|Any Way The Wind Blows
Record Collector's May 2002 issue was a Hawkwind special and had them on the cover - as a result this was RC's best selling issue up to that point. Scanned copies of the article therein were to be found in a couple of places on the internet but have pretty much disappeared (one's still partially out there but takes forever to download). So here it is, OCR'd with some of the sidebars scanned, and the whole thing is spread across four pages, there's so much of it... The first bit, in cyan text, is an excerpt from the May 2002 editorial rather than the Hawkwind article proper.
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|When Hawkwind sang 'The Spirit Of The Age' in 1977, they ably demonstrated that pop music has always been at its best when reflecting the current trends and mores of world consciousness. In the 21st Century, mainstream pop seems largely concerned with hedonism, plus a little bit of ecology thrown in to ease the conscience. Post-September 11th, the world has started to sing about heroes and the right for freedom once again. In more innocent times back in the 60s and 70s outer space and the opportunities offered by space exploration, rather than the horrors of terrorism, seemed to be the ultimate challenge facing mankind. Back then, space was definitely the place, and the infinite vastness of the cosmos became a major obsession.
When Hawkwind first appeared in 1970, they were able to visit space frequently, thanks to their love of mind-bending substances and a shared youth that had eagerly absorbed all of these space references. And how far out did they go? About as far out as any major act ever did. They also enjoyed commercial success: a handful of chart albums, a Top 3 single smash with 'Silver Machine' (nestling between hits by Donny Osmond and Terry Dactyl & the Dinosaurs) and a lasting warm nostalgia that we tap into in our feature, recalling their glory years.
|According to space legend, some time around 1969, Hawkwind stocked up on illegal substances and embarked on a trip to the far-out regions of human consciousness. So zonked-out were they that they failed to notice that the 60s had ended, quite possibly believing themselves marooned on a spaceship somewhere in the spiral arm of the milky way.
As a consequence, they were still making space-rock long after their rivals had returned to earth (Pink Floyd had explored this territory several years earlier on tracks like 'Interstellar Overdrive' and 'Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun'). So while Hawkwind didn't exactly invent space rock, they can certainly claim to have taken it to its peak the totality of the Space Ritual show, the sci-fi artwork of their album covers, the collaboration with the very SF writers (such as Michael Moorcock) from whom their inspiration had been taken.
That famous 70s part work, The Story Of Pop, hit the nail squarely on the head when it stated that Hawkwind's albums are barely coherent celebrations of acid / space flight / time travelling / Marvel comics / UFO culture. Their live shows were loud, raucous assaults, that make full use of electronically generated sounds, pre-recorded tapes, light shows, and, of course, Stacia their amply endowed stripper. Like 'em or not, they're doin' a grand job and they're the only ones really doing it these days".
Hawkwind were enormous and 'really did it' in the days when a touring itinerary would take in the Rex Ballroom in Bognor, the Devizes Poperama, Swansea's Patti Pavilion and Southend-On-Sea's Kursaal. Hawkwind and their entourage which included Stacia, DJ Andy Dunkley and lightsman Liquid Len ensnared thousands of impressionable young men (and some exceptionally old hippies), uniting them with their spirit of adventure, noise terrorism and endlessly repetitive sonic workouts. It has been said that Hawkwind played gigs as though their lives depended on it. Their reputation for aligning them-selves to free festivals and the fringes of the avant-garde made them an extremely hot, yet altogether mysterious property.
|Their internal structure was both chaotic and cosmic, with breadheads and freaks mixing in with the good vibes to create a truly unique act. From 1969 to 1979 there were no fewer than 17 line-ups of the group. All things considered, Hawkwind's many crew-members were lucky to have landed in the 21st Century with their minds and bodies intact. Sometime singer, Bob Calvert late, great, died '88 was not so fortunate. Who's to say what part drugs played in his mental problems and untimely death from heart disease? Meanwhile, Dave Brock played the James T. Kirk figure on the starship Hawkwind, writing the majority of the songs and being the only member of the original cast to make it through to Hawkwind's final album of the 70s.
Hawkwind were never fashionable, then (and how can you tell if you're behind the times or ahead of them, when you're busy travelling through extra dimensions?). The production on their early albums was, shall we say, variable, even by the standards of the day, when such values were deemed unimportant. Furthermore, they were forever dispatching members into hyperspace and beaming up replacements. Calvert teleported in and out of the band, absent from some albums, and a ghostly presence elsewhere, but apparently in command on others. It all sounds unpromising, but somehow Captain Brock held everything together, recording some notable victories along the way.
Here we chart Hawkwind's nine-year voyage through the alternative universe of 70s space-rock. Though the 'Wind have continued on-and-off to hawk their wares, the 70s will forever be their golden age and the legacy of that time still lives on today. Their influence was arguably one of the most obvious of all prog bands on the punk explosion of '76/77. Although punk's songs were undeniably shorter, the sonic punch was exactly the same. Though they may not be aware of it (or care to admit to it), later stylists such as Bauhaus, Joy Division, the Fall, the Cure, Spiritualized, Regular Fries and Blur owe much to Hawkwind's endeavours. And we still have their great works, passed down through time and space to the current age (man!)
We weren't the gentle sub-acid Moodies we were made out to be", opined Lemmy Kilmister of his alma mater, Hawkwind. "We were a black fucking nightmare. A post-apocalypse horror sound-track. We wanted to make people's heads and sphincters explode."
For many, Hawkwind was where the 60s never ended, a last rallying cry for hippiedom, keeping the freak flag flying long after everybody else had retreated to yoga and yogis. Sure, they played
|free festivals and they took psychedelics by the shovelful, but there was always something dark, hard and urban about Hawkwind that was galaxies away from their US countercultural counterparts such as the Grateful Dead.
Part of it was the brutal barrage of the music: born of technical limitations, its directness also put them at odds with the post-psychedelic pomp of most UK proggers. Part of it was the way that the artlessness of their street-level world-view democratised the era's cosmic preoccupations in a way that the 60s never did. Part of it, of course, was the mere presence of Lemmy a glowering biker amphetamine nightmare on legs.
Hawkwind didn't form so much as fall together, a process that has continued to the present day, with line-ups lucky to complete an album together, let alone tackle any subsequent tour. That falling-together occurred in freak heaven, late-60s London, coalescing around the one person who would be present in every single line-up, 28-year-old busker Dave Brock ("I don't really do much except play music", as he said on Hawkwind's debut album).
Bored of the blues, Brock wanted to move in more experimental, spacey directions. The arrival of roadie Nik Turner ("I just dig freaking about on saxophones") gave the band its name and added, via his looks and sax, an extra freak quotient, while Brock's old mate Dik Mik ("I was about to hit the road for India when I joined. I've got practically no musical knowledge but I figure if you let it become your whole trip, you can do anything you like and do it well") provided the essential electronic embellishments. "We soon established the pattern," remembers Brock today "create a theme, go off at a tangent and then come back." With their emphasis on repetition and simplicity, Hawkwind were in effect an honorary Krautrock band. Indeed Brock was a big Can and Amon Duul fan. But where the classically-trained Can played one chord as a minimalist discipline, Hawkwind played one chord because that was all they could manage.
While Hawkwind's directness meant they were embraced by the freaks, the 'heads, and the ecological and political groups (Greenpeace, the Angry Brigade) they benefitted, the press weren't so impressed. 'They didn't understand that a lot of bands aren't able to just play one chord", laughs Brock. 'The art of music is simplicity. They just thought we were out of it on acid." That wasn't true? "Er, well ..."
|In fact, almost immediately after recording their first album, guitarist Huw Lloyd Langton quit after "freaking out on LSD and seeing Jesus". As with many future defections, it wouldn't be the last they'd see of him (he was to return in 1980). "Dik Mik would vanish for days on end," laughs Brock, "but that's just the way it was".
Given this in-built chaos, Hawkwind's first album, created at the very cusp of the 70s, is surprisingly coherent, thanks largely to the presence of Pretty Thing Dick Taylor in the producer's chair. Its cover, depicting snake-like lizards emerging from piles of hash leaves, defined the semi-paranoid territory that the group were to so effectively occupy. "That was the great magical album," says Brock. "It was quite daring, I thought." 'Paranoia, Paranoia' and particularly the epic scream-test 'Seeing It As You Really Are' bear him out on the album, which is largely a sequence of hypnotic, spacey instrumentals.
Strangely, 1971's In Search Of Space would be considerably less accomplished, despite the presence of Amon Duul bassist Dave Anderson. While the whole venture has an endearing innocence to it,
|the 'songs' were weak, the playing wobbly and the production wayward. "At one point we just decided 'fuck it, let's phase the whole lot'", laughs Brock. It was like hearing music blown about by the wind at festivals." The key cut from this album, 'Master Of The Universe', is thus a curious hybrid of aggressive potency (those blistering power chords; the sci-fi lyrics) and windblown impotence (the tempo and tune-defying middle section).
Hendrix roadie, blues veteran and Dik Mik chum Lemmy Kilmister would live and die by the same sword: Hawkwind's 'whoever shows up, goes up' ethos. Dave Anderson, as a pro, refused to do free gigs. "But at one Ladbroke Grove show, like a cunt, he left his guitar in the gear van," chuckles Lemmy. "It was like 'please steal my gig'. I'd never played bass in my life."
The chemistry was as perfect as the chemicals: Lemmy was in. "That was the only time in my life I had musical telepathy with another person", observes Lemmy. "Me and Dave could have our backs to each other and make the same change." Were drugs a part of that? "Of course they were! As soon as I stopped taking acid, it went. But in those early days we were always smashed. You just learned to function that way. Of course, Nik couldn't do it straight or smashed. He thinks he's a free spirit playing impro-fusion jazz, but in reality he's just a second-rate sax player." Brock concurs with this damning opinion of Turner's abilities: "He'd just honk right through your vocals", he laughs. So why did they stick with him? "He was part of the team," shrugs Brock. Lemmy adds, "he looked great it was like having a Viking fucking berserker on stage".
1972's Doremi Fasol Latido, though again murkily produced, was as Lemmy noted "a step in the right direction". The songs were better ('Down Through The Night') while Lemmy's bass added a new muscularity to the sound. He also contributed 'The Watcher', a haunting, bluesy number featuring a gravel-free, but still startling vocal. Lemmy's vocals would figure again on Hawkwind's first, last and only smash-hit single, 'Silver Machine'. "They tried everybody but the drummer before they let me do it," Lemmy growls today. The track had been recorded at Hawkwind's biggest gig to date, at London's fabled Roundhouse. A tentative, 20-minute version features on the Greasy Truckers live document of the event, boasting what Lemmy calls the "execrable Calvert vocal". Lemmy's version was a No. 3, million-selling hit. Melody Maker put a picture of Kilmister alone on the cover. "That really wound them up," he laughs, "and led to all the later problems. I was supposed to just be the bass player."
A chart career was not to be Hawkwind's fate. The follow-up, 'Urban Guerilla' this time retaining Calvert's lead vocal was withdrawn by United Artists when it made No. 39 in August 1973 after a spate of IRA bombings in the UK. "It was stupid to withdraw it," says Brock now. "They were paranoid they'd get bombed. I thought that record was what everything was about in the 70s". 'Urban Guerilla' summarised the Hawkwind political position the dark side of the counterculture, the harsher realpolitik of the 70s after peace'n'love had got the hippies nowhere. "We definitely had a sense that we were part of a revolutionary movement" agrees Lemmy, "not some hippie-drippy never land something much more immediate."
By this time, the band's gigs were becoming counter-cultural events in themselves. South African-born poet Calvert had been reciting his works on stage since 1971. Sometime sci-fi/fantasy novelist Michael Moorcock another cohort of the Ladbroke Grove scene would deputise for him. DJ Andy Dunkley actually employed two decks to drop a little Stockhausen into the Hawkwind mix. But what really endeared them to many a great-coated teenager was that they'd also be joined by the 6' 3" dancer, Stacia. True to the Hawkwind spirit, she asked one day if she could dance on stage when they were playing in Exeter, promptly took all her clothes off, and from then on was simply part of the team no contracts, no wage disputes, just a simple 'you can share a room with Lemmy'. "A great bird," notes the bassist of his room-mate. "And no, I never shagged her. We were pals."
|The accepted wisdom is that Hawkwind's soul at least temporarily vanished with Lemmy and that 1976's Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music is consequently an overly musicianly, faux-funky failure. Sure, Hawkwind now boasted a brace of 'proper' musicians and the sound had become more subtle, but the album builds on the eastern inflections of Warrior On The Edge Of Time to create some of their most beguiling music, especially 'Reefer Madness', 'Steppenwolf' and House's 'Chronoglide Skyway' (miscredited to Alan Powell on the label). 'Kerb Crawler' featured Dave Gilmour on guitar and was remixed by the Floyd guitarist for single release. What's more, Robert Calvert's reappearance as lead vocalist Brock's resignation of the role had mystified many rejuvenated the band. His lyrics possessed a wealth of wit and wordplay and his precise, playful vocals were just as wily. "Calvert was brilliant," says House, "he was a magnetic stage presence. Even though he did have a tendency to end up in mental hospitals." Brock agrees: "Bob was a genius in his way. He was hugely underrated." As is this album Hawkwind might have lost some of their innocence, but they hadn't yet jettisoned their joie de vivre.
Musicianliness did almost see the band come a cropper at this point, however. Ironically given his own musical reputation Turner, alongside Rudolph and Powell, actually sacked Brock, wishing to pursue Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music's more jazz-funk elements. "Things got really out of hand and unpleasant," remembers House. "There was this move towards professionalism, which was not what Hawkwind were about!" In a reassertion of Hawkwind brass tacks, Brock both reaffirmed the band's 'no trimmings' ethos and his own leadership. Turner, Powell and Rudolph became those jettisoned trimmings.
By the next year's Quark, Strangeness And Charm, iron fist Simon King was back on drums, punk was taking over the country and the newly-honed Hawkwind sound found them strangely close to, as the album's best song had it, 'The Spirit Of The Age'. On that song, if Calvert's cryogenic cloning lyric wasn't punky enough, Brock's two-chord backing drove the point home. "We weren't conscious of trying to fit in with that sound," says Brock, "we were still an early-70s throwback, but we were playing aggressive music again." Not only that, but Hawkwind's championing of anarchic ideals put them on the same page as many punks. "I know a lot of the punk bands liked us," says Brock.
Certainly punk godmother David Bowie was well aware of Hawkwind's activities, poaching Simon House from the band shortly after ("I couldn't say 'no' to David Bowie, could I?"). Cue another period of confusion, summarised by the PXR-5 album, a mish-mash of different line-ups, "one of those in-between records", as Brock calls it. Surprisingly, it contains some of Hawkwind's best material, not least House and Calvert's 'High Rise', and 'Death Trap' a superb slice of supercharged punk.
Brock and Calvert subsequently regrouped and renamed themselves the Hawklords. Having rejected professionalism once, this sounded a bit too smooth for Hawkwind, and bar the splendidly punky '25
|Years', in places a little tired. Brock recalls, "we'd worked out a stage show inspired by Metropolis, with six dancers. Bob dressed in his grey uniform. But it cost a huge amount of money and halfway through the tour we had to get rid of half of them. And then Calvert started to crack up again. "He had a fight with Michael Moorcock whose wife he was sleeping with on-stage at the Rainbow!", laughs Brock. "Then|
|.there was a big show in Paris in 1978 when he tried to cut bassist Adrian Shaw's head off with a sword. He wouldn't leave the stage. We left him in Paris, I remember driving the car down the pavement with Bob running after us." By the American leg of the tour, Brock too had had enough. He even sold his guitar.
Then, all of a sudden, at this Year Zero, Brock got his second 'Wind. As such, Live 79 marks the end of the old Hawkwind and the launch of the new. With Brock back on vocals, guitarist Huw Lloyd-Langton returning to the fold (after a decade) and Gong's Tim Blake on hand, this new line-up embraced a mature progginess previously beyond their reach. However, the album contains enough nods to punk to forgive self-indulgent noodling, not least Brock's cockney holler through 'Spirit Of The Age' and the kiss-off to 'Silver Machine (Requiem)'.
That parenthetical 'Requiem' spoke too soon, however. For the Hawkwind of the unwelcoming 80s were a thing of endless repackages, shoddy compilations of their 70s glory years, managing both to sully their past and outshine their present. There is, even so, a dark, ugly (but strangely innocent) part of the 70s that will be forever Hawkwind ...
|The concert cornucopia led, inevitably, to a live album and for many what is the undisputed highlight of Hawkwind's career the double Space Ritual, financed largely by the profits from 'Silver Machine'. The lavishly packaged album was, effectively, a summary of Hawkwind's career so far (latido). Says Brock now, "the whole album was quite fantastically worked out from the cover [a huge pull-out dissection of the cosmic and strange with extra naked breasts], to the music, which was quite revolutionary poetry with electronics and lunacy". Says Lemmy: "Space Ritual was the best time. We were all still loonies spaced out, tripped out, rolling around the country like a maniac circus". An American tour, featuring the full Space Ritual live set, attracted much word-of-mouth praise, a lavish party in their honour at the Hayden Planetarium in New York attended by Stevie Wonder and Alice Cooper, and Stacia spending Christmas 1973 with Arthur Kane of the New York Dolls. "After that, things got more staid, more record company-orientated and some of the fun went out of it," Lemmy wistfully recalls.
As Lemmy suggests, the artless, communal good vibes couldn't outlast the inevitable three-pronged onslaught of materialism, musicianship and maturity. Nevertheless 1974's Hall Of The Mountain Grill featuring material road-tested on the US 1999 Party tour with Man and named after the band's favourite caff on London's Portobello Road is a great, if not entirely representative album. Brock gives it somewhat faint praise. "We lost some of the wild electronics, I suppose we became a bit more like a progressive rock band." New keyboard and violin player Simon House may have come from a more musicianly background (avant-classicists the Third Ear Band), but his contributions texturalise rather than temper the band's power. 'Wind Of Change' may be diffuse and delicate by Hawkwind's previous standards, but it's remarkably direct by those of progressive rock.
What was most definitely unchanged was Hawkwind's 'flexible' approach to line-ups. The inevitable post-album reshuffle found keyboardist Del Dettmar departing, and Simon King sub Alan Powell being retained as second drummer once King returned. 1975's Warrior On The Edge Of Time continued Hawkwind's move into maturity: there were delicate ballads (Brock's lovely 'The Demented Man'), there was drama ('The Golden Void', House's finest four minutes); hell, even Nik Turner seemed to have been practising. On 'Golden Void' and 'Magnu' his sax and flute combined eerily with House's violin. Rather than maturity finding them 'going prog', however, these Eastern-sounding tracks sound more like precursors of the new wave experiments of early Ultravox! or Japan: indeed, House would appear on the latter's Tin Drum album in 1981.
|The problem with Warrior On The Edge Of Time was, in fact, down to a different 'M' altogether: Michael Moorcock, a poor substitute for Calvert, who had temporarily left the band to promote his Lucky Lief And The Longships album. His recitations were both over the top and - for the street-wise Hawkwind - uncharacteristically 'Dungeons & Dragons'-esque. "Moorcock would panic," says Lemmy, "and his voice
would steadily rise in volume and pitch." Shortly afterwards, Lemmyhimself was edged out of the band while on tour in America, ostensibly over a drug bust on the American / Canadian border. As he told RC in 1999, "being fired from Hawkwind for drugs is a bit like being pushed off the Empire State Building for liking heights. I was doing the wrong drugs. I was doing speed and they were all acid freaks".
His replacement, the Pink Fairies' Paul Rudolph, as had happened with Lemmy himself, was literally waiting in the wings. "They'd flown him out at the first opportunity," says Lemmy, "just looking for an excuse to get rid of me." Simon House admits: "It was a mistake that Lemmy got fired. Retrospect is a wonderful thing, but it was a misunderstanding". Lemmy sees it more as a battle between him and Turner, essentially, for Hawkwind's soul. "Nik and I were never close, and as time went on he seemed to think it was his band. That wasn't what Hawkwind was about at all." He sighs rather wistfully. "I'd probably still be with Hawkwind now if I hadn't been fired." Turner attempted to patch things up with Lemmy in 1999. "It took him 25 years, but he finally apologised to me. I said - thanks, Nik - that's really helped a lot." Calvert commented at the time that sacking Lemmy the way they did was utterly unforgivable - "it was the worst thing that ever happened in the history of the group". Their Reading appearance in 1975 also marked the departure of the lovely Stacia, who wed Ron Dyke, drummer of Ashton Gardener Dyke and took up a career in modelling. Little has been heard of her since, though her memory, for many, still lives on.