On Sunday, September 19th, I met with John Hawken for coffee to discuss his impressions and memories of this summer's electric Strawbs reunion. According to Mr. Hawken, the tour can best be looked at as somewhat of a "family reunion ... getting together with the guys was like old times again." Even with the 30 years of separation, it seemed as if they had never been apart.
The 30 year gap seemed to disappear for the fans who attended the electric shows too, with only 8 hours of practice to spare before their first performace, the band was able to come together in musical perfection. Upon being asked how long it took for him to get "comfortable" playing the music again, Mr. Hawken replied laughing, "when I got home. Seriously, things became a little easier as the tour progressed, but I was always very conscious of the many possibilities for mistakes on my part, mechanical or physical, so it was pretty intense."
Despite traveling long distances over the three week tour and the pressure he had of going over the old songs and learning new ones, the roughest part of the tour seemed to be the setting up and breaking down of his own equipment. "It's not like doing a blues gig, where you just have the one piano, with all the equipment, it can be very tiring .... The humor of the band is what really kept me going .... Even getting stuck with them in a traffic jam coming out of Canada wasn't bad thanks to overall great attitude."
After having gone to four of the electric shows myself and seeing the standing ovations the band received at every venue, I asked what he thought of the enthusiasm and reception by the fans. Mr. Hawken said he was "very pleasantly surprised ... The reaction was better than I had expected. I saw a glimpse of it when I performed with them at one show on their Acoustic tour, but it was nothing like this ... Having said that, it was a great experience and I am glad I was involved."
Even more importantly, what did his sons, Barnaby and Jody, both talented musicians in their own right, think of "Dad on tour with the band?" With a grin, he says," I think they thought, what is he doing signing autographs??? He should be at home doing laundry." Luckily for us, Mr. Hawken chose to do the "rock star thing" instead of folding towels....
When asked about his favorite venue, Mr. Hawken advised that he particularly liked The Strand in Lakewood, New Jersey and The Sellersville Theatre, in Pennsylvania. He also liked the feeling at Hugh's Room in Toronto, Canada. "There's something special about playing a small club where you really get a chance to talk with the fans."
As to any future plans involving playing with The Strawbs again, Mr. Hawken is keeping his options open with that and with any other musical ventures that may come his way. Right now, he stays busy playing locally with, "Bluesday," a popular blues band, which plays venues monthly throughout New Jersey. Bluesday looks forward to competing in the New Jersey Jazz Blues Federation Competition, in which the winner goes to Memphis to compete in the Nationals.
Even though Mr. Hawken won't be performing in the Acoustic Strawbs upcoming tour, he is looking forward to seeing how the group evolves musically. He agrees with the fans when he says, "unlike bands who have gone before, I believe The Strawbs have yet to reach their peak."