|Hawkwind - Vaisseau de L'espace
Another homegrown translation of a non-English press article..."Vaisseau de L'espace" means "Vessel of
Space", or "Spaceship" if you like (...as opposed to "Renault Espace"). This appeared in issue 10 of Rock
en Stock, a French-language glossy magazine, back in 1978
|Above: Lemmy on the moon, Nik on another planet entirely
To believe in fate; to ask questions of oneself; Space; and Originality - these are taboo subjects. But not
to Hawkwind, whose engines consequently continue to run. And now that the Hawk has landed, it is
perhaps time for an overview from 1969 down to our merry days of 1978.
From the Hawkwind Log: "To look into space is to ask a lot of yourself."
Hawkwind - LBS 83348
1970. The assault was launched on the Isle of Wight, when there appeared on the scene a band with a
philosophy of helping you have the ultimate psychedelic experience (a revealing of the spirit) without
drugs. Flying in the face of the prevailing ethos, this dark, mystical and titleless album, speaks only to the
cognoscenti. Between the insistent cries of "Paranoia" and the whispers and smothered glissando of
"Seeing It As You Really Are", you are always in the center of the music.
"Have no fear of the music, through it you see only yourself".
The sound is rough, direct, but already comprises elements of the future Hawkwind: peals of sax from
Nik Turner, launch-pads of bass. The whole thing is an album of steel, where the vocals yield to the
tangle of the instrumentation, until the calmer "Mirror of Illusion", which completes the flight of the
In Search Of Space - UA6 29202
1971. We have take-off: while Led Zep swept all before them, an opening diminuendo of synth descended
from the vault of the skies and reached the senses of the few people who were already looking in that
direction. Wizard Del Dettmar (a new arrival) unchained his ebbing and flowing synths (without
indulging in the complexity of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra). Another new face was Dave
Anderson, bass player on Amon Duul II's "Yeti". And the move into space was underway, the
Hawkwind sound was born.
The songs do not follow the usual structure of rock'n'roll (rhythm + keyboard harmonies, onto which is
grafted a solo, usually on guitar). After the introduction and an initial vocal passage, the instruments
detach themselves one by one to enmesh their solos into a collective fury, until the return of the vocals.
This is on "You Shouldn't Do That" and the first composition by Dave Brock (guitar) and Turner (sax),
"Master Of The 'Universe", the band's anthem, where God and the universe indulge in a contest of
madness. Then there are the cosmic ballads (saturated with 12-string and electric guitars) which predict
the fall of our world and the birth of a new race (of love, laughter, song and dance): "Children Of The
Sun", and "We Took The Wrong Step Years Ago".
The Saga Of Doremi Fasol Latido - UAG 29 364
1972. In Great Britain this album really established the band, following on from the Greasy Truckers
charity gig. The quest for outer space is established in a saga of great expanse. Dave Anderson and Terry
Ollis (the drummer with the light touch) had left, and among the new ranks of the Lords Of The Hawk
were Simon King, a drummer of mind-boggling speed, and Ian Kilmister, better-known as Lemmy The
Lurch, bass player, whom I won't describe further: all *that* became clear only in the months which
followed. The sound of Doremi is rough and extremely powerful. "In Search Of Space" had a dream-like
quality, but "Doremi" is a very hard album. Brock's compositional skills are more than proven and the
songs here would become part of the legend of the band: "Lord of Light", "Space Is Deep", and "Down
Through The Night".
The first version of "Time We Left", possesses one of *those* instances; one of the band's best
numbers, there is a truly elevated moment where the guitar is fixed on a very acute note, almost
hysterical, where Lemmy moves through three dimensions with the bass, while the synth is at the limit of
hearing. I defy you to find anything like that elsewhere; and to end each side, two superb soundscapes:
"One Change" (synth) and "The Watcher" (acoustic guitar and bass only) where the cracked voice of
Count Motorhead rails "We are very nearly no longer human; tell me, what remains for you to do now,
this is the end now." (Huh?!) This is also the end of "Doremi", the saga of the Hawklords, a voyage
between the stars to refresh our minds with a little of the cosmic wind and to make us forget our
mundane day-to-day doings for a little while.
Space Ritual - UAG600378
1973. Well, if you do not know Hawkwind, I am not going to enlighten you about this, you'll have to run
out and buy it! Space Ritual is a double live album that is a ceremony where the music does not stop
from the opening of "Earth Calling" until the final take-off of "Welcome To The Future". On side 3,
Orgone Accumulator, Upside Down, 10 Second Of Forever and Brainstorm, are four pure marvels. The
title translates as "Rituel de L'espace." This is fabulous.
Hall Of The Mountain Grill - UAG 29672
1974. After the achievement that was Space Ritual (as excellent from the point of view of its
compositions, as it was for the playing) how could these incorrigible stars top that? Simple: by inviting
on board a second electronics wizard, in the form of Simon House (synth, mellotron, vocals, violin). The
influence of both synthesists (Del Dettmar and House), results in a more refined album from the band,
with constant interchanges between the sweeps of House's mellotron and the electronic storms from Del.
The zenith of this union resides in short pieces: the misty "Wind of Change" where the breath of the wind
sublimes in multiple harmonies, and "Hall of the Mountain Grill" where House's piano arpeggios are
submerged by waves of sax and synth. More than a transitional album, "Hall of the Mountain Grill" is the
happy synthesis of two styles, where the two Hawkwind sounds do battle and coil themselves around
each other from number to number.
Warrior On The Edge Of Time -UAG 29766
1975. The departure of Del Dettmar reveals the 2nd Hawkwind sound, a continuation of deep and
powerful soundscapes of synth and vocals. A majestic album, lyrically full of disappointed and ridiculed
characters. On "The Golden Void" the light-show projects a tree gradually surrounded by carcinogenic
buildings, and when the vocals come in, on the deep plaintive honk of the sax, the tree pushes back and
destroys these incoherent cities, to breathe a last time and then to die. Songs containing synth, drumming
and vocals reveal warriors engaging in endless combat without a goal, and the Eternal Champion hesitates
between two inseparable truths. The structure of these pieces is more rock'n'roll, the band is strong and
imposing, but the tone is more despairing. The album finishes with a speedy rock'n'roll free-for-all that
presages the future direction of the band.
Roadhawks - UAK 29919
1976. A compilation of the hits (previously available only on 45) for the first time. Urban Guerrilla,
powerful city rock and rather lethal (you'd guess this on hearing it) and Silver Machine, which the
Mothership offered up for the rare chance to hear it again. And another, really well balanced version of
"You Shouldn't Do That", with a live ambience and some opening Wah-Wah insanity.
Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music - 9103-112
1976. For fans of the Spacecraft, this was a setback. We are back on terra firma. Lemmy took
advantage of this to go off and (a little later) found "Motorhead", a powerful hard rock band like no
other. But on listening to this album, the spine-tingling, cosmic synths have put been put on ice. The
rhythm has become more conventional despite the presence of Alan Powell (the band's second drummer,
from "Warrior" onwards). The surprise is that we have returned to Earth. The violin solos of House and
Turner's sax give a calm depth to the band. In some places this band gives the impression that each
member (there were 6 composers among the 7 musicians) is performing their own style of music, but
without daring to wreck the unity of the whole. This creates rifts and padding where the different ideas
of individual band members intersect. One does find some interesting successes, in particular on House's
"City Of Lagoons". But nobody dares explode any more. The sound is basically different from that of
Warrior - the majesty has been diluted into a watery fog: the Hawk, with folded wings, skulks in the
marshes. While the moist climate does keep things fresh, visibility is reduced and the next installment of
the story is awaited...
Masters Of The Universe - UAG 30025
1977. A compilation covering the period from "In Search of Space" through "Hall of the Mountain Grill".
Two good things: "It's So Easy" a flying piece with soaring vocals comes out on 33 rpm, and the album
has a superb cover. Looking at it, you sink into misty evenings and the back looks positively freezing!
Quark, Strangeness And Charm - CDS 4008
1977. Leaving the marshes behind, Hawkwind returns to the cities, not without having en route cast aside
Paul Rudolph (bass), Alan Powell (drums) and Nik Turner. The electric glissando and the tempests of
synth make a comeback with the Calvert-Brock-House trio creating songs of highly varied structure:
Arabic pop on "Hassan-i-Sahba", one of the purest and more attractive pieces. There is also a splendid
ballad in the vein of "Down Though The Night" with "Fable Of A Failed Race".
You still can hear, in The Forge Of Vulcan, House's mellotrons and synths: potent and rhythmic. Then
the band turns to some very rock'n'roll roots for the others numbers, where the original power of the
group is missing and the take-offs are pretty painful. The vocals are rock'n'roll and the styles of singing
seem to borrow from Lou Reed on "Spirit of the Age" and from Bowie on "Quark, Strangeness and
The concluding cut of this record, "Days of the Underground", explains at great length the mentality of
the revolution: "We made quite a stir then, with our 'Sonic Attack'... Hey man, I believe that we've
drowned in the Days of the Underground!"