|Music from the Hawkwind family tree - Part 35
Thanks to Graham P. for these reviews - except where noted otherwise, of course.
Well Worth A Listen (**½) : Steve Swindells -
The Lost Albums
The recently released Lost Albums, both recorded
in 1980 according to Steve's candid sleeve notes,
help bridge the gap between Fresh Blood and the
mature songwriter of today. Where Fresh Blood
had a new wave/hard rock feel and bristled with
piss and vinegar, fear and loathing, on powerhouse
tunes like "Figure of Authority", "Low Life Joe"
and, of course, "Shot Down in the Night", The Lost
Albums is more AOR, with an emphasis on ballads.
The power chords are still there on a few songs
but the aggression is more often than not replaced
by resignation (as on "Abandon Ship" or "Dreams
of Dying") and occasionally a somewhat forced
levity (as on "Dancing Shoes"). The focus of the
lyrics is personal - life, love, loneliness and going on
the pull - and meeting really strange people on trains. Both sets were recorded quickly and are essentially
The Invisible Man is, at first listen, the better album, not up to the standard of Fresh Blood but with
some good songs and committed performances - perhaps weighed down by too many morose ballads but
not bad for an album recorded from beginning to end, with vocals and overdubs in about 3 days. It kicks
off with the up-tempo "Metro-gnome" and the more low key "Protection" before veering into left field
with the disturbing true life tale of the "Stranger on a Train" - a better story than it is a song. The
excellent "Walking on Dangerous Ground" is most reminiscent of the aggressive style of Fresh Blood and
is followed by the best of the sensitive big ballads, "Writing in the Dust", and the lighter, more whimsical
"Dreams of Dying" is not quite as grim as its title suggests, boasting some occasionally risque lyrics
("When I came, I saw, I conquered and I came"). The title track is another strong ballad, with
impassioned vocals and muscular guitar, but "Outlaw" is throwaway generic pop-rock. "Desolation
Boulevard" is, as the title suggests, another melancholy ballad. It is followed by the forced levity of
"Dancin' Shoes", complete with synthesised horn arrangement, token guitar solo and vapid lyrics. The
album draws to a close with yet another ballad, "Do You Really Want to Share Your Life?".
The other set is Treachery. While it is rhythmically solid (courtesy of the Big Country backline), at first
listen there is a lack of good tunes and the vocals are sometimes a bit rough-sounding. In addition, the
general mood is one of ennui. Grandiose titles like "Fall of Empire" and "Great Expectations" seem remote
from the down-to-earth lyrical content of the songs. Nevertheless, some of these songs repay repeated
listening. Incidentally, Flicknife have made a complete b***sup of the track listing: only the opening track
is listed in its correct position in the sequence.
The album starts well enough: the opening "Breaking and Entering" is lively and boats a catchy chorus
even if the theme of the verses seems to be a slightly dubious fantasy about night-life behind prison walls
and the chorus lyric is based on a pretty clunky metaphor ("breaking and entering.. your heart"). This is
followed by "I Wanna Be Wild", on which the buoyant arrangement and positive intent of the lyric are
slightly at odds with rather resigned tone of the singing. Despite the name "Great Expectations" is an
upbeat arrangement and slightly incongruous chorus bolted onto a very slight song.
"Fall of Empire" is a powerful but melancholy ballad, a seamy travelogue of loveless sex and S&M, with
the protagonist showering to wash away "the juice and sweat". Thanks so much for sharing that image
with us Steve! The rocked up ending provides cathartic release. "Revolt into Style" is a perfunctory
rocker, a dead ringer for one of the throwaway numbers on Tom Robinson's first TRB album, on which
Steve sings about "Rock 'n' roll passion" without convincing.
On the 9-minute "Love Propaganda" Steve sounds studiously bored, but the supercilious tone of the
singing perfectly suits the loose feel of the music, which gradually morphs into an extended slow dub
workout - completely out of character and rather effective. Unfortunately it also precedes a marked
slump in quality for most of the rest of the album.
Next up is some whole-hearted wallowing in misery, which even Barry Manilow might be embarrassed
by (just kidding), on the overblown and string-laden ballad "Abandoning Ship". The title track,
"Treachery", boasts an obscure lyric and shouty vocals, over a clunky backing track with barely
detectable tune. Any good points are well-hidden. Why Steve pitched this song to Roger Daltrey is hard
to fathom; why Daltrey accepted, more so. "Angel of Darkness" is marginally better but also failed to
engage this listener. "Drink From The River" starts promisingly with just a drum track and funky bassline
but harsh vocals and horrible synth stabs soon damp down any expectations of quality and the chorus
pretty much sums it up: "Drink from the river...¦ and piss in the wind". The closing track is "Martyrs and
Madmen" which raises the game again and fairly bristles with genuine anger.
Although the precise chronology isn't clear from the sleeve notes, many of these songs were presumably
recorded during and after a gruelling and ultimately fruitless promotional trek across the USA and Europe
in support of Fresh Blood. As Steve tells it, these were all songs from the heart, which suggests that he
wasn't in a great place when he wrote most of them. Ultimately, the failure of Fresh Blood to turn US
airplay success into sales led to these albums - and Steve's musical career with it - being canned. From a
Hawkwind fan perspective, the story resumed when Steve participated in the Hawkestra gig in October
2000 but as the sleeve notes make clear, aside from running clubs and organising parties, he never
stopped writing and recording music. As he says, just google me. A good place to start is
This double CD was released on Flicknife (SHARPDCD11503) in 2011.
Highlights of disc 1 include the opening "Eight Spokes", which contains an uncredited vocal sample from
"Earth Born" (a year before its official release), and otherwise sounds like a mellowed out Tangerine
Dream. The selling point of "Jupiter Event" is that it contains an actual recording of Jupiter's
electromagnetic field, transposed into sound obviously. In general though it sounds like an early Richard
Wright composition, with blissed out vocals and organ underpinning a 15-minute long track. Noteworthy
for its title as much as its music is "Anderson Council". As the sleeve notes say... "geddit?" (And I've
already given a big clue there). "The Falcone" is pleasantly dreamy and features a synth solo by... Don
The seventh track, "Silver Violet Flame", is the one we've been waiting for though, with one Cora
Cornucopia on vocals and clarinet, in other words Bridget, who also co-wrote this track. The sound is
classic Tangerine Dream, with the song built on a bed of sequencer rhythms, overlaid by mournful synth
and clarinet. Bridget turns in one of her most affecting vocal performances and the melody is straight out
of one of the better parts of the Tim Blake songbook.
Disc 2 kicks off with the second Bridget (or Cora) co-write, on "Sandman", a song on which she also
sings and plays sax. A pleasant and undemanding song and Bridget gets to play sax throughout the
extended closing instrumental section.
Next up is "Cycad", another highlight, on which Bridget spins an environmental message about relict trees
from prehistoric times, which have survived millions of years only to be threatened now by man's
destructiveness. The backing track is by turns light and jazzy, then heavy and sombre.
A bit later on, the otherwise rather tedious "Houri" includes a short spoken poem by Bridget. Most of the
rest of the album is passable, mainly instrumental, some bits more melodic and/or interesting than others.
The only real anomaly is the closing three track "Aliens' Trilogy", which morphs from "Alien's Song" -
nursery rhyme synth pop that early Depeche Mode would have rejected as too obvious, through the
darker "Eat, Eat Eat" to the ambient weirdness of "The Sound of Emptiness".
This was released in 2007 and still seems to be available for £10 (as are other Mooch CDs) on the
MyChoonz website http://www.mychoonz.co.uk/.
The best of these collaborations is based on a song from Fresh
Blood. "Bitter and Twisted" is the opening track on the McVicar
soundtrack. Daltrey starred in the film, the album made #22 on the
US chart and the single "Free Me" received plenty of airplay in the
UK. Aside from handclaps, the basic keyboard-dominated backing
track is pretty similar to Steve's own version and, indeed, both
versions were released in 1980. Even the vocal deliveries are not so
different. It's a good song either way.
Jump back to 1977 and Steve wrote two songs for Daltrey's One of
the Boys album, "Treachery" and "Martyrs and Madmen", although
neither made it onto the original release. They turned up among the
bonus tracks when Sanctuary gave the album a re-release on CD in
2005 and Steve's own versions of course now appear on the
Treachery album. Neither Daltrey recording is great: anonymous
melodies, horribly dated keyboard sounds (possibly contributed by
our Steve), arch lyrics, and, on "Treachery", what sounds like the
least inspired sax solo in the history of music. Contrasting the two
versions of "Martyrs and Madmen", it's evident that while Steve
brings the songwriter's empathy with his own lyrics, despite Daltrey
flexing his considerable vocal muscles, it's just method acting.
"Treachery" is a weaker song but the less fussy arrangement and
unaffected singing style on Steve's own album remain preferable to Daltrey's over-arranged 80s styled
Last, and definitely least, "Don't Wait On The Stairs", another track
from Fresh Blood, was covered by Daltrey in 1984 on Parting
Should Be Painless, an album currently readily available only as
2nd-hand vinyl or download. CD copies fetch ridiculous prices,
especially ridiculous if you hear the content. Daltrey's version of the
song is twice the length of Steve's original, which was one of the
lesser tracks on Fresh Blood, and the new version is a real 1980s
horror-show: all synths and syn drums, slapped bass and Daltrey
hamming it up like he is auditioning for the Thompson Twins. Much
fitter songs would not have survived this treatment and this one
smells something rotten by the end of six long minutes.
Daltrey, the ultimate lead singer as method actor, doesn't really connect with the emotional heart of
these songs; he did a lot better with Leo Sayer material and he might just make more of some of Steve's
more recent compositions...
Well Worth A Listen (**½) : Mooch - Dr Silbury's Liquid
Dr. Silbury is Steve Palmer, composer and
multi-instrumentalist and the man behind this mammoth
(two hour) double disc release. As other reviewers have
pointed out, you can't maintain top drawer quality over two
hours worth of music but there's a very decent single disc
This mainly instrumental double album is as trippy as its title
suggests, its relaxed beats and pastoral synths sometimes
overlaid with psychedelic guitar, and occasionally clarinet,
sax, piano or Turkish lute. The main Hawkwind interest is in
Bridget Wishart's guest spots, but this stuff would also go
down a treat at a Hawkfest.
Well Worth A Listen (**½) : Tim Blake - Noggi 'Tar (et ses adventures au pays de Roquefort)
This arrives at a time when Tim's somewhat underwhelming contribution to Onward and Dave Brock's
forthright comments on the subject in a recent magazine interview suggest that all is not well.
It is pleasing therefore to report that Noggi 'Tar is a worthy addition to the Tim Blake canon. Mainly
instrumental this time, it comprises four long tracks and two shorter "bonus" tracks, and is available as a
download from Tim's website. Mainly low key and introspective, it perhaps lacks any standout big
melodies but in the gently evocative "Arrival of Migratory Cranes" and the wistful "On Contemplating the
Southern Cross" (already familiar in slightly more compact form from Onward) it has at least two
stonewall classics. The other two long tracks, "The Blue Light Zone" and "To Absent Friends", are
pleasant if undemanding and, in the case of the latter, lacking the gravitas suggested by the title. Tacked
onto the end are two slightly shorter tracks. "The Woodlands Voice" is a poppy confection with vocoder
vocals - the sort of thing Camel might have done in one of their unsuccessful attempts to get a hit single
- and is a little bit too anodyne and saccharine for my tastes. The closing "Fire Dance Suite" is altogether
more urgent, featuring a rather indigestible mix of sequencer, synthetic guitar, Arabic tinged chanting
and disco sound effects. In any case, buy this for the first four tracks.
Worth A Listen : Various Artists - Sheep in Wolves' Clothing
This interesting artefact is Alan Burridge's brainchild, ten tracks
originally put together for the Motorhead Fan Club. The remit was
for bands to cover Motorhead songs but to make them sound as
different as possible. The downside of this is a fairly wide range of
quality. Only Gunslinger (a different line-up to the current one)
ignored or forgot the instructions and hence offer a very creditable
and Motorhead-like take on "Stay Clean". Girlschool put some
energy into "Metropolis", as do Sweet 0 on "1916" (probably the
only track which is rocked up compared to Motorhead's version),
and Lissy Abraham on "Damage Case". Hobbyhorse invest
"Orgasmatron" with a sense of malevolence and menace without
resorting to bombast, although the extended ending grates a bit (think the Third Ear Band sawing away
on Music from MacBeth), while Mick Farren's Deviants are effortlessly sleazy on "Lost Johnny". Mad
Dogs turn "Capricorn" into a rather effective electro-goth singalong and Sonja Kristina simply turns "I
Don't Believe A Word" into a new age folk song. The Underbelly turn "Back at the Funny Farm" into
rather unconvincing jazz and rock'n'roll hybrid, all brushed drums and jazzy guitar chords with girlie
backing vocals and some horrible lead guitar on the chorus. Last, and probably least, Spirits Burning and
Bridget Wishart take on "Ace of Spades" in the style of "Earth Born", which I suppose is sort of OK
except in comparison to the original or indeed pretty much anything else.
A few copies may still be available from Alan Burridge - when I bought this a couple of weeks ago he
said he had around 30 left.
This is the second such review of this album - see
also Music from the Hawkwind family tree, part 17
One of the Best : Krel - Out of Space
Essentially a posthumous record of the original
version of the band, with Mr Dibs on vocals and
bass, this album by Krel is very much in the
Hawkwind mode, as you would expect from a band
which apparently started life as a Hawkwind tribute
group called The Purple Otter Trotters (possibly from
the same school of inspiration which gave us The
Demented Stoats!). Krel released various cassettes in
their time but this is one of only two CDs to have
appeared to date, both released by Andy G on the
now sadly defunct Dead Earnest label. This appeared
in 2004 while the other one, Ad Astra, which
apparently collects later material, was recorded after Dibs left to form Spacehead (and to do a shift with
Dr Hasbeen) and released in 1997. There is a brief biography of Krel on the Progarchives web site
(http://www.progarchives.com/) including a photo of the band with the young Dibs. Although saw
Spacehead a couple of times, I never saw Krel and nd not encountered their CDs so I was therefore
pleasantly surprised that Out of Space is still obtainable on Amazon (from a seller called Cyberkrell) for a
very reasonable £5.99.
Chugging riffs, copious bleeping and whooshing noises, mid-song breakdowns, chanted vocals about
space and time: it's all here, along with some excellent lead guitar work. It also has a poise and
sophistication not often evident with Spacehead, although Spacehead win hands down in terms of brute
force and energy. Anyway, when Dibs takes lead vocals here, the sound is often, unsurprisingly, not a
million miles from the modern day, Dibs-fronted, Hawkwind - but there are also sounds, riffs and vocal
phrasings which recall snatches of earlier classic Hawkwind songs. Never quite enough to sue, but
Hawkwind fans will feel at home here. If this makes the record sound derivative, it really isn't and right
now it gets into my Top Five Hawkfamily albums. In fact, given its apparently mixed origins, it is nothing
less than a spectacular success, with barely a weak link to be heard.
Starting with a languid, synth-based, instrumental called "Mober", the album shifts up a gear with
"Barricades". This builds slowly, with sampled speech including Margaret Thatcher defending our boys in
blue, still scary after all these years, before Dibs' chanted vocal comes in over clattering percussion. As
the vocals drop out, lead and rhythm guitar kick in, powering the track forward to its conclusion.
"Star of Last" also features Dibs on chanted lead vocals, the rest of the band joining in on the chorus,
over a chugging riff. The mid-song breakdown features some nice lead guitar and, after rapidly building
back up again for a second verse, it fades to a quiet ending, Dibs whispering about the last days of
science. This segues right into the lengthy and atmospheric "It's Alive", propelled by a prominent bass
line. Soon this is joined by drums, rhythm guitar and Dibs on vocals and, again, some excellent lead
guitar. Also again it does that thing of fading down (to whispered vocals) and building back up again,
more than once. It manages at various points to sound like "Lighthouse", "Damnation Alley", "Seeing It
As You Really Are" and "The Right Stuff".
Instrumental "Zero G" eases us back into relaxation and, just when you think it couldn't get any better,
the album shifts into top gear with the excellent Philip K. Dick-referencing "Androids". The singing here
is more tuneful (and doesn't sound like Dibs this time, although he joins in on the chorus). The vocal
melody is underpinned by a classic churning riff and bright melodic bassline. A brief instrumental
breakdown leads into another vocal section and that's it. Nothing if not concise.
Jittering synths and percussion lend the wholly instrumental "The Visit" a slightly edgy feel. After two
minutes it segues into the stately layered synth textures of another instrumental, "Golden Tether". Only a
distant drumbeat marks the segue into "Release", a longer and rather directionless instrumental, on which
the synths create a sinister atmosphere. Fine though each of these tracks is individually, three
instrumentals in a row is a bit too much.
This mis-step can be forgiven as soon the last song is counted in. "Space Trip" is as good as anything
else on the album. The song moves through several vocal and instrumental sections and, if it occasionally
recalls "Damnation Alley" and "Robot", it also has its own distinct identity. It is followed by the rather
lovely and gentle guitar-based instrumental "Trees". The album unfortunately closes with a fairly
incoherent sound collage (called "Open"), apparently a cut-and-paste job mixing on-stage vocal samples
and instruments being tuned, rather than being composed in any meaningful sense.
One of the Best : Bethnal - Dangerous Times (Review by Steve)
Bethnal first came to the attention of Hawkwind
fans by providing support on the band's 1977
"Quark Strangeness & Charm" tour, but three of
them (Drummer Pete Dowling, guitarist Nick
Michaels, and vocalist / violinist / keyboard player
George Csapo) went on to play on Bob Calvert's
solo albums, notably "Hype" in 1981-82. But this
album slots neatly between these two Hawk-related
ventures, having been recorded in late 1977 / early
1978 as Bethnal standing on their own two
feet...give or take the inclusion of a couple of
cover versions of old wave songs among their
Like it said in the Quark tour programme, Bethnal
aren't (weren't) exactly your regulation new wave
band, which the presence of violin and keyboard is
in itself enough to prove. Opening track Out in the
Street isn't exactly 1977 ramalama, with a classic-rock pace and greater invention from bass player
Everton Williams than their punk contemporaries normally mustered. The Who influence is worn on their
sleeves (they cover Baba O'Reilly on this record), and the next track is in fact a version of the Animal's
We've Gotta Get Out Of This Place, so perhaps reviving the muscular end of mid-60's British guitar
bands was their actual inspiration. They weren't the only ones doing it, with the Sex Pistols citing the
Small Faces as honourable forebears. Here, Bethnal turn in a reasonably faithful version with updated
1970's crunching rhythm guitar and a very decent violin solo, mixed and EQ'd to form part of the overall
slab of sound, rather than standing out incongruously.
Baba O'Reilly is next and gives Mr. Csapo a chance to show off his keyboard playing (solidly in Pete
Townshend territory) to ornament the power chords that make this song what it is. It's all here, backing
vocals included, rock-operaesque arrangement, etc...it should be on a Who tribute album (and maybe is,
for all I know.) This must have been commercial / critical suicide in 1977, when the Who were (much to
their resentment) labeled as "boring old farts". C'mon Bethnal, you weren't really punks at all, were you?
As if to prove the point, next number Soldier Boy (a Bethnal original) owes a lot to another old wave
influence, in this case Deep Purple's "Highway Star" on the Machine Head album. Though it does offer up
a very contemporary bellow-along chorus.
This is followed by The Outcome: more old wave stylings in the form of 60's backing vocals, and less
than 100mph delivery, with another excellent violin solo amidships. By now Bethnal's place is established
as a band who were at odds with the zeitgeist, but gave it their best shot nonetheless. They're not a
million miles away from Eddie and the Hot Rods on title track Dangerous Times, and lyrically (as on next
song Who We Gonna Blame) are evidently shooting for new wave credentials...¦but their 60's / classic
rock moves give the game away. However, there's always that violin to provide the extra dimension to
Bethnal that might have given them the break they deserved. I was expecting the song Bartok to be a
fiddlefest, but it starts off as another fairly identikit chunk of 70's rock. Only in the middle section of the
song does the gipsyness begin. Capable as Mr. Csapo is with this, the rest of the band sound distinctly
uncomfortable performing the underpinning two-step behind him, and keep trying to crash out the power
chords. They're far more in their element on Where Do We Stand, another anthemic workout that doesn't
depart from the format already described, decent song though it is. Bethnal could certainly crank out the
songwriting goods, as last track Leaving Home shows, but nothing here jumps out as great, rather than
good, or really possesses all that much in terms of originality.
Worse bands than Bethnal have had the chart success that so notably eluded them. This is actually a
thoroughly decent album, undermined by what else was going on in the musical landscape at the time, and
a failure to capitalize on Bethnal's strengths, which are the violin and occasionally the keyboards. Had they
come along just a little later, they could have made an excellent post-punk band, assuming they were able
to throw off the shackles of their old wave influences...¦which they didn't on this album. Too bad.
Bethnal deserved more than they got.
Worth a Listen : Sham 69 - The Game
Proof, if proof were needed, that Nik Turner would
- and did - lend his talents to pretty much anything.
In fact, both these early 80s artefacts [see this and
the following review] are interesting in their own
way. The rating reflects my opinion of their content.
It in no way implies any similarity to Hawkwind,
although both albums share some of the punk/new
wave dynamics of Inner City Unit. Nik guests on
sax on both but you need to listen hard for his
contributions (or what are presumably his
Sham 69 are not as yobbish as memory suggests
they ought to be on 1980's The Game,which mainly
comprises surprisingly polished rock music with a
punk attitude, suitably rousing and angry and with solid tunes or at least solid riffs, plus the token
tough-but-tender ballad "Poor Cow". Jimmy Pursey's vocals often sound remarkably like Jake Burns of
SLF (as on "Human Zoo") and at other times this could almost be the Undertones. The opening set of
songs, from the title track through "Human Zoo", "Lord of the Flies", "Give a Dog a Bone" and "In and
Out" to "Tell the Children" are all pretty nifty, as is "Run Wild, Run Free". "Tell the Children" has some sax
mixed into the full-sounding instrumental backing but otherwise Nik's contribution is not obvious. It isn't a
perfect album of course: there's a bit too much punk-by-numbers, the bonus live tracks are all very rough
and there is a truly horrible rendition of "Day Tripper". The 2005 CD reissue appeared on Captain Oi
(AHOY DPX 614) in 2005.
One of the Best : The Astronauts - Peter Pan Hits
I remember John Peel saying how he really liked the
barely suppressed anger underlying "The Green
Fields of France" by The Men They Couldn't Hang,
when it appeared in his Festive 50. Something like
this underpins the extraordinary "Protest Song", a
folk/avante garde highlight of this fine and highly
individual post-punk era album, originally released on
Vinyl in 1981 (Bugle, Genius 001) and reissued by
Lazy Dog (LZDCD 801) on CD in 1994. The
Astronauts channel some of the bruised punk naivety
that made the first Feelies album compelling but this
album is by no means easy listening and some of
lyrical content is pretty left field, very dark and
First off though, the humorous slice of life punk tale of "Everything Stops For the Baby" (think
Splodgenessabounds), the sax blasting away gamely in the background, behind half-spoken vocals, spiky
guitar and clattering drums. It is hardly typical though. Piano and strummed guitar underpin the desolate
duet vocals of "Protest Song", part personal, part political, all naked emotion. In the middle it breaks down
into a startlingly atonal freak out, then rises again for a final verse, which offers musical resolution but no
easy solutions. High melodrama perhaps, but hugely affecting. The next track resumes the light comedy,
with the toy keyboard bounce of "Sod Us". "The Traveller" is buzz-saw punk. It's not hard to see this
appealing to Nik around the time of ICU. A jaunty organ riff buoys up the rather sinister lyrics of "How
Green Was My Valley", in which the singer fantasizes about an unnamed killer bumping off the less
favourite members of his family. The pounding rhythm of "Still Talking" is backdrop to a deep and
convoluted story of soldiers and spies, which seems to be about the human cost of espionage and war.
"Baby Sings Folk Songs" is a tragic tale with another incredibly dense lyric apparently of a woman who
has problems with mundane reality. "How Long Is A Piece Of String" is a short rather monotonous chant.
This is followed by the lengthy angst-filled throb of "Amplified World" (with another appearance of the
sax), again with a convoluted utterly opaque lyric: a visit to
http://www.greynose.net/Astronauts/Songs.html left me not much wiser, but it is full of vignettes of
mundane personal tragedy. "Midsummer Lullaby" is almost a straightforward love song.
My, ahem, downloaded copy (any web search is going to give you a location) has two additional tracks
which were on the CD reissue, namely a reprise for "Everything Stops For the Baby" and a second love
song, "Back Soon". Since the reissue CD is impossible to find, I've now ordered a second hand vinyl copy.
PS - Now I have the vinyl copy it is apparent that the track listing is not exactly as above, the two sides
being reversed. ""Everything Stops For The Baby" is in fact the first track on side 2, and the album starts
with "Still Talking".
Richard Chadwick's pre-Hawkwind career encompassed several bands who, if they released anything, did
so on cassette or long-deleted vinyl; Bridget Wishart and Steve Bemand (who deputised for Dave Brock on
a European tour by Hawkwind in 1991) were regular collaborators. These bands include the Little Big Men
(known from "Squall" on the Family Tree compilation), Demented Stoats and Smart Pils.
Approach with Caution : Demented Stoats - Live at Inglestone 1980
Playing a mixture of punk, thrash and something approaching
space rock, the Demented Stoats boasted no fewer than three
sometime Hawkpersons. Based on web sources, it appears
that The Demented Stoats formed in 1978 and operated out of
a squat in Bath. They comprised Ariel Arkenax (Steve
Bemand, - vocals/guitar/bass; Wilhelm Cock-Roach Clippe
(Will) - Synth; Little Big Man (Richard Chadwick) - Drums &
bongos; Rob Stoat - bass/guitar. They had added two female
vocalists, Bridget Wishart and Claire before playing their first
gig. A brief biography of the band appears on Steve
There is also a link to an mp3 version of part of a live
performance at Inglestone Free Festival 1980. For additional
information, see here . It is as badly recorded as you might
expect from an audience-made tape but certainly captures
their live intensity. According to Steve Bemand's Facebook
page, the line-up for the gig was himself, Rob, Richard and
Perhaps most effective on spiky, early Motorhead-like punk rock they also do extended thrashy pieces
dominated by Richard Chadwick's drums and whooshing noises, with the restraint and sophistication of
proto-Hawkwind numbers like, say, "We Do It". Over the top of this barrage of noise, the vocals have a
presence somewhere between Toyah and Polystyrene. If it was a decent recording, this would all be
fine, but it is really a bit painful to listen to. The first "track" (the performance is available as a single mp3
lasting 37 minutes), title unknown, is the one which made me think of "We Do It": brutally repetitive and
overlaid by whooshing noises. The second "track", which starts around 7 minutes into the recording, is
introduced as "Escapism", which is heads-down thrash. Twelve-and-a-half minutes in, this is followed by
what is apparently an anti-nuclear song, possibly called "No Nukie", which is where the Motorhead
comparisons come to mind. After 19 minutes comes "So Alone", which slow and spacy, is a bit like a
slowed down "Born To Go". Twenty-five minutes in we get "Soulless Bodies", a mercifully short
fast-slow punk workout with painfully distorted stabbed guitar chords. The penultimate "Subvert" starts
at 28 Â½ minutes, again a punky thrash (albeit with phasing on the sound), with the murkiest sound yet.
The chugging seventh and final song (title unknown) comes along after 35 minutes, preceded by a
two-minute break comprising some welcome silence and less welcome tuning up, and barely gets going
before the recording stops abruptly. I've listened to this performance twice now and won't be returning to
Worth a Listen : SmartPils - Smart Pils tape 198?
Smart Pils also featured Richard, Bridget and Steve (and a
bassist called George) and released cassettes called "Toxic
State" and "Zen Punk" and a vinyl EP called "No Good No
Evil", all on Bluurg Records, between 1985 and 1987
(information on release dates varies depending on where you
look them up), as well as a appearing on a vinyl compilation
called "Open Mind Surgery". More accessible is a compilation
of nine performances (six songs plus three remixes) which can
be downloaded from the Terminal Velocity website, a service
which apparently has the blessing of Steve Bemand. The sound
on these tracks is basic but powerful - prominent bass, solid
drums, spiky guitar, shouty vocals (mainly by Bridget but the
boys join in) and occasional synth embellishments.
The boisterous opener, "Life Cycle" is confrontational anarcho-punk: energetic, angry and not a little
yobbish. Its theme seems to be, basically, life is shit, and the lyrics invite the listener to variously "stick it
up your arse" and "stick it up your nose". "Heart or Feather (remix)" speaks of chaos, darkness and
madness, with a suitably doomy arrangement which could be mistaken for goth. This is followed by a
remix of "Life Cycle". Wind noises and tribal drums herald the spiky "Iceland (remix)" while "Solitary Man
(remix)" is possibly the heaviest track. Original versions of these two tracks follow. The set ends with the
protopunk grind of "Sweet White Death", as ugly as its title suggests, and the charmingly titled
"Brainfucker". Better recorded than the Demented Stoats MP3, these tracks also have the advantage of
sounding like actual songs.
Steve's main current project appears to be The Timelords, who have three good sounding tracks, "Space
Migration", The Moment" and "Decoding The Senses", available for streaming at
http://the-timelords.soundawesome.com/#. Sounding almost more Hawkwind-like than Hawkwind, this
project will hopefully the light of day in full at some point.