Whether a band is dubbed mainstream or not totally depends on how much music one is exposed to. Hawkwind, by most measures, wouldn’t be considered anything mainstream though. Formed in the late 1960s, Hawkwind’s music is often labeled as psychedelic, progressive or space rock; what this tells us is that the music is unusual, challenging and the songs are long in duration. The band was formed by singer-songwriter-guitarist Dave Brock, and the classic lineup of the band included Nik Turner on flute and sax and poet Robert Calvert; other famous members of the band include bassist Lemmy (whose metal band Motorhead took its name from a Hawkwind song) and acclaimed science fiction writer Michael Moorcock (whose novels I really dig). If you like Pink Floyd, progressive metal bands like Opeth or shoegazing bands, you really ought to give Hawkwind a try!
I bought my first Hawkwind CD over a decade ago – this was the compilation called Anthology 1967-1982 and while the music was patchy, the sound quality dubious on many tracks, I did fell in love with their music. Once I started to explore the band’s discography, many problems arose: their key studio albums aren’t easy to find (at least over here they aren’t) and Hawkwind have a very messy list of sub-standard compilations across a large number of record labels. Having said that, even on some of the cheap compilations discs, I normally do manage to find a few solid tracks to like.
Of the Hawkwind albums that are readily available, I would recommend Space Ritual – re-issued a couple of years ago in a double CD Collector’s Edition – as the must-own album. Space Ritual is a live album recorded in 1972 and it captures the band in all its glory. According to the Wikipedia entry, the Q & Mojo Classic Special Edition Pink Floyd & The Story of Prog Rock, the album came #8 in its list of “40 Cosmic Rock Albums”. Back when it was released, the music was advertised as “88 minutes of brain damage” – these days we are accustomed to some very loud music, so I would hardly call it brain damaging, although the music does retain a large amount of its aggression. The defining mark of Space Ritual are the extended tracks Lord of Light, Space is Deep, Orgone Accumulator Brainstorm, Sonic Attack and a truly excellent Master of the Universe. The riffs are uniformly excellent, punctuated by energetic busts of sax – this jam based music sounds very loose and free-form compared to contemporary music. I always get a kick listening to these tracks! The Collector’s Edition includes 11 bonus cuts, DVD concert footage, and three music videos – all of them worthwhile in my opinion. Space Ritual features Lemmy on bass and vocals. [review of Space Ritual @ All Music Guide]
A few months ago, I found an excellent BBC4 documentary on Hawkwind on YouTube. It is exceptionally informative, detailing the rivalry between the band members and contains excellent archival and live footage of the band. I learned from this documentary that Stacia, a 6 ft 2 inches tall with a 52 inch bust according to Lemmy, used to be featured as an exotic dancer during Hawkwind’s live shows! She is the naked chick in the image at the top of this post.