|Release the Hawks!
From Record Collector, March 2009..."How the Hawkwind catalogue is finally being remastered and
In the August 2007 RC we lamented the unavailability of the post-EMI Hawkwind catalogue in the company
of Hawklord Dave Brock and long-time manager Douglas Smith. Since then, Cherry Red has successfully
acquired the catalogue from 1976's Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music through 1997's Distant Horizons.
Launched with set of compilations (Spirit of the Age, covering 1976 - 1984 and The Dream Goes On, taking
the story through to 1997), 2009 sees the reissues commence. RC talked to Esoteric Records label manager
Mark Powell, in charge of Cherry Red's Hawkwind-dedicated Atomhenge imprint.
Record Collector: Pulling a deal together on such a fragmented catalogue is no mean achievement! Tell us
how it developed...
Mark Powell: It's been going on for some time; Doug Smith got everybody together to agree a deal where
everyone, each member of Hawkwind who had performed on the respective albums, got something. There
were discussions with various labels that never quite came to fruition, Sanctuary were going to do it but that
got scuppered by their acquisition by Universal. I'd just started working with Cherry Red, knew the
Sanctuary position, and it all took off. My first job was to establish what tapes were actually there, so that
they were signed over. It took about a year of negotiations but it was signed off in July 2008. Then it was a
case of retrieving the tapes from various different sources.
What did you find in terms of quantity and condition of the various multi-tracks and masters?
We've got about one hundred and forty multi- track tapes, all the album masters and out-takes from each
album. The Charisma stuff was still with EMI, Kingsley Ward at Rockfield Studios held the RCA material,
Doug Smith had much of the later stuff and Dave Brock had a lot of the masters.
We've digitally archived the multi-track tapes because most were on Ampex-branded tapes. It wasn't exactly
a production fault, but people realised after three or four years that when you played these tapes back, the
oxide that the carries the sound fell away from the backing tape. It would actually strip off and gunk-up the
heads of the tape machine, grind the machine to a stop and ruin the tape. The only way around this is to
physically 'bake' the tapes in an oven so that the dry air rebinds the oxide to the backing tape, allowing you
to play them through to archive them.
It took months to transfer all the multi-tracks to hard drive; now when we're approaching each album
individually I can look at all the associated tapes. Going through the masters, certainly with 25 Years On and
Astounding Sounds, I discovered the previous reissues weren't taken from the original master tapes. Virgin
had them transferred onto another analogue tape and made the CD from there. As soon as you hear the
original masters, they sound better than the Virgin CDs. Tweak them a bit and they sound even better.
What opportunities have you so far identified for bonus material?
The first fruits will be on the Hawklords album, 25 Years On. We've got a bonus disc including alternate
versions recorded at Langley Farm in Devon. There's an amazing live studio run-through of Flying Doctor,
alternate tracks of Free Fall and 25 Years (which ran for eight minutes with loads of robotic vocals). There's
a track called Assassination, an embryonic idea that became Some People Never Die on Church of
Hawkwind. We've also got the single mix of 25 Years, a single edit of Psi Power, and a different mix of
Death Trap from PXR5 previously released as a Hawklords b-side.
The Hawklords tour programme has been reproduced, that was also used as a press booklet by Charisma
and has Bob Calvert's story of the album's concept. We'll round off the Hawklords release by including the
Sonic Assassins (Barnstaple, Christmas 1977) live tracks.
Do you see similar opportunities with other studio albums?
There's a ton of material to go through from the early eighties, on the Church of Hawkwind sessions I can
see lots of things that have never come out, stuff recorded by Dave Brock and Harvey Bainbridge at
Rockfield. With more recent material recorded using computers, there are less out-takes because things got
tidied up as they went. So it's natural that the Hawklords-era will have more bonus material than, say,
Hawkwind are renowned for the amount of live material released but sometimes those albums have
featured truncated shows. Can you restore any missing material?
We've been unable to locate the multi-tracks of Live '79, which is a shame as it would be great to release the
whole gig. We'll restore Urban Guerilla, which was used as the b-side of the Shot Down In The Night
single. But then for Hawklords Live, the recordings made at Uxbridge are there in their entirety with four
unreleased tracks. Various members of the band have described the performance as lacklustre but coming in
with fresh ears it sounds fantastic, and the recording quality is excellent.
With the 'Black Sword' tour Live Chronicles, the full gig was available from Griffin in the States but not over
here, so our version will have the entire show including Mike Moorcock's narration. There's also the tour
with Ginger Baker drumming, the show which was used in part on This Is Hawkwind, Do Not Panic, all
those multi-tracks are there.
The main catalogue aside, might we see some solo material, and possibly some vinyl pressings?
We're talking to various members about solo albums because the idea with Atomhenge is also to do former
members projects. We're also looking at reissuing selected Hawkwind albums as limited edition vinyl, exact
replicas including inner sleeves and probably some extras like the relevant singles and tour programmes, a
premium vinyl product. We'll make some sort of announcement during 2009.
Finally, EMI have the catalogue from the first album through Hall Of The Mountain Grill, you have
Astounding Sounds to Distant Horizons. There's a black hole called Warrior On The Edge Of Time...
Cherry Red has first option on it and there are negotiations. It definitely needs to be out there. I've read on
various Internet sites that people have it on 'good authority' that the master tapes have been lost. That's
absolute nonsense. I've seen them.