Dawn Of Hawkwind CD review

4th October 2004
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"Well, hello.  My name is Dave Brock and this is a band that we had in 1966, called the Dharma Blues
Band."  So starts the opening track,
Come On.  Dominated by Mike King's honky-tonk piano, this sounds
to my untutored ears like reasonably authentic blues, with some bursts of harmonica and plangent twanging
acoustic guitar after the first verse (or chorus).  This is swiftly followed by
My Baby's Gone, which is in
pretty much the same vein.  The musical side is somewhat rudimentary, but the singing’s quite good
despite originating from a White and English throat instead of a Black and American one.  I think these
tracks have a certain patina of age which lends them something akin to authenticity - listening to this is far
removed from the embarrassing artifice that's the stock in trade of most contemporary pub blues bands.  
The Dharma Blues Band then tackle
Dealing With The Devil, which we have heard before, although the
previous release was a Brock solo demo (having appeared on the Hawkwind Collection and a multitude of
cheapie compilations thereafter).
This CD was a Voiceprint release back in 2000, and
came in two versions.  The first of these (the one I
have) was a limited issue of 2000, appropriately
enough, which consisted of an A5-size booklet, with
the CD inside a Ziploc bag cunningly glued to the
inside back cover.  Thereafter the CD appeared in a
regulation jewel case, presumably with the CD
booklet providing the same content as the limited
edition, only less readable.  (There's a different â
€˜Dawn of Hawkwind' which is a bootleg...that’s
not what we're looking at here.)

As to what it *is* rather than the size and shape of
the medium, Voiceprint's "Dawn of Hawkwind"
traces Dave Brock's musical development from early
blues yowling through to the full-blown psychedelic
space rock of "Masters Of The Universe".  Most of
this is pre-Hawkwind, with some pretty lo-fi
recordings along the way, and the occasional
comment from Brock interspersing the tracks on the
CD.  The booklet provides a number of photographs
and the odd snippet of narrative and memorabilia to
flesh out the story.  I'm going to attempt to be all
multimedia and describe both as I go along...
The photos of the period are not unlike the audio
artifacts - lacking in depth, perhaps, but not without a
certain charm.  The members of the band are all in a
state of semi-folkie proto-hippyness, with the facial
hair winning out over what's up top.  Our Dave
probably has the coolest hairstyle :-)

Roll 'Em Pete steps up a notch in the fidelity stakes,
with a bright opening tinkling piano - but hang on, it's
just a more trebly recording, which skitters along at quite a pace.  The same elements are here as on the
three preceding tracks; that the Dharma Blues Band were able to get into the studio and see their recordings
released on 1960's British Blues anthologies is probably due to the talents of the vocalist and piano player.  
The rest of it doesn't stand out that much, to be honest.

Bring It On Home is a much more polished proposition, and features Dave's vocals for the first time.  This
was actually a solo recording that he did with session musicians - one of whom may have supplied the
plaintive swoons of lead guitar, which play their part in suggesting a distant train rolling across the
landscape.  Seeing as the lyrics play along this theme, it's not hard to hear the rolling rhythmic patterns of
the acoustic guitar and drums as iron wheels going across the points and the sleepers.  Bring It On Home
was also on the Hawkwind Collection and this is the same version of it here.
L-R: Dave Brock, Pete Judd, John Illingworth
Illusions, from a radio session by "Dave Brock & Friends�
is the next track, and Dave introduces it by saying “From
there, I went into the world of psychedelia...I used to go
busking a lot. I used to play cinema queues and Leicester
Square, round Soho, down subways, in the tube, Epsom
Racecourse.  Then I managed to get on the John Peel show.â
€�  The music here appends an eastern flavour to the blues
influence, and what the vocals consist of is a prototype
version of the lyrics to "Mirror Of Illusion" (and “Mask Of
The Morning"!) - but spoken rather than sung.  The effect is
pretty flat, but when the song picks up the pace between the
verses, there's a little chord progression which later turned up
on "Adjust Me" from the In Search Of Space album.  If I
walked past a busker playing this, I might throw 10p in his
guitar case - but if it was during one of the spoken passages,
I'd keep my hand in my pocket :-/

Get Yourself Together is segued in from the opening of a
severely dated jingle for a Radio 1 talent show.  This sounds
fairly horrifying, but what the band play is reasonably decent,
although there's not much of it - a minute or two of
impassioned yodelling over a clatter of acoustic guitars.  The
Captain comes back on to say "Well, I came second in that competition.  Then we went on and played some
sort of boring old music on a record..." I think this must refer to the next track, What's The Matter.  This is
more commercial than everything preceding, although not without some weird edges to it.  There's a
toe-tapping tune expressed in the vocal line, with a distant half-buried voice intoning the final two words of
each line in a kind of sardonic echo: and the instrumentation has a half-deranged psych quality to it, too.  
Dave yanks the needle off the record with a cry of "Well, enough of that!"  I wouldn't have minded hearing a
bit more of it, actually.  "Back to the blues, I say" he continues.  And it is indeed, but a different kind of
blues, with
Bottle Up.  This is a racing 12-bar boogie, not too dissimilar from some early Status Quo efforts
like "Down The Dustpipe", although this is rawer and dirtier.  "A bit more exciting" as the Captain says.  It's
rather difficult to figure out exactly which of the various bands he had is doing each of these numbers - but
it seems to be a reasonable guess that this is busking material normally performed solo by Dave and recorded
by the loose grouping known as "Dave Brock & Friends."
However, the times they were a-changing, and
Diamond Ring features the all-electric line-up of the
Famous Cure doing a real psychedelic blues with
plenty of wah'd lead guitar and a retread of the lyrics
from Dealing with The Devil.  Dave mentions that
they played in a circus tent in Holland, but it's really in
the booklet that this point is emphasised, with five or
six Famous Cure photos, a diagram of the layout of
Tent 67, and even a Dutch press release (in English)
promoting the band.  The booklet also does more than
the CD can to represent the busking period (Dave
could hardly drag a BBC recording crew down the
subway with him).  There are a couple of
photographs from the Don Partridge-led "The
Buskers" tour, and even a receipt from Thames
Magistrates Court for the payment of a £1 fine
levied against one of these hairy miscreants!

The CD closes out with Hurry On Sundown,
Cymbaline and Master Of The Universe, all rather
more familiar than what has gone before.  None of
these are "new" versions, with Hurry On Sundown
being the original demo featuring Mick Slattery on
lead guitar, and Cymbaline also a known quantity:
originating I believe from the same demo recording, it
was an extra track on the recentish EMI reissue of the
first "Hawkwind" album.  All of these are actually
Boy Van Delden and Dave Brock
pretty good, each in their different ways, and I can see why Hurry On Sundown is here to represent the way
that the blues got folded into the early Hawkwind sound.  But Cymbaline doesn't really fit into this mould
(being a cover of an early Pink Floyd tune, anyway) and that leaves a huge stylistic jump to the last track on
the CD.  Dave introduces it by saying "And then I formed Hawkwind...and off we wentâ€�.  I suppose this
version of Master Of The Universe does make the point that Hawkwind stepped off the edge completely
from what had gone before.  This particular version is an edit of the rough and scratchy live recording from
Cambridge Corn Exchange in 1971 which first came to light on the Text Of Festival album: raw, but full of
energy.  It's such a departure from the previous stuff that you almost think they must have started taking
drugs in about 1969 or something!

What I did find interesting was that my preconception of a CD that would start off ropey and gradually
improve wasn't borne out.  Instead, it seems clear to me that the class acts here (apart from Hawkwind)
were the Dharma Blues Band and the Famous Cure.  Maybe it's just that I prefer the sound of Dave Brock
when he's in a collaborative venture with others - just as Hawkwind albums are generally better than Dave
Brock solo albums for my money, his formative years indicate he was better in band situations than solo
ones.  This does not mean to say that I actually *like* much of the early blues material, and as far as buying
this CD is concerned, I'd recommend it for the hard core only, unless you have a genuine interest in 1960's
British blues.  Which would just be a different hard core, I suppose...