THE PTOLEMAIC TERRASCOPE
This article originally appeared in a fanzine called the Ptolemaic Terrascope back in 1992. A big thank you to Phil Mc Mullen for letting us re-print it here and also to Alfred Kossel for supplying it.
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The highly rated guitarist Huw Lloyd - Langton has had a fascinating career which has included two stints with hawkwind, several months with Leo Sayers band, gigs with Amon Din ( with Dave Anderson, Amon Duul's erstwhile bassist), a spell with the potential supergroup Widowmaker and of course with his own Lloyd - Langton Group which has toured continuously over the past seven years and released two well received albums and singles. He remains however best known amongst Terrascope readers as hawkwind's bass player on their first eponymously titled LP on the Liberty label in 1970.
Originally formed in the Notting Hill area of London in 1969, Hawkwind's first line up consisted of Dave Brock, Nik Turner, Terry Ollis, Dik Mik, John Harrison and Mick Slattery (the latter two leaving Hawkwind Zoo, as the band was then known, shortly after a blast at All saints Church Hall in Notting hill - a gig which got hawkwind signed to Clearwater Productions and, via A&R man Andrew Lauder, led to their contract with Liberty / United Artists). It was Dave Brock's band; formerly the Dharma Blues band in the mid - 1960's and with (Dr Brock's) Famous cure in 1967/8, by 1969 he was an established London busker with an eye to getting his own band together. Guitarist Mick Slattery, who had been in the Famous Cure with Dave was the first to join; then came Saxophonist Nik Turner (who Dave had met in Holland whilst over their with the Famous cure - Nik had been in an outfit called Mobile Freakout), closely followed by drummer Terry Ollis, bassist John Harrison and electronics wizard Dik Mik who had originally planned to go to India but decided to stick around. Slatterty, although a co-signatory of the original record contract, left before any recording was begun and so entered our man Huw Lloyd Langton....
Nick spoke to Huw at length for the Terrascope during September 1991. The results are printed below.
PT: Can we go right back to when Huw Lloyd Langton first wanted to become a guitarist?
HLL: Well, I was reared in a lovely part of London called Willesden Junction, the street we lived in consisted of a mixture of Welsh, Jamaican, Irish, Pakistanis - I don't think there were actually any English people there. At the time the people who ran the fish and chip shop were Welsh and were quite friendly with my family, who were also Welsh of course. My old man was the pharmacist in this little row of shops. I went in to get some fish and chips one Friday, and the lady asked me if I'd like this ukulele - banjo she had. It had no strings, but I took it home anyway and put some pieces if string on it. Now, there was this half - Polish school band consisting of eleven year olds who used to cover Shadows numbers - all instrumental stuff. I was into collecting coins at the time, and my parents had brought me a really old Roman one for my birthday. I remember being so inspired by this band that I swapped the coin with John Fiori, the Italian rhythm guitarist in the band for a plectrum. He had one of those multi coloured plastic ones, and I really fancied it. God knows how much the damn coin's worth now. And here I am today with plenty of plectrums and no coins - it's a funny old life, isn't it?
PT: So you had a big interest in music then?
HLL: Originally I wanted to be a drummer - I can actually play them, except I haven't got the energy, I'd build myself a set of drums out of sieves and boxes. My parents being intelligent people, refused to buy me a drum kit and I ended up with this foul Rosetti guitar. I think that guitar would have been enough to put anyone off learning to play. My sister had brought the first Beatles album, so there I was Playing all these chords I'd worked out on the banjo strings on this "beautiful" new guitar.... It sounded pretty awful, but I persisted and eventually somebody explained that you have to tune guitars up. My first inklings of forming a band were at school at Harrow High Street with a guy called Colin Cleanso who lived in Kingsbury and had his own drum kit. Me and him got together in the local swimming bath dressing rooms and made a hell of a racket - I hate to think what it sounded like, probably no worse than when Hawkwind when everybody was tripping though.
PT: Did you do any gigs?
HLL: I think my first gig was at a wedding reception with another drummer, a Welsh boy who lived in Wilesden called Graham something. We used to get down to the Starlight Ballroom in Greenford and watch the Who and Spencer Davis strutting their stuff. They were good days, except we were affiliated to the Mods and there was a lot of punch ups. The music sort of inspired you to smack someone around the head.
PT: So what was your first proper band?
HLL: I'd left school wanting to be an artist, but my youth employment person in Wembley told me that I was totally unsuitable for that - he didn't mention that I could have gone to art school. He asked me what else I was interested in and because i was into electric guitars I said "electric's" so he sent me to an electrical contractor in Kilburn. There I was installing conduit on a building site in the winter, ruining my hands so much I couldn't play guitar any longer, and I eventually wondered what the hell I was doing it for. I left, got a job in Ivor Moirant's music centre instead - probably the most frustrating job I've ever had, surrounded by all these beautiful guitars that I wasn't allowed to touch. It was there that I met Dave Brock - he came in with this pouch full of pennies after a days busking to but a new set of strings. Also whilst I was working there I used to go down to Denmark Street for lunch at the Giaconda, where all the musicians used to hang out for coffee. I was sat there one day when this very star looking person sat down beside me and asked if I was a musician, and when I said I played the guitar he asked me if I wanted a gig. I arranged a time for the following week to go for a blow. His name was Winston G., Winston Gork his real name was, and he had a band called Fox. This would be in 1966 or so. We didn't put any records out. Somebody else started using the same name in 1967 so we had to change our name to The Whip.
PT: A good name! So, you got the gig?
HLL: Yeah, me and another guitarist turned up for the audition. I think I got the job because of my image. The other guy was equally good if not better - I can't remember his name though. Being in the band was a complete waste of time as it turned out, but it was probably a good apprenticeship. We spent most of our time flat broke in Europe, playing the army bases. All I cared about was that I was on the road with a band. Eventually it just totally fell to pieces - Winston ended up staying in Holland and I ended up returning to my old stomping ground in Denmark street. On my way back to Wilesden Junction I had to go down Tottenham Court Road subway and there was Dave Brock, strumming away with his money box in front of him. He asked me if I knew any guitarists and I said well, funny you should mention it....
PT: So that was the beginning of Hawkwind?
HLL: It was the beginning of the official Hawkwind, although Hawkwind Zoo had been happening a little while before. I turned up at the Great Western Road where they rehearsed in the basement of this block which has now been pulled down - just opposite where are currently Doug Smith's offices, funnily enough. We had a blow together and it felt really good.
PT: Dave Brock had the band but was just short of a guitar player?
HLL: That's right, there was John A Harrison on bass and Nik Turner had got his saxes sorted out, plus Dik Mik had his audio generators, Terry Ollis was there with his drums, and I got out my guitar and we went through "Hurry On Sundown" and a couple of other things that would be on the first album. I enjoyed it, they enjoyed it, and that was it really. Those days are all a bit of a fuzz because there were so many silly substances around.
PT: Being in Hawkwind, who became immensely popular, right at the beginning, what does remain in your memory?
HLL: Really just everybody being flat broke - apart from Dave who earned his money being a busker. He'd been given a licence to busk officially, plus he'd been on an LP and had done the Lord Mayors Banquet, all sort of things. Dave was one of the original buskers and he earned a good whack in those days. As for the rest of us, Terry Ollis worked in his family's scrap yard, I didn't do anything, and half the band lived in the van that we had.
PT: From what I remember reading, the early days of Hawkwind consisted mainly of playing around the Ladbroke Grove and Notting Hill area?
HLL: Funnily enough I don't actually recall doing that many gigs around Ladbroke Grove, There was one we did in a kind of crypt in a church, plus we used to do the Roundhouse Matinee's every Sunday and other gigs were studded around all over the place. We inevitably did a lot of free gigs on the outskirts of the festivals - that's where it all began really.
PT: How did you make the transition from being a band consisting of a busker plus a load of blokes with no money rehearsing in a basement to suddenly being on a major label doing an LP?
HLL: All I remember is, when I joined them they were already with Clearwater Productions, Doug Smith's lot and there was interest from a record company already there. I was to debrained to recall whether that happened before or after I joined. I never did sign a contract, we booked into Olympic Studios, I think.
PT: The first album's produced by Dick Taylor of the Pretty Things - how did that come about?
HLL: - I have no idea. He probably already knew Dave or Doug. I went into the studios brainless and did it. I remember being a bit apprehensive because Dick Taylor was the main man there and he was an older guitarist - I felt intimidated and didn't really enjoy doing it. It was a good album though and I still enjoy hearing it, even now. Over the years it's been ridiculously successful - after I rejoined in 1979, everytime we did a tour it would get re-released. There's even a picture disc of it.
PT: You never made any money out of it though?
HLL: I made pennies out of that album.
PT: What prompted you to leave the band after that one album?
HLL: I had a breakdown. My brain just hit the four corners of the universe after one album and various tours. It consisted of about 18 months all told, I suppose I had to get out - I had a very weird experience one night and I left the band for fear of my soul.
PT: It was a drug related experience?
HLL: It was drug enhanced, but not drug related. The worst drug that was around at the time was LSD which as far as I am concerned is a very bloody dangerous substance , because it messes with your mind more than it does with your body. I consider myself lucky to have come out of it as I did. There's an awful lot of people who still haven't. I'd been spiked at the Isle Of Wight after I'd decided not to take any more which wasn't very funny. It was a band related prank, I've found out since. I was a bit of an odd lad, and in the later stages I got into macrobiotics. I was no larger than a coat stand and I think they were under the impression that I was into heavier substances and from what I hear they thought that if they'd LSD'd me up, it might make me realise the error of my ways. The fact was I'd already knocked the acid on the head because I thought I'd died.
PT: How long was it before you were able to do anything again?
HLL: Not long, maybe a few months. In fact before I'd left Hawkwind I'd been approached by a bloke called Bobby Halma who's an Austrian bass player / songwriter / singer, and John Lingwood (ex Manfred Mann) who was in his band. whenever it was that I came through my breakdown, I got a call from Europe to go and join Bobby. they sent me an airline ticket and the next thing I knew I was somewhere near Munich in this funny little place, it was miraculous really, almost like rehabilitation. It was a good band, but there was a bit too much greed from certain members. A band with lots of potential that never really happened.
PT: So this takes you up to around 1972 or 1973 - then what happened?
HLL: Well, Dave Anderson, one of the bass players either got the boot or he left Hawkwind, and we got together and formed a three piece with John Lingwood. We called ourselves Amon Din - Anderson had been in Amon Duul. Amon Din had all sorts of potential, but Anderson and I ended up not getting on at all well. He was still into silly substances and as a result of my being saved, I didn't like the dealing and stuff that went on. We recorded a few demos at one point - I'd hate to think they were still around, that would be exceedingly embarrassing....
PT: And after Amon Din?
HLL: Probably another couple of bands that never saw the light of day. One particular good band I was involved in was called Magill, that's where I met the original drummer of my own band, John Clarke. The bass player on the Bootleg LP and the single we (Huw Lloyd Langton Band) did, Rob Rawlinson, has worked with Stan Webb and Ian Hunter - he actually replaced Jaco Pastorius in Ian Hunter's band (Overnight Angel). Rob was one of the founder members of Magill - the band had all sorts of potential. Just after Magill I was with a calypso rock band called Batti Mamselle with Richard Bailey on drums. His brother Robert was in Osibisa. I was friendly at the time with a (black) percussionist called Lenox Langton, who pretended I was his brother (!) - the Baileys had left and I got the gig. Lenox had previously played with Brian Auger; Jimmy chambers the vocalist is with London Beat.
PT: And after that, about 1973 / 74 you were in Leo Sayers band?
HLL: I was initially invited along to see the band in Bracknell, rather than actually auditioning. It was the first time in my career that I had actually been paid a wage! All we did was gig all over the place - I was only with him for 6 or 9 months, the only recording we did was the Russell Harty Show on TV. I really liked Leo Sayer - but I didn't think he had any guts. He was bullied by Adam Faith, who pushed him into the cabaret circuit. All Leo wanted to do was to be the front man in a rock band - he'd always been a big fan of the Grease Band, Frank who was Leo Sayers bass player, was living in Barnes near Steve Ellis (ex Love Affair). Luther Grosvenor (Ariel Bender) and Steve phoned me up and said they were looking for an extra guitarist - I went and had a blow, got the job and that was the beginning of Widowmaker.
PT: How long were you with Widowmaker?
HLL: Widowmaker carried on for two years, did two albums and toured America. We finished the first album at Olympic in Barnes; me and them didn't see eye to eye at all so we had a meeting and agreed to part. The first album came out with me on the front of the sleeve because it was too late to do anything about it, but on the back there's a space where I should be and just the words "Thanks to Huw". I was out of the band by that time.
PT: What was the problem?
HLL: I was too quiet, I wasn't mercenary enough basically. Three weeks later they came knocking on my door to ask me back again - they couldn't find anybody else daft enough to join them. So I was back in the band again; in fact everybody in the band was out of it at some point, even Steve Ellis. It was a ridiculous band, really stupid. I probably shouldn't tell you this, but they also had John Butler, now of Diesel Park West in at one point. In fact he actually played Keyboards with Amon Din as well! Bang goes his credibility!
PT: How did you come to be involved with Hawkwind again?
Well, after the Widowmaker situation, Doug Smith rang me up and said why didn't Simon King and I get together and form a band? So Simon and I did that and got on great, but to find a bass player in those days was incredibly hard - Jaco Pastorius and Stanley Clarke were on the scene and you just couldn't find a bass player who could lay it down for a three piece rock band. We did a couple of demos, but it wasn't the right time for that sort of thing, the post punk and jazz rock / funk era, so eventually Simon was rung up by Dave Brock who was putting Hawkwind together again after the Hawklords thing and got offered the job. There was no way Simon could turn it down. I ended up playing a session for Reg Laws who did an album for Chrysalis with Kokomo - we were on the pub circuit for a while and then all of a sudden I got a call from Brock who wanted me back in Hawkwind. I had to think about it - there was no way I wanted to rejoin the situation I'd once left; but Simon King was back in, plus they'd taken on Tim Blake. Tim was a groupie in the early days, sitting in the corner cross-legged and looking pretty, we used to call him "Gollom". Simon and the roadie had to pick him up from the airport because he was living in France at the time. (The performance artist Lady June of Deya recalled in a recent issue of the Canterbury fanzine "Facelift" that Tim Blake had originally flown to France to be a roadie for Deavid Allen in 1971) So that was it - we kicked off again as hawkwind in 1979, Many line ups later and here I am.
PT: Still with Hawkwind?
HLL: No, I left them after that supposed Bob Calvert benefit gig where only certain people got any money - that was the last straw for me. There was this Hawkwind partnership which I left, I just couldn't be part of anything like that. After resigning from the partnership I had no idea what was going on - anybody that had been involved would tell you the same story.
PT: So you left and got your own band going?
HLL: Yeah, Frenchie Flicknife was doing the "Hawkwind, Friends and relations" album (Flicknife Records 1982 - the first of three) which he asked me to give a track to, but by the time I got it sorted out it was too late. I was going to do an album, but there was a flood of Hawkwind bootlegs coming out and he said it was better to do a single.
PT: How long was there between you rejoining Hawkwind and leaving again?
HLL: Ten years. People were always getting slung out of the band and it wasn't very nice, but it was a good situation - nice hotels and some good gigs. Simon was the first casualty, when we were doing the "Levitation" album at the Roundhouse. I'd gone out to get a bag of chips and when I got back I saw Simon in tears, saying Dave Brock didn't think I was up to it and he was out of the band. After Simon it was a case of who the hell could we get in and was good enough to play the drums and luckily Ginger baker was up for it. He did the whole albumin two days, although he charged twice the usual session fee. The Tim Blake got left behind on purpose in some hotel up North. Dave Brock came up with this replacement for Tim called Dave Ayles who, it turned out, wasn't interested in the band at all, he only joined because Ginger Baker was involved. Ginger was blooming marvellous to work with though, I liked him as a person plus I've never worked with a drummer who was as big an influence as he. Ginger gig the album and was into carrying on, and as far as I'm concerned it was a shame that he fell out with Brock and another member of the band. Melody Maker said that Ginger had fallen out with me, after calling me the "worst bass player in the land" - which was obviously untrue.
PT: So, we've lost Simon King, we've lost Tim Blake - who was next?
HLL: Harvey Bainbridge nearly left but didn't, then Ginger left followed by Keith Hales, the keyboard played. Keith was basically Ginger's dog - I'm not sure if he had a lead for him, but he certainly licked his boots, Harvey's now left the band actually, but he'll probably go back.
PT: Simon House? (who had also been in an earlier incarnation of Hawkwind)
HLL: Simon House replaced me when I left.
PT: But he's a violin player!
HLL: I know, but in fact I was quite surprised - I saw a tape of the TV thing they did up North and I thought he'd learned half of my lines, but apparently out playing styles are very similar.
PT: Hawkwind are somehow still commanding an awful lot of attention and loyalty from the fans....
HLL: Well the people who are into Hawkwind are so into it that it's almost like a religious experience.
PT: Did you ever play in the same line-up as Bob Calvert?
HLL: I've worked with him, and he's been up and jammed with Hawkwind while I've been with them. We did a science fiction gig in the mid 80's, the line-up was Brock, myself, Harvey and Calvert. Me and Lemmy and Simon King also did some demos for one of Calvert's projects as well, which unfortunately never got completed. He was a charming bloke.
PT: So finally, what's the Huw Lloyd Langton band up to at the moment?
HLL: Struggling. We're playing the pubs and clubs, and we've got a mail-order album called "ELEGY" by the Lloyd Langton Group on the Allegro label.
then went on to detail how to get hold of the aforementioned album, however bringing
things up to date, a selection of Huw's solo works can be ordered via either -