How often have venerable space warriors Hawkwind appeared on this site, I wonder? (Answer: none). From this distance it feels that they, if not inventing the whole genre, have certainly run with the idea of "spacerock" longer than most, celebrating, this year, 46 years on the road. OK, so Pink Floyd have dabbled with this, and the Grateful Dead likewise, but I am sure no other group has dedicated themselves to such dystopian visions with such dysfunctional relish, blending early bleep and booster electronica, with swords and sorcerers sci-fi, Always seemingly on the edges of society, embracing and being embraced by any counter-culture available, moving seamlessly from free-festival hippy culture of the 60s to the rave culture traveller scene of the 90s, their history a maelstrom of departing and returning members, drugs and mental illness, underpinned by the sturdy dictatorship of Dave Brock, sole man standing since their inception in 1969. For a more detailed idea of their chaotic journey look here. It's as their possibly most famous ex-member, Lemmy, sacked, ironically for his drug-usage, put it: "It was like Star Trek, but with long hair. And drugs."
The song "Welcome to the Future" is little more than a spoken introductory piece to "Space Ritual", a multi-media cavalcade of very loud and very heavy rhythmic rock, primitive electronica, lightshows, mime and dance, released in a live format in 1973, after being paraded around the world in the years ahead of that. (Little known fact, Hawkwind were the first UK band to headline a tour in the US, rather than as a support act to homegrown product. They lost money, but it was still the first.) This was largely funded by the UK single success of "Silver Machine", a studio cleaned up "live" performance of a concert favourite, with new vocals over-dubbed by the soon to go Lemmy. I recall this with joy, it being, and the concert footage that went with it on U.K. chartshow Top of the Pops, a delight to my teenaged ears, the dirtiest, greasiest noise I had ever seen or heard.
Exposure to that wholly unholy din (and statuesque dancer, Stacia) sent me to their back catalogue, and I hoovered up, over the next few years, their earlier output.These first few recordings, even the hesitant nearer psychedelia of the first, I think stand up well, and the resonance between what passed for driving rock back then and what would later emerge as techno is striking, and the influence undeniable. Check this recent automobile advert out!
I confess that I eventually lapsed, the procession of rotating door ne'er do wells, including Arthur Brown (Fire) and, bizarrely, Ginger Baker and an over-reliance on spoken word liturgies eventually alienating me, not least as my precocious tastes fled to country and folk pastures. Also I had read some Michael Moorcock, a sci-fi writer with whom they had become involved, and didn't like the books, deciding I didn't like the band any more either. Such was my fickle nature. But that didn't stop them, and the ramshackle circus is till doing the rounds, sometimes with different variations of the name: Hawkestra, Hawwkwind Light Orchestra, and sometimes even rival versions playing much the same: xHawkwind.com, formed by sacked saxist Nik Turner with other ex-members, until sued into changing their name to, no doubt all irony intended, Space Ritual. However, I am beginning to wonder what the live experience may now be like. I did see them once, in 1975, at The Reading Festival, sadly being then as out of it as their reputations for the same might suggest, so, who knows, maybe next years annual shindig, Hawkeaster, may find me back amongst the faithful in front of high priest Dave Brock (age 74), to see who he has with him now.