|BBC Radio 1 Live In Concert CD review
30th September 2004
This CD probably exists for one reason, and that is to satisfy the seemingly endless appetite among Hawkwind
fans for material from their 'Space Ritual' period. It was recorded live at the Paris Theatre (London) on 28th
September 1972 for subsequent radio broadcast on the "In Concert" series, on 14th October 1972. This was
after Hawkwind's hit single success with Silver Machine but before the actual Space Ritual tour. The tracklist
given on the CD is Born To Go; Seven By Seven; Brainstorm; Masters of the Universe; Paranoia; and Silver
Machine. However there are actually several other numbers included in these titles.
There is another recording of this same performance, which has been released as a bootleg CD called Space
Rock Live From London. It's been alleged to have a better mix than this official BBC recording, though (never
having heard it) I doubt that a bootlegger way back in 1972 would have been able to muster anything like the
recording quality that the BBC were able to obtain. Anyway, personnel on this recording are Stacia and Andy
Dunkley (they narrate the opening 'Countdown' sequence); Dave Brock, Nik Turner, Simon King, Lemmy,
DikMik and Del Dettmar.
The CD packaging is on the minimal side. Aside from a track and personnel listing, there are some sleeve
notes which you can read here if you want. And, er, that's it. I think this was first released on CD in 1991
or 1992, and it's probably out of print. E-Bay turns up copies for sale occasionally, though.
The CD opens with a piece called Countdown; it's entirely spoken by Stacia and Andy Dunkley, i.e. thereâ
€™s no actual music in this - it lasts for about a minute and is really no more than a stylized way of
introducing the band. It first saw the light of day when Brian Tawn got a copy donated by the BBC for
inclusion on the Hawkfan 12 album, and is interesting enough for historical purposes - I think it's the only
track on which you can hear Stacia. It would have benefited from a few funny noises to make it more
atmospheric, but then, it wouldn't really work as an introduction with some of the band needing to be on stage
As soon as Mr Dunkley completes his verbiage ("...we have music, we have Hawkwind!") the familiar
upwelling of random space noises heralds Born To Go. As usual, Dave Brock kicks it off with his grinding
guitar riff, but the first thing you notice is it hasn't the pace or the cohesion of the version to be found on the
Space Ritual album. Although the arrangement is identical, this version drags along in a dirge-like fashion. I'm
not going to sit here and measure the beats per minute but I think it isn't actually much slower than the better
known rendition - the band just aren't right on top of the beat, like they were by the end of the Space Ritual
tour. Some of the vocals and guitar solos are also notably inferior to what was recorded in Liverpool and
London, and this adds to the general air of lassitude. It's also twice as long, at 14 minutes excluding the
'Countdown' section, than the superior Born To Go to be found on the Space Ritual album.
Seven By Seven actually starts off with an embryonic reading of The Black Corridor delivered by Nik
Turner, who probably meant to sound sonorous, but just comes across as sulky. This is not a patch on the
version that wound up on the Space Ritual album. But hell, it's only one of those marginally-acceptable poetry
readings anyway, and is quickly followed by Brock's mellow guitar chords that mark the start of Seven By
Seven proper. Here they are accompanied by some melodic sax, and as this number gets into its stride, it's
noticeably better than Born To Go was. Nik's sax is higher in the mix than we are used to hearing and is quite
heavily effected - plenty of wah pedal here - while the vocals are on the quiet side. Brock's guitar has more
echo / reverb on it than normal, too.
In the absence of Bob Calvert the bulk of the poetry reading seems to fall on Nik's shoulders, and he declaims
the "seven by seven" lyrics in the quiet mid-passage of the song before the main riff kicks back in. As per
normal, though, Brock handles the lead vocals on the verse. Incidentally, the opening couplet "Lost am I, in
this world / of timelessness and woe" is for my money the best lyric ever penned by Mr.Brock. The song is
credited entirely to him (or to Mick MacManus if you believe that wrestling stuff at the Hawkwind Museum!)
Brainstorm follows directly from Seven By Seven, which is a reversal of the running order in which they
appeared on Space Ritual. Consequently we lose the superb transition between the two tracks, where the
closing chord progression on Brainstorm gradually morphed into Seven By Seven. Here, the one stops fairly
abruptly and t'other starts, cutting straight in with Brock's chord riff. As with Born To Go, the arrangement is
identical to what went onto the Space Ritual album (give or take some hilariously bad groaning from Lemmy,
which was meant to be backing vocals) - but the band aren't quite playing tight enough to really make this
work. It too, drags. Two and a half minutes in, some spacey wah'd guitar and squawking sax elevate matters
for a minute or two, but the relapse into the "is he dead / where's his head" bit (if that is indeed what they're
singing) is fairly painful. The band lumber on through the song and really, the only person who I'd say stands
out is Nik Turner, whose sax playing is inventive, timely and measured. He does better here than on the actual
Space Ritual album in terms of sax appeal, but his vocals are none too great.
The song does close out with the beloved chord progression and guitar effects that I've mentioned before (see
the Top 20 Brock Guitar Moments), but as with everything else pretty much, it doesn't quite hang together,
and the result is reminiscent of one of those early Pink Floyd numbers of relatively formless noise. There are
worse things to listen to, of course. This meanders into some generalized Del / DikMik space noise to which
Dave Brock lends a hand on the guitar, with Simon King contributing a few dings on the cymbals. It sounds
like a muted version of Electronic No.1 (but isn't credited as such) or some other electronic passage from
Space Ritual before a swell of white noise ushers in a familiar, stabbing guitar riff...
...which is Master Of The Universe. Well, I've never thought very highly of the Space Ritual version of this,
which always seemed a bit one-dimensional to me. It's not that different here, though the first line of Nik's
vocals are inexplicably absent. Once again, the band are slightly off the pace, although this particular number
doesn't suffer so much as a result, with the song *requiring* the guitar and bass to be right on top of the beat,
and so they are. A wild wah guitar solo starts at around the five minute mark and once again Nik
complements this with some good sax work. Otherwise, this track hits the same kind of standard as
everything else on this album - it's not *bad* but it does portray what the band can sound like at the beginning
of a tour, or at a one-off gig. Nik's vocals are a case in point, being slightly off in terms of the timing and
phrasing, beside the fact that he's just not really in good voice.
Paranoia follows immediately on from MOTU, with Dave Brock picking out the edgy theme of Paranoia Part
II in the first place. This lasts for a minute or so, accompanied by crashes of symbol and bursts of white
noise before reverting to the slower build-up of Paranoia Part I, which gradually accelerates into a total
cacophony before the "duh-duh duh-duh duh-duh" theme reasserts itself, to then fade out into another passage
of Dettmarisms - which are probably the most pleasant moments on the entire CD. These merge into a
downbeat rendition of Earth Calling, one which is very similar to the version that has turned up on some
other albums, including one of the Weird CD's, but isn't a patch on the Space Ritual opener. (Which always
used to conjure up visions of fleets of starships manoeuvring into battle positions, when I was young and
Just as Earth Calling seems to have nosed its way into a blind alley, a sudden Status Quo-like burst of guitar
indicates the arrival of Silver Machine. This raises the band's game somewhat, being a bit livelier than the
Space Ritual encore version, with the guitar being higher in the mix and the electronics generally lower.
Lemmy's singing and the background vocals are a little too quiet, but everything is more or less where you
expect it to be with the possible exception of some rather lost-sounding flute from Nik Turner. This isn't
really a very flute-friendly number, though he does route it through some effects and actually starts to sound
meaningful at around 4:30, just as Silver Machine proper grinds to a halt, and Welcome To The Future takes
Again, Nik narrates over Dave Brock's plangent guitar chords, and Lemmy throws in the usual sneering
background vocals, before all hands hit the deck and the entire band blast their way chromatically up the scale
to the octave. Then there are what I suppose are the closing credits, read out by Andy Dunkley, initially with
a ton of reverb on his voice. His monologue here starts off in completely whacked-out space cadet fashion
before slowly returning to normality, with the reverb ebbing away as he does so.
So, to go back to my opening premise, if this is meant to be another slab of Space Ritual-era Hawkwind, it
doesn't really cut it, because the performance isn't up to par - for the reasons I've already mentioned. But it
isn't the worst live album of this period, and has enough decent moments to ensure that those who are serious
about their Hawkwind will need to have this in their collections. For the more casual buyer, this is one to
avoid - get 'Space Ritual Alive in Liverpool and London' instead....
Look what I've got! Pressed on an Italian label called
'Storm Live' is an apparently brand new copy of the
Space London 1972 bootleg. Normally I spurn such
things on account of the sound quality, but this title has
the reputation of having a superior mix to the official
recording of the same occasion - the BBC Radio 1 Live
In Concert CD, recorded on 14/10/72.
The track listing does not include the opening
'Countdown' sequence narrated by Andy Dunkley and
Stacia, but it's here, beginning with the words "This is
London, Earth". The main point of interest with this
CD is the sound quality, and despite my prejudicial
doubts on the matter, I think it is a marked
improvement from the BBC Radio 1 Live In Concert
release. The crowd noise that greets Dunkley's
announcement that "we have Hawkwind" has some real
immediacy to it. And then into the music proper, with
Born To Go: I had criticised this track as being dirge-like on the BBC recording, but the improved sound
quality removes this flavour altogether. I think to call it a superior mix is not quite right: what we have here is
a recording where the upper-to-mid frequencies are crystal clear, bringing Del and DikMik's Space Ritual
bleeps and whooshes out a treat. This also puts greater definition on the bass, drums, guitar, sax and maybe
even the vocals benefit too.
It has to be said that the greater clarity does nothing to improve Nik Turner's narration of The Black Corridor,
which remains, er, idiosyncratic. The succeeding number, Seven By Seven is generally enhanced by the
greater audibility of the upper register, but one peculiarity is that the vocals on the 2 verses have all but
disappeared - they are there, but now very quiet in the mix. Nik's narration of the spoken element in mid-song
is not affected by this drop-out at all (unfortunately!)
Another departure from the BBC recording is the segue between Seven By Seven and Brainstorm - here itâ
€™s a very clunky edit which drops us straight into the "is he dead / where's his head" sequence of the latter
number, thus excising at least the entire first verse and chorus. Structurally this renders the song into
something of a mess, since it now consists of the wandering mid-section jam with a last chorus tacked onto
it. But where the BBC recording dragged on this track, the impression on 'Space London 1972' is just that it's
loose. So that makes it a real shame about the editing...
Master Of The Universe is next, and this was one track that didn't suffer too badly on the BBC recording.
Consequently it has less to gain from the clearer sound on offer here, maybe pushing this rendition closer to
the actual Space Ritual version. Lemmy's bass in particular is very tightly defined and you can really hear
what Bob Calvert had in mind when he described Lemmy playing the bass "as though it was a rhythm guitar".
The actual rhythm guitar seems to have become somewhat lost in the mix, by the way. This imbalance
carries on into Paranoia, where contrary to what I heard on the BBC Radio 1 Live In Concert CD, it's now
Lemmy rather than Brock who picks out the main theme. This doesn't really make all that much difference,
but the song definitely benefits from the greater audibility on the Lemmy-dominated backing vocals, which
repeatedly intone "Higher!" in conjunction with a crash cymbal. In fact towards the closeout of this number
there's an entire layer of sculpted white noise (percussion and audio generator) that I don't recall hearing
Earth Calling is functionally no different than before, still a bit too drawn-out and aimless, but Silver Machine
exhibits some of the same characteristics seen on earlier numbers: the bass is much higher in the mix, the
guitar lower and the vocals somewhat downplayed. If anything this serves to further individualise this
particular rendition of Silver Machine, and I was surprised to hear what Lemmy was playing for a bassline -
he doesn't stick to the root note as I'd always thought. The star of the show, though, must be Simon King
whose drum parts are thrown into perfect definition by the greater treble on offer. The man's a colossus...his
work is at once crisp and full, with those awesome trips around the kit somehow managing to integrate so
seamlessly with the rest of the band that you could be forgiven for not noticing what he's up to. The CD
closes out with the uncredited Welcome To The Future, and as with Earth Calling, this is none too different in
the effect it has on the listener to what the BBC recording did.
I reckoned the "different mix" description was slightly misleading, and assume that what has happened is
something like this. The BBC recording was professionally done, and must represent a truer sonic portrait of
what the gig actually sounded like. However, by a happy accident, the recording that ended up as "Space
London 1972" is sonically distorted in a way that's pleasing to the human ear, emphasizing the treblier
frequencies, at the cost of doing odd things to the relative placement of the guitar, bass and vocals in the mix.
So overall then, is this an improvement on the "official" release? I'd say so, not that anyone (apart from me)
needs to get this if they've already got BBC Radio 1 Live In Concert. The improvements aren't *that* great as
to make this an essential purchase, but if you have the choice of which version to buy, this is one sounds
better. It is of course a bootleg, whereas the BBC recording is an official title, but as it's long been out of
print, one can assume that only 2nd-hand copies would be available to purchase.
Re: this album, thanks to Mick Crook who recalls "...a small feature I heard which Radio 1 did on this
album when it came out. It was one of a number of Live in Concert CDs by various bands which the BBC
were releasing as a series (I don't recall the other band's names). Anyway, I was listening to the radio as the
presenters were discussing and playing clips from the albums and they eventually came to the Hawkwind
CD. Now one of the presenters (again I've forgotten their names but they were quite well known at the
time) got quite excited in the build-up to the clip they played, as he said it could cause some embarrassment
to a senior BBC member of staff.
He then played the 'Countdown' intro and asked the other guy if he recognised any of the voices - he did:
that of the chap who interrupts with "the red orb is glowing". They then fell about laughing. It seems the
person who speaks these corny words was the BBC sound engineer at the gig - Chris Lycett who went on
to become a very senior BBC executive. And that was all they featured of this album - to basically take the
piss out of one of their managers!"