Rychard Carrington reports on Hawkwind and The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown – The Junction, Cambridge, 10 December 2009

Hawkwind and Arthur Brown – The Junction 1, Cambridge


The gig commenced very excitingly indeed. Three men came on, one in a leopard skin suit, one in a shiny gold Elvis suit, one dressed as a mummy with covered up head. There was a Wizard Of Oz feel to the trio. The stage was kept dark, but a tiny light came out from what appeared to be the mummy’s mouth. A rhythm was struck up, and the mummy started singing an upbeat, dramatically strange version of Bob Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall. Far out or what?


The lights went on, the mummy undressed, and lo and behold it was Arthur Brown. In face paint and gaudy costume – he regularly undressed, to reveal more gaudy costume underneath - he looks much as he did in 1968 (although he looked old then). In fact he remains impressively faithful to his persona of that time, while his able cohorts recreated the distinctive organ-driven sound most impressively. Brown is one of those slightly eccentric artists who toys knowingly with the ridiculous: a crazy fool, but actually a very knowing one. Spontaneous Apple Creation, I Put A Spell On You and Fire each featured, but all numbers were strong. Away from the limelight – or rather the firelight – Brown has been quietly doing his own thing for decades. He’s still doing it remarkably well. Bravo!


You might have thought that Hawkwind would have had sufficient of space by now, but not at all. Throughout their set a back projection showed science-fiction images, while the two dancers wore some very fetching cosmic costumes: angels of death, space mermaids on stilts, etc. In fact it was an odd spectacle visually: groovy young female dancers and ageing hairy biker-type men, with planets and spaceships and whatnot in the background. Musically too, be reassured, it’s the same old Hawkwind. The same cosmic heavy rock: that hypnotic, energised, dark but ultimately uplifting sound, flowing through the set, making the actual set list less significant - it was all just Hawkwind in full flight. Silver Machine got performed early on; it was no better and no worse than any of the other tracks. (The encores were Masters Of The Universe and Hashish, for the record.)


Drum patterns are crucial to the Hawkwind sound, and Richard Chadwick mastered them down to a tee. Jon Sevink added delicacy on violin, while Tim Blake was quietly magnificent on keyboards, and, especially, theremin (always an exciting instrument to see and hear being played live). Maybe a charismatic frontman (Arthur Brown, Arthur Brown!) would have helped. Dave Brock (guitarist, founder) didn’t appear to take a leading role, while vocal duties were passed around, as if in acknowledgement that none of the musicians are all that good in that capacity. There may be some resemblance to a comedy depiction of ageing rockers, but if you get into the groove it’s still a distinctive and triumphant freak-flag-flying experience. Hawkwind remain unique and special.


Writer: The Sensible World Of Rychard Carrington