|The Flight of the Griffin and the Hawks - Part 1 of 2
By Rob Godwin - founder of Griffin Music
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|My Hawkwind adventure began when I bought a sampler album called All Good Clean Fun. The album included a single track from an album by a new band called Hawkwind. Around November of 1970 my older brother had purchased the eponymously titled first album and for the next few months we listened to it incessantly. In late 1971 I walked into a Woolworth’s on Shrewsbury High Street and bought a copy of X In Search of Space, then about twelve months later I found myself waiting in a darkened Southampton Guildhall to hear my first Hawkwind concert. I had already spent most of that Spring and Summer attending a flurry of amazing concerts but Hawkwind didn’t disappoint me. They were unlike anything else on the scene (they still are.)|
|For the next few years I eagerly awaited the release of each new Hawkwind album but, prohibited by school, I wasn’t able to see another concert until the legendary surprise return of Bob Calvert at Reading Festival in August of 1975. I was such an enthusiastic Hawkwind fan I literally walked into town on the Saturday morning after the show to get the local newspaper because it featured pictures of the band from the|
|previous night. The next Hawkwind show I attended was at St George’s Hall in Bradford, although I’m not sure if it was in June or September of 1977, shortly thereafter I emigrated to Canada. I wouldn’t see Hawkwind again for ten years.|
|During the long drought between Hawkwind gigs I continued to collect every record or single I could get my hands on. It soon became crystal clear to me that Hawkwind weren’t getting the support I felt they deserved, especially in North America. In 1987 I happened to be in London when the Acid Daze show was announced at Finsbury Park. I snagged a ticket and once again got my live Hawkwind fix. The band|
|were somewhere off behind a wall of people and were hard to see, but the sound and lights did not disappoint. That same summer I spent a few weeks in a recording studio in Munich helping some friends who were recording their debut album for Atlantic records. These same friends were summarily shafted by the idiots that were running the Atlantic A&R department and I felt that perhaps I could do something to help them. So I started a record label.|
|Starting a record label might seem an audacious thing to do but I had already been involved in almost every aspect of the business. I had managed bands, ran a night club with live bands, booked shows, promoted outdoor festivals, produced an album, designed album jackets, written books about music, ran a record import business and had even been a record press operator in a pressing plant. There wasn’t a lot I hadn’t tried, short of running my own label. So in an effort to help my friends I started Griffin Music. It was purely a sideline and I never thought it would grow into such a big deal in just four years.
On 24th September 1989 Hawkwind arrived to play a show at the Diamond Club in Toronto, my adopted home town. I was already excited about seeing the show but a good friend of mine who ran a local record store said he could get me backstage to meet the band. I was very interested at the prospect of meeting them after all these years of following their career. In the dressing room after the show I encountered the band and the first thing I asked them was, “Why don’t you guys have a decent record deal in North America any more?” Inevitably no one seemed particularly interested in explaining that particular problem to a total stranger, but I did manage to wangle Doug Smith’s telephone number from them. I began a campaign to pester Doug in the hope that he might give me a shot at distributing some Hawkwind titles in America.
|The following year, in December, the band returned again to the Diamond Club, this time with Bridgett Wishart on lead vocals. After the gig I just hung around and tried to chat with the band but still got no further than casual banter about the show. Finally, only five months later, the band once again returned to Toronto, this time to play at the Spectrum. I offered to help out with the driving as their next show was only 40 minutes away in the tiny Hideaway Club in St. Catherine’s, Ontario. During the drive I got to chat at length with Doug Smith and this time I think I persuaded him to take me seriously. I told him I would come and visit him in England later that summer.
Doug invited me to one of his favourite haunts, a restaurant in Notting Hill Gate, I was painfully aware that I was close to hallowed Hawkwind ground. The Ladbroke Grove and Portobello Road were Hawkwind’s home turf, Blenheim Crescent the fictional home of Moorcock’s Cornelius family was just down the street. It seemed appropriate to me.
Over dinner I told Douglas that I could sell a lot of Hawkwind albums if he’d just give me a chance. He didn’t seem too easily persuaded but I told him that if he would just give me something unimportant, perhaps
|some outtakes or something that wasn’t critically important in the band’s back catalog, I could prove myself. In one final plea I promised him that if he gave me a couple of tapes I would personally guarantee that the band would get paid for every copy pressed, even if I didn’t sell them all. Douglas finally relented and said he would talk to the band about letting me release two records; a live unreleased recording of Calvert during the Hawklords era and the Flicknife release Out & Intake. I was thrilled and determined to do the best I could for a band I’d loved and respected for over 20 years.|
|The rest of 1991 was taken up finalising the contracts for the two albums and in March 1992, Griffin Music released its first two Hawkwind albums. Both were shipped in cardboard long-boxes and we accompanied them with an elaborate press-kit that included a silver and black cardboard mobile that the record stores could hang from their ceilings. My partner, Neale Parker, had also been a Hawkwind fan and was just as excited as I was about being able to work with the band. Neale was a bit younger than me and he’d seen the Hawklords in England before emigrating to Chicago. Griffin became a bi-national company with offices in the USA and Canada. While Neale took care|
|of running the warehouse and managing the company, I concentrated on making sure we had a steady flow of good music and that it was packaged well. We were both usually involved when it came to negotiating the contracts and we relied on each other’s judgment when it came to deciding what to release. I knew the 60’s and 70’s classic rock while Neale was more familiar with 80’s music. We were quite different but we made a good team.|
|When we released the two Hawkwind albums we were not surprised when they sold well. There had been a total lack of domestic Hawkwind material available and Hawklords Live had never been released before, even in England. Meanwhile, the band had toured North America three times in as many years. An entirely new generation of Hawkwind fans were attending the shows and many of them couldn’t afford the outrageous prices being charged for imports. We suddenly found ourselves the centre of a lot of attention, with people writing to us to thank us for releasing new Hawkwind material in America.
Two months later I traveled to England again and saw the band play at Reading University. Douglas and I chatted some more and discussed the possibility of resurrecting some of the old United Artists material on CD. As the conversation developed it became apparent that EMI had a stranglehold on the early material and had no immediate plans to release
|any of it on CD. Meanwhile a small label in upstate New York were cleaning up by sub-licensing the same albums from EMI’s special projects division in the USA. I knew a great deal about the band’s history and I knew how they’d been let down by record labels for most of their career; I also knew that the American label that was releasing the old EMI stuff were not doing the material justice. In fact, some of the CDs were taken straight from vinyl. The packaging was the absolute bare minimum necessary to get the CD into the record stores. I knew that this wasn’t doing anything for the band’s wallets or reputation so I asked Douglas what we could do to rectify this. He informed me that he had no control over what EMI did. I mentioned that the final United Artists album had been on Atco in the United States and asked what the status was of that contract. Douglas got back to me a few weeks later and said he was pretty sure that it had reverted to the band, but the tapes were still with Atco.
I already had a rapport with the archival librarian at Atco in New York and so Douglas authorised me to act on the band’s behalf to try and get the tapes returned. To my complete astonishment Atco didn’t even argue and promptly shipped the master reels to me. When they arrived I was delighted to see that they also included the A and B side of the single as well as Dave’s hand-written notes from 1975 about track order and fades.
|The significance of the Warrior album was something I’d lived with for nearly two decades and I was bound and determined to do something really special with it. I approached Dave Brock and asked if I could come and visit him on his farm in Devon to interview him and take some photographs of his memorabilia. Dave was quite happy to oblige me and so I set off for England again.
Spending an afternoon with Dave was a very real thrill for me. I had over twenty years of Hawkwind memories in my head and I was able to share those with Dave while he happily dug out all of his own obscure artifacts for me to photograph. The pictures (with hindsight) are not very good but there was no Photoshop or digital cameras in those days so you got what you got. My intention was to write a book about the band, a book that would attempt to put their entire musical output into perspective. I would photograph as many records and CDs as I could and I would include an interview with Dave. After leaving Dave’s hospitality I traveled to Cambridgeshire where Brian Tawn generously opened his home up to
|this total stranger, who was armed with a video camera, and wanted to photograph his entire collection. Both Dave and Brian were generous, kind and completely supportive of my efforts. When I returned to Toronto I discovered that one of the guests of honor at the International Festival of Authors was Michael Moorcock. The festival would take place at Toronto’s harbour front in late October. The timing couldn’t have been better. I contacted Michael and arranged a time to interview him. It was another tremendous piece of luck to be able to get access to such an important figure when his schedule was overrun with television and radio stations who all wanted to interview him. Michael turned out to be more than just charming, he was downright loveable and I had no problem getting him to share his Hawkwind stories. We traveled to Niagara Falls, together with his lovely wife Linda, and I have nothing but fond memories of the encounter. Michael’s a real gentleman.|
|The only thing left to do now was to figure out how to package the Warrior album with a book. I spent a few weeks messing around with a variety of designs before settling on a box that could hold a CD and a book. I designed the layout myself and I wanted to make sure that everything I had in my collection would be featured somewhere in the package. I took Barney Bubbles’ artwork from newspaper advertisements and combined them with the Warrior album art to create something special. On May 17th|
|elaborate for a Hawkwind reissue but they were soon proven wrong as the album sold up to our expectations. It had been an expensive package to produce. The box had needed a special die to be made and that had cost nearly $1,000. The book couldn’t be printed in less than 3,000 copies which also drove up the costs and the risk. The artwork was done painstakingly in an art lab here in Southern Ontario and it would be the last Hawkwind album we’d do using traditional cut and paste work. Everything from here on would be done using computer and electronic layout. I was very happy with the final response. Hawkwind fans all across America wrote in to thank us for taking so much care over what was one of the most beloved Hawkwind albums.|
|By this point Douglas and Dave knew that Griffin were serious about taking care of the band’s legacy. The previous autumn the band had released a powerful new studio album called “Electric Tepee.” Douglas and Dave seemed comfortable to finally give Griffin a shot with a new album. At the time we knew it would be difficult to sell because the American market had already been flooded with the British import, but Neale and I|
|from the Atco tapes, the bonus tracks were added, the artwork was all enhanced and the Collectors Guide to Hawkwind was made to match the whole package. Unfortunately the pressing plant had also been given another Griffin release simultaneously. It was an album by British prog-rockers Pendragon called The World. Somehow the pressing plant mixed up the stampers and a few hundred CDs that looked like they were Warrior were in fact the Pendragon album. It took a few days to get them withdrawn and then many, many months to replace them for disappointed Hawkfans.
Many of my customers thought the package was too
|were committed to our relationship with Hawkwind and we wanted to do something for the band’s current members as well as just selling back catalog. Obviously selling Warrior and Hawklords wasn’t going to put any money into Alan Davey or Richard Chadwick’s pocket and so on October 7th 1993, Griffin happily released Electric Tepee in America. Neale and I both felt it was an important step forward in our relationship with the band. Not surprisingly it didn’t sell as well as Warrior partly|
|because we didn’t do anything to embellish the packaging, since it was a new album that the band had obviously put some thought and effort into. We were always conscious of what the band would want, so no attempt was made to upstage the UK release. Exports and imports were always a problem for both sides of|
|the Atlantic. Griffin’s Warrior almost certainly was being shipped over the Atlantic by third party vendors so Douglas worked a deal with Dojo in the UK to release it. To my surprise the guys at Dojo turned down my offer to provide them with the re-mastered Atco tapes. They also didn’t seem too interested in the artwork we’d generated for the foldout front cover that replicated the famous LP chaos shield.|
|True to Murphy’s law, Griffin started to really blossom right when Hawkwind decided to stop touring in America. Their last tour had been in the Spring of 1991, before Griffin came on the scene, and they wouldn’t return until the Spring of 1995, right when the crap hit the fan for Griffin (but that story comes later.)
1993 and 1994 would be banner years for Griffin. We were voted the number one independent label in America by several major newspapers and we had developed a major roster of under-represented British musicians including Roy Harper, Nazareth, Fish, Rick Wakeman, Wishbone Ash, Uriah Heep and many others. While all of these artists sold well for us I never turned a blind eye to Hawkwind. More than ever I was hell-bent on getting as much Hawkwind music out in America as possible and I wanted to be certain the albums were presented in the best possible light. During this time I had almost no contact with anyone in the band. Everything went through Doug Smith and his partner Eve Carr. I would have the occasional discussion with Dave but we never talked about business, always about the music, the artwork or the albums.
|Late in 1993 I started my next project which was to oversee the American releases of Chronicle of the Black Sword, Live Chronicles and Church of Hawkwind. I had made friends some years earlier with World Fantasy Award winning artist Robert Gould. In America Moorcock’s novels had all been released with Gould’s artwork on the covers. I was a major fan of Robert’s work and I was keen to use his imagery when it|
|came to re-releasing the Elric albums. There were a number of things that had been lacking in the British releases. I loved the artwork that Bob Walker had done for the studio album but on both of the British CD releases most of his album art had been omitted or butchered. I wanted to put that right but still give the album an American identity that the Moorcock fans would recognise. The solution was to include as much of Walker’s art as possible but to supplement it with Gould’s immediately identifiable Elric. I adapted Walker’s back cover to fit a CD, put his original front cover so that people could reverse it out to look exactly like the LP (if they wanted to) and then shrunk and adapted all of the pages of the concert tour programme to fit inside the booklet. At the time the Flicknife version had two live tracks that belonged with the Live Chronicles|
|album as well as a brilliant Alan Davey composition called Arioch. I chose to keep Arioch but replace the two live tracks with two different live tracks that appeared on the Dojo release. Dave sent me the original tapes from Rockfield. I would now be able to restore the versions of Assault & Battery and Sleep of 1000 Tears to their rightful place within Live Chronicles.|
|The Live Chronicles album is one of my favorites and I was determined to restore it to its entirety. I was a friend of Moorcock and his Elric novels were certainly some of my favourite books. I contacted Doug Smith and asked why the concert had been so pointlessly cut up. He related a tale of woe which Michael Moorcock would later repeat to me. At some point between playing the show and releasing the album some friction had developed and Michael had retracted his approval to include his narrations from the concert. I asked him if I were to account to him|
|directly would he allow me to include them on the Griffin release. Now that he knew me pretty well he kindly granted me permission. Now I had the whole concert and could reassemble it, but it still needed more. The story of Elric and the musical rendition recorded at Hammersmith deserved to be clearly portrayed so I set about getting permission to reproduce all of the lyrics. It was a much tougher task than I had imagined. In fact it was harder than getting permission to use the music!
If you want to print someone’s music or lyrics you have to go to the publishing house that owns the rights.
|As can be imagined multiple composers and lyricists meant multiple companies to deal with. It took months to pull it all together. Once I had done this I asked for Michael’s permission to reproduce the very first|
|Elric story. The Dreaming City had first appeared in 1961 in Science Fantasy magazine. Michael once again came through and gave us permission to reprint it but I chose to change the cover art and replace it|
|with a later picture that clearly depicted Elric from the Dreaming City story. The discs showed the arrows of Law and Chaos. The whole package was capped off with Gould’s masterpiece painting of Elric, The Revenge of the Rose. I’m particularly proud of how this 2CD set turned out.|
|The same month that we released Live Chronicles we released the first CD version of the under-rated Church of Hawkwind album. I never found out how that particular album fell through the cracks but somehow it no longer fell under the purview of the RCA contract. Douglas gave me permission to release it and I was once again determined to make sure it had everything that had come with the original album. Dave told me that he had re-mastered the album and it now included three tracks that had|
|not been on the original vinyl LP. As you can imagine I was pretty happy with that news. He sent me the new version on DAT which was the first time we’d used that technology for mastering a CD. Since late 1992 I had been learning Adobe Photoshop, I was becoming increasingly proficient and was able to scan the original book that had been included with the RCA vinyl album and shrink it to fit a CD booklet. Some new typesetting was necessary and when I was done the guys at Dojo in England were this time only too happy to acquire a copy of the electronic files so that they could use it in the British release. The response from the American fans to all three releases in February 1994 made all the hard work worthwhile.|
|release and of course because of the imports it didn’t sell too well. Once again we didn’t do anything specific that would interfere with the band’s original artwork. During this whole time I had been urging Doug Smith to get the rights back for the original Charisma albums. The fans were screaming for CD versions of the Calvert years and I was joining the chorus. Meanwhile the power trio of Brock, Davey and Chadwick were blasting their way through another powerful new studio album. In May|
|of 1994 Griffin released It Is The Business Of The Future to be Dangerous. In keeping with our policy to not mess with new releases Griffin’s version is identical to the British release: though we did also do a limited edition of 2,000 copies in coloured vinyl. Around this time I started work on a major project. I wanted to put together a special release for the band’s 25th anniversary. It would turn out to be a very difficult project.|
|Next up were two more Flicknife releases. I decided to do a new cover for This is Hawkwind Do Not Panic – Stonehenge although in hindsight I can’t remember why I chose to do that. In contrast I|
|decided to leave Zones the way it had been. These two albums were released in America in June and July of 1994 respectively.|
|That concludes Part 1 of "The Flight of the Griffin and the Hawks" - text (c) Rob Godwin 2006, and thank you also to Rob for the scanned images illustrating the narrative!
Continue on to The Flight Of The Griffin and the Hawks - Part 2
|Once I'd gained Robert Gould's involvement I designed a poster to advertise the entire Hawkwind catalog up to that point. Both Quark and Stonehenge were to have been released quite soon and the poster showed
the art for both CDs, although neither came out through Griffin with the original artwork as shown on the poster. The key to the poster was Gould's stupendous painting of Elric. I had bought the original watercolor from him some years earlier. It has since shown up on a graphic novel, a board game, two paperbacks, a hardback and of course the Live Chronicles CD set. Another part of the deal was that Griffin would buy the rights from Gould to reproduce another Gould painting of Elric that was done for the British edition of Moorcock's book. Inside the Live Chronicles CD set was a special offer to buy sets of signed Elric lithographs. Robert Gould later offered to buy back the original painting but I was not inclined to accomodate him!"
|The following month Griffin released the CD EP of Right to Decide, it was somewhat later than the British|
|1993, Griffin’s third Hawkwind album was released as a limited edition box set. The sound was cleaned up|