The Atomic Sunrise Festival, held at the Roundhouse between 9 and 15 March 1970, was the direct consequence of the murderous events at Altamont the previous December. The Grateful Dead not only pulled out of that gig: they also withdrew from a scheduled appearance at the Roundhouse . . . .
It is without question that it needs to be seen …
a documentary constructed around it would be incredible.
Not only did we look strange, but David’s music was quite complicated…
Early in 1970 a vacant date appeared in the Roundhouse calendar. The Grateful Dead had cancelled their whole week!
A replacement event was hurriedly organised. No. That sounds too ….. well, organised! Let’s say that the ingredients for enjoyment were hurriedly put in place. Liberal doses of Theatre and Music.
Each day, with a fresh audience and different bands, the event would grow anew.
Every day would see Theatrical ‘Happenings’ from the Living Theatre – punctuated by Music drawn mainly from the bands that played Implosion – a regular event at The Roundhouse.
So ‘The Grateful Dead’ would be replaced by ‘The Living Theatre’!
So it was that, on 11 March 1970, that David Bowie appeared with Hype – and went electric!
He’d only met Mick Ronson a few weeks previously – introduced by drummer John Cambridge. As you can see they immediately gelled as Ronson’s subtle electric guitar riffs complimented Bowie’s songs perfectly.
But, more than that. For some time, he’d also been planning a new image. Something to make him noticed. Stand out amongst the standard sea of denim. So he and Hype dressed as Superheroes – Rainbowman, Hypeman, Gangsterman, and Cowboyman. This would, indeed, be a notable occasion.
An unknown group called Genesis were the support band that day. This was the first ‘professional’ line up after escaping the confines of Jonathan King’s BeeGee’esque designs on them.
Their first gig, a few weeks earlier, had been a low key affair – so it was a surprise when Peter Gabriel took to the stage and strutted with the confidence of a young Mick Jagger, no one would guess that they were just out of school!
The maturity of the music is quite astounding too.
Atomic Sunrise also saw the arrival of Space Rock with Hawkwind and their extended, driving drum rhythms and those haunting, eerie sounds controlled from an electronic box of ticks.
The usual midrange of bass and lead guitars was augmented by free form squeals from the saxophone. This is the earliest and only footage of the first line up of Hawkwind. Don’t miss it!
By chance the cameras caught all three bands just as they had discovered the musical direction that led to success. Each had been holed up for about a year perfecting their sound – Bowie in Beckenham, Genesis near Guilford and Hawkwind around London’s Portobello Road.
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