Monday, April 10, 2006

Hawkwind: The Spirit of the [R]Age





"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side."
- Hunter S. Thompson

As quoted by Hawkwind's on-off managerial type Douglas Smith, these words by the late "gonzo" writer Thompson might well crystallize the story of this legendary "spacerock" band (and probably also British cousins to German Krautrock acts of the same era), as accounted by Carol Clerk in her The Saga of Hawkwind (Omnibus Press, 2004).

And what a dirty saga it is, as I found from Clerk's book I just finished. Hawkwind which got its beginnings in the days of UK's flower power scene and communal spirit of the late 1960s, as a "people's band" (like their peers Edgar Broughton Band, Deviants and Pink Fairies), has underwent several line-up changes, the most famous of these ensembles consisting up to mid-70s of Hawkwind's self-declared "captain", guitarist/vocalist Dave Brock, mischievous sax player Nik Turner (Brock's future nemesis), the amphetamine-fuelled bassist Ian "Lemmy" Kilminster (best known from Motörhead, of course, the band he founded after having been kicked out of Hawkwind), electronics guys Del Dettmar and Dikmik, plus drummer Simon King. Not to forget Stacia, their six feet (180 cm) tall Amazon-like naked dancer.

By the time Hawkwind reach the 21st century, the only remaining original member is Dave Brock. Behind them are not only loads of albums -- some of them undeniable classics, some of them bootleg drivel -- but also countless behind-the-scenes bickerings, accusations of financial rip-offs and records released without permission from other band members, court cases, back-stabbings and innuendo. Musicians sacked as the result of "personal problems" and ruthless band politics. Nik Turner accusing Dave Brock of this, Dave Brock accusing Nik Turner of that (most likely both cases of the kettle calling the pot black). Everybody thinking Dave Brock either as a hero or a villain. One of the best known Hawkwind tracks is called 'Spirit of the Age', and this is exactly how it feels: the band changing along the times from the easy-going, communal and sharing Zeitgeist of the 60s and 70s to the greedier and more egotistic times of the 1980s, 90s and early 21st century. All this reads like Spinal Tap but many times more as tragedy than comedy.

Recommended, perhaps essential reading to everyone who plans a career in music business; with tons of excellent advice on how NOT to handle things, business and personal relations.

Hawkwind in Tampere, May 2005