HAWKWIND - SONIC ASSASSINS (REVISED EDITION)
Rock music books are not always a good read for me. Be it the megalomania, or simply the soul-less material that infests the media and its top ranked music, a lot of it is actually very tired for my imagination.
So, amidst all of those books, always released to make sure that the star gets even more publicity, it's always interesting and different when a book comes along that gives you a bit more than expected, and if the book does not spend its time just making sure that every song is a masterpiece, or that you are reading (yet again) the same thing that you have heard about the material for many years, in different words, then ... you can say WOW! AND loud!
Ian Abrahams' book on HAWKWIND - SONIC ASSASSINS, stands out.
It is a thorough history of the band, and it involves talking with just about everyone that ever graced the stage or albums for this band, still on this planet today, giving you some nice music, that has spanned ... what ... almost 50 years? ... and has that feeling that it can not possibly die, and will continue in some form or another, hopefully not reshuffling the music that always comes back to the first one, HAWKWIND can be slightly accused of that, if you want to count the myriad versions of SILVER MACHINE, but to their credit, it has a lot of differences, from its first inception and hit.
Right from the get go, we learn about the first album, and the whole thing does not stop until it reaches what seems to be the last album (THE MACHINE STOPS), and all through out we learn about the musicians and how they felt, and how the music was created. And here is the nicest part of it all! It takes the "magic" out of creativity, and simply shows how important it is for the human element to exercise its abilities through various instruments and always come up with something that is enjoyable and in many ways comes to be some of the material that inspires many of us to live day by day.
It's interesting, and if there ever was a desire to learn something about the music and how it was created, here it is ... music is not just riff, or a song ... it's way more than that, and this band has for many years satisfied, and I can not tell you how many of the albums are not worth a listen, although I find some of the live material not that great, even if the book thinks that many of those are excellent for one reason or another.
My tastes in Hawkwind, vary. I can not get out of "ASTOUNDING SOUNDS, AMAZING MUSIC" for its incredible first 2 songs, "Steppenwolf" and "Reefer Madness" and those awesome instrumentals, and neither can I bypass listening to the first side of the album "IN THE HALL OF THE MOUNTAIN GRILL", and then, I can jump to "ELECTRIC TEPEE", which is my favorite aspirin for my mind and body! Love it dearly, and I don't care if anyone calls it this or that, or ambient-come-acidrock ... it's by far one of the most satisfying listens for my ears top to bottom. And, if I'm depressed, it's earphones time, and here comes the "SPACE RITUAL" album from start to finish ... forget the extras ... what was there originally, was the massive, and wonderful experience. IT STILL IS!
Much is written about MIKE MOORCOCK, and his involvement, although it is my contention that as he was (and is) a fairly well known SF writer, that his time and help in HAWKWIND, was always going to be small, and many find "WARRIOR ON THE EDGE OF TIME", a great album, and for me, it is superfitial and not fulfilling compared to many other science fiction works in music, that are far more detailed and complete. Maybe it is so, because the combination appears to have been important to the band, and I suppose that one could say that HAWKWIND, could always use that assistance, but in the end, the whole of the HAWKWIND canon is, for me, a much better "sci-fi" piece of work from beginning to the end, than the material by MIKE MOORCOCK (that even I am not completely able to read properly) as opposed to others whose work was much more definitive and was not spread into a field that might have been fun for the writer, but really ... not as deep as it could and should have been. That is my own view.
The book spends a lot of time discussing Robert Calvert and his contributions, and I for one, love dearly his work on "Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music", and how a song like "Steppenwolf", in so many ways, makes Herman Hesse's novel shine even more. I'm not sure that much of the material used by/with MIKE MOORCOCK, comes close. I think that what is missing is the acting side of it, and while Robert Calvert was around, acting it out, was what helped it come alive. This is, by far, a really underrated and understood part of the rock music world ... too many fans do not like the theatrical side of it, of which HAWKWIND not only used the lights and the stage, but also Robert Calvert and even Nik Turner, to get quite a bit of attention from the audience ... there is nothing many of us love more than watching a crazy one, right?
Not to miss an important part of HAWKWIND for a long time, is Nik Turner, who is always present and if not for his crazy early days, it might have not been as interesting as a whole thing .. it was a great treat, on an wonderful evening at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium to watch the "SPACE RITUAL", and that the story kinda ends there with Nik Turner (not really!), in the end, his addition to the band has always been an amazing one, even if in concert he was a whirling dervish that (supposedly) could not be contained! Why contain a dervish? One has to appreciate the fun side of the whole thing, that does not quite take it all so seriously, but in the end, makes it an amazing memory so many years later ... I can still see the lights, the dancer Stacia, that saxophone and flute jumping to the moon every where ... and even though it was a bit too loud for me, in the end, it was an incredible evening ... of what is, for the writer of the book, and best side/part of HAWKWIND ... and I'm not going to disagree with that, because some of the albums are excellent for me, and some live albums, even if slightly different from the original, is not different enough to catch my ears away from the original, but at least, IAN ABRAHAMS, spends a lot of his time making you see these things in a different light ... and yeah ... I think he is right ... even if we might not exactly agree totally.
I loved dearly the "wall of sound" made in "ELECTRIC TEPEE" ... though I will admonish Ian for not mentioning the last piece in the album ... the American Indian pow wow ... and you could easily say that HAWKWIND is just that ... it will be different tomorrow, or the next day, but the important side of it, is being there, and experiencing it all ... and that is the part that you take home and live with forever. THAT is HAWKWIND.
The other person that is loved dearly in the book although I (honestly) never have differentiated his work and ability from the rest of the band's work, is "Lemmy", who never really gave up on HAWKWIND, and even helped them when the time to say thank you came up, and he was there, as well as the many live extras here in there, that show you how interesting and strong the band can be. Not many musicians are capable of mixing it up like that, other than jazz folks.
Other folks come and go, in this story, and the one about Ginger Baker is a bit on the ... forget it side of things, but thanks for coming. That he even stuck around for "LEVITATION" is an achievement in itself, and the drumming in that album is magnificent and well defined, and not the simplistic stuff that is found mostly in rock music. This is one of my biggest complaints about drumming ... it always sounds the same, and these days it is the hammering of the snare drum, instead of using an invisible metronome, which to me is always a waste of a musician! But, in the end, at least HAWKWIND was able to make the whole of the music sound better, and not have one instrument better than the other ... they all were great together. And that is a tribute to Dave Brock, and his ability to mix and match, and not allow one single thing to be more important than the other, which I think is a great achievement. This band's work is not about a "star" or the great this or that solo ... it's about the music. I think that is important.
Another musician that came and went and came and went, is Tim Blake. Kinda strange to see him here, and his contributions to GONG were very valuable to my imagination and combined with the GLISSANDO, made that band super special, and his work was sadly missed later on the elder tour of that band, as the keyboard sound was almost always missing. But Tim's material is very nice, and even though he comes off as a bit separated from it all, at the very least, even on one DVD, he sounds very nice and looks very good.
I have been with HAWKWIND since 1972, there is too much to say and feel about the whole thing, and I think that the various changes are OK with me, despite many fans not liking this part/period, but in the end, when it comes to this book, one has to look to IAN ABRAHAMS, for an incredible job of putting together something that involved so much work, and was put together very well, and made sense of a lot of the work in the band.
All in all, this new version of the book is an encyclopedic look at the band, and as such it's completeness and detail is worth the time and effort, if you like the HAWKWIND at all. It might even get you turned on to other parts and periods of their work.
An excellent book, just like the band ... the totality of it shines. Well done Ian. Very well done, my friend!
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