|Hawkwind On The Jukebox
Many thanks to Hervé & Aurélie for this article. This piece appeared in French publication "Juke Box
Magazine", which is a contemporary title, but I think it must have originally been written in the spring
of 1995, and been updated since. The author, John Mac Elhone, published a 35,000 word history of
the band (in French) in 1996, called "Hawkwind Decoded 69/96" and this may well be an extract
from that work.
There are a number of things in this article that I don't believe are right, and I assume the errors have
crept in during translation, either into the original French, or introduced by me when bringing it back
into English. I have inserted comments in cyan, enclosed by  square brackets, where I think one of
these errors has occurred.
These troubadours of space, who've put into song the visions of Asimov, Brunner and Zelazny, remain
undominated by the rules of the music business, faithful to their fans and keep up a rebellious rock'n' roll
attitude, far away from the media glare. Survivors of the underground, of the punk onslaught and disco,
figureheads of the free festival scene, Hawkwind have become a cult, an aberration and a dream, maybe
even to those unaware of their existence. Perhaps they don't really existâ€¦but if they did, their story
would have to be told! And this is what Juke Box Magazine undertook in issues 122 and 172 and
continues here, starting with the late 1980's...¦
It was no surprise to see Hawkwind taking part in the collective "Traveller's Aid Trust" CD, in the
company of Culture Shock, Rhythmites, Nik Turner (his sax now plied elsewhere, but often appearing
with Hawkwind in guerrilla ambush tactics), Ozric Tentacles and Hippy Slags (the former outfit of
drummer Richard Chadwick). This album could be the keystone of the musical and ideological â
€œTravellers" movement which was at the time galvanising the British rock'n'roll scene. Its protagonists
were literally travellers, or, if one prefers, new age hippies: itinerant philosophers who advocated libertarian
ideals, assembled impromptu raves on the road and slept under the stars. To these nomads who claimed
nothing from society [no New Age Travellers ever claimed DHSS benefits, of course!], the government
should have been grateful: but no. Their access to festivals was prohibited, their caravans confiscated,
they were victimised by tax laws and their lives were made miserable. There's gratitude for you.
The title "Traveller's Aid Trust" rests on an ironic pun. Of course the record was made to help the
Traveller's movement, but it also implies the existence of a Trust, that is, a legal instrument for minimising
payments of tax. The revenues from this album certainly did not go to the tax authorities, but instead
were applied to this particular Good Cause. Though the first pressings comprised an expensive mistake in
the form of an incorrectly included Sugarcubes track. Flicknife were forced to destroy 5,000 vinyl album
copies and 3,000 CD's...¦
After the departure of Harvey Bainbridge (keyboards), Hawkwind devolved into the concise format of a
trio: Dave Brock (guitar, vocals, synthetizers), Alan Davey (bass, vocals) and Richard Chadwick (drums).
They toured America where Dave renewed his acquaintance with the Native American culture that
informed many of the concepts of Hawkwind's own philosophy. It also provided some of the visual
motifs, with the band already passing for Apaches with their shoulder-length hair - you could almost see
them sitting inside a Tipi! And in fact, these tents began sprouting in the British countryside with the
emergence of the Travellers. These hippies of the Nineties emerged in reaction to the dregs of
Thatcherism and most of them had no other homes. The Tipi was not merely a place to live, but
possessed great mystique and was a symbol of resistance to the status quo.
These elements provided Hawkwind with the theme of their next album, "Electric Tepee", in November
1993 [sic - actually 1992], and of the sleeve art, which portrayed a semi-opened tent traversed by electric
currents, beneath which the psychedelic totems of the band members squat peacefully. The slimmed-
down lineup re-established the roots of the band in an organic and natural rock with a powerful streak of
social awareness. "Death Of War" is a dark telling of an anti-war theme. And the lyrics of "Right To
Decide" were sent to Dave Brock in the post, by a killer serving a life sentence. [This is nonsense: Albert
Dryden inspired the lyrics rather than wrote them. And having shot and killed a council official, many
people would see him as the villain of the piece, rather than the victim of it - though that's not the line that
the lyrics take.] Relating a real event that occurred in Devon [County Durham, actually!], a householder
who had incurred official displeasure by building a bungalow without planning permission found himself
confronted by police and council officials flanked by bulldozers. In a black rage, he coldly killed the
planning officer, before the eyes of the television cameras that the latter had invited along, never thinking
of this final tragic outcome... The album was recorded in Dave Brock's home studio, without record
company constraints or interference: the result is joyful and effervescent. The first 5,000 vinyl copies
were stamped with the same design as the CD... a tipi!
Hawkwind have always done more than their fair share for good causes. Thus the proceeds from the
"Who's Gonna Win The War" single went to Amnesty International, and 10% of the royalties from
"Wings" (which evokes the plight of oil-slicked seabirds) were presented to the Royal Society for the
Protection of Birds. These engagements do have their funny side, however: the band played a concert to
raise money for endangered rhinoceroses, with the takings being sufficient to save four-and-a-half rhinos.
They played an official anti-drug festival, and were the surprise choice to accompany the venerable Vera
Lynn, the English equivalent of France's Line Renaud: quite a tableau, this band of scruffy hippies with an
anti-militaristic track record, backing a heroine of the Second World War and honorable icon of Variété!
In April 1993 the Hawknauts once more sprung a surprise by collaborating on a charity record with then-
current media darling Samantha Fox! And for the first time they performed a cover version of another
band's song: the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter". It has the expected sonic effects, along with a sighing
mournful solo by Dave. This record (Food 80576-2) is worth buying for both its exceptional personnel (!)
and also because the sales go to benefit the homeless.
On April 28 our space travellers will be visiting us in Paris, in the Elysium at Montmartre. [This never
happened] The old place will fly away in a cosmic spiral after having spent the previous three weeks
hosting...the Chippendales! At the same time the "Tribute To Pink Floyd: A Saucerful Of Pink" album
(Cleopatra CLEO 9551) comes out, featuring notorious reprobates like Pressurehed, Psychic TV, Alien
Sex Fiend, Nik Turner... and based on the same principle is the "Tribute To Hawkwind, A Hundred Watt
Violence" album coming out on Ceres. Also awaited is an act of homage performed by Astralasia (made
up of defectors from Magic Mushroom), techno-heads who disfigure their prey like cannibals: on the
"Spirit Of The Age, Solstice Remixes" EP (4 Real 4RI) their titles exhibit this tendency: "Radio Exit",
"Vocal Full Mix", "Cyber Trance Mix" and "Flesh To Fantasy Ambient Mix" provide no indication that they
are in fact four versions of the very typical Hawkwind track "Spirit Of The Age".
Charging into the fray, the "Decide Your Future" EP (4 Real 4R2) contains "Right To Decide" and "The
Camera That Could Lie" by Hawkwind, and ignoble techno remixes of "Right To Decide" by Alien
Prophets, "Assassins" by Swordfish, and "Space Is Their..." by Astralasia (them again!)
There is thus a clone-like phenomenon based around the Hawkwind legend, which sees their disciples
sampling them at will, only to effectively parody their music in an ethno/techno style. In this way their
spatial trance groove is being diluted by a touch of reggae here, with monotonous Eastern chants and
Indian litanies there... To crown this cycle of interference, 1993 saw the hatching of an album of prog
rock drowned in contemporary howling industrial moves wrapped in a peel of ethnic tendencies. Its title
was premonitory: "It Is The Business Of The Future To Be Dangerous". It starts out by limping along on
a muted "train-kept-a-rollin'" kind of rhythm.
The titles of instrumentals "Space Is Their (Palestine)" and "Tibet Is Not China" may invite vigorous
criticism: Dave Brock has been quoted as saying that a slogan can have more impact than a speech. The
former song reveals an Arabist stance [you sure?!] and the latter features a choir of Tibetan children. In
fact Dave acknowledges that the song relates to the problem of the situation in Tibet, which he first heard
about in 1957, when he was playing a blues set in Eel Pie Island. Somebody called for volunteers to go
and fight the Chinese who had invaded this peaceful country: three hands were raised in the room. And in
1987, his partner was travelling in Tibet and was detained there when the Chinese closed the borders of
their smaller neighbor. "Gimme Shelter" is again featured on this record, but without the voice of
Samantha Fox. Richard Chadwick sings this number and does well, taking a breather during Dave Brock's
brilliant solo. It hardly gives us time to get used to these new vocals, buried as they are in the molten
firestorm of pitiless rhythm. This album, "It Is The Business Of The Future To Be Dangerous", the
second recorded in Dave's studio [wrong! - it was actually the last Hawkwind album to be recorded in a
commercial studio, i.e. *not* Dave's!], shipped a few thousand vinyl copies. This was quite daring in the
age of the all-conquering CD, being rather like printing a book in a limited edition on vellum.
In 1994, still going strong, Hawkwind were ready to blow out all 25 candles on their birthday cake.
Celebrating this anniversary was the idea of their veteran manager Doug Smith who, against all the slings
and arrows of misfortune, had maintained his stormy relationship with the heavy warriors. And yes, it had
been 25 years since their first gig in the baroque surroundings of All Saints' Hall (see Juke Box Magazine
NÂ°122). This marriage of metal had encompassed a quarter of a century, playing everywhere from the
smallest clubs to the most prestigious venues imaginable. The first time that they played in France was at
the Le Bourget festival, March 29, 1970, in an airport hangar. The posters advertising the event listed
them below High Tide, Ginger Baker's Airforce, Procol Harum, and Pink Floyd... They went on to play the
Paris Olympia (December 18th, 1971, 1st November 1972, and October 11th 1973), at the Pleyel Room
(April 23rd, 1977, a performance confirmed by the bootleg "A Quark Night In Paris"), and in other towns
across the country, most recently in Auvergne, at the Cunlhat Freewheels festival on August 17th, 1996.
They have played private parties, performed gigs for almost nothing, revived moribund festivals, trailing
their reputation of being drug-soaked anarchists, and all the while amassing a strong discography of [not
sure about these numbers] 35 studio albums, 28 live LP's and compilations, not counting a quintet of pirate
discs that feature them.
25 YEARS ON
In September 1994, Dave Brock and Doug Smith put out a 25th anniversary birthday present for the fans.
They founded the Emergency Broadcast System label and, on the 5th launched the "Quark" EP (with
5,000 copies on vinyl and the rest on CD). It revisits the song "Quark, Strangeness & Charm", coupled
with "Black Sun", a volcanic instrumental. Two other cuts are provided by Astralasia with their remixes
of "Uncle Sam's On Mars" which in their language took the names of "Red Planet" and "Martian
Conquest". On September 19th the LP "The Business Trip" saw release, also with 5,000 special edition
copies. You had to move quickly to get one of these, which came with a superb sleeve by Barney Bubbles
(the artist who drew their legendary 70's album covers, and who had committed suicide in 1984). Also
present was a track called "Terra Mystica", which was absent from the CD. On the other hand, the latter
format, in an initial special edition of 3,000, was enhanced with a 12-page booklet. This plunged the reader
into the acid-soaked atmosphere of heavy space rock / techno that could only have been conceived by the
The uninitiated will be surprised by the moderate popularity of the group, taking into consideration its
longevity and similarity to Pink Floyd, for example, with whom Hawkwind are often compared. But this
comparison is unjust because Hawkwind is more whimsical, more experimental, more human and closer
to its' fan base than the authors of "The Wall".
"The Birthday Party" is the title given to a double CD and to the spectacle which took place in London on
the 8th and 9th of October 1994, to celebrate 25 years of another group: not Hawkwind but fellow
travellers Gong, members of the Canterbury school (even if the band was born at Sens!) You will no
doubt remember Camembert Electrique and the Flying Teapot - well, one of the members of Gong, Tim
Blake, went on to rejoin Hawkwind.
During this period, the fan must also beware of the jungle of labels that were offering Hawkwind releases,
with track selections that duplicate and cut across each other. In the Hawkwind discography, there are
already three CD's bearing the name of "Spirit Of The Age", three more called "Masters Of The Universe",
two going by the name of "Dawn Of Hawkwind", and a compilation which hesitates between being titled
"Kings Of Speed" and "Lords Of Light", not to mention the bootleg "Orgasmatron"!
However the difficulty is compounded by a double live CD bearing the distinguished title "Space Ritual"
[actually "Space Ritual 1994"] that is not by Hawkwind, notwithstanding the involvement of three of its ex-
members. The name of one of them appears in large print, being Nik Turner, whose accomplices are Alan
Powell, Del Dettmar, Helios Creed (Chrome, Pressurehed) and Genesis P. Orridge (Psychic TV,
Pressurehed). [Ooh, this is all getting a bit hostile, isn't it?] This album (Cleopatra CLEO 9566) documents
their warped 1994 American tour which was both lucrative and a caricature. Not content with feasting on
the reputation of his former bandmates, Nik Tumer is called Nik "Hawkwind" Turner. Dave Brock took
legal action against this project, which he saw as an imposture by the band's old roadie and saxophonist.
At the time of their formation, our Notting Hill Heroes could hardly have imagined such judicial disputes
concerning the ownership of the name. But then, in space the laws are different...¦
Hawkwind's silver anniversary was nonetheless celebrated by a luxurious 4CD box set put out by Griffin:
"25 Years On". This was the Collector's Holy Grail, containing more than five hours of music with three
titles from the RCA era never before published on CD, and one completely new track, "l Am The Eye That
Looks Within". The sleeves featured new original artwork and included lyrics. The graphics on the exterior
box were fantastic, too. A foreword by Michael Moorcock recalls how he first met these troubadours of
Notting Hill, and the booklet then involves us in a galactic quest on board the "PXR5". Finally one enjoys a
more down-to-earth biography [here the author is referring to the "Ledge Of Darkness" graphic novel that
was part of the '25 Years On' boxed set], which nonetheless is not short of epic moments. These range
from police brutality at Stonehenge to the psychiatric confinement of Robert Calvert, from which he
escapes by microlight (!), to the residence of Dave Brock, which is portrayed as an austere Victorian
The 25th anniversary tour took the name of "The Business Trip" - these bizarre businessmen prospecting
their way across Europe with their samples of thermal rock'n'roll. In France, I caught up with them in Ris-
Orangis on the 1st November 1994â€¦
After this tour, Dave Brock benefitted from a respite in the schedule to polish two separate works in an
ambient / techno mode. It is necessary to use neologisms to describe this convulsive, rough-edged, fuzzy
music, with its' simplistic developments and yet written in the traditional spirit. "The White Zone", the title
of the first, is a pacey departure. According to the spoken intro, the theme evokes the white or neutral
zone of airports. Then, when the guitar comes in, it is symbolic of an additional layer of agitation. The
second recording, making greater use of electro / acoustic vibrations, bears a rather ambiguous name,
"Strange Trip & Pipe Dreams". It approaches, however, moments of real quality, with "Parasites Are Here
On Earth", "It's Never Too Late", and "Bosnia" (which is none other than "Death Of War" renegotiated via
a flood of sound effects). One comes away from these two discs with the dehumanized feeling of having
conducted an incursion into a hostile world, like Norman Spinrad's "Iron Dream", where the music itself
would be played by machines.
After having seen the puppet show version of Space Ritual cooked up by Nik Turner, the Americans
encountered the authentic Hawkwind in April 1995, only for their equipment to be confiscated by U.S.
Customs - what did these conspiracy theroists think they were going to find?! In fact, Dave Brock's
current interests were centred around the films of George Lucas, consuming everything to do with "Star
Wars", an excellent source of inspiration for a future album. However, the album which did come out in
September 1995, referred instead to David Fincher's "Alien 3", though it was retitled to "Alien 4", and was
nonetheless based on the business at Roswell, boasting a bluish creature with a frog's head on the album
Perhaps a brief resumé is needed. In July 1947, in the USA, a UFO crashed close to Roswell. The
authorities immediately threw a blanket of silence over this accident while engineers covertly studied the
instruments on board the craft and dissected the dessicated remains of the alien bodies. Ever since this
accident, even neutrals have observed the enormous technological progress of the Americans, in launch
detection, missile technology, data processing... A golden subject for Hawkwind! They tackled it in their
own inimitable manner, i.e. with furious blasts of guitar, on "Alien 4", liberating themselves from the
techno in which they had seemed to be mired.
The album strikes all the right extraterrestrial themes: abduction ("Abducted"), visual testimony ("Photo
Encounter"), the plea for rescue ("Beam Me Up"), data-processing chips ("Are You Losing Your Mind"),
arrival of the little green men ("Alien I Am", with the introductory voices coming from an episode of Star
Trek). This high-octane pop song gives free rein to a liberated guitar and lets itself spread out with an
excellently arrayed instrumental bridge. The profusion of ideas and their narrative sequence makes this
record into something of a mini space-opera.
However one sees the success of "Alien 4" (which got to number 2 in the UK independent charts) -
whether it was due to the general wave of all matters extraterrestrial which had swept the world, or
whether it is down to heavy promotion, the album boasts mature music interwoven with irresistable
elements: jungle / industrial intros, ascending synthesizers, plunging instrumental breaks, electronic
interludes. And although every Hawkwind album has used these well-tried techniques, their continual
reinvention quickly acquires the characteristics of a new generation. The band nourishes its original
principles of welcoming change and the inevitable mistakes. Their longevity challenge the modes and the
rules of the music industry, while their internal upheavals keep the band fresh and maintain the variation in
their approach to rock'n'roll. The United Artists years (1970-75) were those of the fusion of metal with the
ethereal evocative power of rhythm and harmony. The Charisma era (1976-79) sees the spectres of chaos
confronted by the deranged poet Bob Calvert. The Bronze period (1979-80) features the twilight energy of
primitive robotics. The RCA years (1980-81) were heavy, metronomic and dedicated to metal anthems.
During the era of Flicknife / Samurai / GWR (1981-93) the band plunged into the blast furnace of full-
blown space rock. On EBS ( 994-99), their progressive rock was overlaid with plenty of techno moves.
Lastly, the Voiceprint years (2000-03) have seen the band integrate their psych / metal and electro-trash.
In 1999 there took place a planetary event that was obviously conceived for these Lords Of Light: the
solar eclipse of August 11. To mark this rare moment they improvised a concert at a mythical place, the
hill of Chynoweth in Cornwall. (Mythical, because it had been the location for one of Michael Moorcock's
novels...) [Which one?!] "It was a magical day" as Dave Brock said, and aptly so as the event allowed the
successful use of the lightshow during the day time, which has never been seen before, not even at a Jean-
Michel Jarre gig! The focal point of this millenial gig was "Love In Space", a brilliant pop song built
around Dave's plaintive vocals, redolent of conviction. There are five known versions of it, and it's
worthy of adoption by NASA, after having given its name to an entire tour and two titles. For the first of
these, a double live CD, Emergency Broadcast System concocted a generous foldout digipack triptych
sleeve. For the second, a remixed CD single, EBS invented the left-handed record sleeve! Included on this
limited edition is "Love In Space" (remixed by Zeus B Held of Birth Control), "Lord Of Light" (new
version) and "Sonic Attack" (sung by Robert Calvert, over a Dave Brock-supplied electronic backing and a
cracking solo with which he lets fly). This was the last reinterpreration of the much-anthologised Michael
Moorcock piece. It does exist in a further form on the CD entitled "Sonic Attack 2001" but that is a Nik
Turner effort which has no place in the Hawkwind discography.
In October 1998, Vernon Fitch published the "Pink Floyd Encyclopedia", a superb book accompanied by a
CD on which Dave was invited to record a cover version of "Interstellar Overdnve". Hawkwind's
rendition is well executed, without self-indulgence. It is followed by a Dave Brock cornposition,
"Hyperdrive Reprise", based on a Jungle beat and the same electronic backing used for "Sonlc Attack" on
the mini-CD "Love In Space"!
This period was enlivened by the presence of Ron Tree, a fairly mad bass player, who put a load of audio
generators together and called the resulting instrument "the Psyclone"! It can be heard on "Distant
Horizons"... The electro-techno digressions continued with the "Paradogs", "Spacebrock" and "In Your
Area" releases... But in the margins of this wandering, the traditional fans found a happy counterpoint in a
raft of archival live recordings released by Voiceprint, in which the band showed its real strength:
"Thrllling Hawkwind Adventures", "Canterbury Fayre", "Yule Ritual"... And they came at last to the
concert of the century, the extravagant Hawkestra, at which more than twenty former members of
Hawkwind played all night: the "Night Of The Hawks", celebrating the thirty years of their career. Among
the participants were Lemmy of Motorhead (of course), offering a version of "Master Of The Universe"
flanked by the abundant charms of Samantha Fox, whose presence was certainly unexpected! The
following day, at the same Brixton Academy venue, Motorhead celebrated their 25 years in business.
Hawkwind's most recent album, "Take Me To Your Leader", explores some of the technological evils of
our society. The trio, Dave Brock (guitar, vocals, synthesizers), Alan Davey (bass, vocals) and Richard
Chadwick (drums), are joined by guests Arthur "Fire" Brown and Lene Lovich in the role of "Angela
Android". It's almost pointless to say that the live shows are scorching! Dave can do "Space, the final
frontier" in his sleep; he knows it like the back of his hand, having spent more than thirty years singing
about it and exploring it.
At the time of writing, this galactic voyage had carried on as far as the year 2000. But the third millenium
promises further adventures for the fourth decade of the space orchestra, Hawkwind
-John Mac Elhone
Rock and science-fiction have mixed ever since
their birth some fifty years ago: Since then,
more than a few bands have oriented
themselves towards the cosmos: Tornados,
Sputniks, Pink Floyd, Grateful Dead, UFO,
Tangerine Dream, etc. And one amongst this
company have attained the Olympian heights
of Space Rock: Hawkwind. With a hawk or
falcon as their emblem, they propelled
themselves across the galaxy on board their
majestic Silver Machine, a gleaming vessel
gliding on wings of silver to the blazing stars,
carrying its collection of riffs beyond the orbit
of Pluto. Its crew has accumulated a good
dozen deranged musicnauts like Lemmy,
Ginger Baker, Tim Blake, science fiction
author Michael Moorcock, underground poet
Robert Calvert and even David Gilmour, who
popped in to produce one song. And ever in
command, for more than thirty years, is the
founder of this utopian entity: one-time street
musician Dave Brock.