Tax, Tattoos, and Deep Throat: Hawkwind's Hassles

New Musical Express – 12 October 1974

If you’ve been reading the news pages over the last couple of weeks
you might be excused for imagining that Hawkwind had fallen victim to
depression, misery, Vietnamese social diseases and terminal psychosis.  
Recent reports have told dire stories of cancelled tours, tax busts, and
low morale.

The part about the tax bust was true. The US Internal Revenue Service
turned up in Hammond, Indiana, with demands for something in the
region of $8,000, but beyond that, morale couldn’t be higher.

The tax problems stem from the new system that the Americans have
devised for British rock-and roll bands.  For some time now the Internal
Revenue Service has been less and less enthusiastic about long-haired
English layabouts touring the country and then scooting back home before the revenue men could get their cut of the profit. In order to put a stop to this, the tax men have devised a new scheme whereby foreign bands are required to pay over thirty per cent of the gross take on tour before leaving the country.  After they’ve got your money, then you can file a claim. It’s rather like paying emergency tax when you start a new job, only on a much more expensive level.

The band had assumed that all the tax problems had been taken care of. Elaborate arrangements had apparently been made between the IRS, the band’s New York agents, and their manager Doug Smith.  The message, however, hadn’t got through to the Indiana department of the IRS, and after the concert at Hammond, they turned up complete with FBI agents and twenty or so uniformed officers of the local police department to make sure they got Uncle Sam’s share of Hawkwind’s cash.

Back with his wife and dog in West London’s Campden Hill, drummer Simon King can look back on the event as another episode in the stumbling Hawkwind legend – although, at the time, it took on an acute sense of unreality.

“There were these guys, the actual tax men. They were going round asking all the musicians for a thousand dollars each. The gig had been really good and we were all jumping round.  It was kind of hard to believe.

“Doug got angry and started shouting at them, and in the end they decided that they were going to impound the equipment. They started slapping ‘Impounded by US Government’ stickers over everything.  They even managed to stick one on one of the roadies.

“None of us were freaked out about it. We even had a party back at the hotel to celebrate.  The police were great about the whole thing. They were locals who’d just been brought along because the tax men seemed to think that they needed at least twenty guns to back them up. They didn’t like the tax men or the FBI at all.

“They warned us not to smoke dope in front of the Feds, although they didn’t mind if we did.  One of them came over and looked at the papers the Internal Revenue guys had served on me. He told me they were bastards and-began telling me about the trouble he had with them over his tax.”

How about these stories of gloom and low morale?

“It’s not true at all. We’ve been having a great time. The music has come so much more together. Simon House and Alan” (Powell, the newly joined keyboard, violin and synthesiser man and second drummer) “have really worked their way in with the rest of us. We’re playing a lot of the material off the last album” (‘Hall of the Mountain Grill’) “and a lot of the ideas that were recorded have been put into a live context.”

Amid all this boundless enthusiasm it seemed a mite churlish to go back to the gloomy news reports. The question remained, had they pulled out of their American tour?

King had obviously been primed with the official explanation:

“We haven’t pulled out of the tour, we’re just having a break. There were a couple of gigs with a fairly long break on either side so we moved these to the end of the tour and that gave us a clear two weeks off.”

Did putting back some of the US dates affect their plans for England?

“When we get back, we get a couple of weeks off, then do two weeks on the continent and start touring Britain in December. There’ll be some dates before Christmas, and more in January.”

The general consensus of opinion seemed to be that despite the run-in with authority, everything was rosy, and there was no trepidation about returning to the land of the free.

“We’ve been having a great time. We’ve made a few contacts on the other tours, and even started to get out and about a bit. There have been different American bands supporting us. Mike Quatro, Susie’s brother, with his band, and ‘Mahogany Rush with this kid who claims he’s the reincarnation of Jimi Hendrix.  He dresses just like Hendrix. He even wears a scarf tied round his arm.  He starts with ‘Purple Haze,’ goes through this complete Hendrix set and even finishes with “Star-Spangled Banner’. He leans his guitar, a Strat, against his amplifier and rushes off leaving it to feed back. He does have about fifteen-foot pedals but, I got to say it, he sounds exactly like Hendrix.  That’s the terrible thing really. They’re good.  The bass-player’s really good. He’s the kind of bass player who ought to have played with Hendrix.  The drummer’s good.  They really don’t need that Jimi Hendrix thing at all.”

Another souvenir of recent American adventures, apart from the wad of tax demands, is a rapidly healing marijuana leaf tattoo on King’s left wrist.

“We found this place in Cleveland, a tattoo parlour run by this stoned freak who looked a lot like Andy Dunkley.  He had all the usual ‘Born to lose’ stuff, but he also had Mr. Natural and Furry Freak Brothers designs. He played really good sounds all the time and since we had a few days to kill we started hanging out with him.

“We all had tattoos done. Lemmy, after a lot of stalling, got himself a kind of Nazi eagle, Stacia had a bird done on her ankle. The guy told us there were a lot more chicks starting to get tattooed.”

And did the band involve themselves in other facets of decadent imperialist art forms? Indeed they did.

“We went to see Deep Throat. We were just hanging about in the hotel with nothing to do. It was on at the cinema opposite so we went. We had to pay $5.  It was terrible. We expected something quite impressive, but there was so much wobbly, out of focus, hand-held camera work that we really felt we’d been ripped off.”

-Mick Farren

A Plastic Fragment Hawkwind Press Cutting

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