It Ain't Half Hot, Kris

1st April 2005
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In December 2002 Hawkwind set out on a UK tour which was to have taken in gigs at Newcastle, Hanley,
Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Northampton, Brighton, London, Bristol and Birmingham.  The tour was
disrupted by illness among the ranks, with Simon House not being able to appear at all, and Huw Lloyd
Langton leaving the band halfway through...but in time-honoured fashion, Hawkwind soldiered on, filming
the 'Out Of The Shadows' DVD at the Newcastle gig, appearing on a BBC Radio interview with Danny
Baker, and finishing with a Christmas party gig at Walthamstow Assembly Halls on 13th December.

That wasn't originally supposed to be the last date of the tour.  The subsequent Bristol and Birmingham gigs
were mysteriously postponed due to a "filming opportunity in Morocco", it was reported by official sources
at the time.  Despite queries from the fanbase, no further details were forthcoming, and there were
subsequent denials of the filming opportunity having ever existed.  Meanwhile, the Bristol and Birmingham
dates were rescheduled on the May 2003 UK tour, and the whole matter was largely forgotten...
The interesting thing is that there was indeed a filming opportunity, and it
represented a radical departure from everything else Hawkwind have ever done
or stood for.  To understand how this came about, you have to cast your mind
back to the Hawkestra 30th Anniversary reunion gig on 21st October 2000. Iâ
€™m not going to rehash that entire episode, but among the many people
onstage was Sam Fox, one-time Page 3 model and pop diva, remade for the
occasion as the Mistress Of The Universe.  This may not have met with
universal acclaim from Hawkwind fans, but it was water off a duck's back to
Sam, who has had a surprisingly varied career.  As well as being friends with
such an unlikely bunch as Hawkwind, Sam has also, for example, entertained
British troops stationed abroad in the world's trouble spots...
It's been an unforeseen consequence of the end of the Cold War, but the UK has actually faced a condition
similar to Imperial Overstretch in recent years.  Often, but not always alongside the US military, Britain's
armed forces have seen action in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Sierra Leone in recent years, as well as
continuing to garrison post-imperial outposts such as the Falkland Islands, Cyprus, Gibraltar and Belize, with
a reduced but continuing presence in Germany and Northern Ireland.  With the British Army's reduced
headcount, this has placed ever-greater demands on the ordinary men and women in uniform.  It's also
placed great demands on the logistical support services, with servicemen all over the world needing to be
equipped, fed, housed, clothed...and entertained...

During 2002, the Ministry of Defence took the decision to expand the entertainment programme for UK
troops stationed abroad, and  as part of this, consulted their
existing roster of entertainers to canvas suggestions for additional
acts who might be suitable.

The comedian Jim Davidson is well known for his work in this
field, and was one of those approached by the Army's top brass
for his recommendations.  Jim apparently jumped at the idea, and
was keen to appear with a backing band, who would provide
suitable musical flourishes to punctuate the punchlines of his jokes
- sort of like Basil Brush shouting "Boom boom!", but a bit more
sophisticated (maybe).  Being a huge ELP fan, Jim didn't of
course suggest Hawkwind, but encouraged the Ministry of
Defence to engage a reformed
Emerson, Lake and Palmer to go
"Ta-Da!" at the conclusion of
each wisecrack.  This didn't
really work out too well: it took
ELP 16 minutes to work their
way through a single "Ta-Da!", which incorporated a four-minute Keith
Emerson solo, a quick run through of an old Christmas single by Greg
Lake, and culminated in an expensive Hammond organ being stabbed with
a knife and set on fire... Jim Davidson was understandably somewhat
miffed, and the MoD abandoned the idea of further appearances by ELP.

It was at this point that the Ministry turned to that other stalwart
entertainer of the troops, Sam Fox.  Remembering her 1993 involvement in
the 'Gimme Shelter' project, and the way she'd
successfully recruited
Hawkwind to the cause, Sam put their name forward once again as someone she'd like to work with.  
However, the MoD had been made wary by the Davidson / ELP fiasco, and compromised: Hawkwind would
indeed be asked to appear but would do so under their own name and not as part of any sort of collaboration
with Sam (or anyone else).

The invitation came out of the blue as far as Hawkwind were concerned.  It was also in some ways a blast
from the past, providing echoes of Hawkwind having been invited to mime on Top Of The Pops in support
of the Silver Machine single, way back in 1972.  The exposure (and money) was welcome, but the format
of the appearance wasn't something that appealed to the band at all... So, just as had happened 30 years
earlier, a compromise was worked out.  Hawkwind would appear, but on film rather than live.  It was
decided that a film about the making of the new album, 'Destruction of the Death Generator' would be
produced, perhaps intercut with audience footage from the first Hawkfest.  Privately, the band intended this
to earn them a double revenue stream, with the intent being to licence it for DVD release as part of the
'Classic Albums' series already featuring works such as Fleetwood Mac's 'Rumours' album...
Again, probably due to their experience with ELP, the
UK Ministry of Defence insisted on having some
degree of creative oversight of the project, and were
frankly aghast at Hawkwind's unmilitary bearing.  It
was time for another compromise, and this time the
negotiations were lengthy and hard-fought.  At one
point it was suggested that Hawkwind should "glam
themselves up", and in fact a screen test was
arranged along these lines - nobody thought it was in
the least bit successful!  But agreement was reached
in the end after both sides had discovered a fondness
for early Beatles films such as 'Help!'  It was decided
that the proposed film would indeed feature the
making of 'Destruction Of The Death Generator', but
would also incorporate a light-hearted portrayal of
the members of Hawkwind as military personnel.  In
this way, it was felt that ordinary crop-haired
squaddies would be able to identify with the hairy
hippies on screen.

The MoD offered their assistance and facilities in
equipping Hawkwind for the part.  So in
mid-December 2002, the members of the band drove
up to the entrance of the Royal School of Artillery,

Larkhill, Wiltshire.  This was unfortunate, because
their appointment was actually 300 miles away, at the
headquarters of the 5th Regiment of the RA, in Catterick, North Yorkshire.  However, due to their long
association with Stonehenge, the band knew where Larkhill was (just 2 miles away from the monument
itself) and were more comfortable there.  The Army were keen to accommodate the band, and being
professionals, adjusted the arrangements without too much difficulty.  Colonel Hugh Janus stepped forward
to greet and welcome the band to RSA Larkhill, and the warmth of his welcome was such as to induce an
unusual state of benevolence in Dave Brock, who, rather than formally introduce everyone, with a sweep of
his hand, said "Meet the gang - the boys are here: the boys to entertain you...!"

So, for want of better word, the casting was begun...
Dave Brock immediately informed anyone who would listen that having
been Captain of the Mothership for 33 years, he needed to be portrayed
as a Captain in the Army, too.  After the niceties of military rankings were
explained, and it was pointed out that a Captain is a pretty junior officer,
Brock suggested a Field Marshall's uniform instead.  There was further
animated discussion, wherein interjections from Alan Davey and Richard
Chadwick were met with blasts of "SHUT UP!" from Dave.  One of the
bona fide military people present, an urbane middle-aged officer by the
name of Major Lee Garsole, had said little up to this point.  But employing
all the diplomacy for which the Army has become known, he spoke up:  
"You know, what we're trying to do here is provide something that
ordinary soldiers can identify with.  I don't think having the band as
officers is the right move.  Mr. Brock, I think you'd be a terrific Battery
Sergeant Major!"
With the proviso that none of the other members of the band would be
allowed to outrank him, Dave accepted this suggestion, and before too long
everyone had been assigned a putative military rank and the appropriate items
of uniform, etc..  Alan Davey accepted the rank of Gunner, in a nod back to
his days in Gunslinger, and to ensure a rounded representation of the other
ranks, Richard Chadwick was provided with a Bombardier's uniform.  With
the status of two other members of the band being unclear, it was decided that
if Huw Lloyd Langton and Simon House recovered sufficiently to take part in the proceedings, they too
would be provided with military ranks and uniforms as the occasion would appear to demand.

And so, with all of this sorted out, the band returned to Barkalot Studios to resume the recording of the new
album, and took the MoD's camera crew with them.  At first matters were a little stilted, but before too long
the band forgot the presence of the cameras and reverted to their normal practices. In fact, the MoD's film
personnel were rather taken aback by the forceful leadership evidenced by Dave Brock, and his tendency to
bellow "Move YERSELF!!" at Richard
Chadwick whenever he (Brock) felt that the
pace of the drumming was not quite up to
scratch.

Alan Davey, too, came in for some fierce
criticism, captured on camera.  At one point,
Brock was so incensed that he seized the bass
player around the neck and snarled "What's the
matter Lovely Boy, can't you learn your parts?"
Alan and Richard, however, were spared the worst of it.  Simon House did come back to participate in the
recording of the album, despite having left the ranks of Hawkwind.  This had not endeared him to Brock,
who was willing to put up with the situation only on account of House's exceptional musicianship.  As it was,
House played only only one or two tracks and not on the entire
album: Dave seemed to be unable to tolerate Simon's presence for
the length of time that would have been required for him to record
the entire album.  At one point the filmed footage shows Simon
standing rigid and looking distinctively apprehensive as Brock casts
a choleric eye in his direction, moustache a-tremble with derision.  
And then, turning to survey the rest of the band spread out across
the studio, Dave snarls, "Well, you is a bunch of poofs and no
mistake!"
Perhaps the presence of the MoD camera crew was more intrusive than first thought.  As 2002 gave way to
2003, the band decided to set aside the recording of the new album while other projects were set in motion.  
With Arthur Brown having temporarily elected to serve on board the Mothership, and the decision taken to
mount a second Hawkfest in Lancashire, the band turned their attention to rehearsals and arranging a
preparatory UK tour in Spring 2003.  At first the MoD personnel stayed around with an eye to incorporating
the rehearsal footage into the film - after all, with the band not only recording but also rehearsing at Barkalot
Studios, the new footage would be expected to fit fairly seamlessly with what was already in the can.  
However, there were obvious difficulties with portraying Arthur Brown in some military capacity: being that
much taller than the regular members of Hawkwind, he would naturally need to be cast as an officer, but this
flew in the face of the original ethos of entertaining the other ranks.  So the filming, like the album itself, was
shelved for the time being...
Two years have gone by, and though recording of the album
was resumed, under the new name of 'Take Me To Your
Leader', it has yet to appear.  The same can be said of the
MoD's film, though it is thought never to have been completed,
and in fact its existence has hardly been known, up till now.  It
remains to be seen when and whether the UK's armed forces
will ever be entertained by the world's greatest psychedelic
space rock band.  An unlikely notion, perhaps, but Hawkwind
fans are still hopeful that the footage will surface and be made
available somehow...

-Ralf Piolo