|Hawkwind - Sonic Assassins
Many thanks to Ian Abrahams, the author of this new biography of
Hawkwind for this sneak preview of the book's cover and other detail. As
soon as I get my hands on a copy I'll add a review to this page
Ian Abrahams' forthcoming book, "Hawkwind - Sonic Assassins" will be issued by SAF Publishing Ltd.,
on 31st July 2004 . The author says: "It's 115,000 words of biography, anecdote, critique, song
inspirations, etc.. There's been over 40 new interviews conducted with the current band, past members,
'friends & relations', and other associates. We also have a great selection of photographs, many of which
have been rarely -if ever- published before, and we have a cover image licensed from Peter Pracownik.
Whilst the book is unofficial, over the last year I've greatly appreciated the support of the band, their close
associates, and others who have helped with news cuttings, memories and encouragement."
The book will be hardcover, priced at Â£25 in the UK and $40 in the,USA. You can pre-order on the
Amazon.co.uk site (click here to go straight to it) at the special price of Â£17.50. Meanwhile the book is
also available now on the German Amazon site, and should appear on http://www.amazon.com before too
SAF's website does not yet contain details of the book (that's coming) but their publicity sheet describes it
as an "authoritative, high quality biography ... loaded with new interviews and rare illustrations", about a
band that "have successfully existed outside the traditional music business... space hippies, proto punks and
music cybernauts". SAF is a specialist music publisher, run by people who love their music and produce
really good quality books, and their site is well worth a visit - the current roster of publications includes
books on Morrissey, Mountain, Coil, Devo, Focus and many others, with previous works on Kraftwerk and
Tangerine Dream to their credit.
25th July 2004: here's an update on progress. Thanks to Ian (the author!) for this information:
The book was bound at the printers on Friday 23rd July. It ships to the UK distributors on Monday 26th
July, and so those who ordered directly from SAF Publishing would probably receive their copy some time
around 30th July. Amazon.co.uk purchasers might get their copies the following week, and the book
should start appearing in UK retail outlets at around the same time.
Customers in the USA face a slightly longer wait. The book ships to US distributors on Wednesday 28th
July. Apparently it takes about 18 days after that to filter into the warehouse and whatever number of days
to filter out again to Amazon.com and the shops etc. So by my calculations, the book should become
generally available in the USA on or around Monday 23rd August.
We also have updated ordering information. There are now more places to buy the book:
From CD Services
From SAF Publishing
And last but not least, directly from the author!!
And finally, the review:
Ian Abraham's book finally fell into my clutches on Tuesday 17th August - some two-and-a-half weeks
after the supposed publication date, and it seems most people who'd ordered from Amazon had to wait a
bit. (This also occurred while I was on holiday in the UK, hence my slowness in getting this review posted
onto the site.)
Anyway, the book is a tastefully presented hardback with the design printed directly onto the stiff cover -
there's no separate dustjacket, which I rather like. It's rather a shame, though, that the front cover features
(yet again) Pete Pracownik's poster design which has been the basis of just about all Hawkwind's graphical
material since 2001, including the publicity materials for 3 UK tours, 2 live albums and now their stage
backdrop. Something else would have been welcome.
The book is physically surprisingly large, being about 10" high and 7" wide. This turns out to be necessary
to accommodate the plentiful text interspersed with photos, appendices and an index. This latter feature
along with the numbered pages make this book eminently useable as a reference resource, though itâ€™s
also highly readable as a straightforward narrative history. The work is broken out into separate chapters,
but these aren't titled (just "Chapter One", etc.) and there's no table of contents. This would have improved
the book slightly, both for purposes of "looking up" information and to clarify the structure of Hawkwind's
history for the more casual reader.
Because that is really what this book is: a history of Hawkwind, taking in the formative events that led to
their, er, formation and continuing with every phase of their subsequent existence,down to the present day.
No era has been omitted or glossed over, and this is a history rather then a detailed chronology because the
author has provided critical examinations of causes and motivations beyond the basics of "who did whatâ
There is definite balance within the book too, with almost every major protagonist being given the
opportunity to present their side of the story or to explode hitherto unchallenged myths. The author gently
makes the point that many such instances of lore basically represented one person's viewpoint and that
different explanations will result from the recollections of others, who may not have had any previous
opportunity to comment. While this is true, I came away with the feeling that Ian Abrahams has worked
very hard to tread a neutral path and that he might have indulged in some good old-fashioned finger-pointing
in one or two areas :-)
To properly describe the format of the book without rewriting it, careful study (!) of Chapter One reveals
something about the modus operandi: first, there is an opening point or assertion and then a supporting flow
of evidential, but fluidly written text, primarily from interview sources. The amount of research that's gone
into this book is evident from the quantity of fine detail, which is carefully marshalled into a decently styled
narrative; avoiding the trap of thrusting nerdish unconnected facts and figures at the reader. Monotony is
avoided with the frequent use of quotation from several other sources besides primary interviews; and
contextually-appropriate photographs appear inline with the text, not as separate photographic plate pages.
Many of these photos have not previously been widely seen. All are black and white, and this I suppose
was done to keep the cost of the book down. A pity, since many of the photos suffer from the
monochrome rendition, and Hawkwind are nothing if not a colourful enterprise.
So much information has been deployed that there is something new on almost every page. Sometimes this
takes the shape of hitherto unknown detail (for example, what exactly John Trux did day-to-day) and
sometimes a recollection or version of events that's quite at odds with the previous "known factsâ€�.
Such is the authority of this book that I find myself accepting the new interpretations without question.
However, one downside to the solidly researched methodical nature of the book is the lack of anecdote.
Kris Tait's "This Is Hawkwind, Do Not Panic" appeared back in 1981, a completely different kind of book
to this one; but it maintained a folksy warmth in narrating the story of the band through collections of
anecdotes. By contrast, the ethos of "Hawkwind - Sonic Assassins" is notably cooler. There is even a
remorseless kind of quality to the way in which the author's serviceable prose style assembles great tracts
of highly informed but dispassionate narrative. These run an uninterruptible course from one year to the
next, making this a book that I doubt anyone could read in a single setting: not that the length of the book
would allow that in any case.
Despite the great efforts at tact and balance, the author cannot help but "take a line" on certain aspects of
Hawkwind's history, and this becomes most apparent in the final chapters, where he analyses the recent
contention between Brock and Turner for the right to use the name 'Hawkwind' (or similar!) Abrahams
comes down on the side of the official Hawkwind (i.e. Brock) but manages to do so whilst maintaining a
respectful observance of what Nik is striving for with Space Ritual. His handling of this and other
contentious issues is very skillful, resulting in a work which will be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in
Hawkwind - this is why the diplomatic tone of the book is one of its strengths. It will be left to Carol
Clerk, in her forthcoming "Saga of Hawkwind" to plough a completely different furrow â€“ a good thing for
the fans, who will have the opportunity to acquire two completely different works based on the same base
material. This book, though, is an essential purchase and I'm looking forward to the 2nd edition!
Here's another review, from Graham, author of the "Music from the Hawkwind family tree" series:
Essential reading (obviously) - Ian Abrahams - Hawkwind: Sonic Assassins (book)
Okay, everyone has read this by now and a review is probably totally superfluous. However, firstly, it is
definitely a recommended read and, secondly, it ought to be compulsory reading for the band themselves!
The book offers a more objective view of the band than, say, Kris Tait's TIHDNP and, at least to some
extent, it isn't afraid to reveal the dark side of the band - or indeed the very personal (Sylvia Brock's
death, why Ron Tree left the band, and so on). However it is also a fan's view so not everyone is going
to agree with all the author's opinions. Ian Abrahams has little time for the WOTEOT album whereas for
me it was their crowning achievement and the main reason I got into the band in the first place. It's hard
to disagree though that the 1997 line-up did little to enhance the band's reputation - although Jerry
Richards and Ron Tree did far more to earn their place in history than, say Mick Slattery and Thomas
Perhaps most interesting is what the various interviews reveal about the attitudes of the members and ex-
members of the band. Thus Alan Powell comes across as likeable but a musical snob who completely
fails to understand the band's appeal to the fans. There again he has a point: in my experience the only
album that non-fans actually think might be music as they know it is Astounding Sounds Amazing Music.
In contrast Dave Brock and Nik Turner undoubtedly do understand what the band means to fans â€“
most of the time - even if it leads them to follow diametrically opposed courses.
Band members inevitably disagree with each other and are protective of own interests. Both Dave
Anderson and Thom Crimble seem to think they wrote "Shouldn't do that" although of course neither
receives a writing credit. Alan Davey in particular vehemently defends Hawkwind, to the extent of
rubbishing some other people's input - and yet you have to say he's earned the right to hold those
opinions after all his years of service.
Then there is the story of the Hawkestra. Brock and Turner seem to have had different aims for the
Hawkestra - but both ultimately used it as a recruiting ground to establish "retro" bands relying on old
members and old music. What really stands out though is that nobody in the band seems to realise that
most fans probably thought the Hawkestra was brilliant! Obviously it was imperfect: no Simon King,
Adrian Shaw, Dead Fred or Bridgett Wishart; Bob Calvert and Barney Bubbles long departed; Dik Mik
and Del Dettmar invisible and inaudible; Samantha Fox singing MOTU; the muddy sound. BUT
thousands of fans loved it! Lemmy says it was awful and complains about Samantha Fox being there -
but he doesn't look too upset in the photos on the website! Alan Powell says it was crap - but then he
thought everything the band did was crap! Even Brock and Turner were unhappy with how it turned out.
Put it aside fellows, life is too short, release the bloody CD, DVD and triple album and every Hawkwind
fan in the world will buy it!
Oh, and I love the fact that Silver machine is about a bicycle.