Hawkwind albums, while putting the band's name into the search function of a prominent e-tailer yields 376
products, most of which are CDs, many of them of dubious authenticity. Despite their sprawling catalogue,
Hawkwind's output from 1976 through to 1997 has remained largely deleted or unavailable in official form
for what seems like an eternity.
A couple of years ago rumours abounded that the band's former manager, Doug Smith, was trying to
restore this section of the catalogue, attempting to place it alongside the band's illustrious United Artist
releases that have constantly remained in print, and affording it the dignified presentation it so richly
deserves. Smith was instrumental in negotiating with rancorous ex-members and cutting the requisite deals
in order to unify the multi-label catalogue. And now noted prog/psych archivist Mark Powell has secured
the band's entire output from that 19-year period for his Cherry Red-funded Esoteric label, creating the
bespoke Atomhenge imprint on which to house all 25 releases. These two anthologies act as valuable
Both are intriguing, but it's the 51 -track Spirit Of The Age that shatters the received idea that Hawkwind's
most potent work was created solely during the first six years of their existence. Their first six albums -
their streetwise self-titled 1970 debut, the freaky In Search Of Space ('71), the gut-thumping Doremi Fasol
Latido ('72), the monolithic Space Ritual ('73) and the more experimental sets, Hall Of The Mountain Grill
('74) and the Michael Moorcock-assisted Warrior On The Edge Of Time ('75) - created a template for their
tribal-yet-futuristic sound, but contrary to popular myth their development did not end with the sacking of
bassist Lemmy in summer 1975.
If Lemmy's ejection -and his subsequent formation of Motorhead, whose rise eventually eclipsed
Hawkwind's profile- robbed the band of a key component, it also helped to solidify the writing partnership
of eccentric poet-cum-frontman Robert Calvert and Dave Brock, the pair having collaborated on the band's
'72 freak hit, Silver Machine. Calvert developed a more erudite dimension to the band's lyrics, matched by a
developing sound that owed more to Roxy Music's art- rock than the band's Ladbroke Grove droog-grot
roots. And they seemed to find the perfect home for their new approach at Tony Stratton-Smith's madcap
Charisma Records, whose roster included Genesis, Van Der Graaf Generator and Monty Python.
Hawkwind's four-album tenure with Charisma began with 1976's Astounding Sounds, Amazing Musk, an
album whose grand-standing title (inspired by a '50s comic book) masked divisions within the ranks, with
Brock bluntly slating the album for having "too many directions". Today, it's a release ripe for positive
reassessment, with tracks like Reefer Madness, Kadu Flyer, Steppenwolf and Kerb Crawler (the opening
quartet of tracks on the Spirit Of The Age anthology, the last-named of the four mixed by David Gilmour)
adding a sophisticated edge to the band's psychedelic sensibilities. If Astounding Sounds... divided opinion
among band members, it ultimately served to concentrate the collective Hawkwind psyche, yielding a
successor that stands as one of their most accomplished albums: 1977's Quark, Strangeness And Charm.
While that album marked the departure of whirling sax dervish and founder member Nik Turner, the band's
newly taut approach ensured continued relevance in punk's wake. Indeed, if Brock and co's adherence to
individual freedoms had inspired punk, the latter's slash-and-burn approach in turn influenced Hawkwind
who, beset by legal wrangles, dismantled their own band. Calvert and Brock formed Hawklords whose sole
album from 1978, 25 Years On, stripped the sound down further and whose lyrics on tracks like Psi
Power, Freefall and The Only Ones painted surreal visions of a time when humanity and divinity are
sacrificed at the altar of technology.
If Hawkwind's time at Charisma was relatively fecund, their final album for the label, 1979's PXR5, was a
contractual obligation as the band switched to Bronze for Live '79 and Levitation (with Ginger Baker on
drums). These albums -along with Sonic Attack, Church Of Hawkwind (a solo Brock album in everything
but name) and Choose Your Masques, all of which were released on RCA- helped garner the band a new
audience, a bunch of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal kids joining the stoners, hippies and lab-coat
wearing freaks at the band's ever-elaborate psychedelic shows. Hopping through three labels in six years,
Hawkwind arrived in 1983 without a deal and staring oblivion in the face. From hereonin, Brock would
establish himself as the band's sole constant, conducting operations from his Devon farm, and
acknowledging the fact that Hawkwind had effectively become a cottage industry via the release of a series
of home-made, mail order-only cassette releases dubbed The Weird Tapes.
Brock's attempt to revive the band's fortunes by working with Calvert on The Earth Ritual, ostensibly the
follow-up to Space Ritual, ended with the latter's breakdown in 1983 and death in 1988. Nevertheless, as
The Dream Goes On proves, Brock has rarely run dry of inspiration. True, there have been moments of
musical misjudgment from 1984 on (the neo-techno of 1993's It Is The Business Of The Future To Be
Dangerous being one; ditto The White Zone released under the Psychedelic Warriors moniker). But so too
have there been genuine triumphs ('85's Michael Moorcock-inspired The Chronicle Of The Black Sword, as
well as the underrated Alien 4 album a decade later). Despite its patchiness. The Dream Goes On provides a
timely reminder that, as the band prepare to celebrate their 40th anniversary, Hawkwind remain resolutely
This is from the Feb 2009 issue of Mojo.
In search of more space? Here are 20 years of
Droog rock-questing and 25 albums anthologised
on two 3-CD sets. The winds of time pass through
**** Spirit Of The Age: An Anthology 1976-1984
*** The Dream Goes On: An Anthology 1985-1997
"When we started out I never thought about how the
band was going to last at all," chuckles Dave Brock.
"We just lived day by day and really considered our
first album to be a great achievement. That was the
realisation of our dream. After, we just carried on
from album to album."
Four decades after their inception in 1969,
Hawkwind's ambling approach to recording has
created a body of work almost as labyrinthine as
Frank Zappa's. The Starfarer fan site lists 37 'core'
"Carry On Hawkwind!"
Dave Brock talks anthologies and hols with Phil Alexander.
The anthologies mark the start of a huge reissue campaign.
Why has it taken so long?
"I don't know. There's been lots of bootlegs. But nobody
seemed to want these albums. Now, Cherry Red
(Atomhenge's parent company) have decided to (release
them). I've also got most of the original tapes that were going
mouldy. There's lots of unreleased stuff."
The late Robert Calvert defines Disc 1 of the Spirit Of The
Age anthology. How do you view that period?
"With great affection. It was great to work with him but he
was a nutcase and a genius. There was a lot more that we
wanted to do together. In 1983 Bob and I had this idea to do
The Earth Ritual, which was like the sequel to Space Ritual,
but he had a nervous breakdown. He got better and we talked
about it again, but then he had a heart attack and died. I'm
glad people still remember him now because it means that
somehow he lives on."
How do you feel about the work from this period?
"I don't play any of these records. Sometimes the band dig a
track out like Flying Doctor. They play it like the record, I tell
them not to. The key is to play it their way, make the music
live on. We go forward rather than back."
Now that the catalogue's been restored, what's next?
"We're working on a studio album which will be out this year.
It'll be quite psychedelic with good heavy music. We started
working on it with Jason (Stuart - keyboards/electronics
manipulator, who died in September from an aneurysm). We
miss him terribly but we're continuing with new guitarist Niall
(Hone). When it comes out I'd like us to create 'happenings',
rather than normal gigs."
Your website advertises Hawkwind Holidays...
"There are a number of ideas - hiring a boat on the Rhine and
playing on that as we sail, sailing up the Arctic to see the
Aurora Borealis. We've had over 250 people sign up. One
other idea is to hire this campsite in France that has an amphitheatre where we'll play while people camp.
It's a bit like a Carry On film, like Carry On Hawkwind!"