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Saturday 27 August 2016

Supporting HAWKWIND on tour, 2006 : Part One, The Birth of LASTWIND.

Our tour poster, designed by my son Sam (Doseprod)
In January 2005, I was feeling terrible. I had pains all round my chest area and felt I was heading for a second heart attack. My doctor knew I had a really stressful, all consuming job: I was director and senior manager of Unity Bristol, an organisation which provided residential care with education for some of the most disturbed young people in the UK, particularly those of an Afro-Caribbean background. We had 75 Jamaican staff out of a total of over one hundred and just dealing with those people was hard enough, without talking about our young 'clients' who lived in ordinary houses dotted around the 'ghettos' of the inner city. Anyhow, my doctor suggested I needed some time out and, knowing I had two sons living in the South of France, told me to go away and live with them for a few months. So I did.
However, my youngest who lived just outside Najac, had three very young children so it was not so peaceful there and when I moved on to my other son, who lived in Chateauneuf du Pape, they had just had a baby so same thing there. So, on a whim, I flew out to Dominica, the small island where my partner was from staying there for a couple of months of peace then flying home to bring my partner out there because nobody had seen her for 18 years.
Where I had my tumour removed on 14th Feb 2006
Meantime, Unity Bristol had gone down the tubes because no one had been doing the job I did every Friday, chasing money we were owed and the company called in some outside people to try and sort out the lack of cashflow, at that point being owed just over half a million pounds by various Social Services. All this stressed me out even more so I returned to France and one day, by the pool, my son said did I know that I had a huge lump on my back, and I didn't. He sent me to see his doctor who sent me for an X-ray and told me I had to have the lump removed. Stupidly, and mainly because my partner could not come to France without a visa I said I would go back to the UK to have it done. This was in August 2005 and I entered hospital to have it removed in February 2006, the time it took to have all the necessary appointments for scans and biopsies which led the specialists to say I had a large tumour in the muscles of my back next to my spine, hence all the pain. They removed it, apparently the size of a flattened tennis ball. I was out of hospital quite quickly but told to stay in bed and rest for quite a long time due to the way the internal muscles had been cut. Now I'm not one for enjoying being in bed day after day particularly as I didn't get many visitors except Liz, my partner and I would have been bored to tears but for the fact that my sons, particularly Sam, got me into writing new music and putting it up on my own web site. (Liz and I also watched every ball of the Test Match series against Australia where we brought the Ashes back home - laugh as you will non-Brits.
Then, one day, completely out of the blue, I got a phone call from Dave Brock. After a short chat, sort of catching up (we hadn't spoken for twenty something years) he said he had bumped into my web site, liked my music and did I have a band so that I could come on tour supporting Hawkwind in a couple of months or so's time. Well, I was very surprised, very pleased and said 'Yes' even though I didn't really have a band as such.
I had done a recording while I was waiting to go in hospital, 3 of my tunes, one with my lyrics and two
Sonic, who recorded with me, went to school with Banksy
and told me I knew him under another name.

with lyrics by Sonic, a Bristol DJ and MC. This was organised by the keen Richard Nowell and his Feel The Quality record label. The musicians for this had been a guy from the popular Bristol dub band, DUB FROM ATLANTIS (my memory for names is bad and getting worse) on bass, Latch Mangat (who played bass in the third version of Lastwind) on guitar, Laurence de Loes sang my lyrics (and was part of Lastwind version 2) and Rob, famously having toured the world with Roni Size, on drums.(He was also famously married to the daughter of John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin fame.)
I started with these people and Rob agreed to play drums and Latch, bass, and I was thinking of an excellent guitarist friend from France. I had enough songs ready for a forty minute set and we organised a first couple of rehearsals. So far so good.
Of course, Dave needed the name of the band for publicity purposes and I had one waiting around; Lastwind. About 4 years earlier I had been introduced to a Jalal Nurinda, a black American from New York who had been in the original rap group, the LAST POETS. I didn't know of them at the time but his significance was made clear to me when a group of us, including him, went to see PUBLIC ENEMY at a largish venue in Bristol. They got him up on stage and introduced him as the Godfather of Rap, quite something. Anyhow, he was preparing a new album and needed some music and
Jalal Nurinda
samples and we started working together on several tracks in the bungalow in my garden in Bristol, my hideaway and studio, and, knowing I had played with Hawkwind, he came up with the name Lastwind from using the first and last parts of our previous two group's names. He went to France to visit a girlfriend and was refused permission to return to the USA because he had overstayed the time given on his visa. A TV company put on a concert for him years later, 2014 to be precise, where he was to perform live the original album. To give an idea of his importance to that genre a music, GEORGE CLINTON was among the musicians who turned up to play for him. I was invited but I was crossing the channel on my way to France the day it took place. Jalal is now living in a State-run old peoples' home in Atlanta.


Tuesday 23 August 2016

Happy Birthday Captain Dave Brock.

I'm a bit late because I've had a very busy week but I wanted to say Happy Birthday to Dave on his 75th birthday and say many congratulations on still keeping going all these years.
I remember seeing Dave and Chris in the dressing room after a gig in Bristol in about 2007 and Dave looked shattered as he dried himself off. I said it was a great gig and he seemed satisfied but replied."I don't know how much longer I can keep doing this".
And yet,  he and the band show no signs of stopping and in certain ways are going from strength to strength, as the very successful Hawkeasters have shown, particularly since being held in Seaton where the hall has been renamed after BROCK. I lived opposite that hall for a couple of years and I remember all the concerns and the opposition to the first suggestion of Hawkeaster happening in Seaton. Both Dave and I had long term connections with the town because both our respective parents had moved there for retirement.
I first met Dave in 1975, so 41 years that possible? We toured supporting Hawkwind with ARK that year, which was a big deal for us.
I know that lots of people like me, who have played for Hawkwind or been involved with Hawkwind over the years, have made public their gripes and groans about Dave and the way he has led the band and dealt with issues within the band and been rather stingy about money matters and I know Dave has considered me at times to be one of the ungrateful people who would have achieved nothing without him. I think this is mainly based on the fact that I am friends with the member of Hawklords and also Nik Turner who had played with my last British group, LASTWIND.
Anyhow, partly to clear up any misunderstanding, my present to Dave is some big thankyous because my life just would not have been the same without the input from Dave. 
So this is a big thank you to Dave for the following things :

*   Inviting Ark to support Hawkwind,
Harvey, Martin and me meet up for the first time in years.

*   Inviting me and my mates Harvey and Martin to be part of Sonic Assassins, which has led to           many friendships and much musical recognition,

*   Asking me to join Hawkwind for the 78 American tour, inviting me for my first ever Sauna in the City Squire Hotel, NYC, Taking me to see the first Star Wars film and Close Encounters in fantastic NYC cinemas, Taking me to the Indoor Gardens, Tropical, Desert, European and Nordic, in Milwaukee and various other outings throughout the tour and, a big one, getting to eat with David Bowie, a longtime hero of mine.

*   Asking my band, Lastwind, to support Hawkwind on the 2006 British tour, which gave this new band some credibility, led to a record deal with Flicknife and the making of many new friends including people like Don Falcone, Jerry Richards.....
LAST WIND supporting HAWKWIND 2006

Then as a result of all this, the possibility of getting 'guest tickets' to so many different shows over the years, e.g. U2, Pink Floyd, Eurythmics, UB40, BAD, respect from musicians I met such as Caravan, Motorhead, Massive Attack and Topper Headon of the Clash.
Finally, after the Hawkwind US tour, giving me the courage to move to France and start a different life.

I could go on. My life has been totally changed for the better due to my involvement with Dave and the opportunities he gave me.

So, many, many thanks Dave. Long may you continue to pilot the good ship HAWKWIND.

Friday 12 August 2016

Touring With HAWKWIND. Post 13 (unlucky?). POSTSCRIPT

So, what happened after the tour. All sorts of things, some straightaway, some later.
When I got home, the Yamaha keyboard was already there. I was surprised as I had made no commitment to stay with Hawkwind, if anything the contrary. I went to see Harvey Bainbridge for a meal with my family. Our two families got on well together. He had had no news of what was happening at the time which made me think the Sonic Assassins idea was dead in the water.
I got my old job back, teaching difficult kids, but resigned again within a month, I'd had enough of it.
My wife had found me very changed when I eventually returned home and said later that it took three months for me to become recognisable again. She had had lots of visits while I was away from people who wanted to know how the tour was going and people who just wanted to say they knew us, were friends with us, when they weren't really. But, she took it all in her stride, even when she caught a dose of crabs off me. We began to talk about moving to France: we had always said we wanted to bring our sons up bi-culturally.
The Yamaha CS80, the first commercial polyphonic synth.
One day, out of the blue, some Hawkweed roadies came round to collect the Yamaha so I guessed something was happening band-wise. I had not heard from Dave or Bob. I had only received a communication from the 'office' asking if I knew anything about a Ford Stationwagon which had been rented to the band in California and which had run up a huge bill, being left late at LAX airport (not me guv'.).
We bought an ex-WaterBoard van and got it ready for the trip to France installing a cooker and a mezzanine type shelf for our mattress, and a bowl and a water container and other items for daily living. We sold our furniture, borrowed a load of library books we would never return, got a few items on HP we would never pay for and with my music gear, our two boys aged 7 and 3, our dog, Arwen, and our cat, Frodo, set off to catch the ferry at Poole, stopping in Honition for a last meal with my mum and dad. We were off.
Setting off in our old self-made camper van.
We headed first to the home of Sylaine Cand, on the Atlantic coast just north of Royan where we had been invited to stay. Her boyfriend, David Bennett, was also there and her big family made us very welcome and we stayed there a couple of weeks, mainly getting our children used to French food which was very different. Our friends were heading east to do fruit picking and we followed them, a two day journey to Les Hautes Alpes where we picked first quinces and then apples through the summer and then, by ourselves, found a house to rent in a small village in the Drome department.
Just as money was running out, through some British musicians I had met in Nyons, our local town, I was asked to be part of a group recording an album demo for a would-be Tom Petty called Roger Spano. He had inherited a load of money and wanted to spend it on this project. A guy I had already met, called Fred Stephenson, was on drums, a weird French guy whose name I can't remember was on bass and this Spanish/French guy called Jeannot Garcia was on guitar. I was paid the equivalent of 70 pounds a week to be involved in this project and was lent a fancy Italian Alfa-Romeo sports car to get to this guy's home studio. (Not bad when you consider I was on 60 pounds a week with Hawkweed.) It got us through the next three months splendidly. Then, with the demo finished Roger and Fred set off to Paris and London to try and get a 'deal'.
Jeannot suggested that we could now do our own demo using Roger's equipment. We found another English drummer called Bill who was very good when not drunk or out of it on smack and Jeannot brought in an engineer called Michel Pradelle. We recorded a demo, half of my songs and half of Jeannot's, which we felt was much better than the other one we had worked on, and we set off to Paris and London too, with Bill the drummer who needed to get back to England for some reason.
In Paris, Warner-Fillipacci really liked one of my songs and wanted us to go off and write a few more in that ilk. Unfortunately it was the song we liked the least so we didn't follow it up and moved on to London where we got a meeting with Virgin, sharing the waiting room with a hyped-up Johnny Lydon who was trying to get a deal for PIL. Simon, the A&R guy at Virgin told us that we were not what they wanted at the moment, we were not post-punk enough. But I got a very nice letter from George Martin at Air saying I sounded like Johnny Rotten singing a Beatles number, high praise indeed.
When in Paris, I had found the new Hawklords album in a record store so I went round to the 'office' to ask Doug Smith why I had no writing credits on Death Trap and Free Fall and was told that Dave hadn't mentioned the part I had played even thought Steve Swindles, the new keyboard player, had slavishly copied my parts which were essential parts of the songs.
Me with my sons and our dogs in the farmyard. Happy days!
We then met up with Fred and Roger who had had no luck with the original demo and had a couple of nights on the town before I drove with Jeannot down to Devon to see my parents and then sell my van. We hitch-hiked back home and Michel, through his mum, found a farm where the band could live and rehearse. A lovely place but Simone chucked Jeannot and Michel out after a few weeks because a) she was fed up of doing all the household tasks with no help and b) Jeannot was getting weird, thought people were after him and bought a rifle which could fire a bullet over a kilometre and would blast off blindly from the front garden. I drove them both to Toulouse where they wanted to start again and saw them rarely after. Jeannot went on to write a huge hit for the French band Gold and earn himself a load of money, creating one of the largest studies in Toulouse.
We lived quite happily in that farmhouse for 6 years, probably some of the happiest days of that marriage and I formed the first of several groups, called Exiles with Fred the first drummer, playing my original tunes. We lived in France until 1990 when we returned to the UK and during those French years I always had a band on the go, the best was a short-lived affair playing with the Topper Headon Band, ex-drummer of the Clash, alongside the well-known guitarist Henry McCullough (played tag Woodstock with Jo Cocker and later played for Wings) who sadly died earlier this year. This band was suddenly over when Topper was sent to prison in the UK for supplying some smack to a young lad who died.
With my 2nd partner, Liz.
Other items I could add into the postscript are :
- I did keep asking for some royalties, especially when the Sonic Assassins album suddenly appeared and where, on top of playing credits, I still felt I had co-written Free Fall and Death Trap and that all the band should have been credited with Over the Top which was a live jam.
- I did manage to get on the guest list, sometimes AAA or VIP, for loads of gigs in France due to the Hawkweed connection, particularly memorable being Eurthymics with Mick Jones' new group Big Audio Dynamite, U2 with The Pretenders, UB40 and BAD again, David Bowie's Glass Spider tour and Pink Floyd live in Montpelier.
- Alistair Merry who was on the cover of Hawklords album and was involved in a legal struggle with the band, came to stay with us in France where he has remained, now living in Avignon.
- When Bob Calvert died, the article in Melody Maker had a picture of him cuddling the cat we had given to him.
- For years I suffered from a bad rash around my genitals and worried if I had picked up something nasty in California. But it turned out to be one of the symptoms of diabetes which I was found to be suffering from.
- I did eventually get some royalties, a sum of 40 pounds.
- I stayed in contact with Harvey Bainbridge and saw him whenever we visited England, watching him age at a really fast rate.
- My wife and I parted company in 1999 and, fairly quickly, I followed up my liking of very dark women and had a 9 year relationship with a lady from Dominica (not the republic!) which was fun,
- In 2006, out of the blue, Dave Brock phoned me to ask if I wanted to be the support band at Hawkweed's up and coming tour.
LASTWIND supporting HAWKWIND, autumn 2006.

Wednesday 10 August 2016

A Change of Subject......Dogs, Death and Amazing Luck.

Regular readers of my blog will have noticed that I suddenly went quiet. I was going to write the Postscript to my Hawkwind tour stories and then silence. Those of you who follow me on FaceBook will know why: my faithful dog, Eddy, was suddenly no more.

Eddy, an Akita/German Shepherd cross had been my sole companion for the last 2 and a half years and a companion to both me and my mother for a couple of years before that. I got him from an animal sanctuary who took him when the RSPCA who had had him for a year was going to have to put him down due to their rules. He had been with Ferne Animal Sanctuary for 14 months, their longest guest, because they were having difficulty finding a suitable home for him.
He had been found wandering the streets of Swansea in Wales and the Police, after a lot of trouble, had captured him. He was a dominant alpha male, top dog in the sanctuary, and could be aggressive to male humans whom he didn't trust, having obviously been badly treated.
I passed the test and managed to show I was capable of controlling this large dog and so he became mine. And there followed a difficult month while I made it clear that I was the alpha male in  my house. He remained very aggressive towards other dogs and wary of certain people in the streets so I walked him out in the country as much as I could. But he did get into trouble with the police for biting a couple of people, one of whom admitted he was hitting him with a big stick at the time and one who was a member of a group who came suddenly through a gate and surrounded Eddy, frightening him.
We left for France before the court case came up and I gathered there was a warrant out for my arrest for not turning up.
We had a great 8 months living in my Winnebago camper van before moving into an apartment here in the South West of France in a small medieval town. We did have a bit more trouble but, as he got older, he got less aggressive and would accept most people willingly and even some dogs. However, this summer, what I took to be him getting old and not putting up with the heat well, turned out to be that he had inoperable prostrate cancer which was spreading through his urinary tract. When I discovered this, I had to have him put to sleep to stop him suffering any more.
That night was horrible and it was clear I was missing him terribly already. .Although he had some problems, with me he was adorable and a fantastic companion. Although I decided I would try living without a dog for a few months, the next day I checked out the local dog refuges and adverts on the internet for a suitable replacement but there was nothing really for me. Then, I called in at my butcher's to buy some meat for the next few days and told them about the death of Eddy and they asked me if I was looking for a dog. Next thing I knew, I was swapping phone numbers and email addresses with the cashier whose sister was looking for a home for her pure race German Shepherd.
And that evening I received a photo and fell in love.
My father had a series of pure German Shepherds and I had had a cross but I had always wanted a real German Shepherd, they were my dream dog. But they cost a lot!! My dad had paid 700 pounds for his last one! I couldn't afford that! So to be offered one and a young one, 13 months old, and trained and for free was a dream. The owner even drove down from where she lived, 4 and a half hours drive away, to see if we two could get on: I had him for a day's trial. Well, me and Leo, hit it off from the start both at home and out in the country where he needs to go to use up his energy. What a gift!! The lady was obviously sad to lose him but she couldn't keep him and I found out it was because she was going to have to go to court because Leo had been caught chasing sheep, some of them dying because he had chased them into a lake. And it was quite likely that, besides a large fine, she would be forbidden to have a dog for a few years, a typical punishment here.
So, now I have Leo. He is friendly to all, growls at other dogs who come too close but that's all, and needs a lot of exercise, probably 3 good walks a day. That's good for me and my health and I have a new companion. This afternoon, with my friend Alan who lives down the road, we're going to take Leo to a place he already loves here, a couple of miles south of the town and where a dam was built to divide the river in two and where Leo loves playing in the water, chasing sticks and soaking his owner when he comes out and has a good shake. and we'll be taking some photos and videos of the action for Facebook tomorrow.
 I have read that retired people who live alone tend to live longer if they have a dog, several years longer. Well I think in my case, every little bit helps. The companionship, the exercise..........
So, quite an emotional week for me, hence no writing. But, I'm back and in the next few days the POSTSCRIPT of the TOURING WITH HAWKWIND series will become available, with some puzzles solved and some results presented.
So watch out for that.