Just a few memories
of Bob from 77-78.
He moved down to Devon and rented a small isolated cottage a couple of
miles up the road from where I lived at the time - on the road from Chittlehampton
to Chittlehamholt in North Devon - Straw Dogs country!!!
This was when, if you had long hair, getting served in quiet country pubs
could be problematic.
had lived in the area for a few years already. There was quite an
influx of 'hippies' from the city in the early seventies, not well
received by the Colonel Blimp types who ran the area. We were always
getting visit from the police looking for drugs, runaway schoolgirls,
dogs chasing sheep, etc. Dave
Brock was already in the area too.
playing with ARK - before turning a SONIC ASSASSIN
Bob was considered a bit of a weirdo by the local freak community,
not helped when he took a car for a test drive with a popular hippy
lass called Jenny. He wrote the car off in an accident and broke her
neck in the process - she recovered OK happily. But it was that experience
that led to the writing of Death
Trap, one of the numbers first performed and recorded by Sonic
Assassins - I played the keyboard part which was the main rhythm instrument,
on a Wurlizter electric piano played through a distortion pedal.
remember getting a call saying that we were all to meet up in Barnstaple
to talk about rehearsals and doing a gig so we were hanging around
in the market wondering which pub we were going to
when we got a message saying that Bob was in this quite smart and
oldie worldie hotel. We all went round there getting strange looks
from the clients and staff and found him in a sort of private room
the back where cream teas had been ordered for everyone. There was
this side of him that liked to be kind of upper class intellectual.
I think this was part of his appeal to women. I know my first wife
(half French half Czech and increasingly middle class) generally
had no time for my musician friends but thought Bob was wonderful,
a cut above the rest.
He was very touched when
we gave him the kitten just before we said goodbyes and moved to
France and was quite soppy about it - he could be like that, sensitive
and touchy-feely but would loose these sides of his character when
the band was around and present himself as tough or aloof. When
he had this trouble with cars and had been threatened after smashing
up this car while giving it a trial run, he was ranting and raving
about going round there with a gun!!
We rehearsed Sonic
Assassins in a tiny village hall at Umberleigh in Devon
attracting even more attention to our small freaky community. But
Bob got a bit skittish about the gig just before it and it was touch
and go as to whether he would actually turn up. The gig was organised
at the Queens Hall Barnstaple, just before Christmas 1977 - safety
limit audience of 720. It was a sell out (mind you, my previous
band ARK could sell it out too: there was quite a demand for spacy
music in the area.
You can tell that
Bob was a bit out of sync with the rest of us on the live recording.
There is a point where Dave and I were jamming with synths when
you hear Bob calling out „Stop the gypsy music" as he
thought we were going into Masters of the Universe. But then he
brilliantly improvised the words to what turned out to be a new
song - Over
Bob could change
quite abruptly from being friendly to distant. He was a poet and
sometimes not sure what he was doing with a rock band. At the start
of the following US tour in early 78 he was obviously not happy.
We arrived in New York along with a heavy snowstorm and he was keeping
himself to himself in the main although he did come with Dave
and me to see the recently out Star Wars. Dave seemed to want to
get to him a bit and persuaded me to join him (complete with face
masks) in pretending to assault and rob Bob in his City Squire hotel
room. Bob freaked at being 'robbed' and freaked even more when he
realised it was a set up and a joke - he did not see the funny side.
I didn't play the first gig (at the Bottom Line Club) and was as
amazed as the rest of the band to see Bob sitting on stage reading
a newspaper whenever he was not actually required to be singing.
It was suggested I should sing backing vocals on three or four numbers
which I practised and which I could do - I don’t like my voice
but I always sing in tune an have sung lead vocals with three bands
at least. At the end of the first gig where I sang these parts I
asked the sound guy, Denis, what they had been like. He told me
he didn’t really know as Bob had told him to cut me out of
the mix in case I got it wrong.
He was a typical poet -
sensitive and as nice as anything one minute and then a wild man
And he also had a touch of the perfectionist about him which was
often contrary to the spirit of Hawkwind which could be rather anarchic
and rough and ready (mind you, not nearly as much as the
image the band tried to project).
was a great poet/artist if in a bit of a state some of the time
mentally - but not drug induced like so many others - he was quite
clean living, definitely cleaner living than the rest of the band
and entourage - so I was sadly surprised when he had a heart attack.