Hawkwind guitarist Huw Lloyd-Langton died Thursday at the age of 61 following a two-year battle with cancer.
Born Richard Huw Lloyd-Langton in 1951 to the owners of a chemist’s shop, he taught himself to play guitar, and in 1969, after meeting Hawkwind vocalist-guitarist-keyboardist Dave Brock, he eventually replaced founding guitarist Mick Slattery. On the group’s 1970 self-titled debut, Lloyd-Langton and his bandmates pioneered the drug-fueled, heavy psychedelic-rock style known as space rock, which they built from echoey cymbals, Brock’s lofty vocals, and heaping doses of Lloyd-Langton’s bluesy, through-the-looking-glass solos, best heard on “Mirror of Illusion” and the tribal rhythms of “Be Yourself.”
These expansive moments came from an authentic place, as the guitarist began experimenting with LSD shortly after joining the group. “The original idea of the band was to create a situation that would be a trip in itself without the necessity to take hallucinogenics,” Lloyd-Langton told Carl Clerk in her 2004 biography, The Saga of Hawkwind. “But I think eventually the substances took over. The idea went west.”
Within a few months of the album’s release, Lloyd-Langton’s left Hawkwind after the group played a show outside the gates of 1970’s Isle of Wight festival, while Lloyd-Langton was tripping on LSD. Motörhead frontman and Hawkwind bassist Lemmy Kilmister recalled in his 2002 autobiography: “Huw had done something like eight tabs of acid. ‘I’m going for a walk, lads,’ he told the others, went over a hill, and nobody saw him again for something like five years!”
Years later, Lloyd-Langton would say that the experience turned him off to drugs altogether. In the years following his departure from Hawkwind, he played with a Trinidadian band called Batti Mamselle, in addition to ’70s pop hitmaker Leo Sayer and hard rockers Widowmaker. He rejoined Hawkwind in 1979 for their 10th album, Levitation, which was fueled by Lloyd-Langton’s experimentation with an EBow guitar effect. He would continue to add similar touches to the band’s next five records, including the excellent Live Chronicles double-live album. He would leave the band again after the release of 1988’s The Xenon Codex, which featured the proggy, heady Lloyd-Langton-penned instrumental “Tides.”
Throughout the rest of the ’90s, the guitarist played with his own Lloyd-Langton Group, which had released its debut in 1985. He would make guest appearances with Hawkwind in the years that followed, rejoining them briefly in the early 2000s, and his group even opened up for them on occasion. He played an acoustic set at Hawkwind’s 40th anniversary concert in 2009, and the next year, when Lloyd-Langton Group member Tim Rice Williams died of cancer, the guitarist began a campaign to raise money for cancer research. In 2011, he recorded an LP of melodies by Bach, Schubert, and Purcell arranged for acoustic guitar, titled Classical Guitar Tales. It would be his final release.
“Huw had been bravely fighting cancer for a couple of years, but was determined not to let the battle effect his day-to-day life,” read a statement the band posted on its website. “He continued to play his guitar, laugh, joke, and share the great love he had in his heart with all who knew him.” The guitarist died at home with his wife Marion at his side.