HAWKWIND-THIS IS YOUR CAPTAIN SPEAKING…YOUR CAPTAIN IS DEAD.

HAWKWIND-THIS IS YOUR CAPTAIN SPEAKING…YOUR CAPTAIN IS DEAD.

As the sixties drew to a close, one of the pioneers of the British space rock sound were formed in November 1969. This was Hawkwind, whose career would span six decades. During that period, Hawkwind’s lineup is best described as fluid.

Over forty musicians have played a part in the Hawkwind story. However, the only member to have survived forty-six years, and countless changes in lineup, is guitarist, bassist and keyboardist Dave Brock. He formed Hawkwind in November 1969 with guitarist Mick Slattery.

They had previously been members of London based psychedelic band Famous Cure. Then November 1969, Dave Brock and Mick Slattery met bassist John A. Harrison. The three musicians soon realised that they had a shared interest…electronic music. So they decided to form a new band. However, there was a problem, they didn’t have a drummer.

The best way to find a drummer in those pre-internet days, was to advertise in one of the music papers. One of those who answered the advert, was seventeen year old drummer Terry Ollis. He was auditioned, and became the nascent group’s drummer. However, at the same time, an old friend of Dave Brock’s volunteered to be the bands roadie.

Nik Turner was willing to drive the band around, and setup their equipment. Quickly, though, it became apparent that Nik Turner was overqualified as a roadie. He could play flute and saxophone. So he was brought onboard to the as yet nameless band.

The nameless band read that there was a talent show at All Saints Hall, Notting Hill, London. So the five members of the band decided to gatecrash the event. They turned up, unannounced, and managed to convince the organisers to let them take to the stage. When they were asked what their name was,  the band members settled on Group X. 

When Group X took to the stage, they played a twenty minute jam loosely based on The Byrds’ Eight Miles High. Elements of psychedelia, electronica and progressive rock were combined by Group X. It was unlike anything many members of the audience had heard. However, one man in the audience was impressed.

This was Radio One DJ John Peel. He realised that Group X had potential, so told Douglas Smith, who had organised the event, that.  On hearing this, Douglas Smith went out and signed Group X. He then got them a deal with Liberty Records. By then, Hawkwind had been born.

After quickly dispensing with the name Group X, the band had a dalliance with Hawkwind Zoo. Eventually, though, the band settled on Hawkwind, a name which would become famous in British music.

Since 1969, the various lineups of Hawkwind have released twenty-seven studio albums, ten live albums and fifteen compilations. That’s not forgetting the recently released eleven disc box set, This Is Your Captain Speaking…Your Captain Is Dead. It was recently released by PLG, and features Hawkwind’s first four studio albums, three live albums and a singles compilation. Mainly, This Is Your Captain Speaking…Your Captain Is Dead documents the period between 1969 and 1974.

Hawkwind.

After Hawkwind’s manager Douglas Smith secured them a deal with Liberty Records in early 1970, Hawkwind began work on their eponymous debut album. By April 1970, Dave Brock and the members of Hawkwind had penned seven tracks. These tracks became Hawkwind.

Recording of Hawkwind began in March 1970, at Trident Studios. That’s where Hawkwind joined forces with producer and former Pretty Things guitarist Dick Taylor. He would coproduce Hawkwind’s eponymous debut album with the band. Their number had swelled to seven.

This included a rhythm section of drummer Terry Ollis, John A. Harrison and guitarists Mick Slattery, Huw Lloyd-Langton and Dave Brock on guitar, keyboards and harmonica. They were augmented by Dik Mik on synths, and Nik Turner on flute and saxophones. Gradually, the seven songs that became Hawkwind took shape. 

At first, coproducer Dick Taylor was struggling to capture Hawkwind’s true sound. He had experienced Hawkwind live, and wanted to capture that sound. This was proving easier said than done. Eventually after several unsuccessful attempts to record each song, Dick Taylor had Hawkwind play live. This worked, and by April 1970, Hawkwind was complete, and the release scheduled for 14th August 1970.

Before that, critics had their say on Hawkwind. They were a new band, who on side one of their eponymous debut album, pioneered the space rock sound. Hawkwind fused elements of electronica, folk, psychedelia and rock. This was something new and innovative. It was also trippy, thanks to the myriad of effects and electronics deployed by Hawkwind. They admitted in the sleeve-notes that they want to “freak people. However, this was an acid free trip.

It was also one that won over critics. They hailed Hawkwind an “exciting” and “interesting” album. Especially the myriad of left-field sounds that were deployed. However, this came with a caveat. Hawkwind shouldn’t become over-reliant on them. Used sparingly, like on Seeing It As You Really Are and Hawkwind could become one of the rising stars of the seventies.

That didn’t look like being the case when Hawkwind was released. The album sunk without trace, and didn’t even come close to troubling the charts. Things however, would be different next time round.

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X In Search of Space.

Following the release of Hawkwind, there were two changes in the band’s lineup. The first to leave was bassist John A. Harrison.  He was replaced by Thomas Crimble of Skin Alley. However, Thomas Crimble never got to play on a Hawkwind album. Thomas Crimble was then replaced by Dave Anderson of seminal Krautrock pioneers Amon Düül II. Dave Anderson arrived to what must have seemed like a game of musical chairs.

Next to leave was Dik Mik Davies. This was only temporarily. So Del Dettmar, Hawkwind’s live sound engineer replaced Dik Mik Davies. That wasn’t the end of the departures.

Huw Lloyd-Langton left Hawkwind after a bad LSD trip. This wasn’t uncommon in the late-sixties and early-seventies. Acid casualties were rife within the music industry. Sadly, many never recovered from their trip. Luckily, Huw Lloyd-Langton and later rejoined Hawkwind in 1979. By then, Hawkwind had released a classic album, X In Search of Space.

For X In Search of Space, Hawkwind had written six tracks. This included two penned by Dave Brock, and two he cowrote with Nick Turner. Adjust Me was credited to Hawkind, while the acoustic Children of the Sun was penned by Nik Turner and Dave Anderson. With their sophomore album written, Hawkwind were booked into AIR Studios with George Martin.

How anyone at Liberty Records didn’t foresee that the combination of Hawkwind and George Martin, wasn’t destined to end up in chaos is astounding. They were polar opposites. So it was no surprise that the session at AIR Studios yielded very little. Eventually, the session came to a grinding halt, when one of Hawkwind’s friends or entourage, allegedly broke into George Martin’s drink’s cabinet and spiked the engineer’s drinks with acid. This resulted in Hawkwind being asked to leave AIR Studios. Ironically, it was the best think that happened to Hawkwind.

They moved to Olympic Studios to work with producer George Chkiantz. By then, Hawkwind were behind the black ball. So much time had been wasted, that there was very little time to complete the album. This seemed to focus everyone’s minds, and George Chkiantz guided Hawkwind through the recording of their first classic album, X In Search Of Space.

With X In Search Of Space completed, promo copies were sent out to critics. They were won over by In Search Of Space, and called the album ambitious and innovative. Elements of electronica, combined with Krautrock, psychedelia and heavy rock. Some critics even compared X In Search Of Space favourably to some of the leading lights of the Krautrock scene. One of the groups Hawkwind were compared to were Amon Düül II. A few perceptive critics went as far as to refer to X In Search Of Space as a classic.

That proved to be the case. Thirty-five years later, in 2006, In Search Of Space found its way into Classic Rock magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest British Rock Albums. That was no surprise.

When X In Search Of Space was released on 8th October 1971, it eventually reached number eighteen in Britain. It seemed that being asked to leave AIR Studios was the best thing that had happened to Hawkwind. They then got the opportunity to work with producer George Chkiantz. Together, they co-produced a classic album, British rock album, In Search Of Space. Its success saw Hawkwind’s profile rise.

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Greasy Truckers Party.

Proof of that came on 13th February 1972, when Hawkwind found themselves at the Roundhouse, in London. Hawkwind were joined by Brinsley Schwarz and Man in what was one of the biggest charity concert in Britain. Patrons paid the princely sum of £1.50 to see three of Britain’s top bands play in what was originally billed as a marathon concert.

Originally, the Greasy Truckers Party was due to run from 3pm until midnight, and featured numerous bands. However, power cuts and wage disputes meant that only Hawkwind, Brinsley Schwarz and Man would play on the 13th February 1972.

To further muddy the waters, Clive John had just left Man. However, they weren’t going to let the audience down. They opened the night, with Brinsley Schwarz following and Hawkwind bringing the curtain down. The three bands didn’t disappoint, and the Greasy Truckers Party has entered British musical folklore. Partly, that’s because the concert was recorded and released on 28th April 1972.

The Greasy Truckers Party was a double album, and is a reminder of Hawkwind early in their career. By then, Hawkwind had only been playing live since 1970. However, by 1972, their space rock sound was winning favour with concert goers. That’s apparent on Master of the Universe and Born to Go. These tracks showcase musical pioneers Hawkwind, as they were about to come of age. 

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Doremi Fasol Latido.

Following the Greasy Truckers Party, Hawkwind lost its rhythm section. Bassist Dave Anderson and drummer Terry Ellis left. Their replacements were Opal Butterfly’s former rhythm section.

This included drummer Simon King. His partner-in-crime, was Opal Butterfly’s charismatic frontman and bassist, FraserLemmyKilmister. Back in 1972, the man who would become known to all as Lemmy, was a twenty-six year old veteran, with a love of the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. This was something that Lemmy embraced, and defiantly enjoyed until his death on December 28th 2015, aged just seventy. However, back in 1972, Lemmy was still to taste critical acclaim and commercial success. They would become constant companions.

Originally, Lemmy was going to become Hawkwind’s second guitarist. However, there was a small problem. 

From the moment Lemmy became a member of Hawkwind, it became apparent he disguised his failing with volume and showmanship. So Lemmy switched to bass. There was another problem though.

Lemmy didn’t know how to play the bass. It was a case of learning on the job. As he stepped onto the stage each night, a bass was strapped round his neck, and Lemmy winged it. This presented a problem for Dave Brock.

He wanted Hawkwind to feature two guitarists when on their third album Doremi Fasol Latido. This wasn’t to be. However, Lemmy contributed the album closer The Watcher. Founder member Dave Brock contributed four tracks; while Del Dettmar and Nik Turner wrote one apiece. These seven tracks became Doremi Fasol Latido.

Recording of Doremi Fasol Latido took place at Rockfield Studios between September and October 1972. Dave Brock and Del Dettmar produced Doremi Fasol Latido, which featured the new lineup of Hawkwind.

This included a rhythm section of drummer Simon King, bassist Lemmy and Dave Brock on guitars. Dik Mik and Del Dettmar added synths; while Nik Turner added flutes and saxophone. Augmenting Hawkwind, were guitarists Robert Calvert and Paul Rudolph. However, the sessions were problematic.

When recording of Doremi Fasol Latido was taking place, Rockfield Studios was a relatively new facility, not the world class studio its became. Members of Hawkwind were concerned about the sound quality. They liked the record the rhythm section and vocals together. When they listened to the recordings, they lacked depth, bite and clarity. Questions were even asked about Dave Brock and Del Dettmar productions. It was a worrying time for Hawkwind.

Once Doremi Fasol Latido was completed in October 1972, United Artists were determined to have the album released on 24th November 1972. Before that, critics had to have their say on Doremi Fasol Latido.

Reviews of Doremi Fasol Latido were decidedly mixed. A press corps. that had previously been won over by every Hawkwind release, weren’t convinced. Some felt the album lacked cohesion, and the sound quality wasn’t the best. Other critics however, embraced this cosmic pot pourri. It was unlike anything Hawkwind, or any band had released. Psychedelia, progressive rock and electronica, were combined with effects to create a space rock album that divided the opinion of critics. Record buyers had the deciding vote.  

When Doremi Fasol Latido was released, it became Hawkwind’s most successful album, reaching number fourteen in Britain. Now Hawkwind had to build on the success of Doremi Fasol Latido.

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Space Ritual.

Most bands would’ve headed back into the studio to record the followup to Doremi Fasol Latido. Not Hawkwind. 

Following the release of Doremi Fasol Latido, Hawkwind were touring their third album. They were booked to play the Liverpool Stadium on 22nd December 1972. Then eight days later, Hawkwind were scheduled to appear at the Brixton Academy, London. Both these concerts would be recorded, and became the Space Ritual.

Their 1972 tour was unlike previous Hawkwind tour. It was a much more ambitious project, where  songs gave way to electronic and spoken pieces. Essentially, the each night, Hawkwind combined music, animation, poetry, theatre and drama. The Space Ritual show was also billed as an audio visual experience.

Graphic designer and director Barney Bubbles, and Robert Calvert of Hawkwind had created a short, animated sci-fi story. It was accompanied by Liquid Len’s light-show and poetry readings. This gave the show a sixties happening feel. However, this was happening in late 1972. 

This didn’t matter, on the two nights in Liverpool in London, Hawkwind’s set featured mostly Doremi Fasol Latido.Everything seemed to fall almost flawlessly into place. The only disappointment for some members of the audience, was when Hawkwind didn’t play their hit single, Silver Machine. Even that paled into insignificance, as Hawkwind gave two of the best performances of the tour. The members of Hawkwind breathed a sigh of relief. Both nights were being recorded, and became Space Ritual

Five months later, Space Ritual  was released on 11th May 1973. The album became Hawkwind’s most successful album, reaching number nine in Britain, and 179 in the US Billboard 200. Belatedly, Hawkwind had made a breakthrough in the lucrative American market. Was this a one-off, or could they sustain this?

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Hall Of The Mountain Grill.

When Hawkwind returned to Edmonton Sundown studio in January 1974, there had been three changes in the band’s lineup. Robert Calvert and Dik Mik had left Hawkwind. Simon House had joined the band, and would add synths, mellotron and electronic violin on nine new tracks.

Five of the tracks on Hall Of The Mountain Grill had been penned by Hawkwind’s songwriter-in-chief, Dave Brock. Other members of the band played their part. Nik Turner contributed D-Rider; Simon House Hall Of The Mountain Grill; and Del Dettmar Goat Willow. Lemmy and Mick Farren cowrote Lost Johnny. For the best part of a month, Hawkwind worked on Hall Of The Mountain Grill Edmonton Sundown. By the time, January was over, Hawkwind resumed their gruelling touring schedule.

It wasn’t until May and June of 1974, that Hawkwind were able to return to the studio. At Trident Studios, they were joined by Roy Thomas Baker and Doug Bennett. They co-produced Hall Of The Mountain Grill with Hawkwind. The addition of experienced producers made a difference to Hall Of The Mountain Grill’s sound.

Once Hall Of The Mountain Grill was completed, the release date was scheduled for 6th September 1974. Before that, critics were sent a copy of Hall Of The Mountain Grill. 

Critics that hadn’t been won over by Doremi Fasol Latido, felt that Hawkwind were back to their very best on Hall Of The Mountain Grill. That’s despite the loss of vocalist Robert Calvert. So vocals were shared between Dave Brock, Nik Turner and Lemmy. They proved to be admirable replacements, as Hawkwind became musical shape shifters.

Throughout Hall Of The Mountain Grill, Hawkwind change direction musically. On The Psychedelic Warlords (Disappear in Smoke) and Lost Johnny, Hawkwind become a swaggering, hard rocking band. Then on D-Rider and Web Weaver, Hawkwind head in the direction of psychedelia. However, on Goat Willow, Wind of Change and Hall Of The Mountain Grill, a much more understated, introspective Hawkwind shine through. Critics felt that Hawkwind could do no wrong on Hall Of The Mountain Grill, and called the album a “career high.” Record buyers agreed.

When Hall Of The Mountain Grill was released, it reached sixteen in the British charts. While that was slightly disappointing, after The Space Ritual Alive reached number nine. However, across the Atlantic, Hall Of The Mountain Grill reached 110 in the US Billboard 200. Hawkwind’s star was in the ascendancy in America. So in 1974, Hawkwind recorded a live album in America, The 1999 Party (Live Chicago Auditorium).

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The 1999 Party (Live At The Chicago Auditorium).

In between starting and completing the recording of Hall Of The Mountain Grill, Hawkwind had toured America. On March 21st 1974, Hawkwind were scheduled to play at the Chicago Auditorium. The show was being recorded, so that it could be released as a double album.

When Hawkwind took to the stage at the Chicago Auditorium, they worked their way through sixteen tracks. From the opening track, Standing On The Edge, Hawkwind are determined to win over the audience. They unleash It’s So Easy, You Know You’re Only Dreaming, Brainstorm, Seven By Seven, The Watcher, The Awakening, You’d Better Believe It, The Psychedelic Warlords (Disappear In Smoke), D-Rider and Sonic Attack. Closing the show was, Welcome To The Future. This mixture of tracks from the first three studio albums, plus a smattering of songs from Hall Of The Mountain Grill proved a potent combination. By the time the curtain fell, Chicago had been won over by Hawkwind.

Despite the success of the tour, and Hall Of The Mountain Grill, United Artists were in no hurry to release The 1999 Party (Live At The Chicago Auditorium). It wasn’t until 2007, that the album was released. By then, CDs had all but replaced vinyl, and Hawkwind’s lineup had been through countless changes. That’s the case with the final album in the This Is Your Captain Speaking…Your Captain Is Dead.

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Of Time and Stars: The Singles.

Disc eleven in This Is Your Captain Speaking…Your Captain Is Dead features fifteen of Hawkwind’s singles. There’s original single mixes, edits and live singles. Among the highlights, are the original mix of Silver Machine, Seven By Seven and Psychedelic Warlords (Disappear In Smoke). Then there’s Urban Guerilla and It’s So Easy, plus live versions of Born To Go and Seven By Seven. There’s even an attempt to bring Hawkwind into the 21st Century, with a remixed single version of Seven By Seven. It’s ironic that this remix closes the This Is Your Captain Speaking…Your Captain Is Dead. After all, Hawkwind were making groundbreaking, futuristic music for the 21st Century over forty years ago.

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Indeed, forty-five years have passed since Hawkwind released their eponymous debut album in 1970. Since then, Hawkwind have released another twenty-six studio albums, ten live albums and fifteen compilation. Hawkwind’s recording career has spanned five decades and featured countless different lineups of the band. 

Over forty musicians have been part of the Hawkwind success story. This included Ginger Baker, and Lemmy, who sadly, died of an aggressive form of cancer on the 28th December 2015. He was only seventy, but was a veteran of several bands, including Hawkwind and then Motörhead. 

Lemmy joined Hawkwind in 1972, and left in 1975. By the time he left to form  Motörhead, Hawkwind’s star was in the ascendancy. They had enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. So would Lemmy’s next band Motörhead. They nearly matched Hawkwind for longevity.

Even in 2015, Hawkwind are still going strong. The only original member is Dave Brock, who cofounded the band in 1969. Since then, the lineup has changed constantly, and Hawkwind’s music has fallen in and out of fashion. Nowadays, Hawkwind are regarded as pioneers of space rock sound. 

These musical trailblazers went onto inspire several generations of bands, with albums like X In Search of Space and Hall of the Mountain Grill. Then there’s Hawkwind’s 1970 eponymous debut album and their third album Doremi Fasol Latido. Both are underrated, and deserve to be reappraised. The This Is Your Captain Speaking…Your Captain Is Dead box set, which was recently released by PLG allows music fans to do so. They’ll also be able to discover Hawkwind’s performance at the Greasy Truckers Party, and what was one their most ambitious live albums, The Space Ritual Alive. That’s not the end of the story.

As an added bonus, The 1999 Party (Live At The Chicago Auditorium) and the Time and Stars: The Singles have been included on the This Is Your Captain Speaking…Your Captain Is Dead box set. It’s the perfect introduction to what many people regard as Hawkwind’s glory days.

HAWKWIND-THIS IS YOUR CAPTAIN SPEAKING…YOUR CAPTAIN IS DEAD.

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1 Comment

  1. That box looks great. Is it the full double Greasy Truckers album? (With Man and Brinseley Schwarz?)

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