"The promoters in Notting Hill, apart from us, Clearwater, were Famepushers, who worked above 'Friends'. Eddie and Steve. They were a couple of film guys; they had money out of films and they wanted to get into the music business and that's how Dave Robinson, with his Irish blarney, conned them. And they did the Brinsley Schwartz hype. There was some film they'd made money out of it and they were flashing it around. They put this whole Famepushers package together. They did a beautiful con, but it was Dave who did all the conning, It was he who arranged for Aer Lingus to do the airplane, it was he that arranged for Head Limousines to meet them in New York. They couldn't get the band into America. They had to get a private plane to fly them in to New York without immigration. Dave's arrogance was amazing, but it was also his selling point. And Famepushers had an amazing image, though certainly it didn't sell. Later, of course, he created Stiff Records.
I had Hawkwind who I thought were wonderful... But at that time Hawkwind were still called Group X. They couldn't actually think of a name. The way we got involved with them was that one night we had at the All Saints Hall with High Tide and Skin Alley. High Tide had just been signed by Apple Publishing so they had all this brand new equipment. Hawkwind turned up: 'Can we play. Use your gear man, it's all nice and new...' and Wayne went 'Well... be careful' and so on and up they went and played and the whole night ended and John Peel walked out of the hall, looked at me, and went 'Sign them. Big band.' I walked on, didn't think any more about it, then two months later decided to get involved. Went round to see Peel, dinky toy collection out, playing with it on the floor, and I said 'We got the name John, we got the name. Hawkwind Zoo.' He looked at me: 'Hawkwind Zoo? No. Get rid of the zoo.' And that's how that happened.
The drug scene in Notting Hill was mostly acid. That's how Hawkwind came into reality. We started to put on gigs at All Saints Hall. The Floyd had gone but we had Quintessence, Bowie, everybody. But it never really did any business, just 2/6 to get in. The Notting Hill bands we dealt with were Hawkwind, Cochise, High Tide, Bubastis who had once been a far more famous band, there was Mick Softly, Skin Alley. The Pink Fairies were there but we weren't looking after them. Boss was really in there with some manager. Quintessence were the genre of hippies that came out of the 'I'm going to India' mob. One of the guitarists ended up in Ace. They were with Island and it was very much peace and love. They spent so much money on their album, there were about ten pages of it. But they were shit, they were terrible! I could never understand it.
Hawkwind played everywhere. Tremendous amount of colleges. Everywhere in London there was a date to play. They probably got twenty-five notes. Hawkwind weren't really space rock, or science fiction. That only got in there as an excuse. the reality about it was that it was a good way to drop acid and play a gig. When Lemmy joined they were still dropping acid, they were still doing speed like you cannot believe. I remember Dave Brock walking across the stage, kicking Lemmy up the arse and saying 'Fucking slow down, cunt!' Then there'd be other nights when Lemmy would be speeding out of his head and he'd think 'Can't take this any more' and the Mandies would come out and they'd go on stage and get slower and slower and slower... Dikmik at the Speakeasy, cosmically wobbling down to the stage. Nick Turner cavorted around the stage pretending to play a saxophone, which he never really learnt to play. We all told him he could, and he was a really nice guy, but he couldn't. The initial lineup was Dikmik, Terry Ollis, Dave Brock, Nik Turner, John Harrison. Robert Calvert was never a member of the band, but wrote the lyrics. He didn't come in till later, he was still walking round the Roundhouse pretending to be a CIA agent. He liked to get dressed up in suits and freak out the hippies."Update March 23 2000: Will Birch's book, "No Sleep Till Canvey Island", is an in depth history of the British Pub Rock scene of the '70s and contains a wealth of information on Brinsley Schwarz, Famepushers, Barney Bubbles, Stiff Records, Friends magazine, and other stuff mentioned on these pages. Now available in association with Amazon.co.uk.
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The interview texts are from
"Days in the Life: Voices from the London Underground 1961-71" by Jonathon Green,
used here with permission. Any reproduction is prohibited without permission from the author.
Days in the Life excerpts © Jonathon Green
contact: Phil Franks (freax AT philmfreax.com)
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