|In Search Of Space - 1973 review
|Have you ever felt the urge to visit the distant reaches of the galaxy? I don't mean in some freaked-out 2001
Pink Floyd acid trip, naw, forget that - it's no fun to take the universe that solemnly, nobody cool wants to
be the psychic mad scientist. Instead, imagine yourself Danny Dunn, Junior Space Cadet, making a run to
the teenage stars. Maybe you don't have enough imagination, but that's OK because Hawkwind supplies that
and all the visual aids you need. Inside this bizarre interlocking cover with pictures of strange figures in
control rooms throbbing with unearthly lights comes a little booklet (it came in my copy anyway - they do
sometimes deprive you peasants out there in Retail Land of these goodies) called "The Hawkwind Log."
(Every cadet worth his rocket insignia knows a starship must carry a log.) Inside are all kinds of nifty pix of
star clusters and a lot of random quotes from scientific pamphlets. Also a generous serving of hogwash
about chakras and mantras and plenty of mystical pieties, but you see the captain of the Starship Hawkwind
is a crypto-Buddhist, chasing the Tao through space like Ahab's whale.
You can even sneak into the captain's cabin and read the log while you listen to the record, if you find that
helps. You shouldn't need much help though, with songs like "Master of the Universe," which combines the
swirling electronic gibberish sound effects of every 1957 science fiction flick from War of the Doom
Zombies to Journey to the Center of Uranus with a melodramatic voice intoning "I am Master of the
Universe". Go on, don't be ashamed to say it, every cadet does on his first trip out. Being in space does sort
of give you that feeling anyway, especially if you've got one of these new modem souped-up jobs that can
whisk you from here to Betelgeuse before you can say, "Warp factor eight, Mr. Sulu."
But you should've realized you'd get caught reading the captain's log, and now you must sit still for one, of
the old coot's tiresome lectures, this one titled "We Took the Wrong Step Years Ago". Man, you think if
only those stupid hippies back in the 20th century hadn't loaded the ancient teachings down with all this
moralistic self-righteousness, and if only Captain Kilo hadn't been raised in one of the last psychebiotic
communes, I wouldn't have to listen to this dreck today! But then, youth is always impatient with the foibles
of the elderly. Just remember, all things must pass.
Luckily for you the sermon is cut short by a red alert - a real outer space rock 'n' roll emergency! Freddie
the Friendly Computer is desperately trying to explain his malfunction as circuits overheat into the danger
zone and his voice starts going faster and faster until it peaks off the deep end, pleading frantically, "adjust
me, adjust me!!" There are tense minutes ahead as the crew work swiftly and bravely to repair the damage
and you revel in the excitement of it all, power chords and churning guitars in your head along with the
ever-present synthesizer noise.
But the day is saved of course and you spend the rest of the voyage perched before the big screen on the
Bridge, daydreaming the light years away with fantasies of bold explorations and heroic achievements in
quadrants where no man has gone before. And like every kid, your head is also full of rock 'n' roll, for the
most part (since after all you're concentrating on other things) those same repetitive chords and distant
muffled drums that have been identified with deep space ever since Pink Floyd first recorded them way
back sometime in the last century on a song called "Interstellar Overdrive". Nobody's captured the romantic
aspects of space travel any better in all the years since then, and besides the music does go awfully well
with that cauldron of synthesizer stuff every starstruck junior cadet likes to pour into his head.
Side two (labeled side one but they mixed 'em up somehow) of the Hawkwind album provides 23 minutes
of this, and if that's enough for you (or so the old spacehand's saying goes) you're probably too much of a
dreamer to ever make it through the Space Academy.
Final note to the weary record buyer: this album is exactly the same as their first one except that it didn't
have as many sound effects. Both provide good energetic background music. The new one is better if
you're getting into the Psychedelic Nostalgia movement, however - it even comes with a big beautiful art
nouveau poster (copied from one of Mouse's 1967 Avalon jobs, I think) that says - get this - "Love &
Peace" These guys don't miss a trick.
|Above - the inner of the original fold-out sleeve, designed by Barney Bubbles (whose mugshot
is shown to the left of Nik Turner)
|This review by Greg Shaw was written in 1973 and used to be out there on the internet. I had
a link to it. But as it vanished, I've rescued the content from obscurity...
Sticking with the theme of contemporary reviews penned by American rock journalists, here is the verdict
of the splendid Mr. Lester Bangs, published in the 22/6/73 issue of Rolling Stone, on the very same album:
It all started with Pink Floyd ... No! It hardly started with Pink Floyd, though it may have started with Jules
Verne or Cyrano de Bergerac. Musically, the rock & roll edition of the extraterrestrial impulse probably
began somewhere long about Chuck Berry's "Our Little Rendezvous": "We'll build a spaceship / with a heavy
payload / and we'll go beep! beep! beep! way out in the wide open blue!"
But that was only the Fifties when the rocket roll was just beginning, fertilized cross-idiomatically by the
movies, which were grinding out such certified brain-busts as Forbidden Planet, Destination Moon, The
Angry Red Planet, etc. etc. etc.. With the coming of the Sixties the real age of the Starship commenced in
rock & roll. Pink Floyd were first to couple it with the new sonic zoom technolorock, of course, but such
hardy perennials as the MC5 ("Starship"), Black Sabbath ("Into the Void") and Deep Purple ("Space
Truckin") wasted no time in jumping on board. And, lest we forget, Wild Man Fisher himself honoured the
genre with an entry called "Rocket Rock," whose singular lyrics ("The sun rocks / The moon rocks /
Everybody's doin' the rocket"
There were also the broadsides of Paul Kantner, who tended to come off in his mellower moments like Bing
Crosby: "Have you seen the stars tonight? / Would you like to go up on A deck and look at them with me?"
Well, Sun Ra was into this stuff when some of these wimpoids were still wettin' their knickers, but Sun Ra
at his best was no match for Pink Floyd at their best, because Sun Ra had too many notes, always too many
notes just like a lot of these jazz cats, whereas Pink Floyd only had about three. At their best, that is; later
they wandered off down the garden path, with symphony orchestras and such, becoming altogether too
prolix and a lot less nifty than in the days when they were writing songs with titles like "Set The Controls
For The Heart of the Sun."
And Pink Floyd still take the sweepstakes in the rock race for space, but hold onto yer Buck Rogers
beanies, kinder, because Hawkwind are coming up fast. If Pink Floyd were setting the controls for the heart
of the sun, Hawkwind have the consummate sense of the present decadent state of astropolitics to stick to
their rayguns in maintaining that "We Took the Wrong Step Years Ago."
This is music for the astral apocalypse, and even if it does contain 'Master of the Universe," their sound as
well as their message is much closer to Pink Floyd than Black Sabbath, with a little bit of Sun Ra thrown in
even, as in "You Shouldn't Do That" with its sonic squiggles that I am not at all sure are alto sax rather than
audio generator or synthesizer.
Meaning to say that what this album, friends, is Psychedelic from the cover to the fadeout of the last
groove. The music itself mostly sounds pretty much the same: monotone jammings with hypnotic rhythms
and solos, unravelling off into... well, space. The synthesizers warble, woof and scream and gurgle like
barfing computers, the drums pound, and the singers chant Unknown Tongue rebops reminiscent of such
blasts from the past, present and future as the first Mothers album, Hapsash and the Coloured Coat featuring
the Human Host and the Heavy Metal Kids, and Germany's great psyche-overload band Amon Duul II. of
Yeti and Dance of the Lemmings fame. As well as the Stones' "Sing This All Together (See What
Happens)," which may be at least as much a source point as Pink Floyd.
If you're glad that most of that stuff is part of the past now, you'll probably think this album is a pile of
dogshit. If, on the other hand, you remember the absolute glee of filling your skull with all those squawks
and shrieks and backwards-tapes and telegraphic open-tuned bridges between indescribable inner worlds
conjured best neither by this music nor psyche-deliteful elixirs but rather by a fortuitous combination of the
two - if that was one of your favourite eras in the decline of Western Civilization, then you'd better glom
onto this album, which features not only the previously described musical treks but the most beautiful
packaging I have seen in some time and an elaborate 24 page booklet called "The Hawkwind Log," enclosed
to give you something to read while blowing out a few more chromosomes and chock full of prose, poetry,
robots, DNA molecules, marijuana, novas, Stonehenge, 2001, gurus, phallic rocketships and tits'n'ass,
which may not be rock 'n' roll. but certainly beats "Fire'n'Rain."
- Lester Bangs