SUBSTANTIALLY UPDATED: 8 May 2009
This is the strange and wonderful story of my bolero jacket - which connects the Beatles' Apple Boutique with Hawkwind.
I have journalist Paul Gorman and his wife Caz to thank in the first instance. As well as writing about Barney Bubbles [see previous post] and BB's connection with Hawkwind - who Paul had first seen and loved at an impressionable age - he has also produced another great book:
When I told him I had a special jacket which had been made for me when I was a dancer on the 1972 Hawkwind 'Space Ritual' tour he asked to see it. It is now enshrined on The Look blog in a picture story under the title: The Bolero Connection
It begins: 'THE LOOK brings you images of an extraordinary one-off jacket just loaded down with historic rock & roll fashion connections.'
How I came to be a dancer with Hawkwind is a long story. The band always assembled at the Frendz office in Portobello Road where I worked, before heading off for a gig, usually also going for a meal at the Mountain Grill, the local greasy spoon which kept us all alive at that time. Mike Moorcock lived round the corner and we were all pretty good mates. As I recall, at some Grove party I asked Nik if I could get involved in someway withe their upcoming tour and I think he suggested I could be a dancer. Who knows for sure. What I do remember is going for a rehearsal in Brixton and just leaping about the stage in a mad fashion. Some of the band raised their eyebrows but no-one objected and I was suddenly on board for what was one of their greatest tours.
The fullest account of that Hawkwind tour I can find on the web is 'Lost In Space' by Mick Wall, published in Classic Rock in November 2000.
A brief outline of the story behind the tour:
'By 1972, the band were without doubt breaking into bigger times. Hawkwind's performance at the 'Greasy Truckers Party', held at the famous Chalk Farm Roundhouse in London was confirmation of this'
In June, 'United Artists' released the single 'Silver Machine', which rose to number 3 in the national charts despite limited radio airplay. The money gained from the sales of the single enabled the band to tour Britain with a truly mind–blowing show that became known as 'The Space Ritual'.
'The whole show had been in formation for well over a year and saw the creative talents of Barney Bubbles, Johnathan Smeeton (alias Liquid Len), Robert Calvert, Michael Moorcock and a host of others hit a peak and develop a pure multi–media background for the Hawkwind musicians, who by now were Dave Brock, Nik Turner, Dik Mik, Del Dettmar, Stacia, Lemmy, Bob Calvert and Simon King.
'In May 1973, UA released the double album 'Space Ritual Alive', which came in a fabulous foldout sleeve designed by Barney Bubbles. The album contained almost 90 minutes of ultimate Hawkwind, heard as they should be – live. Acclaimed for being well ahead of their time, it was a slice of vinyl that combined rock music with theatre and to this day is still regarded as one of their most notable recordings.'
Few of the accounts of the tour note that there were two other dancers on-stage for at least some of the gigs - Renée La Ballistere and myself. According to an NME piece by Nick Kent, Renée had previously performed with Quicksilver Messenger Service (1966-68) followed by two years with the Jefferson Airplane. She lasted the whole tour I think while I only survived for seven gigs.
The tour ran from November 8th - December 23rd (according to the itinerary in my files) and the dates I danced at were Dunstable Civic Hall (Nov 9), Portsmouth Guildhall (Nov 11th), York University (Nov 16th), Lancaster University (Nov 17th), Leeds University (Nov 18th), Bristol Locarno (19th) and Norwich St Andrews Hall (21st).
My presence is noted in two clips in the archives. The first was published in The Snail, a Devon-based underground paper of the day, written by Peter Blake, the paper's founder and editor. In his slightly deranged account he records at the Portsmouth gig: 'A few new faces in the dressing-room, John of Frendz with velvet trousers ready to rip.'
Later in the piece, referring to a later stage in the tour, he writes, 'John may've sewn up his trousers, but still has hurting feet - (the male strobe dancer) the male strobe dancer ?? "Need to get a bit of bread together you see, new baby to pay for you know; it's something immediate to do; doing it NOW, instead of tomorrow; getting down to it."
Andrew Means wrote a live review of the Norwich show for Melody Maker (Dec 2, 1972) and recorded at the end: 'The dancing became the kingstone of the show - the neurotic activity of the male dancer, and the more expressive movementgs of Stacia and her blonde companion. It was fascinating to watch the three relate to each other, although perhaps it could have been better done if the suggestions incorporated had been planned and exploited more positively.'
My memories of the tour are jumbled. On the first gig, there was a massive crowd at Doncaster and too much adrenalin went to my head; remember jabbering away on the coach afterwards as if I was the star of the show - which I was certainly not.
I remember crossing the Pennines in the tour coach with Lemmy telling me his life story; when we stopped to stretch our legs, I remember buying a blanket for my newly-born son in a street market.
The tour bus broke down on the way from Leeds to Bristol, and we had to hire three taxis from Birmingham to Bristol, travelling in a high-speed convoy to the gig, arriving late, audience in a frenzy. The front of the stage was so low people were mobbing us.
As I recall, just before the Norwich gig, I persuaded one of the girls to drive me out to the village of Wacton so I could see my new baby and pick up my lady Tanya to come and see the show. We were late getting back and the band were not best pleased. That was the end of my short career on the road.
PS: Those interested in Hawkwind, Pink Fairies and the Deviants should pick up this copy of FUZ Issue 2 [Autumn 2000], sent to me by Jolly of Better Badges fame. Copies are still available here: