Hawkwind - Do Not Panic (BBC4)

Here are some fan reviews of the BBC4 documentary on Hawkwind that was broadcast on 30th March 2007.  Many people contributed to the making of this page, so thanks go (in no particular order) to Jim Skinner, Lurch, Dave Dignum, Graham and Charlie Davidson.
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Review by Graham:

Just back from a week in Germany with virtually no web access. Hence, totally caught by surprise when channel hopping late last night and saw the last 20 minutes of the Hawkwind documentary. I will watch out for re-runs but a few thoughts so far:

As I came in, the focus was on Bob Calvert’s years with the band, complete with alarming tales of his mental state. There was also footage of him on stage singing “Urban Guerilla”, with the Space Ritual/Stacia era line-up.

As in the Space Ritual DVD, Nik looked uncomfortable in front of camera explaining the machinations of
the evil Mr Brock. Terry Ollis also adds his view.  I have the impression that Nik is genuinely sad and embarrassed to be doing this. However, as Nik tells it, the dispute was all about X-Hawkwind. Of course this makes it all sound very petty but conveniently ignores the real sore point, that Nik’s 1994 USA tour dates were often billed as Hawkwind, thereby undoing all Dave’s hard work rebuilding Hawkwind’s profile in the States in the early 1990s.

Interestingly, Mike Moorcock, although admitting that the legal dispute put an end to his friendship with Dave Brock, says something to the effect that he believes
that both Nik and Dave have stayed true to their ideals – and that Hawkwind will increasingly be seen as an influential band.

Some of the 2000 Hawkestra film is shown – proving both that it exists and that it is worthy of release. Whatever the principals said about it afterwards, it all looks quite good humoured, including clips of Del and DikMik sounding perfectly content to be there (although possibly this was before it became apparent that neither would be heard on the night).

On the subject of the Hawkestra, Lemmy is disparaging again about Dave inviting Sam Fox to sing “Nikky’s song” Master of the Universe. True, Sam Fox’s appearance seems to be an example of Dave’s possibly misguided view that collaborating with minor league “celebrities” will somehow further the cause. On the other hand, she sang on the “Gimme Shelter” single so is a bona fide Hawkwind vocalist. (Obviously others, including Bridgett Wishart, have stronger claims and weren’t there).
Other contributors to the documentary include Doug Smith, Simon House and the Lloyd Langtons.  Doug Smith claims credit for the idea of the Hawkestra. Simon House looks totally relaxed and seems to have no axe to grind. Huw and Marion get to slag off Nik’s antics in the 1980s, although with good humour.

Obviously none of the current line-up got to contribute.

Unfortunately, to the non-believer or newcomer, the over-riding impression is of some rather disreputable and grumpy old men squabbling over the shattered fragments of their musical and cultural legacy instead of pooling  their efforts  (as Mike Moorcock and Doug Smith seem to be hinting that they should) to recapture some of what they had in the glory days.
Review by Lurch:

This craply-titled documentary made by journalist Tim Cumming appeared on UK digital TV station BBC4 on 30th March 2007.   It lasts for an hour and was made without the participation of Dave Brock or any other current members of Hawkwind.  Perhaps as a result, the content dwells heavily on the band's first decade of existence, with only the last 15 minutes of the hour covering post-1970's period that actually accounts for almost three-quarters of the band's lifespan.  It's almost the 80-20 rule in action.

Of course, any attempt to pack thirty-eight years of history into a 60-minute programme is going to result in some omissions, but this is a well-made documentary that gets the essentials across without slagging off any of the protagonists - particularly not Mr.Brock, whom it would have been all too easy to cast as the villain of the piece.  His central importance to Hawkwind (Michael Moorcock rightly describes him as "the backbone of the band") is properly represented here.  Others who are given prominence in the unfolding history of Hawkwind are Nik Turner, Lemmy, Doug Smith, Bob Calvert, Stacia and Simon House.  This is all as it should be, with a personage as well-known as Ginger Baker mentioned in passing but not meriting even so much as a photograph.  So in other words, the makers of the programme have a fan's feeling for who really
matters.

Moorcock, Turner, Lemmy, Smith, and House are all interviewed at length in the programme.  Terry Ollis and Andy Dunkley also feature frequently, with both being reasonably loquacious and having interesting things to say.  The general format is to present themed excerpts of their individual narratives, shorn of the prompting questions of the interviewer, spliced with footage of the band culled from the 1972 Silver Machine video, various still shots and other fragmentary video sources, such as the live 1973 promotional footage of Bob Calvert singing 'Urban Guerilla' with a topless Stacia writhing behind him.  Slightly more of this is seen here than its' previous outing on the 2001 'Top Ten Of Progressive Rock' programme broadcast on Channel 4.
The soundtrack employs a similar device in being made up of cut-ups from the band's familiar live and studio recordings, mostly those of the 1970's.  For example, much of the Silver Machine footage is used with audio segments from the broadly contemporary Space Ritual album, when the documentary is covering the band's early 70's commercial heyday.  In this the programme makers have unwittingly followed the reconstructionist tactics of those who post re-engineered videoclips to YouTube, pairing Silver Machine footage with alternate audio sources.  Of course, it's done rather more skillfully by the production team in this documentary :-)

This is not to say there are no mistakes, but nothing that the general viewer would notice.  You would have to be some sort of Hawkwind loony to pick up on the fact that a photo of Dave Anderson was voiced over as John Harrison, or to note that the closing where-are-they-now text one-liners say that Robert Calvert died in 1998 rather than 1988.
Going back to the interviewees, Huw Lloyd-Langton and Ron Tree make cameo appearances, and both provide substandard renditions of Hawkwind numbers not of their writing on vocals and acoustic guitar.  Huw does this in his leafy Henley back garden (presumably) and is interviewed with his wife Marion alongside him.  Ron is filmed in what looks like a suburban front room furnished with a highly eclectic décor.  He himself comes across in way that is as amiable and eccentric as the collage of found objects
surrounding him.  But in a reminder that this is rock-n-roll, both musicians would come across to the generalviewer as casualties of the rock star lifestyle, ravaged to some degree by years of substance abuse.  They are not the only ones, with dark glasses abounding among the interviewees in this programme, hiding quite a few tired old peepers, one would guess.  Simon House wears them, as does Jeff Dexter, the band's road manager during the Charisma period, whose function in this documentary is mostly to illustrate the raging insanity into which Bob Calvert could descend.   (It's a pity that there's no Hawklords-era footage to illustrate this passage of the programme.)

Someone who should have donned the Raybans is journalist Nick Kent, interviewed at length - his mad staring eyes indicate that it was not just musicians who took advantage of the hedonistic lifestyle of Hawkwind's heyday.  Nik Turner also does a nice line in psychotic unblinking intensity, though in his case he mostly looks upwards as if searching the recesses of his memory for additional superfluous adjectives he can use to laud the contributions of luminaries such as Barney Bubbles.  Both Turner and Kent have the air of
being people who've been long-term affected by drug consumption (though only in the set-piece interview situation for Nik...)  But Lemmy, who must have consumed more stuff than all the rest put together, is his perennial unchanged self, and probably makes the most telling criticisms of any of the interviewees, without resorting to denigration.
the exterior of the All Saints Hall where Hawkwind's first ever performance took place...(never seen even a photo of this place before).  These are better than seeing footage of Nik Turner and Mick Slattery mumming toothlessly in the spot where the Captain used to busk, apparently.
Doug Smith is another interesting inclusion, sitting at a polished table in the civilized confines of a drawing room with a bookcase behind him, and the green shades of a manicured garden visible outside.  This does not look like the villa in Spain to which he was once said to have retired, and is a neat contrast to Ron Tree's  home-made shrine of art naïf / tat...even if both of them have a potted plant in a bay window.   And there are a few other locations that are worth noting,
I have not yet mentioned the actual narrative, because it pretty much follows the history of the band, which is presumably going to be well-known to anyone reading this.  To have squeezed in mentions of the band's 1978 split / 1979 rebirth, or the 1985 Chronicle Of The Black Sword album and tour would have necessitated cutting interview footage with someone like Michael Moorcock or Lemmy - and the choices made by the programme makers are by and large decent.  Given the overall positive tone, though, you do wonder how much bile and vituperation might have ended up on the cutting room floor.  The whole exercise really does come across as a labour of love, and functions as a counterbalance to Carol Clerk's forensic approach in her book The Saga Of Hawkwind. Well done Tim Cumming and the BBC!  Hopefully it will be repeated soon on BBC2...


Review by Charlie Davidson:

HAWKWIND : DO NOT PANIC (BBC4)...or, "Carry On Space Ritual"

Throughout this highly entertaining, if occassionally innaccurate programme, one thought kept occurring to me : Dave Brock has REALLY shot himself in the foot here. The dummy is WAY out of the pram.

It is made clear from the outset that Dave refused to take part due to Nik Turner's participation. None of the other current members make an appearance (except from licensed live video footage).

Did Dave honestly expect a documentary on the history of Hawkwind WITHOUT Nik Turner being involved somewhere?!? That said, I'm surprised that Matthew Wright didn't toe the (apparent) party line. And it was a real pleasure to see Messrs Lloyd-Langton, Moorcock and House being interviewed.

And of course it's always a treat to hear from Lemmy. (His comments re the Sam Fox debacle are exactly what we were all thinking, let's face it...)

Perhaps surprisingly to many, Nik Turner and Terry Ollis (the de facto main interviewees) did not use this programme as an excuse to vilify Dave and the current Hawkwind. (There is ONE sly aside between Mick Slattery and Nik, while avoiding abuse from local drunks, wondering if they've got copyright to visit old haunts...) In fact, the only unpleasant part is the "Hawkestra" thing, which is largely dealt with by Doug Smith anyway.

Huw (and Marion) have a laugh at Nik's appearance circa '83-'84. A bit nasty considering Huw's bowlhead haircut a few years earlier, which I always thought was MUCH worse.

Interestingly, scenes from the aforementioned "Hawkestra" gig appear to be used throughout the show...any
Above: All Saints Hall, Notting Hill Gate
this programme by accident, I would probably assume that it was Nik and Terry, and possibly Simon House, who were the members of Hawkwind. Enough said.

Dave has done himself no favours here.
chance of the whole thing one day?  Please?!?

Overall, one hour was never going to be adequate for a history of Hawkwind. Many will complain that there is no coverage of the last 20-odd years (thanks to...?); many will complain that it is centred far too much on Nik Turner (well who else are you gonna interview?!?); and I, for one, will complain that Nick Kent was in it, let alone for so long. A waste of space if ever there was one. AND a picture of Dave Anderson is said to be John Harrison. Bloody BBC...

If I knew nothing about HW and had happened across
with footage of a stroll down Portobello Road in 1967 taking in Dave Brock busking, and a welcome shot of