black and white image, of lady with frequency coming out of ear
Health & Safety

Hawkwind – Thirty Years and Counting

Hawkwind – Thirty Years and Counting

I went to see Hawkwind when I was a teenager. The “Choose Your Masques” tour.

Some of you will remember Hawkwind. They were notoriously loud in concert. Lemmy of Motorhead fame used to be their bass player; but that was way before I went to see them.

I was half way up the stalls in the Southampton Gaumont. It was so loud that my guts vibrated in harmony with the band. That’s not a pleasant feeling.

When we came out after the concert my head felt as if it had been stuffed with cotton wool. I had very loud mosquitoes buzzing in each ear and when my mates spoke it sounded as if I was hearing them down a long tube made of thick cardboard. Very muffled.

“My God”; I remember thinking, “I’ve shot my hearing.”

But everyone reassured me that it was always like this.

Next morning when I woke up; same mosquitoes, not as insistent, but still there. Voices clearer, still a bit muffled, still some cotton wool in the head and the cardboard tube effect.

The following morning, 36 hours after the concert, all back to normal. No mosquitoes, no cotton wool and no cardboard tube.

Many of you will recognise the symptoms that I have just described to you. And those NEBOSH Diploma Unit B students amongst you will immediately be thinking of Temporary Threshold Shift. The temporary reduction in hearing sensitivity that accompanies exposure to a very loud noise.

Go to enough Hawkwind concerts without allowing adequate recovery periods in-between and you get Permanent Threshold Shift. Which as the name suggest is a permanent reduction in hearing sensitivity. If this occurs as a result of exposure to loud noise then the formal diagnosis is likely to be one of Noise Induced Hearing Loss. Put that in Google and see how many personally injury claims adverts you get. Other browsers are available.

There are plenty of musicians out there who have impaired hearing. Pete Townshend is the first that springs to mind. All four member of The Who suffer from hearing loss. Phil Collins, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, there must be hundreds of rock musicians past and present who have tinnitus or hearing loss. Lemmy has it too, but that hardly surprising. He invented loud.

Unfortunately for the former members of Hawkwind (and this is a band that likes to change it line-up) there was no help or advice for musicians out there back in the 70s and 80s. There is now. And more than that, there is legislation in the form of the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. These regulations apply in the music and entertainment sector just as they do in a factory or on a construction site. Take a look at Sound Advice.

Hawkwind are still around and they still tour. But I never saw them again. They did my head in. I must have suffered hallucinations. I don’t know if it was the noise or the lager, but I had the strangest memories in my head after that concert ….The lead singer on roller skates dressed in a skin tight suit chasing a blue naked dancer around the stage and goosing her with a saxophone….

Then last year I watched a BBC documentary about Hawkwind and there he was; Nik Turner, on his skates, in his suit, in all his glory.

I’ll get my space-rock fix from Muse now thank you very much Nik.

Jim Phelpstead
Jim Phelpstead

Jim Phelpstead BSc, PhD, CMIOSH

Working in health and safety for 18 years Jim is a long-standing RRC Associate Tutor, who loves the great outdoors.

One Comment

  • Carthage

    Hawkwind produced some pretty awesome music. I used to think that disturbed hearing was a sign of a good gig until I met my mate Stephen, who goes to 200+ gis per year. He told me how he always wears earplugs to help prevent damage from all the noise. I thought it was ridiculous at first but when I gave it a try, I was able to enjoy the gig without suffering the hearing issues.

    It is good to see people warning of the dangers of excessive exposure to loud music.