deco style painting of a nude woman surrounded by spaced-out, aggressive images whilst the rest of it folded out showing blurred photos of the apparently drug-crazed band playing live. The music was loud, fast and apocalyptic, the fuzzed up bass and pounding drums sounding like nothing else I’d heard before. The ethereal, spacey moments like the beginning of “Seven by Seven” by turns gave way to the sonic attack of tracks like “Orgone Accumulator” and “Master of The Universe”. This felt like the dark side of hippiedom, in some ways completely at odds with Gong, but in other ways fitting perfectly. That afternoon I understood: light and shade, violence and peace, Yin and Yang.