This 2CD+1DVD compilation from Shakedown Records appeared in late 2003 and combines a selection of Weird CD's cuts with some from the Atomhenge 76 live album, and adds a 49-minute Dave Brock interview on DVD. The interview aside, nothing here is unavailable elsewhere and this would appear to be a rather pointless compilation. But it is a nicely packaged one, providing the 3 discs in a handsome purplish box, adorned with some Rodney Matthews artwork. Each of the discs has a decent modern design printed onto it and comes in a slip cover that matches the box. There are also sleeve notes and a couple of illustrative photos of the band from 1976 (mislabelled as 1977)
Iâ€™m not going to do the usual thing of a track-by-track review, since this is ground that has already been covered. Nor am I, for once, going to speculate about to whom exactly this compilation is going to appeal (other than Kompletists, which I am in danger of becoming, or those with Hawkwind websites who seem strangely compelled to pass comment on everything that comes into their hands...) Trying to consider this on its own merits, the album opens with the 3 Watchfield festival tracks which sound no better here than they did on Weird 3. An odd choice for the opening tracks, and yet, despite the rough bootleggy sound, maybe they epitomise the contrary nature of the beast. Hawkwind had just headlined the 1975 Reading Festival; at the time, this was the exclusive preserve of the top live acts in the UK, and one of the indicators that a band was at their top of their game. (That particular performance was another landmark in that Bob Calvert rejoined the band and Stacia left it, but I digress.) So, the day after the most prestigious gig possible, a quorum of Hawkwind members travelled to a free festival and turned in this loose jamming performance - which was the last time they did the early 70's primal throb thing. Hawkwind from 1976 onwards was a more professional concern; the tracks recorded at Watchfield represent (in musical rather than political terms) the last dying vestiges of the band's Ladbroke Grove origins.
So the 1976 Hawkwind were more professional, but not entirely so as the Atomhenge 76 tracks which make up the remainder of CD1 go to show. I recently reviewed Atomhenge 76 in detail and don't want to repeat any of that here. On this compilation these tracks represent the progression from the collective to the professional, for all that the sleeve notes emphasise the underground nature of the band. Another byline, this time from the front of the box, subtitles Welcome To The Future as "an intergalactic journey from the 1970's" and it's very notably the late 70's, with CD2 moving onto the Stonehenge 1977 performance, which contains the best live Hawkwind material I have ever heard (but it too was on the Weird CD's), the Sonic Assassins gig from Barnstable in December 1977, and then a couple of studio oddities to round things out: Nuclear Toy, a B-side of almost no musical merit, and the Hawklords version of Who's Gonna Win The War, recorded in 1979 (though again, it's mislabelled as being from 1977). I suppose you could make a case, and the sleeve notes have almost tried to, that this is still the alternative Hawkwind, performing at free festivals and under a nom de guerre even at a time when they were enjoying considerable commercial success. Personally I think if this is the theme, it's less by design than by accident, or may have been an afterthought at best. The sleeve notes, by the way, are entertaining in a completely excessive way â€“ and are so enthusiastic as to suggest the author of them is a real fan (as well as an ageing hippy railing against the modern world). But he labours under the misapprehension that Andy Dunkley played the electronics on the Atomhenge tracksâ€¦I suspect they were actually written by a 26-year old techno-loving employee of Shakedown Records whose job it is to provide copy :-)
So, down to brass tacks. CD1 offers all but two of the tracks that appeared on Atomhenge 76 (Uncle Samâ €™s On Mars and Time For Sale are those omitted) and the 3 Watchfield tracks which made up the latter part of Weird 3. In fact all of the Weird 3 tracks are here when you add in the opening cuts from CD2, and just about all of Weird 1 is included here too (the omissions are minor tracks which can also be found on the Church of Hawkwind album). So, spread over the two discs you have the equivalent of three Hawkwind albums (Atomhenge 76, Weird 1 and Weird 3) which is excellent value for money: I paid Â£11 for this, whereas buying the three albums separately would probably run to something like Â£30. And that would still leave me short of the Dave Brock interviewâ€¦ I am wondering about this, since â€œOut Of The Shadowsâ€�, the Newcastle 2002 DVD due for release in the first week of March 2004, also boasts a Dave Brock interview. Which is claimed on the cover of Out Of The Shadows to be an exclusiveâ€¦ We will have to wait until thatâ€™s out to see if they are in fact two different interviews.
The one thatâ€™s here was done in a single afternoon at Daveâ€™s farm in Devon, in the form of a question and answer session between Dave Brock and Jet Martin (who he?). It starts off with the two of them sitting outside in the sunshine, with birds singing and Jet suffering the indignity of having to sit on an upturned milk crate. The interview is basically a chronological trawl through Hawkwindâ€™s history, with Dave explaining his busker origins, background in the Dharma Blues Band and the Famous Cure, and the â €œweb of intrigueâ€� which comprised the Notting Hill scene at the tail end of the 1960â€™s. There are a couple of interesting snippets of information along the way, such as the fact that John Harrison had played bass for the Joe Loss Orchestra (!) before doing the same for Hawkwind, and a good quote from the Captain: â€œWe werenâ€™t peace-loving hippiesâ€� he explains, while recounting raids by the Bomb Squad and involvement with revolutionary fringe groups like the White Panthers.
The interviewer seems very interested in Brockâ€™s views on Nik Turner and repeatedly asks questions such as (and I paraphrase) â€œDid you have any inkling back then what kind of performance art Nik would move to in later years?â€� Given that Brock and Turner were fully embroiled in adversarial legal proceedings when this was filmed (2002), Daveâ€™s replies are remarkably restrained â€“ or perhaps this was recorded before the animosity had really developed. The interview shifts to Daveâ€™s home studio after about 20 minutes, which the interviewer mentions was on account of an April Shower. If taken literally this may well have been before matters got really fraught. The course of the interview works through the Isle Of Wight festival in 1970, the role of Dick Taylor as producer of the first album (â€œhe was a great helpâ€�) and the recruitment of Stacia: the band had stopped to fill up their old van with petrol in Exeter, whilst en route to a gig in Cornwall, and Stacia, who was working as a pump attendant, was invited to the gig by Nik. Most of these vignettes are quite well known, and the best elements of the conversation come when Jet elicits a memorable quote from Brock: â€œWe used to live day-to-dayâ€� he says, when asked about the financial success brought by Silver Machine in contrast to the penury of earlier days. Or on the subject of Lemmy joining the band: â€œWe gave him a bass, â€˜cos he didnâ€™t have one! â€� A little later on, Ginger Baker is described as â€œa good guy, but rather grouchyâ€�, whom the other members of Hawkwind were all somewhat nervous to meet on account of Gingerâ€™s previous fame :-)
There are plenty more quotations to be had, but itâ€™s worth getting hold of this album for the interview alone. Dave shows his essentially personable and jovial nature (when not sacking world famous drummers from the band) and only by acquiring it for yourself will you discover how Sam Fox and Hawkwind came to work together on the charity â€˜Gimme Shelterâ€™ single (this was surprising!) or how it was that Dave Brock played bass on the track Opa-Loka. But I will paraphrase one last quote, when the interviewer asks Dave who is in Hawkwind now. He mentions Simon House, Tim Blake and Huw Lloyd Langton, but goes on to say that â€œAlan and Richard are the mainstay of the band and the driving force â€“ they donâ€™t get the credit they deserve.â€�
I should point out that this DVD is encoded Region 0 / NTSC. This means it will play on any DVD player but the output is in the American NTSC television format. You can play it on any PC equipped with a DVD drive (NTSC or PAL is not an issue with PCâ€™s AFAIK) but trying to watch it on a UK television might not work (although a couple of people in the UK tell me they've had no problems at all with this DVD) And it is also worth waiting to see if this interview is going to appear on the Out Of The Shadows DVD â€“ for all that this compilation was published by Shakedown Records, at the end of the DVD the name and address of Secret Records flashes up on the screenâ€¦
May 2004: now that the Out Of The Shadows DVD is out, I am happy to confirm that the interview contained on that is not the same as the one on Welcome To The Future 2003. Buy 'em both!