edited April 2020 in Hawkwind Discussions

Fundamentally, a cosmic hitchhikers guide to the “space-rock” galaxy, the long-standing HAWKWIND had all the elements to survive implosive personnel changes, although one member has been at the helm since their conception – DAVE BROCK. Throughout testing times (a mid-70s legal battle nearly broke them), the revolving-door manifesto has seen the likes of great musicians such as future solo artists ROBERT CALVERT, NIK TURNER, LEMMY, HUW LLOYD-LANGTON, STEVE SWINDELLS, GINGER BAKER et al, exit stage left, while one album in particular, 1973’s quintessential “Space Ritual”, set the bar for self-indulgent concert double-discs; a culmination of their free festival/hippie spirit and wigged-out, sci-fi explorations.

Formed in London way back in 1969 by ex-Famous Cure alumni, Dave Brock (vocals/guitar) and Mick Slattery (guitar), Group X, and, in turn, Hawkwind Zoo were soon joined by Nik Turner (alto sax/flute/vox), Terry Ollis (drums), Dik Mik (synths/keyboards) and John Harrison; Slattery would drop out, opting instead for a gypsy lifestyle in Ireland when the group signed up to United Artists Records as HAWKWIND; guitarist Huw Lloyd-Langton was found almost immediately. Many free concerts later (mostly open-air festivals), the sextet released their eponymous debut the following summer.

Produced by former PRETTY THINGS lead guitarist, Dick Taylor, HAWKWIND (1970) {*7}, was a melange of bluesy, cosmically heavy psychedelic jam-rock; its best remembered for including opening track, `Hurry On Sundown’. While one could be “careful with the axe Eugene” not to pigeonhole them as PINK FLOYD clones (example `The Reason Is’, the 10-minute `Seeing It As You Really Are’ and part 2 of `Paranoia’), the tapestry of delights on their tight, prog-rock, galactic journey slipped through on the hypnotic mantra, `Be Yourself’.

Almost immediately, the band were beset with keeping personnel; Harrison (and his replacement Thomas Crimble) plus Lloyd-Langton making way for AMON DUUL II bassist Dave Anderson and synths man Del Dettmar leading up to the release of their glorious sophomore Top 20 set, IN SEARCH OF SPACE (1971) {*8}. Taking free-form, SUN RA-like jazz improv as its template, the opening 15:45 minutes was afforded to one track, `You Shouldn’t Do That’; main songwriters Brock and Turner were also behind `You Know You’re Only Dreaming’, `Master Of The Universe’ and `Children Of The Sun’.

Instrumental in pushing the group’s sci-fi/fantasy appeal was the subsequent introduction of vocalist/poet, Robert Calvert; his sci-fi musings featured heavily in their stage shows, while the scattered electronic stabs and saxophone honking merged with the driving rhythm section to create their own tripped-out take on space rock. It must be said too, that graphic artist Barney Bubbles, was used to good effect on the band’s image, stage design and album covers. Taking the free-love spirit of the late 60s by employing naked dancer, Stacia, HAWKWIND’s audience had almost tripled in a short space of time. Two upfront reasons at least then for their drive into the UK Top 3 via the classic, `Silver Machine’ single; one-time roadie Lemmy Kilmister’s pile-driving bass and overdubbed vox (preferred to Calvert’s live version), plus Simon King’s drums fuelling the beast with a turbo-charged power. The track previously featured on the live various artists “Greasy Truckers Party” album, as well as appearing on the similar “Glastonbury Fayre” compilation. One should also check out Silver Machine’s flipside, `Seven By Seven’, poet Calvert and Brock’s masterful soundscape; the inspiration to Swiss progsters, BRAINTICKET.

The success of the aforementioned A-side secured the band Top 20 placings on all four of their next albums for United Artists. The first of these, DOREMI FASOL LATIDO (1972) {*7}, was, at times, another explosive, intergalactic heavy-metal barrage of sound – `Lord Of Light’, up there with their most sonic pieces. The 11-minute `Brainstorm’ (penned by Turner alone) was pitted against the digitally-dreamy, `Space Is Deep’, a softer cut that showed Brock, Calvert and Co had more than metal up their sleeve. BLACK SABBATH and URIAH HEEP had already booked that ticket.

Highlighting all that was great and genuine about HAWKWIND, the live at Liverpool and London shows, SPACE RITUAL (1973) {*9} propelled the group beyond stratospheric proportions – well, the UK Top 10 at least. Absorbed and punctuated by Calvert’s coherent astral readings of Michael Moorcock’s `Sonic Attack’ and `The Black Corridor’, alongside his own `The Awakening’ and `10 Seconds Of Forever’, to describe the ‘Ritual as a trippy affair would be an understatement. Pity then it didn’t have room for their hard-rocking follow-up, `Urban Guerrilla’, a surprise Top 40 entry despite being banned from the radio airwaves.

Running up to the release of their fourth studio set, HALL OF THE MOUNTAIN GRILL (1974) {*9}, Dettmar (who’d emigrated to Canada), Dik Mik (aka Michael Davies) and the solo-bound ROBERT CALVERT took off on their own missives; veteran synth-player and violinist Simon House (ex-THIRD EAR BAND, ex-HIGH TIDE) contributing the classically-infused title track. Interspersed with light but grandiose instrumental pieces such as `Wind Of Change’ and the short `Goat Willow’, Brock, Turner and Co’s time away from the studio has revived the vibe to write great tracks; `The Psychedelic Warlords (Disappear In Smoke)’, the melancholy `D-Rider’, `You’d Better Believe It’ and the Lemmy-sung `Lost Johnny’, all gemstones in their own right.

With the addition of second sticksman, Alan Powell (ex-CHICKEN SHACK, etc.), and coming in for a little flak among some critics, WARRIOR ON THE EDGE OF TIME (1975) {*7}, exposed a little of the band’s shortcomings; it was thought that the full-member upgrade introduction of the aforementioned Michael Moorcock on several of the echo-ing cuts (from `The Wizard Blew His Horn’ to `Standing At The Edge’ and `Warriors’) was just a bridge too far for many Hawkfans. That aside, no one could argue with the likes of brain-stormers, `Assault & Battery’, `Magnu’ and Kilmister’s swansong, `Kings Of Speed’; the latter surely one that got away, its B-side `Motorhead’ procured by Lemmy as the name for his subsequent hard-rock band when he was duly fired from the group for his part in an alleged drug bust. Paul Rudolph (a mate of Brock and Turner’s from the PINK FAIRIES) was drafted in to fill the void, alongside the re-instated Calvert.

HAWKWIND then signed to Charisma Records and despite continuing moderate commercial success on arty albums, ASTOUNDING SOUNDS, AMAZING MUSIC (1976) {*5} and the much-improved QUARK, STRANGENESS AND CHARM (1977) {*6}, it seemed their heyday was put to the sword by the sonic sorcery of the emerging punk and new wave. The loss of long-standing NIK TURNER, who’d go on to form Sphynx and Inner City Unit, was almost opaque to the revolving-door process of the band. For the second of these sets, experienced bassist Adrian Shaw showed he was more than capable of keeping up with core members. But by now HAWKWIND were coming across like a poor man’s DOCTORS OF MADNESS or ULTRAVOX (example `Hassan I Sabbah’ and `Spirit Of The Age’), numerous fans unhappy at their newfound pop-rock approach. There were of course exceptions to the rule, the technoid `Forge Of Vulcan’ almost industrial by comparison.

Much of the same could be said for the group’s offshoot act, HAWKLORDS, Calvert’s proposition that shelved a finished album, the “PXR5” project to compensate for 25 YEARS ON (1978) {*7}. Still, it had all the hallmarks of Hawkwind in transition, and even featured Messrs Brock, Simon King, Steve Swindells (keyboards), Harvey Bainbridge (bass) and Martin Griffin (drums), plus good and effective songs such as `(Only) The Dead Dreams Of The Cold War Kid’, `Flying Doctor’ and `25 Years’. When finally released after the lesser-celebrated “Hawklords” venture, PXR5 (1979) {*5} was rounded on by critics and fans alike. When the dust settled and legal wrangles had just about emptied their pockets at the turn of the decade, Brock, Bainbridge, Simon King and Huw Lloyd-Langton (both back from Quasar to replace Griffin and CALVERT respectively), Tim Blake (from GONG to supersede SWINDELLS who also went solo) steadied the ship on the Top 20 LIVE SEVENTY-NINE (1980) {*6} set. Whether the connective MOTORHEAD metal touches on `Master Of The Universe’ and `Brainstorm’, fitted well within the Hawkfan glitterati was anybody’s guess, but no one could doubt the outfit’s prowess and claim to be a hard-rock band.

Bronze Records were also behind HAWKWIND’s studio comeback, LEVITATION (1980) {*6}; veteran drummer GINGER BAKER ensuring its near Top 20 status. Brock had intentionally revised their spacey, sci-fi sources, `Who’s Gonna Win The War’, `Motor Way City’ and the title track, winning the day over their previous and ill-advised sojourn into mainstream new-wave.

Formerly of freak-folk act, COMUS, Keith Hale superseded Blake, while drummer Martin Griffin returned to replace the enigmatic BAKER who continued as a solo artist. The resultant Top 20 set, SONIC ATTACK (1981) {*5} – based on the Michael Moorcock sci-fi contribution to “Space Ritual” – was another harder-edged work in the NWOBHM mould. MOORCOCK would indeed provide a handful of lyrics for Brock’s musical enterprise, although the sword-and-sorcery pomp-rock was hardly stuff of the 80s.

R.C.A. Records were also behind two further Top 30 entries (indeed, their last) in CHURCH OF HAWKWIND (1982) {*5} – featuring the JFK/Oswald shooting-inspired sampling `Some People Never Die’ – and CHOOSE YOUR MASQUES (1982) {*6}, the latter seeing the return of saxophonist extraordinaire, Nik Turner. The fact that Brock let his Utopian crew get more involved (including house composers, MOORCOCK and CALVERT respectively), was certainly effective in their dramatic sound. Lloyd-Langton and wife Marion were behind two of the tracks, `Solitary Mind Games’ and `Waiting For Tomorrow’, while one couldn’t fault Brock re-vamping their greatest hit, `Silver Machine’.

With substantially altered line-ups (no change there then), HAWKWIND continued to release albums on their own Flicknife independent, the first of these ZONES (1983) {*5} was a rather ill-conceived live collection of recent tracks, although three of them were from the BAKER-era. It’d repeatedly confuse Hawkfans and critics alike as to what deemed a new album. In the case of “Zones” and the rather more collective, THIS IS HAWKWIND, DO NOT PANIC (1984) {*5} – recorded mostly live in Lewisham in 1980, with a few fresh “Stonehenge” cuts thrown in to the mix – discographers, at least, were bemused.

Brock, Lloyd-Langton, Bainbridge, Alan Davey (bass), Danny Thompson (drums), Dave Charles (percussion) and writings of “Elric” man MOORCOCK were behind HAWKWIND’s first “proper” album for yonks, THE CHRONICLE OF THE BLACK SWORD (1985) {*6}. While the project had a few melodic rockers in `Needle Gun’ and `Song Of The Swords’, there were TANGERINE DREAM-like soundwaves in `The Pulsing Cavern’.

For once the line-up looked to have survived the three years leading up to THE XENON CODEX (1988) {*6}, although there was one casualty reported when former cohort, ROBERT CALVERT (Bob to his friends), died from a heart attack on the 14th August 1988. Whether one loved the old-style, classic-era HAWKWIND, or the trial-and-error HAWKWIND, ready-and-willing to progress beyond their boundaries (Brock’s `Heads’, Langton’s `Tides’ and Davey’s `Neon Skyline’, three examples), one couldn’t fault the mind-blowing opening salvo, `The War I Survived’.

A large step into the past and the present came through 1990’s SPACE BANDITS {*5}, a record which re-introduced the virtuosity of violinist Simon House and a new voice in Bridget Wishart; Richard Chadwick was installed as their drummer. HAWKWIND would consistently attracted a loyal following of die-hard hippies, while the emergence of the psychedelic/crusty/techno scene had done them no harm, many young stoners citing the group as a prominent influence, even if Brock was the only remaining original member. Although recorded live around the turn of the decade, PALACE SPRINGS (1991) {*4} was a welcome addition to Hawkfans with large pockets.

ELECTRIC TEPEE (1992) {*6}, IT IS THE BUSINESS OF THE FUTURE TO BE DANGEROUS (1993) {*6} and the obligatory THE BUSINESS TRIP – LIVE (1994) {*5}, rounded off a healthy period for the Hawks; their expansive vaults sourcing out old nuggets such as `Quark, Strangeness And Charm’ for inclusion on the latter and a re-vamp CD-single release. After The Hawklords debacle some years ago, the need for a change of moniker (Psychedelic Warriors), and to fit into the niche ambient/trance scene for one-off set, WHITE ZONE (1994) {*4}, was again ill-conceived. A time then to come up with the arty-farty Pinkwind, an amalgamation of PINK FAIRIES’ Larry Wallis, Duncan Sanderson and Russell Hunter and HAWKWIND’s Brock, Turner and Dettmar? Probably not, judging by the results on their pitiful collaboration, “Festival Of The Sun”.

The age-old concept of terrestrial worlds from within, ALIEN 4 (1995) {*7}, saw HAWKWIND and Brock take a back seat on the vocal side: that would go, in part, to Ron Tree. Eerie and intense, the doom-laden instrumentation was effective on the likes of `Death Trap’, `Sputnik Stan’, `Alien (1 AM)’, among others. Of course, the choice to chase it with another double-live batch, LOVE IN SPACE (1996) {*4}, was one strictly for their loyal fans to judge.

The tight quartet of Brock, Tree, Chadwick and Davey’s replacement, Jerry Richards, continued to vary their space-rock-meets-trance-sound on DISTANT HORIZONS (1997) {*6}, while the half-live/half-studio IN YOUR AREA (1999) {*6} contained a concert and tracks from a rather rare “Earth Visitor Passport” Hawkfan collection.

The ostensibly solo HAWKWIND set, SPACEBROCK (2001) {*5}, surfaced from out of the blue, and although players/characters permeated from sources in an anonymous capacity (fans will know who they are!), Brock and his Dr. Technical alter-ego side played out some of his best tracks from solo albums.

The Xmas-cracking double concert set, YULE RITUAL: LONDON ASTORIA 29.12.00 (2001) {*6} – recorded with an expanded cast – and another reunion of sorts in CANTERBURY FAYRE 2001 (2003) {*6}, kept their momentum on a high note; the latter and SPACED OUT IN LONDON (2004) {*6} featured a cameo from flame-helmeted guru, ARTHUR BROWN.

The Crazy World of guest singers Arthur Brown, LEMMY, LENE LOVICH and television presenter, Matthew Wright (the latter on a reprise of Bob Calvert’s `Spirit Of The Age’), were all on board the good ship HAWKWIND for their umpteenth, long-awaited studio album, TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER (2005) {*6}. The core trio of Brock, Davey and Chadwick combined with ominous angst on the likes of `Greenback Massacre’, `To Love A Machine’, the title track and `Angela Android’. TAKE ME TO YOUR FUTURE (2006) {*6} was virtually a live audio/visual accompaniment to the previous record.

Brock, Chadwick and the returning Tim Blake, plus Jason Stuart (keyboards) and Mr. Dibs (bass), arrived the uncanny idea to release another double-CD batch of old and new tracks, KNIGHTS OF SPACE (2008) {*4}, leaving fans “alien”-ated and penniless once again. If one was an avid fan of HAWKWIND stretching over all the decades, thousands of pounds (or dollars) would’ve been required to buy the lot – they just might’ve been the reason for the impending recession.

Back on a serious note, HAWKWIND acolyte and number one fan, Matthew Wright (he of Channel 5’s “The Wright Stuff” fame) contributed not his voice to the title track of their follow-up studio set, BLOOD OF THE EARTH (2010) {*6}, but also a co-credit with his “Master Of The Universe”, Dave Brock. While one could hear the band’s upbeat live take of SYD BARRETT’s `Long Gone’ on the bonus disc, golden nugget `You’d Better Believe It’ cropped up on the main side; check out the pounding `Seahawks’ or indeed the rather gorgeous ambient piece, `Green Machine’. Sample-delic bassist Niall Hone replaced Stuart.

2012’s metal-to-manic double-set, ONWARD {*6}, was more KILLING JOKE and industrial in shape (if tracks `Seasons’, `The Hills Have Eyes’ and `Death Trap’ were anything to go by), but just like HAWKWIND’s best pieces of the past, there was method to their madness via acoustic number, `Mind Cut’.

Adding to their rather large discography (which now included HAWKWIND LIGHT ORCHESTRA’s STELLAR VARIATIONS (2012) {*6}), was the remixed/re-worked SPACEHAWKS (2013) {*6}, an odds ‘n’ sods set of the sprawling variety taking in both recent and prehistoric gems; Brock, Chadwick and Hone were again joined by Mr. Dibs (aka Jonathan Hulme Derbyshire).

While HAWKWIND were blowing in different directions, generic fans could switch on to the re-formed spinoff, HAWKLORDS; i.e. Swindells, Bainbridge and Shaw, plus singer Ron Tree, guitarist Jerry Richards and drummer Dave Pearce. 2012’s WE ARE ONE {*6} was an interesting interstellar album that had elements of PiL/ALTERNATIVE TV-esque punk on the title track, `Mothership’ and the 8-minute `Even Horizon’

Swindells subsequently dropping out, the psychedelic warriors of the apocalypse captured more of the same on DREAM (2013) {*6} – featuring `Dream A Dream’ and `D.N.A.’, CENSORED (2014) {*6} – roping in MICHAEL MOORCOCK for `Induction’, and R:EVOLUTION (2015) {*7}; the latter with Tom Ashurst in for Shaw. The mission to go where no acid-head had gone before, HAWKLORDS had transported fans back to the mind-fuck 70s a la `Re-Animator’, `Evolver’ and futuristic finale `Shadow Of The Machines’.

Brock’s HAWKWIND alumni, on the other hand, were pressing the DeLorean dials for their “Warriors”-meets-“Silver…”-type trip into the cosmic concepts of THE MACHINE STOPS (2016) {*8}. Based on E.M. Forster’s dystopian sci-fi short story of 1909, rave reviews had placed them (and Cherry Red Records!) back in the Top 30 – their first to do so in 34 of your Earth years; perennial Matthew “Wright Stuff” name-checks ‘n’ all. Interspersed with the odd, spoken-word interlude, one can almost feel the presence of the late LEMMY on cool opener `The Machine’, whilst others such as the single `A Solitary Man’, `King Of The World’ and `Synchronised Blue’, conspired to carry the can for prog/space-rock.

At the risk of competing with the mighty “kings of speed” HAWKWIND, sonic counterparts HAWKLORDS delivered unto the womb of the world: FUSION (2016) {*6}. Nothing conceptual here, just an album “exploring the themes of sex, death, art, time and identity” – as said on their blog. An at times beautiful and glissandonic trip through their intricate minds, the ‘Lords’ most commercial piece `SR-71’ exploded through the acquisition of rejuvenated guest singer, Kim McAuliffe (from GIRLSCHOOL). Keeping their cosmic grooves simple and sweet/sour, `Out Of Phase’, `Split’, `Step Off The Edge’ and the dreamscape “Warrior/Time” of `The Moment’ were its strongest missives.

Captain Brock and Co’s HAWKWIND, meanwhile, were contemplating another assault and battery on the human anatomy, by way of 2017’s INTO THE WOODS {*7}. Despite its Top 30 peak, only hardened disciples managed to give this spooky set top marks. A little lighter and acoustic than its predecessor, the synths still managed to give subliminal songs such as the opening title track, `Cottage In The Woods’, `Have You Seen Them?’, `Space Ship Blues’ (complete with banjo!) and the punk-y `Vegan Lunch’, an almighty leg-up. On a sadder note, Dik Mik’s death on 16 November 2017 was not lost on past and present HAWKWIND acolytes.

Celebrating their return to a certain London venue after 40 years, double-CD/DVD, LIVE AT THE ROUNDHOUSE (2017) {*7} gave younger fans a chance to catch up.

Revisiting their back catalogue again was decidedly ill-advised if their re-workings album, ROAD TO UTOPIA (2018) {*5}, was anything to go by. Split into two “1st and 2nd Innings” sides (once again produced by the orchestral Mike Batt), HAWKWIND did themselves no favours by re-waxing the likes of `Quark, Strangeness And Charm’, `We Took The Wrong Step Years Ago’, `Psychic Power’, `Down Through The Night’

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