|Music from the Hawkwind family tree - Part 1
Many thanks to Graham who penned this piece - first in a series!
Documenting extra-curricular recordings and pre- and post-Hawkwind recordings of members of the band
inevitably, given the huge number of musicians who have passed through the ranks, is a huge task. It is safe
to say that some unforgivable crimes against music have been committed along the way, but there is also
some really excellent music out there, not all of it well known.
There are literally hundreds of albums that fall into the "vaguely Hawkwind-related" category. This will be an
occasional and (hopefully) gradually expanding series, looking at the best, the worst, and some points
in-between - and offering a personal view on which is which!
Firstly, some boundaries: Lemmy has done some great work in Motörhead but they are simply too big in
their own right to treat them as a Hawkwind offshoot. Hence, Motörhead are basically off-limits, although
the first album proper and the earlier Kilminster/Wallis/Fox performances released as "On Parole" both
feature versions of several Hawkwind tracks. In fact, let's be clear, the version of "Motorhead" which was
issued as the first Motörhead single on Chiswick in 1977 is the definitive performance. Better than the
admittedly more tuneful original Hawkwind single b-side - and far, far, better than the Hawkwind version
issued later on Flicknife. It is also better, frankly, than most subsequent live renditions by Motörhead
themselves. [Note: On the Flicknife single, Dave Brock sings "...¦goes up in price at Christmas" where
Lemmy's original words were "...¦goes up like prices at Christmas". Need I say more!]
Similarly, most of the career of Ginger Baker (who played drums on the Levitation album) has nothing to do
with Hawkwind - and anyone who buys the complete works of Cream because of the "Hawkwind
connection" has probably lost the plot! I will also avoid looking at Simon House's work with David Bowie,
Paul Rudolph's albums with the Pink Fairies, Arthur Brown's pre-Hawkwind career, and so on. On the other
hand, Nik Turner's adventures with Inner City Unit deserve a wider audience. ICU were - or should have
been - the Bonzo Dog Band of the 1980s and it is criminal that most of their catalogue is unobtainable on CD
(although some ICU material is available on CDR from Trev Thoms' Real Festival Music and every song is
available as an MP3 at the ICU website. So, without further ado...¦
No serious fan needs to be told that this is an
essential album in the Hawkwind canon (and indeed
it is reviewed in various places, e.g. on the
Hawkwind Museum web pages). Not only is it Bob
Calvert's finest recorded 40 minutes, it also features
pretty much the whole Hawkwind crew of the time
(1974): Brock, Turner, Lemmy, Simon King and Del
Dettmar, as well as Paul Rudolph and Arthur Brown.
Also featured are Eno, Twink, Adrian Wagner,
Vivian Stanshall, Jim Capaldi and the "Ladbroke
Grove Hermaphroditic Voice Ensemble". This is a
concept album, mixing narrative pieces with songs,
and built around the story of Germany's acquisition
in the 1960s of the hopelessly unreliable Lockheed
"Starfighter" jet and the disastrous consequences for
its pilots. Calvert is in great voice throughout, singing
his own sardonic and intelligent lyrics, while the
spoken word links and comedy routines actually bear
repeated listening (although I suppose if you had any personal connection with the subject matter you might
find the whole exercise to be of questionable taste). The comedy is very much black comedy and the
underlying mood of the album is sombre, befitting the subject matter, which gives it a real edge.
In track one, an overwrought Franz Joseph Strauss trips over his script but is wonderfully over the top, and
this leads us to the first of four classic songs, "The Aerospaceage Inferno" - prime Hawkwind in all but
name. The second spoken piece, "Aircraft Salesman" leads into the second song, "Widow Maker". The
sound is again pure Space Ritual era Hawkwind, with the Turner sax all over the mix.
Next up is the test pilots routine, leading into classic song number three: "The Right Stuff". Again the Turner
sax, along with prominent keyboards, adds texture over another classic 'Wind groove. The final song on
side one is part one of "Song of the Gremlin", a slower song sung by Arthur Brown - and familiar from the
2002 Hawkwind winter tour.
Side two kicks off with another comedy routine, featuring two of the maintenance crew (who also trip over
the script half way though), leading into "Hero with One Wing", another atmospheric slow song, this time
taken by Calvert himself, mythologising the heroic but doomed pilots.
Next comes the most familiar spoken word piece, since it has frequently been used as a taped introduction
to the peerless "Ejection". Another classic groove, with some screaming lead guitar and sax prominent in the
mix. This is followed by the best of the spoken word tracks, "Interview", which offers a darkly humorous
view of an intending pilot's mindset (and the fate of his mother's false eyelashes). A reprise of "The Song of
the Gremlin" verges on hysteria as Arthur Brown goes completely over the top. Lastly, "Catch a Falling
Starfighter" - basically a chorus of voices over a funereal drumbeat, interspersed with fragments of previous
dialogue and some spooky electronics - ends proceedings on a suitably sombre note.
Curiously, the booklet contains lyrics for another song ("The Widow's Song"), which does not appear on
the record. A version of "The Widow's Song" did later appear on one of the Friends and Relations
compilations but was presumably recorded at another time, since it sounds nothing like any of the tracks on
the original album. Captain Lockheed was released on CD by BGO (BGOCD5).
The first real LLG album (excluding the live "Outside
The Law"), originally released on Flicknife and
arguably still the best. Entirely written by HLL (with
Marion Lloyd Langton contributing to the lyrics), the
album comprises mainly mid-paced rock songs
played by a three-piece band, with Huw's vocals the
most distinctive feature. Where this album scores
above many other LLG albums though is in the
greater than average number of good tunes, as
opposed to variations on repeated riffs.
"Night Air" is the lead song and probably the best,
with a gorgeous chorus. Another highlight is "Für
Kirsty", a brief but pretty acoustic tune - just Huw on
acoustic guitar with some understated synthesiser
effects behind him. "Got Your Number" was good
enough to get the Hawkwind treatment, at least on a
mid-1980s Friday Rock Show session (along with two
medleys entitled "Assault of the Hawk" and "Magnu, Dreamworker of time") but the Hawkwind version was
only ever issued on bootleg.
Most of the original side 2 is less distinguished, although "Diseased Society" moves along nicely with some
decent lead guitar, as does "Candle Burning" - which also features one of Huw's more engaging vocal
performances. In contrast, the closing "Lunar-tic", with its half-spoken vocals and frequent repetition of the
title phrase, is simply rather irritating. This album is presently available on CD as Allegro LLG8CD.
"Alpha Centauri" or "Atem", i.e. all random and rather unsettling space noises, before the sequencers and
some suggestions of melody appear, moving us towards "Rubycon" or "Ricochet" territory.
Side 1 kicks off with "Mistiness In Orion's Head". This is not music as we know it, Jim, and frankly if my
head felt like that I'd take an aspirin. Track 4, "Cosmic Junk" introduces some mechanical rhythms, like
factory machinery in the background, topped by a miasma of whooshing sounds, groans and burbles and
lasts almost nine minutes.
Tracks 9 and 10, "Gravitational Pull" and "Voyager 1", both benefit from some sequenced rhythm and hints
of melody - and, for a combined total of 20 minutes, move towards (without achieving) the classic
Tangerine Dream sound. Some bird song gets mixed into "In the Wake of Passing Clouds" â€“ but Pink
Floyd did it better on "Cirrus Minor".
"Heading: Cygnus X-1" puts us firmly back into headache territory for 14 long, long, minutes and â
€œSunspot in H-alpha Light" is no easier on the ears, only shorter. "Cosmic Bubble" introduces a drum
machine to no great effect before something most peculiar happens: the last track ("Lost Orbit") is actually
musical and almost funky for two minutes.
The album clocks in at 78 minutes. It might make a great soundtrack for a horror movie but it is not easy
listening. The CD was released on the Taste label (Taste 40) in 1993 and the rather fetching psychedelic
cover, picturing a mad-eyed Harvey perched over a keyboard, should be warning enough!
Harvey Bainbridge seems like a decent bloke: he was
certainly very gracious about signing an autograph
for me before the 2000 Christmas gig. He played bass
and/or keyboards on some really good Hawkwind
albums and he wrote the music for the sublime
"Freefall". On the other hand there is the small matter
of "Dreamworker". A harmless enough experiment
when it first appeared on "Choose Your Masques", it
then refused to go away, reappearing under various
titles every tour and on just about every live album. A
little bit of it even appeared under the title "Blue
Dreamer" on the Travellers Aid Trust album, thus
luring the unsuspecting buyer into thinking there were
two proper Hawkwind tracks present (the first being
"Interstellar Chaos" is a sort of mini-history of (or
homage to) early Tangerine Dream. It starts off like
Approach with extreme caution Harvey Bainbridge - Interstellar Chaos
Some of the best: Lloyd Langton Group - Night Air
Some of the best: Bob Calvert - Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters
[Other websites have drawn attention to revisions in songwriting credits on such albums. I'm not going to
"Prophets of Time" features Simon House alongside the US crew and mainly revisits the ICU back
catalogue, particularly the first ICU album (Passout), alongside Hawkwind's "Children of the Sun" and some
generally less exciting newer material.
It kicks off with "Prophecy", a pleasant but unremarkable instrumental, then reprises "Watching the Grass
Grow" (as originally featured on ICU's Passout) and "Children of the Sun". Both are dispatched efficiently
but are a little brittle and soulless. The main problem seems to be too much reliance on drum programming.
"Strontium 90" is ICU's "Nuclear Waste" revisited, again from Passout. "Communiqué" starts off in "Black
Elk Speaks" territory, although in this case the Native American narrator is relating an alien abduction,
before shifting into an early ICU-style romp (it probably is an ICU track, I just can't place it).
"Chances Lost" bizarrely revisits the same set of Michael Moorcock lyrics that Dave Brock adapted as "Lost
Chances" on the Sonic Attack album. This ambient treatment, backing a recitation by Genesis P. Orridge,
unfortunately does the lyrics no more favours than the Hawkwind version. Perhaps one day someone will
make a decent song from these lyrics - in fact, probably Michael Moorcock should give them to his other
occasional collaborators, Blue Oyster Cult, to see what they could offer!
"Stonehenge, Who Knows?" is another ICU tune, this time from the final album (President's Tapes) and the
space-rock treatment is an interesting contrast to ICU's rawer version. "Cybernetic Love" is 1st album ICU
again, although not one of their most inspired moments. "Armor For Everyday" is a spoken word
contribution written by Moorcock and recited by GPO, the resident â€œpoet" for this album. Track 10 is
"Bones of Elvis", originally the opening track from the incomparably wonderful "Maximum Effect" album.
Nothing can touch the sheer genius (and bad taste) of that original version but this is still a welcome
"Walking in the Sky" turns out to be no more than an interlude of ambient space noises, with the title
chanted in the background during the last minute or so. "Lunar Sea" is a Simon House instrumental (which
also appears on one of his Spiral Realms albums) and is never less than pleasant. Track 13 is another ICU
1st album track, "Fallout". Then we have the unfamiliar title "Andromeda", which turns out to be a new
setting of some of the lyrics from "Two Worlds" (from the Maximum Effect) and is hence nothing short of
sacrilege! The album closes with GPO doing his "Space Station Announcement".
So, quite a good album, especially if you happen to like ICU, but you really need to go back to the source, in
this case the original ICU albums. Prophets of Time appeared on Cleopatra (CLEO69082) in 1994.
Worth checking out: Nik Turner - Prophets of
One curious feature of the Hawkwind-related story
has been Nik Turner's wholesale recreation of his
recorded past on a series of recordings made in the
USA with Helios Creed and the members of
Pressurehed, sometimes featuring other Hawkwind
alumni (Simon House, Alan Powell, Del Dettmar).
Aside from recycled Hawkwind, there has been
recycled Inner City Unit and even virtually the entire
Xitintoday album (i.e. Nik adapts the Egyptian Book
of the Dead and plays flute inside the great pyramid)
recycled as "Sphynx". However, many of these
albums are actually rather enjoyable and (dare I say
it) no less valid than the mothership's revisitation of
past glories on increasingly numerous live albums.
Worth checking out: Ballet Dancer - 4X
This is an instrumental album released on vinyl on the
American Phonograph label in 1985. Since American
Phonograph was the original home of "Space Ritual
volume 2" and the LP was recorded at Foel studios, it
will come as no surprise that the Hawkwind
connection is the appearance of Dave Anderson on
bass. All the material was written by Paul Sinden,
who also played guitar and keyboards. The other
musicians were Dave Earnshaw (sax, flute) and Clive
This is not space rock or even particularly heavy
rock, and not remotely like Hawkwind. It is
well-played, tasteful, instrumental rock music, a bit
repetitive admittedly and occasionally reminiscent of
Focus, Camel or King Crimson (probably mainly
because of the prominent sax and flutes).
Side one kicks off with "Hide In The Rain": a brief acoustic guitar intro gives way to the main (synth) riff,
Dave Anderson's bass prominent in the mix, especially underneath the screaming guitar solos. There is
plenty of light and shade and frequent changes of pace: a promising start. "Breaker" is faster and more
aggressive, with the sax coming in on the main riff and Dave Anderson's bass again prominent. â€œTin
Soldier" is somewhat Camel-like and the closing "Ballet Dancer" is a slower reflective piece, with wordless
(synthesised?) female backing vocals.
The opening track on side 2, "In The Fire", is probably the most varied track on the album, with several
passages in varying styles. The fast passages recall Focus while the slow passages feature acoustic guitar
and (again) wordless ethereal voices. The remainder of side 2 is taken at a more relaxed pace, comprising
"Possessed", "October" and the brief "Ballet Dancer (Reprise)".
I hadn't listened to this in years but it's now on a tape in the car and has provided very good accompaniment
to the morning traffic jams every morning this week. It is difficult to find - and don't expect a lost classic -
but it is a good album.