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20 December 2012

Obituary - Huw Lloyd Langton

I learnt yesterday that one of my favourite guitar players passed away. Huw Lloyd Langton got notorious through his work with Hawkwind, a collaboration that spanned a good number of decades. Master of spacey reverbs and long improvisations, he could create dense atmospheres but still produce songs for more straightforward listeners. I never had the opportunity to see Huw playing live, and now I'm sure I never will. Folk that worked with him paint a personality of kindness and openness, someone pleasant to do music with. Good bye Huw, you'll be missed.

Huw was just 19 when he started playing with Hawkwind. He was part of the line up that recorded the very first LP of the band, which, although not extraordinary, was one of the first Space Rock alba ever made. Soon after he experienced a sort of epiphany and left the band, apparently quitting music altogether.

The Mirror of Illusion, from Hawkwind's eponymous LP, released in 1970

Hawkwind went on, slowly building up to one of the greatest names of the genre. Constant line up changes from 1975 onwards put an early end to the band in 1977. Two years later Dave Brock, Hawkwind's captain, turned the engines on again for what was supposed to be a farewell tour. Only the drummer survived from 1977, Hawkwind went on the road with a renovated outfit, including Harvey Brainbridge on bass, Tim Blake on keyboards and Huw back on the guitar.

Shot Down In The Night, the track that opens the Live Seventy Nine LP. This is one of my favourite post 1970s Hawkwind songs.

Such strong line-up put up quite a show and the 1979 tour ended up being an unexpected success. This made Dave Brock reconsider the end of the band and in 1980 Hawkwind was back in the studio with a dream-team of musicians: Dave Brock (guitar), Tim Blake (keyboards), Harvey Brainbridge (bass), Huw Lloyd Langton (guitar) and Ginger Baker (drums - yes they guy from Cream). This starry line up produced what is still one of the best LP ever recorded by the band: Levitation.

A playback rendition of World Of Tiers, from the 1980 LP Levitation.

Both Tim Blake and Ginger Banker would follow different paths after the 1980 tour. Dave, Harvey and Huw remained the core of the band for the following decade, although never managing to repeat the excel of Levitation. The 1980 tour would go into the band's history and several live recordings would appear in assorted alba the following years. These live songs show Huw as an avant-garde guitarrist trailling what at the time were fresh musical paths. The LP This Is Hawkwind Do Not Panic, includes 7 tracks from this tour and is absolutely essential for a Huw fan.

A live recording of Motorway City from 1980, released in the Zones LP in 1983. À mon avis Huw does a better work here than in the Levitation LP.

A live recording of The Island from 1980, released also in the Zones LP.

Nik Turner, the charismatic sax player that marked Hawkwind's early history, re-integrated the band in 1984. Instead of recoiling in face of another improviser with such flamboyant character, the 1984 tour met Huw at the height of his creativity, completely intertwined with the band. Sadly this line up with Nik and Huw together never made it to the studio, but two historical live videos were released that perfectly document the band vibe at the time.

Psy Power, from the Night of The Hawks video released in 1984. Huw produces 4 outstanding solos in a 5 minutes song and even sings the chorus.

The Right Stuff, from the Solstice at Stonehenge video, also from 1984 (the original doesn't have the cuts and tempo fluctuations). Another of my favourite Hawkwind traks, although originally composed by Robert Calvert. In this video Huw uses huge amounts of reverb, creating spaced out sounds unique even to Hawkwind.

Hawkiwnd release a few more LP during the 1980s but with creativity slowly eroding. Huw sort of faded out in the studio and by 1990 he left the band to pursue personal projects, of which I know very little. Huw started working with Hawkwind again around 2000, occasionally touring with the band. In 2001 Simon House also re-integrated Hawkwind and the band went on the road yet again with a remarkable line up. Canterbury Fayre is the title of a live LP from that time that's worth listening.

Live performance of Levitation, released in the 2001 LP Canterbury Fayre.

I don't know much about Huw's last years, apart from the fact that he struggled with various illnesses. As far as I can tell he kept working and pursuing his own ideas, no matter the format or the size of the audience. A free spirit with lots to give, his music shall last forever.

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