Starfarer's Hawkwind Page
|The Egos Have Landed|
|This article was written by Mick Wall and appeared in Mojo's September 1999 issue.|
|"Me and DikMik had been up for four days, right, on Dexedrine capsules, so we're pretty well bent" Lemmy explains. "But we had this gig at the Roundhouse - the one where we recorded Silver Machine - so we had a couple of Mandrax to calm down. Then it got a bit boring so we had two black bombers each.
"We get to the Roundhouse and somebody comes in with a lot of bombers and we take 10 each - a lot. Then someone comes up with some Mandrax and we were getting very twisted up by now so had at least three each to calm us down again. Then somebody came up with cocaine, fucking big bags of it, and we thought we'd have some of that. All this time in the dressing room there is constant smoking - we were all blasted out of our heads on dope. And people were producing acid and mescaline. We all had some of that.
"By the time we come to go on-stage me and DikMik are stiff as boards. I said, I can't move, DikMik, can you? He went, 'No. It's great isn't it?' I said, What are we going to do when we can't play? He said 'We'll think of something...' "
"The gig itself was incredible," Hawkwind manager Doug Smith shakes his head in disbelief more than 25 years later. "But that was the thing about Hawkwind. You never really knew how out of it they were because they were like that all the time. It was insane! I think we were insane for a long time..."
|Accused, even then, of being 60's throwbacks, it was Hawkwind, perhaps, who embodied the screwed-up 70's better than any other band in Britain until the Sex Pistols. "People think of Hawkwind as this sort of hippy peace and love group. But it was never that," insists Lemmy. "We weren't looking for peaceful, we were looking for horrid. The spaceship was always broken down with us."
"We could have been as big as the Floyd," insists Dave Brock, the only founding member to remain with the band through all their various incarnations. "A few times the openings were there. But it's whether you've got a torpedo mechanism to bring it all down, and you think fuck that, you know? Once you do that, you're on the other side. And Hawkwind was always on the other side of everything..."
Hawkwind began as they were apparently meant to go on: by accident. Dave Brock, a busker from Feltham in Middlesex, was already 27 and married with a baby son, when, in Autumn 1968 the original line-up of Hawkwind "started to sort of congeal around me".
|Returning to London, his luck improved when another former busker, Don Partridge, had an unexpected hit with the song Rosie, and invited Dave to join him on his own Buskers Tour, sharing a double-decker bus around the country with such "street legends" as Jumping Jack and Old Meg Aitken. "We used to sleep on the top deck and quite smelly it was, too." There was even The Buskers Album, to which Dave contributed his version of Willie Dixon's Bring It On Home.
But by now, "I'd seen bands like the Floyd, Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come and, of course, Jimi Hendrix, and I wanted to do something new and more... electric." He would sit at home with a reel-to-reel and battered Harmony Stratotone guitar, "drop some acid and just plonk away with an echo-unit, bowing the guitar with my harmonica and going weeaannnggg!" (He'd first tripped at Famous Cure guitarist Mick Slattery's flat in Ladbroke Grove. "I got spiked up round there, actually But it was not unpleasant - in those days it was more religious, you know?") Enthralled by a book of Turner's paintings that Slattery had given him to gaze at -"Fucking hell! Now I can see!"- what he wanted to do, he decided, was "to create the aural equivalent of an acid trip. That was the idea behind it all."
Hanging out at former Bonzo sideman (and future Whoopee Band leader) Bob Kerr's Music Shop in Putney, where he and Slattery used to jam in the basement, he met John Harrison, a scrap-metal dealer from Shepherd's Bush who had once played bass with Joe Loss. John didn't do acid ("John liked golf, actually") but he could play and Dave soon had him down in the basement, jamming along. Via an ad in Melody Maker, the self-taught Terry Ollis ("downers freak, extremely primitive style") took the drum stool.
Next to join was 28-year-old sax player Nick (later Nik) Turner. If Hawkwind was The Young Ones, Nik Turner would be the put-upon Neil the hippy (with Brock as the scheming, too-cool-to-fool Mike; Bob Calvert the theatrically demented Rik; and Lemmy as dedicated student of self-medication, Vivian). Self-confessedly naive, idealistic and easy-going, Nik Turner was the conscience of Hawkwind, the keeper of the flame. Despite only fleeting appearances with the band in the years since his acrimonious departure in 1977, he still sees things that way. Living these days with his wife and children in a modest farmhouse near Carmarthen, South Wales, the Catweasel beard and bushy hair of yore may have lost a little lustre, but the warmth and humour appear not to have dimmed at all.
|"I was responsible to a large degree for getting people like Barney Bubbles involved in the band, and Robert Calvert. I'd be very accessible, and I'd try and get the band doing as many benefits and things like that as I could." Another war baby, Nicholas Turner was born in Oxford in August 1940. His father worked in a munitions factory "making Centurion tanks", while the rest of the family "was all very theatrical". He bought his first rock record - Bill Haley's Shake, Rattle And Roll - not long after the family moved to Margate when he was 13. "I had a quiff, a pair of Levi's and a leather jacket - me and my friends were all heavily into James Dean." He took an engineering course at college and joined the Merchant Navy, but only lasted one voyage. "It was one big piss-up from beginning to end, shagging as many passengers as you could."|
|Their performance that night had consisted of a 15-minute, largely improvisational onslaught dubbed The Sunshine Special. "Free-range music, basically," says Dave. "Avant-garde electronics and, er...chaos - a few basic chords which we could come back to, but no-one ever did. We didn't actually do songs."
Doug began booking them gigs, the band's activities centring around Ladbroke Grove, just north of Notting Hill. Mick Farren, whose own Ladbroke Grove band, The Deviants, had recently "collapsed", and was then writing for International Times, was another mentor. "We were a bit obnoxious to them, at first," he chuckles. "They were a bunch of country lads coming up to the big city, and we'd already fought the revolution, you know? But it was a whole scene: Quintessence, Hawkwind, The Pink Fairies. Portobello Road was the focus, playing for free under the arches and along the green." Dave: "We did a lot of benefits. And we used to give away copies of Frendz, whose office was also in the Grove, and we did things with the Hell's Angels, the White Panther Party, the Urban Guerrillas, Greenpeace... "
They would often be accompanied by The Pink Fairies -whose drummer, Twink, would take over from Terry Ollis when he was "too far gone" to complete the set- and 'Pink Wind' gigs became a staple of the Saturday afternoon Portobello market scene. "They really complemented each other," says Farren. "One was an incompetent guitar band and the other was an incompetent psychedelic band. They got on-stage and made this huge fucking noise together, and everyone was extremely happy that the police hadn't been called and we hadn't all been arrested..."
By the start of 1970, Group X had been christened Hawkwind Zoo - soon shortened just to Hawkwind. Nik: "I got this name for flatulence, and clearing my throat loudly and spitting, and 'Hawkwind' became like my nickname. Calling the group Hawkwind was sort of a joke on what we were doing - expounding loudly." The joke began to be taken seriously when Doug persuaded Andrew Lauder, then A&R chief at United Artists, to actually put the name Hawkwind on a record contract. "We did the deal on the back of Cochise, who we were also managing and who the label wanted badly and paid £4,000 for to make an album," Doug explains. "Hawkwind, who they didn't give a shit about, signed for £400 to make a single."
Not having the faintest idea which bit of their now hour-long Sunshine Special might fit onto a single, Dave suggested they record an old busking number he'd knocked up: an upbeat acoustic blues called Hurry On Sundown. An entirely unrepresentative first choice of single, it was released on UA in March 1970 and sunk without trace. Then UA surprised them by funding Hawkwind to go into Trident Studios in Soho to make an album. In one day. "It was produced by The Pretty Things' guitarist, Dick Taylor, who set the equipment up and told us to simply run through our live set," recalls Nik. "We did it three times all the way through, and that was it."
Bookended by Hurry On Sundown and another acoustic leftover from Dave's busking days called Mirror Of Illusion (with Taylor supplying some scorching lead work), the rest of the album was a truncated 30-minute version of Sunshine Special to which the band now gave five separate titles. Swathed in a suitably cosmic sleeve - their name spelled out in marijuana leaves - the self-titled Hawkwind debut album was released in Britain in August 1970. Though racking up few sales, it was reviewed in all the right places. "Suddenly," Doug recalls, "there were all sorts of strange new people interested in them."
|Just as it looked like they were getting somewhere, not for the last time the band began to flounder. Mick Slattery had left just before the first album ("He was bored," says Dave), his place taken by a whey-faced young Welshman named Huw Lloyd Langton. Then John Harrison left - "because of all the drug-taking, basically" - to be replaced by former Amon Duul bassist Dave Anderson. Then Huw left abruptly after a particularly "hectic" performance in Amsterdam which resulted in him "finding Jesus", says Nik. "He took some LSD and never came back."
But if these abrupt changes, often unannounced, would become a pattern of the band's chequered career, they also cleared the way for the arrival of what Dave calls "the captains": noted science fiction author and fellow Ladbroke Grove resident, Michael Moorcock; Frendz artistic director and future album-sleeve designer, Barney Bubbles; and, not least, lighting wizard Jonathan Smeaton (aka Liquid Len). "We were this sort of crazy people's ideal of a band," says Nik. "Michael Moorcock saw us like that, and he turned Barney Bubbles on to us." Dave: "I used to read all his books - The Jewel In The Skull and all that series. For him to come along and say, 'Is it all right to come and do some poetry?' -fucking hell, what an honour!"
But the most significant addition came with the arrival of a South African-born poet, writer, mimic, singer, actor, comedian and serial manic-depressive (to mention just some of the descriptions offered by those I spoke to) named Robert Calvert, then working in a tyre shop in the Portobello Road and writing 'surreal' short stories for Frendz. "Immediately he was interested in being involved we invited him in," says Nik. "Because he had such great ideas. Being into science fiction and inner states and outer states and all that sort of thing." Nik, who had known him since they were both teenagers in Margate, also knew that Bob's mental disturbances ran far deeper than the occasional bum trip the others might experience. "Bob used to have like a nervous breakdown every 18 months. He would vary between hyperactivity and depression. He would talk non-stop and be absolutely exhausting. And then there'd be a period of depression when he didn't speak to anybody."
It was Bob who first successfully conceptualised what Hawkwind were doing, beginning with the 22-page Hawkwind Log which he authored for their second album, In Search Of Space - an impenetrable hippy spiel full of Burroughsian sci-fi argot and mushroom mysticism that Barney Bubbles embellished with appropriately lysergic images of aliens, space storms, Stonehenge and naked breasts. "Michael Moorcock was the typical science-fantasy guru that they would all look up to," says Doug. "Calvert was something else. Calvert was like John Updike. He wrote stories that were far more real - with a little bit of horror attached to them as well, because of his own mind."
And then there was Stacia; the 22-year-old statuesque beauty whose incongruously feminine presence always looked terribly vulnerable before the bacchanalian uproar of a typically male Hawkwind audience. "We were doing a gig in Exeter," Dave remembers, "and she came and asked if she could dance, and we said yes, and then she took all her clothes off! Stacia turned up the following night at a gig in Redruth, got up and danced again. "We decided to keep her," says Dave. Stacia is fondly remembered as the "Amazonian" whose wildly painted naked body adorned Hawkwind's shows throughout the 70's. Nik concedes her occasional romantic dalliance with a band member. "More than one," he chortles. "Though not with me."
|When Dave Anderson left, says Nik, "after one too many arguments with Dave Brock", DikMik immediately suggested as his replacement "one of DikMik's little drug-orientated loonies". It didn't seem to matter that he didn't actually play bass. Enter Lemmy.
But for a greying muzzle and the girth every dedicated whiskey-man must come to expect, Lemmy looks almost unchanged from the 26-year-old biker-from-hell who sang Silver Machine. He might possibly have renewed his black leather jacket and battered 501s since then, but he still sports the same Iron Cross around his neck now that he did in 1972, as well as the same I-know-something-you-don't-want-to smirk on his pale, wart-ridden face. No longer "sleeping on different floors every night" in Ladbroke Grove, Lemmy's home these days is the small but surprisingly well-kept two-bedroom apartment in West Hollywood that he has occupied alone since 1990. "I haven't changed," he offers in the charred tones familiar from his frequent and comic TV appearances. "It's everybody else that's changed."
Ian 'Lemmy' Kilminster was born in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, on Christmas Eve, 1945. His father, a vicar, left his mother when he was three months old. Brought up in North Wales, he knew he wanted to play guitar "the first time I saw Oh Boy and saw all these birds screaming". Expelled from school for "whacking the headmaster round the head with his own cane", he had worked, briefly, at the local riding stables ("I was very big into horses"), and at the local Hotpoint factory. But by then "I'd heard Little Richard and it was all over". He hitchhiked to Manchester, got a gig playing guitar in The Rocking Vicars and "for the next two years lived the life of bleeding Riley". Part covers band, part cabaret act, the Vicars "were one of those bands nobody down south ever heard of but who were huge up north. We all had Jags. I had a Zephyr 6, big news in them days."
Eventually frustrated by the band's lack of ambition, Lemmy came to London in 1967, where he worked for £10 a week as a roadie for Jimi Hendrix. "I used to score acid for him," he proudly admits. "I'd get 10 hits and he'd take seven and give me three."
|But when Jimi left for America, Lemmy was laid off. He was "dealing dope in Kensington Market" when he met DikMik and "discovered we had this mutual interest in how long the human body can be made to jump about without stopping".
Recorded at Olympic Studios in Barnes, the new line-up's first album together, In Search Of Space, released in October 1971, was the first Hawkwind collection to feature not just stage favourites like the opening 16-minute jam You Shouldn't Do That, but also the band's first (almost) cohesive attempts at actual songs in Master Of The Universe (with suitably "spacey lyrics" by Nik) and We Took The Wrong Step Years Ago, another of Dave's old busking songs, but baked under the hydroponic lights of the band in full frenzied flow. "I always used to take LSD to mix an album and we used to actually spike the engineers up, too," Dave admits. "People used to be dead wary of us."
Once again, though, the line-up was shifting shape. Former Cochise roadie Del Dettmar joined on synthesizer. Then Lemmy, tired of Terry Ollis "falling off his drum stool", introduced the band to Simon King, "a proper drummer". Dave: "Terry just couldn't do the drugs and play at the same time. It was unfortunate..."
It was the Brock-Calvert-Turner-Lemmy-King-DikMik-Dettmar line-up that recorded Silver Machine live at the Roundhouse, at the Greasy Truckers Party, in February 1972. Mixed straight off the desk by future Stiff Records supremo Dave Robinson, and originally featuring Bob, who wrote the lyrics, on 'spoken-word' vocals, Doug took Lemmy into Morgan studios to re-record the vocals and remix it himself.
"Lemmy just had the best voice for it," explains Doug. "Of course, Bob was not pleased when he found out." (Having been sectioned for 28 days, Bob was actually in psychiatric care at the time.) Nor were the others too thrilled either, according to Lemmy. "They tried everybody else in the band before me. Nik, Bob, Dave... there was only me and the drummer left, and I sang it very, very well the first time. And they fucking couldn't stand it! Then it was a hit and they really couldn't stand it! My picture on the front of the NME without them - the one who took them filthy speed drugs..." Silver Machine .reached Number 2 in the UK charts in July 1972. "We had a hit in virtually every country in the world," says Doug, "only you didn't realise it until 25 years later."
|as a frog in a tricorn hat, Stacia clad in not very much at all, and the manic mechanic himself. Bob Calvert, "like a cross between Biggles and Lawrence Of Arabia", according to Mick Farren.
Calvert transformed Hawkwind's thrift-shop psychedelia into authentic rock theatre. Whether in black-face, top hat and overcoat for Steppenwolf, stripped to the waist and wielding a broadsword for Hassan-i-Sahba, or a la Rudolph Valentine in leather jodhpurs for Born To Go, he was more orator than a singer. "It all works up to a nice piece of spontaneous theatre," Calvert explained at the time. "It's great to be able to improvise something like that at the drop of a hat. Rock is a very theatrical thing, what with body language, gesture, movement, mime and the like."
Lemmy: "Hawkwind were dangerous, man. We used to lock all the doors in the hall. And have the strobes pointed out at the crowd. Five strobes from the stage all slow - wocka-wocka-wocka. We used to give people epileptic fits. We used to fuck people up good, man." Indeed, when Hawkwind played London's Rainbow in 1972, the crowd broke down the doors to allow the ticketless in.
But if the Space Ritual was Hawkwind at their zenith, Urban Guerrilla, their next single, flopped. With London experiencing its first wave of IRA bombings, the Beeb objected to lines like, "I'm an urban guerrilla/I make bombs in my cellar” and promptly banned it. "It was silly, really, cos the words are fantastic," says Dave. "It was a political statement. But not about the IRA. And probably that did change things. Because if that had been another hit, that would have been another successful album..."
The arrival of their first (and last) big hit may have spurred the band on to some of their best work with their next two albums, Doremi Fasol Latido (1972) and the live double Space Ritual Alive (1973), but Silver Machine was also a turning point in other ways, too. "Everybody became very serious suddenly." Hawkwind added a second drummer, Alan Powell (ex-Vinegar Joe), to 'the Hawkestra' and "we were doing big places now", remembers Dave, "things like the Oval with Frank Zappa. But suddenly there were egos and yes-men everywhere. Even Nik used to have an entourage. All these weird characters - a right fucking pain in the arse."
In America word had spread of the new 'space rock' band from Britain. By April '74, they were headlining 7,000-seater arenas, Stevie Wonder and Alice Cooper attended their New York show, and Joanna Leary (wife of acid guru Timothy Leary, then serving time for miscellaneous drug offences) invited the band to be her guests when they played in San Francisco. "On-stage that night," Dave recalls, "they rigged up a telephone link to Leary in his jail cell and he gave this speech. The police in the hall went fucking bananas."
In common with cultural cousins, The Grateful Dead, Hawkwind became a magnet for "every acid casualty in town". Lemmy: "We got spiked once by two separate bunches of hippies with angel dust, in Cleveland, and we were out there going, OK, I'm Superman! No, I'm not. I'm a piece of wood! Those were the days," he cackles. Dave: "They still have a few Hawkwind Farms over there with all the words of the songs written down in a leather bound, book, like their prayer book...”
And so they might have continued, had the band not been... well, Hawkwind. Calvert left in '74, nominally to pursue a solo career (his Captain Lockheed & The Starfighters project and his Eno-produced Lucky Leif And The Longships album) but, in reality, says Doug, "because Bob was fairly off the rails by this point. He'd ring up in a complete state, telling me he's Christ and pinned to a wall. I'd spend hours talking him down..." Without Bob, the band recorded their two most focused albums yet, 1974's Hall Of The Mountain Grill (after the cafe of the same name in Ladbroke Grove) and the following year's Warrior On The Edge Of Time. For Doug, this was "the magic band. And as soon as you took one of those elements away - which turned out to be Lemmy - you lost it all."
|Busted in May 1975 on the Canadian border en route to a show in Toronto for possession of cocaine (a felony later downgraded to a fine when it turned out it was amphetamine sulphate he was carrying, not then illegal in Canada), Lemmy always maintained that the bust "was just an excuse to get rid of me. The band was split into speed and psychedelic camps. Me and DikMik were the untouchables because we liked speed." Speed, Dave agrees, was seen as "poor show. Irksome, as Bob used to call it."
Lemmy claims now that the only reason the band even put up the money for his bail was because "they couldn't get [Pink Fairies bassist] Paul Rudolph over quick enough to do the show in Toronto. So I did the show and at 4.30 in the morning I was fired." Oddly, both Dave and Nik claim credit for breaking the news. Nik: "Nobody wanted to tell him. So I undertook to tell him. I said, We've had a meeting, Lemmy, and we just find it really hard to work with you and have decided that we'd like you to leave the band. I think he was quite shocked, because he probably thought that this situation could go on forever." Or Dave: "It was awful, I'll never forget it, man... knocked on his door, went in there and said, Look, I've got something really awful to tell you but the band has decided that you're sacked. Lemmy said, 'No, I don't believe it! Everything revolves around this! This is my life!'" Lemmy was devastated. "He rang me in tears," says Doug. "Lemmy's a free spirit. You didn't question the fact that sometimes he was a pain in the arse, late or rude or wicked or just a nuisance. Everybody had their own foibles that were just appalling on some occasions."
Firing Lemmy was the moment their luck began to run out. "A lot was lost," says Mick Farren. "They could have gone on and been The Grateful Dead if they'd held it together. But it schismed and by about '78, '79, Lemmy was actually making a greater contribution to music than whatever was going on with Brock."
Their 1976 album, Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music saw the return of Bob to the band but was a lacklustre affair. When Dave then had Nik fired from the band (in retaliation, he now claims, for Nik's own furtive attempts to oust the guitarist), the writing was on the wall. There was to be a last hurrah in 1977 with Quark, Strangeness And Charm, the band scoring a modest Top 30 hit with the title track, for which they made a rare appearance on British TV, on Marc Bolan’s new TV show. Stripped of both their trademark seagulling synths and with Stacia long gone ("married with children and living in Hamburg with her husband Roy Dyke, formerly of Ashton Gardner & Dyke," says Doug), Quark... was Dave and Bob's not-quite-successful attempt to update Hawkwind for new punk audience.
Then, in Paris, October '77, Bob had his biggest freak-out yet. Simon House: "He just flipped. He wasn't sleeping at all. Banging on your door in the middle of the night demanding Valium and frothing at the mouth. If you’re cooped up 24 hours a day with someone like that, it really gets to you. It was like the whole band was gonna explode. Finally, we just did a runner. Left Bob in Paris, running down the street after us..." Dave: "He was right behind us and I got stuck in traffic. We locked all the doors and he was pulling on the handles, screaming through the windows..."
After Bob had been sectioned yet again back in London, the band soldiered on through some already booked American dates. But Simon left halfway through to join David Bowie on the Heroes tour. Even Dave Brock was now considering throwing in the towel: "I remember one of the guys from Jefferson Starship coming up and saying, 'It's an empty husk of a band.' At the end of that tour, I actually sold my guitar. I thought, That's the end of it all, we're finished."
|Dave always looked like the sort of grumpy, lank-haired ageing hippy you went to see for a five-quid deal back in the days when you didn't know anyone else who sold 'stuff'. Short, stick-thin, his forearms ominously tattooed, Dave looked heavy, like he was in on some cosmic joke only he would find funny. Now 59 yet hardly changed since Hawkwind's heyday (does he still trip out? The answer is not quite no), he's kept occupied by his sizeable Devonshire farm's livestock, recording studio, rehearsal space and an almost guiltily concealed swimming pool. Spade in hand, he diligently prods the weeds in his garden throughout our interview. Born in 1941, the son of a petrol-tanker driver for the 7th Armoured Division, he was an only child who liked to "plonk around" on his Uncle Morris's "old Appalachian banjo", listening to the trad jazz of Bud Johnson and Ken Colyer. At 15, his art teacher introduced him to the blues and he persuaded his parents to buy him an acoustic guitar, "playing along to Big Bill Broonzy 78s". After leaving|
|school, he worked variously as an apprentice capstan-setter, potato-picker, junk-mail leafleteer, and trainee despatch manager. But by night he hung out at fashionable London dives like the Crawdaddy club and Eel Pie Island, where he played his first gig and smoked his first joint ("it tasted like lavender"). Busking his way around Europe, by 1967 he was in Amsterdam fronting an "acoustic psychedelic flower-power band", Doctor Brock's Famous Cure. Despite achieving a modicum of fame, they eventually had to leave "in a hurry" after one of the band "got into a bit of trouble". (What kind of trouble? "Er, drug trouble.")|
|He moved up to London and began "seeing The Yardbirds and the Stones, that whole scene". Though he had played alto sax in his older brother Roger's jazz band, The Canterbury Tailgaters, "I simply didn't consider myself good enough to think seriously about joining a 'proper' group." Instead, he bought himself a flute - "easier to carry around than a sax" - and started travelling around Europe. In Berlin, he met "all these free jazz musicians who used to play with Eric Dolphy, and they convinced me that you didn't need to be technical to express yourself. I decided that what I wanted to do was play free jazz in a rock band - what I was trying to do in Hawkwind, basically."
Nik met Dave Brock in Amsterdam, while working as a roadie on something called the Rock'n'Roll Circus - "a travelling show, with a great big tent with bands playing and light shows". When he, too, returned to London in 1968, he went to stay with Dave in Putney. At first, he was merely the van driver. "Then I got my old sax out at one of the rehearsals and everybody seemed to like it. We just wanted to do something genuine, with no great aspirations towards success. We weren't ambitious at all."
The last member to join was a 25-year-old miscreant named Michael Davis (aka DikMik), one of several "chemist-robbers and a speed-dealer" Nik had first met in his days "selling psychedelic posters on Margate beach". Brought in to help drive the van, within weeks DikMik had talked his way into the band, too, by building a contraption he called an 'audio generator': cannibalised, he liked to claim, from an old vacuum cleaner, in reality it was a customised ring modulator. Dave: "He used to set it up on an old card-table and make these weird noises with it. If you were tripping, it sounded fucking great..."
|With the luck of a drunk weaving unscathed across a busy road, Hawkwind actually got noticed with their very first gig: an impromptu jam to which they had invited themselves at the All Saints Hall in West London's Portobello Road, on Friday, August 29, 1969. "It was this psychedelic club with strobes going and we just turned up and asked if we could play for free," says Dave. "We hadn't even thought of a name for ourselves so we just called it Group X."
Organising the show that night was Clearwater, a Ladbroke Grove-based company fronted by a 25-year-old former "RAF brat" named Doug Smith. "We were the same age as the bands and it was very eleventh-hour management. Very chaotic," he recalls. Promoting Friday night shows at the All Saints Hall was a useful way of squeezing some of Clearwater's bands onto the bill. "Two-and-six entrance, no booze, just orange squash and sandwiches. Suddenly this bunch of complete freaks walked in the door out of their boxes, and said, 'Here, we're a band, can we play?' And they just went crazy on stage. Afterwards, John Peel, said, 'Douglas, sign 'em. They could be big.' We thought, Hmmm, maybe we better get on board..."
|A mid-70’s Hawkwind live performance was a full-blown multimedia event. Beyond the pulsing green and purple orbs, the montage of back-projections, Weimar eagles, Eastern religious symbols, zodiac signs and in-joke drug references cooked up by Barney Bubbles and Liquid Len, there was the band themselves:
Brock wearing World War I aviator goggles, Turner dressed
|Yet that was far from the end of the Hawkwind story. Instead, Dave returned within weeks with yet another line- up, finally taking complete control of the Hawkwind name just as everyone else had given up on them. "I was captain then, you see. All the other captains had left." Or as Simon puts it: "It may have been Dave and Nik who first got it together, but it was always Dave's band." Since then Hawkwind have existed on the margins: cashing in on the heavy metal boom of the '80s, desperately trying to align themselves with the E-generation trance-throb of the '90s.
Bob Calvert died of a heart attack in 1988. Hawkwind were playing a free festival up in Tewkesbury when Dave got the news. It was, he says softly, "a very strange moment indeed. I have a lot of treasured memories of Bob. I'm still playing his numbers..."
News that the 70's nucleus of the band was planning a 30th anniversary 'reunion' this year was received with scepticism.
|Lemmy: "I'd love to do it, man. I would never have left if they hadn't fired me. I don't see it as long-term, though."
Nik Turner is more gung-ho. "I'd like to do an album. We could all write two tracks each, including material that Robert Calvert had written, which I've spoken to his wife about. And we ought to try and get DikMik involved, even if he's just standing on stage rolling a joint." Dave views all such suggestions "with a large pinch of salt". What he would like, he says, "is the current band with some of the old boys making guest appearances".
An idea Mick Farren treats with disdain. "There's a certain element of Chuck Berry about Brock, you know? You do the set from, like, November 1973, and you do it right. If they can pull that off, they're the fucking gunfighters they've always claimed to be. If they can't, fuck 'em...
We shall see. London's Brixton Academy is booked for three nights in September and EMI release a 3-CD box set. This way to the bad trip tent...