|Music UK March 1985 Article
The PA stacks rise up out of the gentle sweep of Salisbury Plain like a strange 20th Century echo of the
monument that towers over the site of the Stonehenge Festival. All is chaos in the backstage area, with one
band departing as another starts to arrive, roadies are everywhere when you don't need them, and nowhere
when you do.
Roy Harper's just crashed his way through an excellent set, aided by Huw Lloyd Langton on lead guitar. The
activity becomes more concentrated as the huge Hawkwind flightcases are run up to the ramp, the light
begins to fade, the crowd of 30,000 begin to get impatient. It's like waiting at the School Social for Santa to
arrive. Then they're there.
This is Stonehenge 1984. This is what they came to see. Fade in the drums, the Hawkwind machine begins
the overdrive to dawn, and the Solstice.
But the Hawkwind story itself goes way back to 1968 in the depths of deepest Notting Hill Gate. Here, Group
X was formed, around the nucleus of a bunch of avant garde musicians, buskers, and music shop assistants,
that metamorphosed into Hawkwind Zoo and then Hawkwind. By the end of 1969 they were a hard working
gigging band, playing anywhere, often for free, if they thought the cause worthwhile. Dave Brock
(guitar/vocal), Huw Lloyd Langton (guitar), Terry Ollis (drums), Nik Turner (sax), John Harrison (bass) and
Dik Mik (electronics) were the original line-up of the band, and together they cut "Hawkwind", a motley
collection of tracks that ranged from the gentle acoustic songs of Brock to some blistering guitar and sax
work from Langton and Turner. Together they appeared at the Isle Of Wight festival in 1970 - playing
outside the gates for the 'rest' of the crowds. This was the start of a reputation for outrageous stage
appearances that was furthered when they appeared at the Glastonbury Fayre in June 1971. Alongside
Family, Fairport Convention, and a host of other 'names', they appeared with Bob Calvert, sci-fi poet
extraordinaire. That year "In Search Of Space" was released, and the reputation of the band started to spread.
It was 1972 that a single taken from the out-takes of a concert at London's Roundhouse was released. The
concert itself was called The Greasy Truckers Party (and the album of that title fetches around Â£30 these
days). 'Silver Machine' shot up the UK charts, and lodged at No 3.
Doremi Fasol Latido (clever title) was also released the same year. The money from 'Silver Machine' meant a
new approach to their stage shows. Massed lighting, towering PA systems, dry ice everywhere, and strange
costumes placed the band firmly at the top of the 'underground' tree. The tour that followed was captured for
posterity on Space Ritual Live, recorded at Brixton and Liverpool Stadium.
It is here that the band's history becomes rather jumbled. Members came and went, sometimes on an almost
weekly basis, though major departures were from Huw Lloyd Langton, John Harrison and Terry Ollis who
left in '73. Then Dik Mik and Bob Calvert went in late '73. Replacement for Harrison was one Ian 'Lemmy'
Kilmister, but, on their 1974 US tour, he was caught in possession of Amphetamine Sulphate, and returned to
the UK after being sacked by the band, and formed his own outfit. (Incidentally, the US tag for a speed freak
is a Motorhead!)
Simon King played drums for a while, then came Simon House on keyboards. King replaced by Alan Powell.
Paul Rudolph (from the Pink Fairies) replaced Lemmy, then Rudolph and Powell were sacked. With me so
far? This is now 1975.
1976 saw the release of "Astounding Sounds Amazing Music", then Nik Turner left. Adrian Shaw came in for
bass duties on "Quark, Strangeness And Charm", though the next album "PXR5" didn't see the light of day
until 1979. In the meantime, Hawkwind had, to all intents and purposes, split. A band, called the Hawklords,
carried on the flag, though this, too, had line-up changes.
By 1979 however, the band was back as Hawkwind. The line-up was Dave Brock, Harvey Bainbridge
(bass/keys), Simon King, Tim Blake (keys), and original member Lloyd Langton returned to the fold.
Together they recorded "Live 1979", released in 1980 along with a spasm of touring, using lasers for the first
(and arguably the most useful) time. They needed the strange, the weird and the wonderful. And they
delivered it. Frantic gigs and tours recreated the old band's ideals of a multi-media stage performance.
Line-up didn't last long though... King left, replaced by Ginger Baker. Blake departed and was replaced by
Keith Hale. (Then, in 1982 he left too). Baker left, replaced by Andy Anderson (ditto). You are following this,
"Sonic Attack" was released in 1981, "Church Of Hawkwind" in 1982 and "Choose Your Masques" also in
1982. "The Text Of Festival" (1983) was a bootleg of sorts, though no one seems to want to know anything
about it...which brings us up to 1984 and the release of the latest opus. â€œStonehenge, This Is Hawkwind,
Do Not Panic".
Should any kind soul out there care to take me to task over the above brief biog, I would like to point out that
no printed or verbal history of the band is in any way similar to any other. That members who were members
deny it vigorously, and that members who were never nearer to being in Hawkwind than I am to Peking
claim allegiance. Similarly, there are, literally, over 25 LPs that look oh so genuine...¦which are in addition to
those indicated above. I don't mind family trees...but that was a jungle.
This is Tim Oakes - and I'm panicking!
Huw Lloyd Langton
Although, as we have seen, members of Hawkwind come and go with astounding regularity, there is a hard
core to the band that have been there, admittedly on and off, since the very start. Dave Brock, eclectic
vocalist, guitarist and the enigmatic Nik Turner, space sax and assorted allsorts, are two of the central
membership that have kept the band going through thick and (very) thin.
But, the figure thrashing the Les Paul at the side of the stage was also there from the start. Huw Lloyd
Langton, tousle-haired lead guitarist, first became part of Hawkwind through Dave Brock's busking...
"I was working in a music shop in the West End of London, and Dave used to come in after a day busking to
exchange all his pennies for strings and harmonicas. That was how I first got to know him. After that, I did a
stint all over Europe with another band and when that petered out, I came back to London again. I was in the
underpass at Tottenham Court Road when I saw Dave busking, waited for him to finish his bit, and then he
asked me if I knew where he could find a guitarist looking for a gig; 'Here's one'. I said, and that was that."
And that was 1969. Now, 16 years on, had the band changed from the original directions they laid at the end
of that decade?
"Not really. The original ideal -if that's the word- was to create a whole stage show, lights, music and all, that
would replace a drug situation...but initially the drugs that were being taken by members of the band took
over, and that ideal went out of the window for a time. But it comes around again, and that many years on I
think the band are trying to achieve what we set out to do then. And being that many years on the drug thing
has also been pushed to the back. But musically, we've kept very much the same sort of approach, despite all
the people coming and going and the fact they they've had different interests - I think it's remarkable that we
have remained so consistent."
But, as with all the various bands who pioneered the space rock genre, the individual person trying to keep up
with the otherworldliness of their situation, all too soon found that the bubble could burst.
"I spent a while, especially at the very start, taking any sort of illegal substance I could get my hands on. It
had to stop and the result was a breakdown that made me stop. I had to leave the band then. If you look at it
from a personal point of view, rather than the band as a whole, I think I've changed a lot but we've come to
see that the band is apart from your own life - you can't live Hawkwind all the time!"
When the time came for Huw's return to the fold, the phone call from Dave Brock sent Huw scurrying for
his amp. The band hadn't changed all that much, but the audiences had.
"It came as quite a shock. I'd seen the usual crew we had around us in the early days, but the audiences after
I came back were a real mixture. I had been concerned that the following would be just the same as years
ago, just older! In the event, they were all different, from the very young kids right through to the older
people who had either seen the band at the start and kept on following them, or had come in because of the
science fiction connections, and the connections with Michael Moorcock."
Ah, the Sci Fi bit. The engaging aspect of the space rock band that was a major part of Hawkwind's
development as a top U.K. touring unit. Their appearance at the Glastonbury Fayre with poet Robert Calvert,
brought Moorcock's interest in the band, and his subsequent approaches to them. Was the Sci Fi a conscious
"Well, it had always been there, it just seemed to become more important as time went on. But the actual
basis of the band I think is rooted in hard rock and blues."
Blues? 'Woke up this morning...on Alpha Centauri'?
"I quite often have done!"
But while all the members of the band strive in their collective directions, their individual interests are very
different. Bob Calvert has turned out three solo LPs, so far, the last being Freq, a computer and electronic
album; Dave Brock has turned out his songwriting in a more direct mode, and Huw Lloyd Langton has spent
much of his time 'off the road' with Hawkwind, 'on the road' with the Lloyd Langton Group, a solid driving
band that not unnaturally features much of the dramatic guitar soloing that he is revered for.
"It was never a planned thing. It came about through the Friends And Relations LP that Flicknife put out.
They wanted a track from me in there, but I had contract problems and I had to pull out, Instead, there were
two musicians that I had been just working things around with, and eventually we looked around for a few
Those 'few gigs' included packed houses at the Marquee where, with a lot of jumping around from an
energetic audience, Langton tore through a telling set of strong songs, including "Dreams That Fade Away"
and "It's On Me" from the 12" single that appeared in August of 1984. Strangely though, the Lloyd Langton
Group, while punchy on record, don't seem to be able to capture the frenzied abandon of their live shows.
"Well, I'm never 100 per cent happy with what I've put down on tape - never been in fact. I much prefer
working live where you get an immediate reaction. The studio is such an unenjoyable thing - it's too much
like work and there's seldom anything spontaneous about it. There's so much more give and take live,
especially when you have a receptive audience to play to. You work at it more, and you know that it is
spontaneous and after that it's gone...unless someone has bootlegged the bloody thing."
Something that happens rather a lot both inside and outside the Hawkwind camp, 'officially' and 'unofficially'.
"The bootlegs are very frustrating. I don't want to go into them really... I suppose it's OK when it's confined
to just the fanatical fans, but the bootlegs get out to a much wider audience and they can be very
embarrassing. They tend to get recorded on the worst recorders, but they get lapped up anyway. In fact, the
first gig that I ever did with my own band got bootlegged. They actually managed to master it from the
cassette recording! I really regret not being able to stop that one, even given that I perhaps had a choice of
being part of the release and maybe seeing some money from it, or letting them get away with it completely. I
don't like being pushed into the position of having to make a decision on that sort of issue anyway."
The trials and tribulations of the bootleg industry apart, Hawkwind are very much a lone band. There are few
who can claim that they fit into the same category, and, in reality, the band has been very much a trail blazer.
"Oh yes, very much so. There were punk bands who came out and stated that they had been influenced by
Hawkwind, and in fact anyone who plays hard rock with the odd squeak from a synth seems to get quite a
few ideas from us. So what? We've never been a fashionable band, and we never will be. Some people have
tried to get us to be more commercial, but it's never worked. We just like playing, and if anyone wants to
take the problems we've had over the years they're welcome to try it...that is, if they like the thin end of the
Hawkwind's financial plights are probably well known by now. Despite the fact that Silver Machine sold
copies enough for double platinum status, plus nearly all the albums they've released have gone gold or silver,
Huw has one single gold disc for the first LP - and that took years to get.
But, the basic sound of the band, for those who would perhaps try and imitate the Rituals Of Space Rock
are, in Huws' words, as follows:
"First off, I don't use a distorted guitar sound! I like it loud, yes, but that is where the amp starts to poke
anyway, but not fuzz guitar as such. I vary between a Gibson Howard Roberts Fusion (a tasty semi acoustic
- rather like a Byrdland), and me trusty Les Paul. On the last tour, I took the Les Paul for the first half of the
dates, and the Fusion for the second. As a spare guitar, I have the Roland Guitar Synth.
"Dave uses a very distorted guitar sound, but when you have the synths screaming away, and the drums
pounding et cetera, then I need to be able to cut through that lot with something a bit cleaner. I've never been
one for stacks - I used to use the Roland Bolt combo, but that's got a bit old and noisy. Recently the guys at
Custom Sound introduced me to their 100W combo which I used on the last tour. But, we're not a hard rock
band as such. Nor are we a synth band - though we were probably the first to start using them for adding to
the sound rather than instruments on their own.
"I don't like categories, Hawkwind are Hawkwind. Period!"
King Brock resides in his castle in the Western lands. His mighty battle axe, the famed Artist of Ibanez,
resides with him, awaiting the call to lead forth the powerful members of the Hawkband - to take to the roads
and advance across the land, piercing ears as they go.
Quite recently, the Wizard Michael Moorcock has been in close council with the Hawkman, and together they
have devised a new strategy in their quest. They have invoked the lost spirit of EIric, Stormbringer, with the
aid of the Ayt Traak Of Devonshire. Now, they are in consultation with the other Hawkmen, and soon, they
will take the new strategy out to the strange lands of Waste, that men call Europe...and should it work there,
they will return again to enact it for their followers in the land of Yuw- Kay...or something...
Aficionados of the Michael Moorcock school of sci fi will probably be able to decipher that (Hawk) wind-up
and work out what Brocky and the lads are up to...for the rest of you then, here's what he actually said!
"We've been planning a European tour for a while now, and that is going to take place around April. It started
off just as a tour, but I had met up with Mike Moorcock again, and we had sort of worked out an idea for a
new project, using the Elric series of books.
"The Stormbringer series is a big problem, because it is so very big. There are six books to condense into one
show, and an album, so I've spent a lot of time going through the whole lot of them, reading it all up, and
trying to get songs down that we can link up the various stories and things. Luckily, I've also got a lot of
books on mythology here at home, and I can delve into them for the various bits of character analysis that I
need. All of it centres around the sword, I've worked out, so that will be central, with the Lord Of Chaos as a
sort of anti figure...well, it all gets a bit complicated really."
It does that! But then the band have thrived at a challenge, and their forte has been with the idea of a total
concept...album transcended to stage show, with all the trimmings. This sort of venture, in fact, was the
basis for the first major tour that the band undertook after the success of the Silver Machine single, the
Space Ritual Roadshow marking a new milestone in rock theatrical and stage ideas.
"We spend a lot of time getting the stage shows just right, not just from the music side - for which we spend
weeks in rehearsal - but also the lighting and the sets that we tour with. I've just been in contact with Jon
Perrin, our lighting and special effects man, and we'll have quite a few meetings on this Stormbringer
concept before we can get it onto the road. He's brilliant at this sort of thing and creates all the various rigs
that go out plus designing the changes that go with various songs."
It all sounds like the sort of thing that would be right up the street of Bob Calvert, sci fi poet and lyricist
extraordinaire, but, alas, this cannot be. Dave explains:
"Bob and Mike don't see eye to eye, which is a shame because this is something that Bob would have shone
at. We've been working apart now for a while, which is very different to how things used to be. I used to
go over to his place regularly and we would get wildly excited about the plans and songs that we had. I'd play
him some things I'd got down, and he'd delve into his poems and things, and we'd match them up."
The reminiscence turned us both to thoughts of the various members of the band from times gone by - and
to who is in the band at the present...
"Well, me for one! Huw, Nik Turner, Harvey (who is playing keyboards now), Alan Davey on bass and
Clive Bunker [sic] on drums. Of course, Clive is a very professional musician, and I don't know how
dedicated he is to the cause! You have to be in this band. Involvement is almost everything and the
problems we've had don't make it all that easy for people. Recently we've also been working with Danny
Thompson who is a great drummer - he's the son of Danny Thompson the double bass player.
"We will all be getting together over the next few weeks to work out the ways that we can stage the new
project, and what form the thing is going to take. It looks as though Mike may be coming in as the narrator
for it, which will be marvellous."
It certainly will...the only other projects that I can think of that are in any way similar are the Journey To The
Centre Of The Earth Wakeman epic, and the Roger Glover (and friends) Butterfly Ball show and LP - both of
which grossed quite a few farthings over the counters of box office and record shop...which will probably
mean that Dave can replace some of the ageing gear he uses with the band. Although he seems quite happy
"I use an Ibanez Artist, which I find is a very comfortable guitar for me - I know what it can do perfectly,
and I know what it can't do. That goes through an H/H 100W amp and then to a pair of 4x12 HiWatt cabs
that I've had since 1973. At that time they were painted to fit in with the stage set then - all psychedelic
patterns and stuff, and I've never repainted them since. The guitar also has a Roland Space Echo, as does the
Jupiter 8 keyboard I have on stage. The Jupiter plays through another space Echo, and then to a PA amp, and
a pair of Badger cabinets. On top of all those, I also have a Korg Analogue Sequencer that also goes through
A fairly frugal stage set up then, but, like all things that are used on stage, if you're happy with them, don't
change a thing!
"Yes, it's the same with the studio I have. It's an old Itam 8 track, coupled up to a Studiomaster 16 track
desk. I've had the recorder since 1976; and it is, admittedly, a bit noisy...but it's mostly used for ideas, so I'm
not too bothered about that. The rest of the studio gear is a Korg Poly 6 and various drum machines. It's all
set up so that I can get them all going at once, and then play over them. That's the beauty of the synths - I
can leave them going over and over the riff, and I develop ideas from that."
I mentioned the idea of using a similar set up on stage but Dave feels that the band are better playing as they
do - because they have always played that way rather than because it is in some way a 'cheat', like using
"No, I can't think it's a deception at all. If we were to use tapes on stage, then the audience would still be
hearing me play, just that I played it some time before! I have seen bands using tapes live, just a couple of
Revox's set up to play the backing, but I don't think that's for us..."
Since 1969 Hawkwind have been pioneers of the use of the synthesiser in stage performance - certainly they
were, and are, probably the only band that use the synth in the particular and peculiar way that they do...
"It started with the Audio Generators that we had then. They were used for sound effects and added to the
spacey sort of sounds that the band were creating. You know, I saw a book in Marks & Spencers the other
day, some history of rock, and there was a picture of Del Dettmar and Dik Mik with the old audio generators
- I was pleased with that, just some recognition for what they did in starting it off for us. It's funny, I played
an old LP by Silver Apples to a friend recently, and though it was recorded in 1964 (!) it sounds very very
1985 - I suppose the equipment and the sounds haven't changed, just the gear getting more expensive!"
At this point, our interview was curtailed by Dave's need to return to the pressing matter of the project in
hand, but he left us with a thought upon the band that has been described as "probably the most
unfashionable group of musicians still gigging."
"We are still here, we are still gigging and doing what we set out to do 16 years ago. I don't know if you can
say that about many bands. I feel that we're still in touch musically with what is happening around us - we
just incorporate it into the general idea of the band...into Hawkwind I suppose."