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I suppose you want it in English, eh? Well, I'll do my best...
Johnny Rotten, Brian Eno, Peter Hook, Pete Shelley and Add N to X: all of them nowadays admit their debt to
Hawkwind, the surreal English psychedelic collective of bikers, dealers, street musicians, poets and science
fiction writers grouped together around a concept as delightful as it was illegal: to trip out the fans.
From 1971 to 1975 Hawkwind were *the* counterculture band. A cell of madness whose members were
defining an ideal of underground rock'n'roll crossed with techno undertones, served up in singularly lysergic
packages, all conceived by the same graphic designer: the genial Barney Bubbles who would become the punk
graphic artist of Stiff Records, before committing suicide in 1983. Their first producer, Pretty Thing Dick
Taylor, would recognize this monomaniacal aspect of the Hawklords' music: where normal bands would play
three riffs, they, unabashed, would deploy just one. With the drums mixed high, the jerking bass of Lemmy
Kilmister (future Motorhead founder), a naked dancer with heavy breasts (Stacia) and various techno
bric-a-brac (stammering Moog and stuttering synths), nothing predisposed this music to stand the test of
time. But Hawkwind were not so much a group as a style. As with the Pink Fairies, Stackwaddy or Man,
they were an anarchist cell, producing a chaotic music reflecting the unknowable preoccupations of totally
obsessed musicians. Words like henna, community, aliens, speed, and flea markets convey something of
their spirit to the reader...
The opening of "...Latido" is placed on a futuristic platform - a stripped-down fuzzed guitar riff courtesy of
the brave Baron Brock announces take-off, and the old vessel erupts in the direction of space. The sleeve
notes are definitive: in this "terrible age of the machine logic god" it was "Time We Left...this world today".
Ever since their formation in 1969, Hawkwind had been attempting this journey, but it was the arrival of
Lemmy that launched the Notting Hill band into the skies: his bass, careening like a Harley chopper, at last
gave the dozy collective a dash of pure rock'n'roll and the delirium could begin.
For seven minutes of "Brainstorm", the group free-falls, stoned or trepanned, on an ancient spaceship haunted
by the frozen ghost of Brian Jones... Yes, we are well and truly 2000 light-years from home, and our
astronauts will have the greatest difficulty in remaining unharmed by this ghostly encounter, in the context of
a stereo duel between the guitar and synthesizers, mediated by the elements. The entire rest of the album is a
worthy SF anthology of first generation Heavy Metal: sargassos of space, nebulous monsters from Alpha
Centauri, Black Holes, Viking planets and finally an enigmatic personage, "The Watcher": a cosmic Sphinx
born of the infinite night, a giant Anubis watching the passing of the Star Wolves with its empty eyes.
While still an impoverished collective, the Hawkwinders cut themselves a roguish reputation by participating
in all the far-flung gatherings of the era: Glastonbury, the "FÃªte de Rouge" at the Bastille, the Greasy
Truckers Party, and all the chaotic festivals and gatherings of the smashed, the hairy and the psychotic. As
befitted the times, Hawkwind put their anarchistic ideas into practice. On the occasion of a free party for
disadvantaged kids in Ladbroke Grove, the crowd was such that the group installed half of its sound system
into a small room backing onto an adjacent car park, so that a thousand freaks could follow the total trip,
complete with the visual projections of Liquid Len.
Meanwhile, at Olympic Studios where the album was recorded, Simon King, a superb drummer who learned
his trade with Opal Butterfly, maintained the pressure with his crisp and vigorous attack, and his
comprehensive rolls around the kit, kindling unique crescendoes. Two aficionados of synthesized sounds
took turns behind the machines: Dik Mik and Del Dettmar were close musical relatives of the Germans Amon
Duul, joyfully experimenting and surpassing the Floyd and Can in the nascent wider futuristic movement.
Michael Moorcock (author of "Elric of MelnibonÃ©" and master of heroic fantasy) was polishing
monologues that the poet Robert Calvert would soon declaim on stage, giving birth to the famous Space
Ritual. But if some extraordinary guardian spirit hovered over the band, it could well have been that of Jimi
Hendrix. Lemmy had been his faithful roadie, and if Baron Brock, with his folk background, could hardly be
accused of virtuosity, he knew how to open the doors of acid wah-wah delirium, delivering by means of a
monolithic series of punk riffs a brilliant approximation of the Cherokee colossus.
At this point, the striking solo on "Lord Of Light" indicates a turning point, a return to the confines of the
pivotal Hendrixian blues: sonic confusion, a rock'n'roll trash attack and scads of dirty feedback. Inspired by
the texts of Willem Reich and William Burroughs, Lemmy thrummed the strings of his Rickenbacker,
transforming his instrument into an orgone accumulator. "We were a band of drugged-up nutters, a circus of
maniacs criss-crossing the world, our sole ambition was to make people's brains and sphincters explode ",
recalled the bassist, who was shamefully sacked from the band during a Canadian tour. Thanks to Baron
Brock, who had made his debut in the role of carefree hippy, and earned a fairly decent living playing his
12-string along the Portobello Road, the group innovated and invented the techno-folk ballad ("Down
Through The Night"). In the enormous nine-minute epic opus, "Time We Left The World Today", Lemmy
plays a bass solo that defines the existence of the listeners. Holding down an infernal groove, the biker with
his jaws clamped by cheap speed prefigures Motorhead with a series of descending minor notes, literally
drilling sardonic rock'n'roll holes into the broad fabric of this spacey number.
The Hawkwind madness also generated a cosmic single, "Silver Machine" (sung by Lemmy) that would attain
the number three spot in the charts. After which came the sadly obvious decline: the double live album
("Space Ritual"), the banned single ("Urban Guerilla"), the first slanging matches, the departures of Lemmy
and Stacia, seventeen personnel changes in a decade. To this day, Hawkwind continues to tour, based
around the indefatigable Dave Brock: but the Hawklords will return...
"And the dark forces shall be scourged, the cities razed and made into parks. Peace shall come to everyone.
For is it not written that the sword is key to heaven and hell?" We still wait...
|Thanks to Hervé Chevalier, who provided this article from the July 2002 issue of the French music mag
"Rock & Folk". Each month they write about "the albums that one must have at home", and this time it
was the turn of Hawkwind's third album.