|Buried Treasure - the great albums that time forgot
Infinity and beyond!!
This article is from the July 1999 issue of Mojo...
Hawkwind: Space Ritual Alive (UNITED ARTISTS UAD 60037/8)
In space no-one can hear your mind blow.
Tracks: Earth Calling / Born To Go / Down Through The Night / The Awakening / Lord Of
Light / Black Corridor / Space Is Deep / Electronic No. 1 / Orgone Accumulator/ Upside
Down / 10 Seconds Of Forever / Brainstorm / 7 By 7 / Sonic Attack / Time We Left This
World Today / Master Of The Universe /Welcome To The Future
Currently available: Released on digipack CD in April 1996 (EMI Premier 7243 8 35487 2
9) as Space Ritual with three bonus tracks: You Shouldn't Do That, Master Of The
Universe, Born To Go
Singles extracted: Sonic Attack (promo only)
Producer: self-produced; engineered by Vic Maile at Olympic Studios
Recorded: live at Liverpool Stadium, December 22, 1972 and Brixton, December 30, 1972
Released: May 1973
Chart Peak: Number 9
'Musicnauts': Bob Calvert (poet, swazzle), Dave Brock (guitar, vocals), Lemmy (bass,
vocals), Nik Turner (sax, flute, vocals), DikMik (audio generator, electronics), Del
Dettmar (synthesizer), Simon King (drums)
When Rock emerged all grown up at the Start of the '70s, psychedelia was dismissed as an embarrassing
fad, a hopelessly misguided project hijacked by enthusiastic, acid-quaffing amateurs. But no-one seemed to
have told Hawkwind, a bunch of commune-dwelling crazies from Ladbroke Grove whose battered van was
as familiar to free festival-goers as overflowing latrines, knobheads shouting "Wally!" and a dose of the clap.
Critics dismissed the band as the runt of the hippy litter, and compared their work unfavourably to the
sophisticated lunar sounds of Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon.
How wrong they were! Hawkwind's Space Ritual, a sprawling, in-concert double affair clad in a gloriously
OTT fold-out sleeve, provides the missing link between psychedelia and punk rock, and was indeed fuelled
by a salad of acid and amphetamines. Its blend of comic-book sci-fi fantasies and musical values that
sounded positively prehistoric in 1973 was lapped up by a subterranean audience of speeding bikers and
space cadets, heavy metal kids and errant schoolboys. More than 25 years later, its trance-rock throb and
woozy analogue noodlings remain in remarkably rude health.
According to Dave Brock, chief songwriter and Hawkwind mainstay, the criticism never bothered the band:
"Michael Moorcock once described us as Space Barbarians and that's how we always regarded ourselves. It
was hypnotic music. Everybody used to say, 'There go Hawkwind doing their usual boring three-chord
jams,' but that style is now reflected in the dance movement. A lot of the German bands, like Neu and
Kraftwerk, worked on the same lines - elongated soundscapes created using electronics and basic rhythms."
Hawkwind's space-fix tentatively revealed itself on their eponymous 1970 debut, before hitting overdrive on
In Search Of Space (1971) and Doremi Fasol Latido (1972). Summer '72 saw the group score an unlikely
UK Top 3 single with Silver Machine, a boogie space odyssey featuring the hitherto untapped vocal talents of
bassist Lemmy. Suitably encouraged, Hawkwind devised a new show, The Space Ritual, which toured the
UK that winter.
"The show was based on a loose storyline by Bob Calvert about a trip into space," Brock recalls. "The
original idea was for a Space Ritual Ballet utilising our wonderful light show and dancers. Bob and Michael
Moorcock would narrate and recite poetry. But the cost would have been huge, so it got scaled down pretty
quickly." No expense was spared for the sleeve of the resulting Space Ritual live album, though, a
multi-gatefolded affair designed by Barney Bubbles. "He had a fantastic style that really suited the band," says
Brock, "blending Beardsley-like art nouveau with all those lovely rich colours he used on acid."
If the concept and packaging was typical of the era's grandiose style, Hawkwind's sound, given free rein in
front of invariably stoned audiences, remained rooted in primeval rock'n'roll. Dave Brock's riffs clearly flew
economy class, as evidenced on chug-a-lug anthems like Born To Go, Orgone Accumulator, Brainstorm and
Time We Left This World Today. One track, 7 By 7, even anticipated grunge's soft/hard dichotomy, if
hardly in the accelerated fashion of Nirvana. Another effective weapon was the mighty Lemmy, whose
ebullient and surprisingly melodic bass-playing merits a 'Macca or Jack Bruce of the Amphetamine Age'
commendation. "Lemmy was a wonderful bass player and had a lot of influence on the band at that time,"
Dave Brock insists.
Behind this razor-sharp front line was a trio of weird-beards - saxist Nik Turner, who honked through a
number of effects-pedals, synth player Del Dettmara nd, hidden behind an array of customised electronic
gadgetry, DikMik. Occasionally, their cosmic slop came into its own, painting suitably celestial backdrops to
the spoken-word ramblings of dear, departed Bob Calvert, whose "robotic toff" delivery surely merits a "File
Under Comedy" warning. 10 Seconds Of Forever, a sort of surrealist-in-space take on The Twelve Days Of
Christmas, is particularly entertaining.
Brock, who invariably regards Space Ritual as "one of many" peaks in Hawkwind's 30-year career, admits
that drugs played a key role in the band's early '70s sonic adventures: "We always took LSD when we went
in to mix our records; 'the Acid Test' we used to call it. The engineers were always wary of touching
anything in case it had been spiked."
But drugs weren't the only distraction on offer during the Space Ritual era. Take Stacia, the bond's infamous
dancer: "She was six foot, a very beautiful girl with a fantastic figure, and she used to take all her clothes
off," Brock recalls. The band's "Amazon princess", Stacia was the inspiration for the gratuitous nude on the
Aside from the Krautrock contingent, only Gong and Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come came close to
Hawkwind's orbit, though both were tailored towards more esoteric tastes. In fusing heavy metal power
chords with acid-rock abandon, it was Hawkwind who became the prog era's most successful misfits, with
Space Ritual their definitive statement. Yet the album has been overlooked for years, despite the fact that
you'll find a perfect template for punk rock in the staccato rhythms of Upside Down, not to mention those
expansive, trance-inducing jams that paved the way for Loop, Spacemen 3 and the entire 'shoegazing'
fraternity in the late '80s, and innumerable indie analogue enthusiasts ever since.
Hawkwind's moment soon passed. "Our next single, Urban Guerilla, was pulled because of the IRA
bombings," says Brock. "Then Nik sacked Lemmy; that was the worst thing. There was a lot of antagonism,
egos being pandered to, personal roadies. In the early '70s, we were just a bunch of freaks having a fine old
time. But things always change when there's money around."