Hawkwind, LSD and naked ladies
I'm still coming to terms with having quit my day job at BBC Wales. One of the great things is that I can finish my book on the legendary Rockfield studios (Main Quadrangle Studio is PICTURED Bottom Left) - home to the likes of Queen, Oasis, The Stone Roses, The Manic Street Preachers, Annie lennox, Motorhead, Robert Plant and many many more.
But I'm discovering that working from home is tough going. There are so many distractions. The TV. Endless repeats of Starsky and Hutch and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century are testing my will power to breaking point. I need to adopt 'Spartan Warrior' mode. Then there's the endless cups of tea and snack breaks. And maybe I'll take my tenth break of the morning to feed some more CDs into my Ipod and it's only 11am!!!!
11-15am. I'm distracted by a strangled cooing type sound. I look around my attic office to discover the source of this horrible noise. Nothing obvious springs to mind. Ahhh looking outside, I see two demented pigeons who've decided to use my window as a beak sharpener. Great! Where's Ozzy Osbourne and his gun collection when you need. Note to Self: Start writing the Black Sabbath chapter of the Rockfield book tomorrow. Maybe!
1pm. On the plus side I've managed to finish Chapter Six. Well. It's 95% written (which is good!) - though it's now been retitled Chapter Seven. Big decisions such as this are really mind-spinning!!! Though by tomorrow it may well be Chapter Eight. Oh the power I wield in my own small world. It's quite a head rush. But I am quite pleased with it. It focusses on the time Judas Priest, Ian Gillan and Rush spent at Rockfield Studios. Judas Priest arrived at the Welsh studios in 1975 to record Sad Wings of destiny - the album that created the Priest sound they have to this day. Ian Gillan remixed Clear Air Turbulence in 1977 while Rush (PICTURED Top Left Live in 2005) left Canada for the first time to record Farewell To Kings and Hemispheres at the Monmouth studio. Rush chose the UK to come to as they were big fans of the British Prog Rock scene. Once they'd chosen Rockfield, they were taken aback by just how rural the place is.
I was delighted that Geddy Lee could take time out from recording Rush's new album (the band are now back in the studio in Toronto laying down the tracks until christmas) to speak to me about their time at Rockfield. “We were quite excited to be there. Everything was foreign. Everything was different so it took us a while to settle in. The second day we were there, the guys went for a long walk across a field behind Rockfield and ended up getting chased across the pasture by a herd of cows. We realised then it was the rural life for us for the coming weeks."
It seems the recording of Farewell to Kings went well but Hemispheres proved to be a nightmare as the band arrived in Wales with no songs written and found the whole process hugely troublesome the second time around.
But that chapter's done and out of the way. It's onward and upward.
2pm. Carry on with the task of gathering photos to illustrate the book. So far Brian May has kindly contributed two from his personal collection of his time at Rockfield including one of him sitting at the Piano on which Freddy Mercury recorded Bohemian Rhapsody. Paul Carrack has also sent a few as has the producer of Judas Priest: Geraint Hughes.
Today I call Dave Brock - the founder member of Hawkwind who back in February promised he'd look up some photos for me to use. Dave's an absolutely top guy and really really helpful.
Chapter Four is all about Hawkwind's time at Rockfield. They've made about 20 albums there since around 1973. My favourite is Doremi Fasol Latidio. It was the first one Lemmy played one. I love the opening track Brainstorm. Dave told me a fantastic story about the making of this at Rockfield:
“One of the tracks we were having problems with was called ‘Brainstorm’. Our sax player Nick Turner just wasn’t getting it. So to help him out, we decided to spike his drink with LSD in the hope that it would sort the problem out. But somehow Nick got wise to our plans. He kept avoiding any food or drink we put his way. ‘I’m not touching that’ he’d shout and then storm out. In the end we had to get some of the road crew to help. One of them spiked Nick’s yoghurt with LSD. And you know what? It worked. Nick played the piece really well and ‘Brainstorm’ was completed. He played it much better under the influence of drugs.”
Hawkwind are back on tour in the UK next month (October) and Dave's working on a whole collection of tapes he's found and dusted down from Hawkwind's time at the studios (mainly centring around 1977). He's hoping the finished product called 'The Raockield tapes' will be out next Spring (2007) on Voiceprint Records.
The Hawkwind chapter was one of my favourite to write and it starts with a cracking tale about Hawkwinds' girlfriends and wives swimming naked in the river monnow near Rockfield. There's also a great story of tantrums and tears surrounding the band's brief recruitment of ex-Cream drummer Ginger Baker.
5pm Must crack on! Oh that's becoming a bit of a personal catch phrase. I must put a stop to saying that right now. But first I must crack on.