Fifty Albums That Will Fry Your Brain: 19: HAWKWIND - Space Ritual Alive (United Artists, 1973)
(from Mojo, March 2005)
1972 / 1973 saw a youthful Hawkwind (with recent recruit Lemmy Kilmister) set out on their most
ambitious project to date: the Space-Rock-Ritual tour. Initially intended to promote the amphetamine-spiked
metal of '72's Doremi Fasol Latido, the band's monochrome strobe lighting and edgy speed rock would give
way to an altogether more kaleidoscopic conceptual period, and super-extravagant live show... New member
Rob Calvert came up with the crazy wheeze of a Space Ritual Ballet in which live readings would link the
emergent stage show. Here Calvert's poetic excursions traced a spooky narrative concerning a band of
galactic travellers suspended in time, and the deep-fried 'space dreams' they experienced.
Special additions included Liquid Len And The Lensmen's light show - so sophisticated it required a specially
designed headphone system to aid communication during the band's ear-splitting sonic assaults. Hawkwind
brought their own warm-up DJ, and a costume designer to create that essential 'cosmic druid' look. Naked
dancer Stacia was joined by Miss Rene - whose balletic performance had once accompanied the live
performances of Quicksilver Messenger Service. Yet despite this emphasis on visuals the resulting double
album stands as a masterpiece of fuzz-driven riff-anthemica. Dave Brock's Sabbath/Stooges riffery plus
Lemmy's hard metronomic throb-bass has them occasionally sounding like labelmates Can, albeit with the
added bonus of Nik Turner's hippy sax FX-pedal honk. With former sound man Del Dettmar and on/off
member Dik Mik hunched over complicated electronics, the sound of hot-wired EMS synthesizers
Captured live in London and Liverpool, 'crowd pleasers' are thankfully included - a heavily phased Orgone
Accumulator, Nik Turner's blistering mono-riff driven Brain Storm and a kraut-rocking Master Of The
Universe. Reassuringly, the post-gig mixing was accomplished with lashings of acid. As a true document of
English eccentrics in orbit Space Ritual is best enjoyed late at night - preferably in one, extremely relaxed,
"The drugs'n'open-toilet hell of Hawkwind" - review of Carol Clerk's "The Saga of Hawkwind"
(Mojo, March 2005):
Thirty five years of the 'Wind's altered states, conflict and space rockin'
On June 21, 1985, twice-sacked founder Hawkwind member Nik Turner jumped on-stage unannounced
when his old band were playing a free festival at Westbury White Horse Hill. Turner benignly declared that
he and chief Hawk Dave Brock had decided to "bury the hatchet". "A second later," Turner recalls, "I heard
Dave behind me saying, 'In your fucking head, you c*nt'." If this sounds like your idea of good reading, this
bitter and entertaining study of hippy ideals versus the grubby, hard cash reality of keeping a band going will
not disappoint. It can sometimes seem unsophisticated, but it has more candour than Ian Abrahams' recent
Sonic Assassins and interviews just as comprehensive. Truths that emerge reveal just how traumatic
membership of Hawkwind can be (addiction, poverty, and falling into open toilet pits are an occupational
hazard) and, controversially, that Brock does not run the band as a nonprofit making co-operative.
Tangents: The Solar Myth Approach (from Wire magazine, July 2000):
The following is an excerpt from a longer piece which investigated the "recurrent manifestations of
extraterrestrial origins in the music of Sun Ra, Stockhausen, Parliament and Hawkwind."
During the early 1970s, the cosmos relocated itself to a Ladbroke Grove squat, its outer limits lying
somewhere within the confines of the Camden Roundhouse, where the electronic oscillations of Hawkwind's
audio generators plunged and rose and echoed over urgent, repeated riffs. Like Parliament, Hawkwind also
hoped to unite their followers into a single mind. Their Space Ritual, the basis of their live set in the first
years of the 70s (and documented on the 1973 LP Space Ritual), attempted to harmonise their stoned
audiences through the integrated use of mime, dancing, lights, film and chemical smoke. "The basic principle
for the starship and the Space Ritual is based on the Pythagorean concept of sound," reveals a manual given
out at their live shows of that time. "Briefly, this conceived the Universe to be an immense monochord, with
its single string stretched between absolute spirit and, at its lowest end, absolute matter. Along the string
were positioned the planets of our solar system." Presented to coincide with the release of their Doremi
Fasol Latido album, the ritual had been designed to have specific effects upon its audience. The group
members were to be positioned according to certain 'planetary seals' marked out on the stage floor to invoke
'spheres of influence', while the speakers and amplifiers, painted to represent the planets, were carefully
located to initiate specific sound patterns.
The basic theme of the event concerned the dreams or fantasies of seven space explorers who, like Clinton's
sleeping Afronauts, are in suspended animation. In contrast to Parliament's "Chocolate Milky Way",
Hawkwind inhabited a much harsher experiential universe. "Space is a remorseless, senseless, impersonal
fact," the manual affirms. "Space is the absence of time and matter." Poems by Bob Calvert and science
fantasy novelist Michael Moorcock used in the Ritual, such as "The Awakening" and "The Black Corridor",
emphasised the horrors unleashed upon the human consciousness confronted with the phenomenological
vastness of space. There would be no friendly galaxies, none of that shared sense of humanity which once
inspired the group to observe that their audiences "don't say 'me'; they shout 'us'".
Outer space was violently transformed into the isolated and terrifying loneliness of inner space, squeezed up
against the back of the skull after too many nights spent wired on bad speed. Crowley's strange Dionysian
rites had worked too well: the space/time continuum had become dislocated, the senses sharply pulled out of
focus. Calvert's lyrics for "Master Of The Universe", part of both the Space Ritual and Doremi, celebrate the
frenetic supremacy of the isolated ego, celestial mechanics apprehended entirely in the first person. In fact,
the harmonious arrangement of people and sounds to which the Space Ritual aspired was based upon a
discrepancy: as their manual points out, the relationships between each musical interval on the monochord
and the planet it designates "do not coincide with the reality of their actual positions".
Moorcock's text for "Sonic Attack" calls for all bodies to be brought to immediate orgasm in the event of
"imminent sonic destruction", while the lightshow, overlaying smoke, slides and film clips, recreates the
blurring of consensual experience projected directly into the eyeball. Even Miss Stacia's dancing couldn't
completely distract attention from the delirious jaw-grinding comedown of "Silver Machine", reputedly
written after a four-day drug binge. As Hawkwind went on to reveal, it is the business of the future to be
Review of "Space Ritual Alive" (Knave magazine, 1973):
As the title suggests, Hawkwind are heavily into things ritual. Correction: things ritual / scientific. Friendship
with best-selling sci-fi writer Michael Moorcock (who gets songwriting credits for two songs) has added
weight to their writing and maybe even his. Moorcock's classic Jerry Cornelius books have a heavy pop
influence which could be credited to Hawkwind.
No matter, that's an argument for academics. What of the music? If I may be forgiven comparisons in
order to help you judge before hearing, and emphasise the Pink Floyd parallel, Hawkwind emerge as a Floyd-
plus. Plus overdrive, maybe? They certainly speed through their particular region of space, pausing only
from time to time to deliver commentary / illumination / instructions. This is certainly not easy listening time,
by any stretch of the imagination. But if you *can* stretch your imagination, you're in for a helluva ride
across the universe.
Line-up of the band, which has been together now in its present form for about two-and-a-bit years, is Bob
Calvert (poet & swazzle), Dave Brock (guitar, vocals), Lemmy (bass, vocals), Nik Turner (sax, flute,
vocals), DikMik (audio generator, electronics), Del Dettmar (synthesizer) and Simon King (drums). Not to
forget, lest you don't know and they come your way and you are thinking maybe of seeing them, the
delectable Stacia. She's their dancer, and the owner, if unabashed male chauvinism may be excused, of the
most incredible pair of boobs since Jayne Mansfield. Cross my heart (which is more than she can, probably!)
Space Ritual is contained within a great poster / sleeve assembled by Ladbroke Grove's own Barney Bubbles,
in which I suppose you can enclose the records or stick up on that blank space on the wall. Having made up
the cigar box out of Jefferson Airplane's 'Long John Silver' sleeve and subsequently had no sleeve for that
album, this one stays wrapped around the LP. Brilliant graphics which encapsulate both the sound of the
album and the philosophy of Hawkwind.
If the word 'philosophy' immediately puts you off, don't worry. At least Hawkwind rock like hell, and as it
takes some time to absorb the lyrics, you can quite cheerfully boogie with them and discern words when you
feel like it. They've done a superb job of capturing what's made Hawkwind one of Britainâ€™s top groups.
So even if you don't see Stacia flaunting those mammaries, or the fascinasting light show which is an integral
part of the Hawkwind attraction, the essence is there. You could do much worse than fork out the special
low sum of Â£3.10p for this double set.
It would be worth your while if only for Sonic Attack. One of the Moorcock numbers, it's an instruction
manual on what to do in case of such a bombardment. "If you are making love, it is imperative to bring all
bodies to orgasm simultaneously" intones the voice. Right. It's pretty good that way anyhow, sonic attacks
Above: Southend Evening Echo, 1991 Left: 1977
Below: IIRC correctly 'Knave' was a soft porn mag
tending towards the "Reader's Wives" end of the
market, which might explain some of the comments...
1993 Review of IITBOTFTBD
Thanks to HervÃ© and AurÃ©lie for this excerpt
from a newsletter issued by Amiens Capitale (Amiens
Town Hall)...(original shown on the left for
Many were those who passed through the ranks of
Hawkwind, a band of hybrid hard rockers who
attained the limelight having succeeded in placing their
1972 single "Silver Machine" in the upper reaches of
the English Top Ten. Many more predicted their
demise, or themselves fell by the wayside, following
the multiple line-up changes, such as bassist Lemmyâ
€™s departure to form Motorhead.
Outlasting the trends of hard rock, acid, punk, thrash,
as well as grunge, Dave Brock is the only commander
of the Hawkwind mothership. Bolstered by a rhythm
section often copied but never equalled (Alan Davey
on bass and Richard Chadwick on drums) the band
stays faithful to their alchemy of hypnotic sounds
which illuminate the most sacred dreams: those of
space, the last refuge of freedom. For more than two
decades and over sixty albums, Hawkwind, operating
in the margins of the rock'n'roll business like todayâ
€™s ravers and travellers, stay true to their
psychedelic roots to initiate a voyage without a safety
belt. The programme encompasses virtual galaxies,
Palestine and Tibet, not to mention a fabulous cover of the Stones' "Gimme Shelter".
Review of the "Hawkwind: Solstice At Stonehenge 1984" VHS video (unknown date / publication):
Solstice At Stonehenge - Hawkwind ***
In 1984 Hawkwind were still at full strength: becoming slightly frazzled around the edges, but playing
tougher than in the previous decade thanks to the storm of punk which they had seen come and go. Sax
player Nik Turner was involved in the annual Stonehenge solstice festival and, having assembled a stage and
donated it to the event, assembled Hawkwind to headline the show. A camera crew were on hand and
recorded the event for posterity: just as well, as the '85 festival was raided by police and shut down
Musically, Hawkwind are solid, with the expected set highlights (Angels Of Death, Sonic Attack, Night Of
The Hawk) all in place. Turner is on his usual form (skintight body-suit, make-up etc) and Brock,
Lloyd-Langton and the rest of them are as note-perfect as they could expect to be. But it's not the tunes
which enthrall most: it's the grainy, hand-held footage of notable 'cosmic' events (the sun apparently sitting
on a pyramid-shaped tent is an example) and the festival vibe itself (signs stating 'Dope Sold Here', sleeping
hippies, acres of mud, various dubious individuals) which make Solstice at Stonehenge what it is. Watch out
for the vestal virgins on stage and Turner's 'light-saber', too.
1972 music paper clipping:
Hawkwind, who recently had a hit album with In Search Of Space, may have to disband as a direct result of
the theft of their van and equipment. The white Transit van and equipment, valued at a total of Â£10,000,
were stolen from Russell Road, Palmers Green, London this week. There is a Â£500 reward for information
leading to the recovery of the equipment, which is impossible to dispose of in its present state, as it is
elaborately painted and stencilled with the group's name.
Already, the band has had to cancel a tour of Northern Ireland trouble spots as well as a number of capacity
dates in Britain, and the only gig they can honour is the Bickershaw Festival on May 5, where they can use
the Festival's system.
It is estimated that the group has donated about Â£4,000 to charity this year. They have supported a number
of charities and political organisations, including Release, CND, and The Friends Of The Earth.
The following run of clippings all came from German language papers and magazines, and have
been translated into English by me. Unforutnately I don't have any of the publication names or
Review of "Epocheclipse - 30 Year Anthology" (unknown date & publication):
Cosmic messages in the space-time continuum seem to have been de rigeur in the post-hippy era of the early
70's. Many followed the trend, but the sole authentic practitioners were a bunch of musicians resident in a
large Victorian house in London's Ladbroke Grove: Hawkwind. Compared to the technically perfect illusions
of Pink Floyd, the surrealistic space sounds of the collective of self-confessed ex-Roadies and non-virtuosos
seemed to reflect merely the influence of cannabis- and above all LSD-fuelled intergalactic fantasy. Yet that
merely confirmed the attraction of the "Psychedelic Warlords". Following their rather fortuitous Top 5 hit
with "Silver Machine", edited down to single length from a 20-minute jam at the London Roundhouse, the
band, originally known as 'Group X', expanded their sphere of activity to encompass Europe, and even the
wider world. In the course of the next three decades they released cult albums such as In Search Of
Space, Doremi Fasol Latido, Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music, Levitation, The Chronicle Of The Black
Sword, Electric Tepee, Alien 4 and Distant Horizons. The sideburned multi-instrument Dave Brock became
the only fixture among the constantly changing membership, which over the course of the years has
included Motorhead's Lemmy Kilminster, Bowie-backing musician Simon House and the renowned British
SF / Fantasy author Michael Moorcock. Gradually these genre-busters became "Masters of the Universe" to
following generations of musician: alt-rock heroes such as Kyuss or Monster Magnet cited Hawkwind as an
influence. Their 30th anniversary is commemorated by this long overdue triple CD-set of Hawkwind's
sophisticated body of work. Epoch-Eclipse, compiled and digitally remastered by the Krautrock legend Zeus
B. Held (ex-Birth Control) revisits not only the early and middle years, but also refers to the more recent
works of the Space Rocker too.
For those on tighter budgets, there is also a more concise compilation reduced down to 19 titles, under the
title of "Epoch-Eclipse - Ultimate Best Of".
Review of "Live 79" (unknown date & publication):
Hawkwind - "Live 79" was recorded during a winter tour of England tour in the latter year. Although crowd
noise is not included in the mix, the concert atmosphere nevertheless comes across well, with all the
numbers here being presented very variedly and compactly, as Hawkwind play it heavy, yet loose. Ideally
the record should be played repeatedly, among friends, although the first hearing is best done solo. I'm
presently listening to Live 79 at least twice a day. It begins with "Shot Down In The Night", simultaneously
heavy and harmonious, as only the Scorpions can otherwise manage, followed by an impressive spacey
intro to "Motorway City", with New Wave vocals, hard rock rhythm, and synthesizer effects in between -
an insane mixture. "Spirit Of The Age" exhibits an electropop tendency, not unlike Ultravox! The second
side contains a fascinating electronics number ("Lighthouse") as well as "Brainstorm" and "Master of the
Universe" - two updated Hawkwind classics. Saving the best for last, is the band's biggest hit, the
legendary "Silver Machine" - and something unexpected happens. Put on the headphones, crank up the
amplifier and let it surprise you!
Those who would like to know how Hawkwind sounded in earlier times should draw a comparison with the
71-74 Master Of The Universe compilation. Floating on the spirit of the late sixties, this provides an exact
definition of the drug-orientated music of the day. It's certainly not everyone's thing, but for genuine
Psychedelic Freaks, highly recommended!
Review of "Hawkwind: Sonic Assassins" by Ian Abrahams (unknown date & publication):
Less of the "bug-eyed monsters from outer space", and more in the way of hard cold facts....
"Being fired from Hawkwind for taking drugs is like being pushed off the Empire State Building for liking
heights," pointed out Lemmy Kilmister, the bassist who was dismissed in 1975, in his amusing
autobiography "White Line Fever" recently. However, anyone expecting a rock'n'roll catalogue of scandals,
drug escapades and sexual indiscretions, will be disappointed. Instead the reader gets a well-researched and
balanced biography, with every episode being explored from several points of view, of one of the strangest,
most fascinating and chaotic phenomena of 1970's rock. The best thing is that the author does not shrink
from pointing out contradictions and taking positions. It doesn't matter whether the different versions of the
past of Dave Brock & Co. arise from deviant egos or from the vast quantity of hallucinogenics theyâ€™ve
Abrahams interviewed the protagonists and consulted a considerable quantity of archive material; thus he
draws an engrossing, comprehensive and yet clear picture of a band whose influence on music history is
greatly underestimated. Included are the views of luminaries such as Jello Biafra, Jarvis Cocker and Ginger
Baker, who sat in with the "Psychedelic Warlords" on percussion for a few months in the early 80's, before
departing in a far from amicable divorce...
"Hawkwind Blown Away" (unknown date & publication):
Hawkwind struck lucky in the midst of misfortune during their recent America tour. Their hotel in Nashville
was hit by a freak tornado - the strongest in 20 years. The twister, which devastated widespread areas of
the American Midwest, took the roof of their hotel right off and threatened to collapse the upper stories of
the building. At the last possible moment the members of the group saved themselves by retreating to the
storm cellar. Their equipment was not so lucky, however: the truck with the amplifiers was overturned by
the wind and their valuable electronics devices were scattered across a radius of 500 meters and totally
German music paper clipping (unknown date & publication):
The English band Hawkwind suffered an unpleasant experience at the hands of the American authorities on
their last U.S. tour. On arrival in Indiana they were arrested and taken to the County Jail. They were told
that the reason for their detention was failure to pay their income taxes despite several demands, and that
their instruments would be seized and held in safekeeping pending repayment of the tax debt. After two
days of involuntary holiday the 18-string Hawkwind crew were released, following payment of a large
amount of bail.
"The band with the Outer Space sound" (unknown date & publication):
The seven members of Hawkwind call their electronic sound "Space Music": crescendos of whistling,
gurgling, bubbling and clanging metallic noise - all made possible by the Moog Synthesizer. The band has
been in existence since 1968. And since their first appearance outside the Isle Of Wight festival (with its
audience of 400,000) in 1970, they have been the best-kept secret of lovers of experimental music, those for
whom the psychedelic sounds of the Pink Floyd are too tame.
But it is not only because of their sound that Hawkwind are an unusual group. Contrary to many other
bands, they often do not chage admission at their gigs, but instead pass the hat around for voluntary
donations! Comprising seven Englishmen, all of whom live either in the middle of London or out in the
country (none of them has a telephone), they rely for their daily bread on sales of their records (LPs: â
€œHawkwind" and "In Search Of Space", plus the single "Silver Machine"). Hawkwindâ€™s latest
improvisation served a good cause: they boys played a benefit in London's Portobello Road for "Frendz", an
underground newspaper threatened with bankruptcy.
In the autumn, Hawkwind want to come also to Germany - to a Free Concert in Essen's Gruga Hall that
should finance itself so that they can get their records released in Germany as well.
The seven musicians who, along with the Moog synthesizer, make up Hawkwind, are:-
Nik Turner (32) - A former jazz musician, he formed Hawkwind with Dave Brock in 1968. Plays alto
Bob Calvert (30) - Has been playing with the band for six months: sings, writes and composes the textual
elements. Composed the current Hawkwind hit "Silver Machine"
Simon King (21) - Youngest member of Hawkwind. Plays percussion and is an electronics specialist
Dave Brock (28) - Founder of the group and prior to 1968 played banjo in various jazz outfits
Del Dettmar (30) - A former London schoolteacher, he plays the Moog Synthesizer and other electronics
Lemmy (29) - Previously road manager for a London music agency. Hawkwind's bassist since 1971
Dik Mik (30) - The other Man Of The Moog and a specialist in transistor technology. Special trait: never
travels without a soldering iron.
"10 Things You Didn't Know About Rock Festivals" (from Craig Brown's "Way of the World"
column in the Daily Telegraph, 28/06/2005):
'The longest drum solo was by Rik Dobson of Hawkwind at Reading in 1971, during a performance of their
epic "In Search of Space". It began in the early evening of July 11 and ended shortly before lunchtime on
July 16, by which time the rest of the band were onstage in Rome. Dobson always performed with his eyes
shut "for maximum concentration". When he finally opened his eyes, he found that the festival had closed,
and that he was drumming in a fenced-off corner of the annual Berkshire County Show. The complete drum
solo is now available in a 66-CD Box Set, "The Legendary Dobson", on the Dobson Label.'
PopFrontal's review (translated from German) of the "3 Days of Love & Peace" June 2005 festival:
Many punters nevertheless preferred to take the opportunity presented by soft rockers Barclay James
Harvest's set to go in search of good food and/or cold beer, in order to strengthen themselves for the grand
sunset appearance of Hawkwind. With a totally new, driving, Space-themed show, supported by exactly the
right blend of dance, cosmic slides and fantastic sound, the headliners pulled everything into their
tranced-out spell on this summer evening. Master Hawk Dave Brock wrenched tormented breaks out of his
guitar strings, feeding them into so many different effects units as to make it an unforgettable experience.
According to the opinion of many fans this Rhineside Loreley gig was one of the band's best appearances in
their entire long history. If Hawkwind play this well on their yet-to-be-confirmed autumn tour, the fans will
be thrilled indeed...
The following is an example of a clipping that's positive in tone but nonetheless crap. I hate this sort of
review - IMHO their association with Michael Moorcock has a lot to answer for. Although that is perhaps
the point being made by the reviewer, who also tellingly wonders about the provenance of the live
Hawkwind albums that were starting to flood the market from the mid-80's onwards... (IIRC "Ridicule"
was half of the Space Ritual 2 recording made on 30/12/72 at Brixton Sundown.)
Review of "Ridicule" (****Â½) in Sounds, 4th January 1986
"And Lo," quoth Elroy ye Dragon-Slayer, "let it be written that those who be ye fans of ye Hawklords falleth
into two categories, by ye pickled balls of Cromnos. And one of these be those who find ye present outings
of ye cosmic warriors a trifle unmanly when weighed against ye olde Sonic Attack. And, by ye hideous
dragon's blood of Zoppo, the other be those who loveth all that emanateth from ye acide head assassins."
"But, O Master, by the serendipity washing line of Vroom-Vroom, is this verily an good LP?" whined Elroy's
goblin serving-wench, Nauseo.
"By the hairy shorts of Bagpuss," quoth Elroy, "it containeth ye olde live recordings of ye time of ye Space
Ritual tour: thus it produceth for one's ears 'Brainstorm', 'Master Of The Universe', 'Seven By Seven', and
other paeans to the crawling chaos that lurks beyond the stars. And this is Good. But lo, there be no
information, so I have slain half an star from its crown thereof. For this be Not Good."
"Ahhhh," whimpered Nauseo. "By ye wizened brow of ye Tibetan sages, thou art Just and Right."
And so endeth The Saga Of Elroy and Nauseo, and that of Ye Continuing Release Of Many An Hawkwind
LP which seemeth almost to be an bootleg, such is ye paucity of information thereof...