Hawkwind’s Non Tour of America Saga, 2013 to 2014

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Hawkwind had finally decided to tour the US for the first time since 2007, and everything looked peachy. Their 2007 tour was only three shows long, and most Hawkfans had missed it.  (performances were uneven, but that was mostly due to lack of their own equipment being present and Dave Brock being seriously hampered by illness) So, anticipation was high for this tour, the first real one in over 15 years, as reports from England had their revival of the Warrior on the Edge of Time album rated fairly highly-dancers, lights and strong material combined to make a jaw dropping spectacle. So this is what we expected with baited breath on this side of the pond.

Then…three days before the tour was to start in October 2013, an announcement from the main Hawkwind page. The US tour was postponed until the spring. Reason given? Dave Brock was stricken ill because Nik Turner had decided to tour America at the same time. Ancillary reasons were that Nik had been suing Hawkwind to let him use some form of the name to tour, and this also contributed to Dave’s illness. (First a quick recap, Dave Brock and Nik Turner are two founding members of Hawkwind, and are responsible for most of their success and major albums from 1969-1976. Decidedly acrimonious to each other throughout the years, they have had an uneasy relationship to say the least. Turner was fired in late 1976, and left to form the punky Inner City Unit. Turner rejoined the band in 1983 and was sacked again in 1985.) But this announcement caught the majority of American Hawkwind fans by surprise. Vacation time had been secured and flights and hotels had been booked by many, leaving fans in the lurch. But, with the posting of re-booked dates on their website, US Hawkfans just regrouped and planned again, with some grumbling about financial inconvenience being heard here and there.

Fans were concerned for the health of Dave and generally accepted at least half of their proffered excuses.  But then the band immediately embarked on a full UK tour. Not many over here noticed this, but this action directly contradicted the given excuse, and was seen as a slap in the face by some fans in the States. Dave is not sick? (not many people bought the line-‘he is upset about Nik touring’)  Fans began to wonder exactly what the hell was going on.

Shows were booked for the major cities of the States for March through April 2014 to make up for the missing fall 2013 tour. Shows in Canada were also booked. Tickets were either transferred to the new date, or new tickets went on sale. As time went on though, very quietly, there was a disappearance of dates from the official Hawkwind site, and Facebook posts from band members indicated that only dates on the website were confirmed. American Hawkfans began to feel uneasy, but no word either way was forthcoming from the band.

As March approached, the silence on what was happening was deafening, as the band went into a complete information blackout. This could only mean that there were serious problems with the tour. They allowed that they had hired a new person to sort out the details of the aborted Fall tour, and should be on track. After that one piece of information, again….nothing. Dates started to cancel, with one midwest club saying they had not heard from anyone representing the band at all.  Tickets continued to be sold for the New York and Boston venues. With under two weeks to go before the tour, the band pulled the plug again. Once more, American Hawkfans were left holding the bag for expensive vacation and hotel rooms that were engaged.

So what was the real reason? Some whispered that visas had not been successfully obtained. There was a precedent for this, as Brock had been stranded in Canada in 1998 awaiting a visa for the States that never came. But many posts on Facebook said they had actually seen the visas for the band. (Why the band would resort to showing fans something that is really none of our business is odd) Some said that the band knew they would not make much money on the tour and decided not to come. Others with connections to clubs pointed out that poor ticket sales at some venues meant a large financial loss was looming on the horizon had they come. Die hards blamed Nik Turner for intentionally trying to usurp the band’s good name. (this claim is hard to believe as Nik Turner’s band ended up playing to audiences of 100-200, traveled in a single van, and were sleeping on the floor of gracious fans willing to let them in). Was it poor oversight of their US contingent hired to make things right? Was it illness? Was it a lack of enthusiasm for a US tour? Was it just shoddy organization of the whole Hawkwind machine? My guess is that it is a combination of all of the above. Some had heard Dave say that after the 2007 short tour, he was never coming back to America. (this could have been caused by his illness and dodgy performances on that tour and not any actual deeply held belief, but could be a contributing reason) Few any longer believed the ‘Nik Turner made this happen’ excuse. (March 2016 note: it is now TWO years later, and Hawkwind still have not addressed the two failed tours, as they promised. The indifference to the US and Canadian fans will mean they likely won’t be able to draw the necessary numbers to tour North America ever again-barring a reunion of original members. Nik, Simon House and Alan Davey would have to be on board the starship)

So here we are in May of 2014, with little hope the band will ever return.  They had printed up a compilation Lp and CD to sell on tour of their most recent work. With no tour happening, they must have said ‘what the hell are we going to do with all these albums?’  Below is my review of this intended US tour souvenir, the album Spacehawks.

Spacehawks (Rock Classics 2013)
This album was created to be sold on the twice aborted US tour of 2013 and 2014 as a promotion and reintroduction of the band to America. In view of that, it is an interesting compilation of songs recorded recently, designed to grab people unfamiliar either with the band or with their work in the 21st century. It succeeds as a primer to latter day Hawkwind, with highlights from their Warrior on the Edge of Time recent revival tour (planned as the theme of the US tour) and contains some songs previously released on Blood of the Earth, Onward and Hawkwind Light Orchestra recent LPs.
The fourteen tracks on two lps, (grey vinyl) contain four new songs, five remakes of former classics, and four tracks from recent releases. Most of the remakes are unremarkable, although Sonic Attack eventually resolves in a nice rock jam and could be considered a bit of an update. Master of the Universe contains Huw Lloyd Langton’s last performance with the band before his recent death, and does make this something to grab just for that.
Sides one and two are the highlight, with the opener Seasons as a good example of what Hawkwind pretty much sounds like today. Tight but somewhat lacking in dynamics (the compression problems that plagued Blood and Onward are evident here-all instruments are at the same level, cymbals climbing over guitars fighting for attention). Assault and Battery/Golden Void is a leftover from their Warrior on the Edge of Time recent tour, and is well played. Side one ends with the aforementioned Sonic Attack.
Demented Man starts side two, another piece from Warrior, and highlights Brock nicely. It is one of the better songs on this album. We Too Are One is a new song, and feels like a Brock sung Huw era tune. Very nice example of what they can still muster. We Took the Wrong Step Years Ago is a perfect acoustic change of pace but lacks the menace of the 1971 original.
Side three is Master of the Universe with Huw, and is as expected a blast of 1979-83 metal era stylings. Not quite as punky as the Live 1979 release, but in that vein. It ends oddly with the band sort of stopping in mid stream. Sacrosanct is an electronic Brock piece with a bit of chanting on top. Pleasant and unassuming filler, a tad unfinished techno/rock hybrid song.
Things head south on side four. Sentinel is an example of what Hawkwind sound like when Dave Brock is not really participating. Although the rest of the band try to get all the parts in the right place, this is ultimately forgettable and shows that the captain needs to be on deck at all times. Like most of side four, it’s not something that will convince new fans to be on board. The lone exception, Its All Lies, is taken from the underrated Hawkwind Light Orchestra trio album, and mines the territory of Electric Teepee’s Right to Decide. Possibly their best song of the last 15 years. Touch, the Chumps are Jumping and Lonely Moon are all inconsequential snippets of unfinished mostly instrumental demos and not songs, and are puzzling in their inclusion. The album’s final tune, Sunship is also a demo sounding tune from Blood of the Earth without Brock once more. It lacks the magic of Hawkwind as Dibs and Hone duet in the Hawkwind style. Five clunkers on the final side are odd and weak choices to round out what started as a fairly solid overview of recent work.
Overall this album isn’t all that essential. A decent introduction to recent Hawkwind, but for anyone new, there are far better places to start than here. More generic computer generated graphics as album art also don’t help the overall vibe, but it is really the music that matters. And for 45 years, Hawkwind have been the band that matters. Lest we forget.
Here is hoping that this record won’t be the last tangible souvenir of a US tour.

 

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8 thoughts on “Hawkwind’s Non Tour of America Saga, 2013 to 2014

    1. I think Hawkwind ended after Robert Calvert was sacked and Simon King Abandoned ship. The last time I saw em’ was during the Space Bandits tour & what made it awesome was the presence of not only an awesome line up (aside from Brock) but, was the involvement of Simon House. Wind of change, but the wind is now long gone. To blame Nik for Dave’s illness is simply absurd.

      1. ^ Dave was too sick to do a USA tour. Well . . . He did do a multi-date UK and Europe tour near that same time period, but didn’t want to be far from quality Commonwealth healthcare. (Mentioned in a Planet Rock interview)

  1. At the time of the original North American tour postponement, Dave Brock was under medical supervision…….Dave also turned down a slew of UK offered venues shortly thereafter, due to illness & the fact that he felt it unfair to his North American followers.

    By the time Spring came around, Nik Turner had again booked venues stateside, passing his band off (once again) as Hawkwind on the billing, further adding confusion to what was an already mixed up situation.

    By which time, Hawkwind had entered into formal legal proceedings, disputing Nik Turners US claim to the Hawkwind brand.

    The question everyone should be asking is, why didn’t Turner simply tour as himself?…..or his band Inner City Unit?

    1. Much has been posted on some Facebook sites over the past year, and I have noticed that some UK fans of Hawkwind are promoting a schism within the ranks of fans. Seriously disappointing to see fans of such a good band sink to such depths.

  2. Nik has been touring as some version of Hawkwind referenced material-Space Ritual in the 90’s,Hawklords, Nik Turner’s Hawkwind. I don’t think he has ever toured the US as Inner City Unit as far as I know. That band had a very limited appeal, and was too ‘British’ for many in the States. I loved them though. Hawkwind still to this day have not addressed the lack of information on the double non-tour.

  3. So the real reason they didn’t tour? Not Dave was ill. They were legally prevented from coming. Dave admits it in this interview.

    ttp://teamrock.com/feature/2016-05-06/lemmy-nik-turner-and-ginger-baker-hawkwind-s-dave-brock-on-his-former-bandmates

    In the interview, this exchange was recorded:

    PROG:What happened with the all-star Hawkwind project that was proposed fairly recently?
    BROCK:There was this supergroup thing that came up two-and-a-half years ago, which I refused to do. And it’s cost us dearly. It’s an American company – the guy who runs it is a millionaire and he wanted me to do all these recordings. His idea was to use Hawkwind to get people like Paul Kantner involved. The line-up would’ve been spectacular. He wanted some of the old psychedelic giants in the States to come together to do an album with me and the band. Then I found out he wasn’t going to use any of the band and was going to basically manipulate the Hawkwind name and use session musicians. And I said no, because these were my mates. Lemmy was asked too, but refused to do it. It’s a hard story to tell you, because it’s ongoing as we speak, but our American tour was cancelled because of it all and there’s a certain ex-member that he utilises. This is who’s behind it all, this stupid old cunt who I wish would just die.
    PROG: I’m guessing you’re talking about Nik Turner here. This is probably a stupid question, but can you foresee a time when you two will make up?
    BROCK: Never, ever. He has done untold damage to this band. He’s an absolute idiot with what he’s done. When he went over
    to America he was playing in pubs and using the Hawkwind name. It’s all linked to our webpage and people assume
    it’s us. It’s actually really ruined the band’s credibility in America.

    For fucks sake Dave, you’ve got to be kidding. Wish Nik would just die? Not cool at all. So much for peace and love.
    But contained in the exchange is finally the real reason Hawkwind didn’t tour in 2013-2014 in the States. One can assume that Dave initially signed something that prevented them from legally coming over, but it seems clear we will never know the full story. The interview does call shenanigans on the “Dave is ill” excuse however.

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