Hawkwind are an English rock band and one of the earliest space rock groups. Their lyrics favour urban and science fiction themes. Formed in November 1969, Hawkwind have gone through many incarnations and they have incorporated different styles into their music, including hard rock, progressive rock and psychedelic rock. They are also regarded as an influential proto-punk band.
Dozens of musicians, dancers and writers have worked with the band since their inception. Notable musicians to have performed in the band include Lemmy, Ginger Baker and Huw Lloyd-Langton, but the band are most closely associated with their founder, the singer, songwriter and guitarist Dave Brock, who remains the only original member.
They are best known for the song "Silver Machine", which became a number three UK hit single in 1972, but they scored further hit singles with "Urban Guerrilla" (another Top 40 hit) and "Shot Down in the Night." 22 of their albums charted in the UK between 1971 and 1993.
Dave Brock and Mick Slattery had been in the London-based psychedelic band Famous Cure, and a meeting with bassist John Harrison revealed a mutual interest in electronic music which led the trio to embark upon a new musical venture together. Seventeen-year-old drummer Terry Ollis replied to an advert in a music weekly, while Nik Turner and Michael 'Dik Mik' Davies, old acquaintances of Brock, offered help with transport and gear, but were soon pulled into the band.
Gatecrashing a local talent night at the All Saints Hall, Notting Hill, they were so untogether as to not even have a name, plumping for "Group X" at the last minute, nor any songs, choosing to play an extended 20-minute jam on The Byrds "Eight Miles High." BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel was in the audience and was impressed enough to tell event organiser, Douglas Smith, to keep an eye on them. Smith signed them up and got them a deal with Liberty Records on the back of a deal he was setting up for Cochise.
The band settled on the name Hawkwind after briefly being billed as Hawkwind Zoo, Hawkwind being the nickname of Turner derived from his unappealing habit of clearing his throat (hawking) and excessive flatulence (wind). Another version of the origin of their name claims they took it from one of Michael Moorcock's characters Duke Dorian Hawkmoon, one of the aspects of Moorcock's Eternal Champion; however, Moorcock denies this account. An Abbey Road session took place recording demos of "Hurry on Sundown" and others (included on the remasters version of Hawkwind), after which Slattery left to be replaced by Huw Lloyd-Langton, who had known Brock from his days working in a music shop selling guitar strings to Brock, then a busker.
Pretty Things guitarist Dick Taylor was brought in to produce the 1970 debut album Hawkwind. Although it was not a commercial success, it did bring them to the attention of the UK underground scene finding them playing free concerts, benefit gigs, and festivals. Playing free outside the Bath Festival, they encountered another Ladbroke Grove based band, the Pink Fairies, who shared similar interests in music and recreational activities; a friendship developed which led to the two bands becoming running partners and performing as "Pinkwind". Their use of drugs, however, led to the departure of Harrison, who did not partake, to be replaced briefly by Thomas Crimble (about July '70 – March '71). Crimble played on a few BBC sessions before leaving to help organise the Glastonbury Free Festival 1971; he sat in during the band's performance there. Lloyd-Langton also quit, after a bad LSD trip at the Isle of Wight Festival led to a nervous breakdown.
Their follow up album, 1971's In Search of Space, brought greater commercial success, reaching number 18 on the UK album charts, and also saw the band's image and philosophy take shape, courtesy of graphic artist Barney Bubbles and underground press writer Robert Calvert, as depicted in the accompanying Hawklog booklet which would further be developed into the Space Ritual stage show. Science fiction author Michael Moorcock and dancer Stacia also started contributing to the band. Dik Mik had left the band, replaced by sound engineer Del Dettmar, but chose to return for this album giving the band two electronics players. Bass player Dave Anderson, who had been in the German band Amon Düül II, had also joined and played on the album but departed before its release because of personal tensions with some other members of the band. Anderson and Lloyd-Langton then formed the short-lived band Amon Din. Meanwhile, Ollis quit, unhappy with the commercial direction the band were heading in.
The addition of bassist Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister and drummer Simon King propelled the band to greater heights. One of the early gigs this band played was a benefit for the Greasy Truckers at The Roundhouse on 13 February 1972. A live album of the concert Greasy Truckers Party was released, and after re-recording the vocal, a single "Silver Machine" was also released, reaching number 3 in the UK charts. This generated sufficient funds for the subsequent album Doremi Fasol Latido Space Ritual tour. The show featured dancers Stacia and Miss Renee, mime artist Tony Carrera and a light show by Liquid Len and was recorded on the elaborate package Space Ritual. At the height of their success in 1973, the band released the single "Urban Guerrilla" which coincided with an IRA bombing campaign in London, so the BBC refused to play it and the band's management reluctantly decided to withdraw it fearing accusations of opportunism, despite the disc having already climbed to number 39 in the UK chart.
Dik Mik departed during 1973 and Calvert ended his association with the band to concentrate on solo projects. Dettmar also indicated that he was to leave the band, so Simon House was recruited as keyboardist and violinist playing live shows, a North America tour and recording the 1974 album Hall of the Mountain Grill. Dettmar left after a European tour and emigrated to Canada, whilst Alan Powell deputised for an incapacitated King on that European tour, but remained giving the band two drummers.
At the beginning of 1975, the band recorded the album Warrior on the Edge of Time in collaboration with Michael Moorcock, loosely based on his Eternal Champion figure. However, during a North America tour in May, Lemmy was caught in possession of amphetamine crossing the border from the USA into Canada. The border police mistook the powder for cocaine and he was jailed, forcing the band to cancel some shows. Fed up with his erratic behaviour, the band fired the bass player replacing him with their long-standing friend and former Pink Fairies guitarist Paul Rudolph. Lemmy then teamed up with another Pink Fairies guitarist, Larry Wallis, to form Motörhead, named after the last song he had written for Hawkwind.
Robert Calvert made a guest appearance with the band for their headline set at the Reading Festival in August 1975, after which he chose to rejoin the band as a full-time lead vocalist. Stacia, on the other hand, chose to relinquish her dancing duties and settle down to family life. The band changed record company to Tony Stratton-Smith's Charisma Records and, on Stratton-Smith's suggestion, band management from Douglas Smith to Tony Howard.
1976's Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music is the first album of this era and highlights both Calvert's well-crafted lyrics written with stage performance in mind and a greater proficiency and scope in the music. But on the eve of recording the follow-up Back on the Streets single, Turner was sacked for his erratic live playing and Powell was deemed surplus to requirements. After a tour to promote the single and during rehearsals for the next album, Rudolph was also sacked for allegedly trying to steer the band into a musical direction at odds with Calvert and Brock's vision.
Adrian "Ade" Shaw, who as bass player for Magic Muscle had supported Hawkwind on the Space Ritual tour, came in for the 1977 album Quark, Strangeness and Charm. The band continued to enjoy moderate commercial success, but Calvert's mental illness often caused problems. A manic phase saw the band abandon a European tour in France, while a depression phase during a 1978 North American tour convinced Brock to disband the group. In between these two tours, the band had recorded the album PXR5 in January 1978, but its release was delayed until 1979.
On 23 December 1977 in Barnstaple, Brock and Calvert had performed a one-off gig with Devon band Ark as the Sonic Assassins, and looking for a new project in 1978, bassist Harvey Bainbridge and drummer Martin Griffin were recruited from this event. Steve Swindells was recruited as keyboard player. The band was named Hawklords, (probably for legal reasons, the band having recently split from their management), and recording took place on a farm in Devon using a mobile studio, resulting in the album 25 Years On. King had originally been the drummer for the project but quit during recording sessions to return to London, while House, who had temporarily left the band to join a David Bowie tour, elected to remain with Bowie full-time, but nevertheless contributed violin to these sessions. At the end of the band's UK tour, Calvert, wanting King back in the band, fired Griffin, then promptly resigned himself, choosing to pursue a career in literature. Swindells left to record a solo album after an offer had been made to him by the record company ATCO.
In late 1979, Hawkwind reformed with Brock, Bainbridge and King being joined by Huw Lloyd-Langton (who had played on the debut album) and Tim Blake (formerly of Gong), embarking upon a UK tour despite not having a record deal or any product to promote. Some shows were recorded and a deal was made with Bronze Records, resulting in the Live Seventy Nine album, quickly followed by the studio album Levitation. However, during the recording of Levitation King quit and Ginger Baker was drafted in for the sessions, but he chose to stay with the band for the tour, during which Tim Blake left to be replaced by Keith Hale.
In 1981 Baker and Hale left after their insistence that Bainbridge should be sacked was ignored, and Brock and Bainbridge elected to handle synthesizers and sequencers themselves, with drummer Griffin from the Hawklords rejoining. Three albums, which again saw Michael Moorcock contributing lyrics and vocals, were recorded for RCA/Active: Sonic Attack, the electronic Church of Hawkwind and Choose Your Masques. This band headlined the 1981 Glastonbury Festival and made an appearance at the 1982 Donington Monsters of Rock Festival, as well as continuing to play the summer solstice at Stonehenge Free Festival.
In the early 1980s, Brock had started using drum machines for his home demos and became increasingly frustrated at the inability of drummers to keep perfect time, leading to a succession of drummers coming and going. First, Griffin was ousted and the band tried Simon King again, but unhappy with his playing at that time, he was rejected. Andy Anderson briefly joined while he was also playing for The Cure, and Robert Heaton also briefly filled the spot prior to the rise of New Model Army. Lloyd Langton Group drummer John Clark did some recording sessions, and Rik Martinez joined the band for the start of the Earth Ritual tour but failed to end it, being replaced by Clive Deamer.
Nik Turner had returned as a guest for the 1982 Choose Your Masques tour and was invited back permanently. Further tours ensued with Phil "Dead Fred" Reeves augmenting the line-up on keyboards and violin, but neither Turner nor Reeves would appear on the only recording of 1983/84, The Earth Ritual Preview, but there was a guest spot for Lemmy. The Earth Ritual tour was filmed for Hawkwind's first ever video release, Night of the Hawk.
Alan Davey was a young fan of the band who had sent a tape of his playing to Brock, and Brock chose to oust Reeves moving Bainbridge from bass to keyboards to accommodate Davey. This experimental line-up played at the Stonehenge Free Festival in 1984, which was filmed and release as Stonehenge 84. Subsequent personal and professional tensions between Brock and Turner led to the latter's expulsion at the beginning of 1985. Clive Deamer, who was deemed "too professional" for the band, was eventually replaced in 1985 by Danny Thompson Jr, a friend of bassist Alan Davey, and remained almost to the end of the decade.
Hawkwind's association with Moorcock climaxed in their most ambitious project, The Chronicle of the Black Sword, based loosely around the Elric series of books and theatrically staged with Tony Crerar as the central character. Moorcock contributed lyrics, but only performed some spoken pieces on some live dates. The tour was recorded and issued as an album Live Chronicles and video The Chronicle of the Black Sword. A headline appearance at the 1986 Reading Festival was followed by a UK tour to promote the Live Chronicles album which was filmed and released as Chaos. In 1988 the band recorded the album The Xenon Codex with Guy Bidmead, but all was not well in the band and soon after, both Lloyd-Langton and Thompson departed.
Drummer Richard Chadwick, who joined in the summer of '88, had been playing in small alternative free festival bands, most notably Bath's Smart Pils, for a decade and had frequently crossed paths with Hawkwind and Brock. He was initially invited simply to play with the band, but eventually replaced stand in drummer Mick Kirton to become the band's drummer to the present day.
To fill in the gap of lead sound, lost when Lloyd-Langton left, violinist Simon House was re-instated into the line-up in 1989 (having previously been a member from 1974 until 1978), and, notably, Hawkwind embarked on their first US visit in 11 years (since the somewhat disastrous 1978 tour), in which House did not partake. The successfully received full American tour was the first of several over the coming years, in an effort by the band to reintroduce themselves to the American market.
Bridget Wishart, an associate of Chadwick's from the festival circuit, also joined to become the band's one and only frontwoman. This band produced two albums, 1990s Space Bandits and 1991's Palace Springs and also filmed a 1-hour appearance for the Bedrock TV series.
1990 saw Hawkwind tour the USA again, the second instalment in a series of American visits made at around this time in an effort to re-establish the Hawkwind brand in America. The original business plan was to hold three consecutive US tours, annually, from 1989–1991, with the first losing money, the second breaking even, and the third turning a profit, ultimately bringing Hawkwind back into recognition across the Atlantic. Progress, however, was somewhat stunted, due to ex-member Nik Turner touring the United States with his own bands at the time, in which the shows were often marketed as Hawkwind.
In 1991 Bainbridge, House and Wishart departed and the band continued as a three piece relying heavily on synthesizers and sequencers to create a wall-of-sound. The 1992 album Electric Tepee combined hard rock and light ambient pieces, while It is the Business of the Future to be Dangerous is almost devoid of the rock leanings. The Business Trip is a record of the previous album's tour, but rockier as would be expected from a live outing. The White Zone album was released under the alias Psychedelic Warriors to distance itself entirely from the rock expectancy of Hawkwind.
A general criticism of techno music at that time was its facelessness and lack of personality, which the band were coming to feel also plagued them. Ron Tree had known the band on the festival circuit and offered his services as a frontman, and the band duly employed him for the album Alien 4 and its accompanying tour which resulted in the album Love in Space and video Love in Space.
In 1996, unhappy with the musical direction of the band, bassist Davey left, forming his own Middle-Eastern flavoured hard-rock group Bedouin and a Motörhead tribute act named Ace of Spades. His bass playing role was reluctantly picked up by singer Tree and the band were joined full-time by lead guitarist Jerry Richards (another stalwart of the festival scene, playing for Tubilah Dog who had merged with Brock's Agents of Chaos during 1988) for the albums Distant Horizons and In Your Area. Rasta chanter Captain Rizz also joined the band for guest spots during live shows.
"Hawkestra"—a reunion event featuring appearances from past and present members—had originally been intended to coincide with the band's 30th anniversary and the release of the career spanning Epocheclipse – 30 Year Anthology set, but logistical problems delayed it until 21 October 2000. It took place at the Brixton Academy with about 20 members taking part in a 3+ hour set which was filmed and recorded. Guests included Samantha Fox who sang "Master of the Universe." However, arguments and disputes over financial recompense and musical input resulted in the prospect of the event being re-staged unlikely, and any album or DVD release being indefinitely shelved.
The Hawkestra had set a template for Brock to assemble a core band of Tree, Brock, Richards, Davey, Chadwick and for the use of former members as guests on live shows and studio recordings. The 2000 Christmas Astoria show was recorded with contributions from House, Blake, Rizz, Moorcock, Jez Huggett and Keith Kniveton and released as Yule Ritual the following year. In 2001, Davey agreed to rejoin the band permanently, but only after the departure of Tree and Richards.
Meanwhile, having rekindled relationships with old friends at the Hawkestra, Turner organised further Hawkestra gigs resulting in the formation of xhawkwind.com, a band consisting mainly of ex-Hawkwind members and playing old Hawkwind songs. An appearance at Guilfest in 2002 led to confusion as to whether this actually was Hawkwind, sufficiently irking Brock into taking legal action to prohibit Turner from trading under the name Hawkwind. Turner lost the case and the band now performs as Space Ritual.
An appearance at the Canterbury Sound Festival in August 2001, resulting in another live album Canterbury Fayre 2001, saw guest appearances from Lloyd-Langton, House, Kniveton with Arthur Brown on "Silver Machine". The band organised the first of their own weekend festivals, named Hawkfest, in Devon in the summer of 2002. Brown joined the band in 2002 for a Winter tour which featured some Kingdom Come songs and saw appearances from Blake and Lloyd-Langton, the Newcastle show being released on DVD as Out of the Shadows and the London show on CD as Spaced Out in London.
In 2005 the long anticipated new album Take Me to Your Leader was released. Recorded by the core band of Brock/Davey/Chadwick, contributors included new keyboardist Jason Stuart, Arthur Brown, tabloid writer and TV personality Matthew Wright, 1970s New Wave singer Lene Lovich, Simon House and Jez Huggett. This was followed in 2006 by the CD/DVD Take Me to Your Future.
The band were the subject of an hour-long television documentary entitled Hawkwind: Do Not Panic that aired on BBC Four as part of the Originals series. It was broadcast on 30 March 2007 and repeated on 10 August 2007. Although Brock participated in its making he did not appear in the programme, it is alleged that he requested all footage of himself be removed after he was denied any artistic control over the documentary. In one of the documentary's opening narratives regarding Brock, it is stated that he declined to be interviewed for the programme because of Nik Turner's involvement, indicating that the two men have still not been reconciled over the xhawkwind.com incident.
December 2006 saw the official departure of Alan Davey, who left to perform and record with two new bands: Gunslinger and Thunor. He was replaced by Mr Dibs, a long-standing member of the road crew. The band performed at their annual Hawkfest festival and headlined the US festival Nearfest and played gigs in PA and NY. At the end of 2007, Tim Blake once again joined the band filling the lead role playing keyboards and theremin. The band played 5 Christmas dates, the London show being released as an audio CD and video DVD under the title Knights of Space.
In January 2008 the band reversed its anti-taping policy, long a sore-point with many fans, announcing that it would allow audio recording and non-commercial distribution of such recordings, provided there was no competing official release. At the end of 2008, Atomhenge Records (a subsidiary of Cherry Red Records) commenced the re-issuing of Hawkwind's back catalogue from the years 1976 through to 1997 with the release of two triple CD anthologies Spirit of the Age (anthology 1976–84) and The Dream Goes On (anthology 1985–97).
On 8 September 2008 keyboard player Jason Stuart died due to a brain haemorrhage. In October 2008, Niall Hone (former Tribe of Cro) joined Hawkwind for their Winter 2008 tour playing guitar, along with returning synth/theremin player Tim Blake. In this period, Hone also occasionally played bass guitar alongside Mr Dibs and used laptops for live electronic improvisation.
In 2009, the band began occasionally featuring Jon Sevink, from The Levellers as guest violinist at some shows. Later that year, Hawkwind embarked on a winter tour to celebrate the band's 40th anniversary, including two gigs on 28 and 29 August marking the anniversary of their first live performances. In 2010, Hawkwind held their annual Hawkfest at the site of the original Isle of Wight Festival, marking the 40th anniversary of their appearance there.
On 21 June 2010, Hawkwind released a studio album entitled Blood of the Earth on Eastworld Records. During and since the Blood of the Earth support tours, Hone's primary on-stage responsibility shifted to bass, while Mr. Dibs moved to a more traditional lead singer/front man role.
In 2011, Hawkwind toured Australia for the second time.
April 2012 saw the release of a new album, Onward, again on Eastworld. Keyboardist Dead Fred rejoined Hawkwind for the 2012 tour in support of Onward and has since remained with the band. In November 2012, Brock, Chadwick and Hone—credited as "Hawkwind Light Orchestra"—released Stellar Variations on Esoteric Recordings.
2013 marked the first Hawkeaster, a two-day festival held in Seaton, Devon during the Easter weekend. A US tour was booked for October 2013, but due to health issues, was postponed and later cancelled.
In February 2014, as part of a one-off Space Ritual performance, Hawkwind performed at the O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire featuring an appearance by Brian Blessed for the spoken word element of Sonic Attack; a studio recording of this performance was released as a single in September 2014. Later in the year, former Soft Machine guitarist John Etheridge joined the live line-up of the band, though he had departed again prior to early 2015 dates.
Following Hawkeaster 2015, Hawkwind made their debut visit to Japan, playing two sold-out shows in Tokyo.
Hawkwind performed at The Coronet in London on 20 December 2015, with Steve Hillage and Haz Wheaton on his first official outing with Hawkwind on bass guitar. Wheaton had first appeared in Technicians of Spaceship Hawkwind (the "skeleton crew" spin off live band) some years before formally joining the band as well as working as a member of the road crew.
The band released The Machine Stops on 15 April 2016. The album was Wheaton's first appearance on a Hawkwind album, and the first album without Tim Blake's involvement since he rejoined the band in 2010 and appeared on Blood of the Earth. His contributions were replaced by increased synthesiser work by Hone and Brock.
Dead Fred's last appearance was Hawkeaster 2016. Hone has now taken over most keyboards and synth duties live, though Blake returned for shows in summer 2016.
Hawkwind have been cited as an influence by artists such as Al Jourgensen of Ministry, Monster Magnet, the Sex Pistols (who covered "Silver Machine"), Henry Rollins and Dez Cadena of Black Flag, Ty Segall, and Ozric Tentacles.
Hard rock musician Lemmy of the band Motörhead gained a lot from his tenure in Hawkwind. He has remarked, "I really found myself as an instrumentalist in Hawkwind. Before that I was just a guitar player who was pretending to be good, when actually I was no good at all. In Hawkwind I became a good bass player. It was where I learned I was good at something."
There are three biographies of Hawkwind.
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