Waiting in the valley of all creation…

Sometimes the fates align and everything is as good as it should be. For a couple of weeks I have been looking at this record, trying to decide whether or not to buy it. Deep down I knew that it was going to happen but well occasionally I make good decisions.

Then in the midst of a week of listening to nothing but Biograph by Bob Dylan it struck me that there needed to be balance. Yes it is good to challenge yourself with meaningful lyrics, dense vocabulary and protest, and sometimes it is just time to get out of it with one of the most intense space rock outfits ever.

So I finally acquired Live 1982 by Hawkwind from the Choose Your Masque’s tour.

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This was the tour I saw Hawkwind nine times in about two weeks. Nik Turner was back in the fold farting his unique brand of sax playing and it was a crazy out of control show, lights, coffins and roller skates along with Turner’s bizarre neon spike of a hair cut. Most importantly though for a 16 year hawkfan there was blanga, that moment when the guitars, synths sax and drums merge into an almost spiritual drone, yes it is not the Space Ritual but it was loud and insane and for us that was enough.

It is a truly beautiful package as well.

 

 

 

You’re very nearly human you’re so well disguised…

There are bands that go in phases, that ebb and flow as a singular member becomes more prevalent or a relationship changes. People come and go and the sound changes or develops or stagnates.

There are band members who have been on the periphery and then are suddenly in the ascendance. Bob Calvert had always been around Hawkwind, adding lyrics, poetry and if you believe the books instability in all areas. A cross between Biggles, Lawrence of Arabia and some fictional English lord, although he was South African. Go read about him he is a fascinating/challenging man. For a brief few years at the tale end of the 70’s he was the stylistic and lyrical driving force of the band along with Dave Brock’s metronomic riffs and the electronic bubbling that went along with the Hawkwind sound.

Between Space Ritual and rejoining Hawkwind Calvert released two solo albums. IMG_7390Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters and Lucky Leif and the Longships. Both are patchy. The first a comedic rock opera of the US’s sale to Germany of somewhat defective military hardware. The second a tale of the viking discovery of America with the wonderful Lay of the Surfers sounding like Hawkwind covering the Beach Boys and Michael Moorcock appearing on the banjo for Moonshine in the Mountains. Both albums contain great songs and have an eclectic cast of musicians including all the usual Hawkwind and Pink Fairies alumni and Brian Eno. They do not seem fullyIMG_7422 finished though however fun they are, my preference ins Capt. Lockheed with it’s Pythonesque interludes with Vivian Stanshall and let’s face it it has Lemmy on bass.

I believe Calvert’s strength to have been the fact he was not really a musician, he was a writer. He was also bonkers and suffering from challenges that made him unpredictable and a dangerous performer. Listen to the recording of Over The Top when he wants to sing Master of the Universe and the band goads him into an improvisational piece that flowed out of his mind straight to the mic. A band and it’s lead man not necessarily in sync but definitely heading in the same direction, two forces opposing each other to create. Of course by this time Hawkwind were not Hawkwind but the Sonic Assassins and preparing for another incarnation that unfortunately only included Bob for a short time as they became the Hawklords.

IMG_7421So for the best part of three Hawkwind albums and the Hawklords album Bob Calvert and Dave Brock led what was left of Hawkwind on a merry trip through some of the best space rock you can find. Gone were the endless riffs and Lemmy’s pulsing bass, instead we had something coming close at times to Bowie in a punk band. In fact Bowie stole Simon House for his band from Hawkwind around this time. Preaching a dystopian vision of the world that was terrifying before dystopias became the last comfy bastion of the young adult novel. High Rise, Uncle Sam’s on Mars and Damnation Alley paint a terrifying picture of a world in disarray.

The music at this time feels a little restrained. It’s as if the excesses that the band were known for were being held at bay by the control necessary to get the ideas out. It’s not as anarchic musically, although lyrically the chaos was still there. Songs are stories not chants to anchor the music, experiments are a little more controlled and the bleeps and swooshes while still there are the background and the songs would still exist without them, they are dressing not integral to the whole unless you acknowledge those bleeps and farts along with the rhythm guitar is the Hawkwind sound.

I never saw Calvert with Hawkwind, I heard the stories from those grizzled old fans in the pub though, the Atomhenge stage design, the machine gunning of the audience the waving of scimitars and the strange uniforms for the Hawklords tour. I did however see Calvert, due to some poor decision making I do not however have any memory of the gig apart from talking to strange man smoking outside before the show started. To this day I swear it was Calvert and he whispered the secrets of the universe to me as I stepped inside. Of course the bad decisions I was making may have caused this memory, it’s fake news I tell you. I also cannot remember the secrets of the universe, although I know for a fact I knew them once and s our glorious orange leader may say they were the best secrets.

There’s only one course of action…

There is a moment when you are browsing, wasting time not really looking and then it hits you. The need to buy.

IMG_7390It’s usually when you find something out of place. It doesn’t seem that you should find a copy of Bob Calvert’s Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters still in it’s shrink in a thrift store in Oregon City, even if it is only the Back on Black reissue which is probably a transfer from a CD.

Of course I had to buy it, it would be unconscionable to leave a Hawkwind alumni record alone in a thrift store. So I bought it, yes it is not an original but it sounds plenty fine to me. Monty Python meets Hawkwind, gloriously over the top German accents and Lemmy’s bass thumping away with most of Hawkwind and the Pink Fairies playing away.

Of course the knock on effect is that Lucky Lief and the Longships is now winging its way to me as I write.

My hair’s electrically aware…

I’m a collector I guess. A completist sometimes, especially if I suddenly discover I am a fan. Now I have not reached the point of obsessive yet but some days I can feel it approaching, still searching for two or three Mott the Hoople albums, a strange fit of spending resulted in the arrival of several Tull albums and now I am considering an upgrade on some of those Fairport Convention records and don’t mention the Hawkwind or Neil Young collection.

This seems to be a constant struggle. The late night buying, the attempt to make it home before the mail, the momentary shame and then satisfaction. Fortunately my wife understands somewhat this strange obsession to complete a collection.

Sometimes however it takes a wholly new tack, a desire to complete the Whitesnake prior to 1980 collection, a need to own every Faces album or any number of  needs that may just suddenly rear up late at night or early in the morning. The real problem is the almost immediate access to shopping online, then the interminable wait for the record to arrive, while you are waiting the bug hits and you buy another record/records, then the fear that they will all arrive together and someone will recognize this for what it is an addiction.

There is also walking through the door to discover a tottering pile of album mailers waiting there for you, then the decision to figure out which one to play. Which is  my greater need? The record I have never heard, the old favorite discovered at a reasonable price or the record that just became a brain fart that got bought. It could have been reading a review online that resulted in a purchase or a link from a link to a link as you came to terms with a gap in the collection that is out of your price range. So many things, so many records.

I have spent most of my life until this month having never bought a Led Zeppelin record. I bought a CD collection once but I have never felt the need to own the albums, then one day trolling in a thrift store I found III, Presence and Houses of the Holy. All of a sudden it became a mission to find the other records, but not the live one. After weeks of delving and searching and digging I had them all. I looked smugly on my collection and smiled and then realized there was one missing, not the live one but the other anomaly, Coda was not there. This became a fruitless quest. I searched I rooted in dark corners of thrift stores and used record emporiums to no avail, eventually I succumbed to the online world and before long Coda was winging it’s merry way to me.

IMG_7380And now there it sits on the to be played pile, looking at me with its baleful glare daring me to play it. There are however other records waiting to be played too and it does not have the greatest reputation as a record.

So here I am now with a conundrum, what to play, so true to form I have picked something that is not even in the to be played stack. Astounding Sounds Amazing Music by Hawkwind, the transitional album when the mayhem merchants calmed down discovered melody, hooks and irony all in one go. Of course the all pervading riffs are present as the Brock works his metronomic magic on the guitar. Sometimes I wonder what would it have been like if Brock had joined Can for a weekend.

And here we have the bigger problem.

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If you want to get into it, you’ve got to get out of it…

In a fit of nostalgic insanity or fanboy lust, whichever makes the most sense I just managed to acquire Choose Your Masques by Hawkwind.IMG_6758

I believe this may be the result of the regression caused by too much Dungeons and Dragons or a physical real time in the moment acknowledgement that Hawkwind are actually in my DNA and I will always have some amount of affection for just about every album.

Of course the albums from the 80’s while not even close to the peaks of the early 70’s are the albums I bought on the day they came out. These are the concerts I went to three or four times a year until the early 90’s. This is the band that I saw at countless festivals and despite their silly name I still mumble as my favorite when asked by anyone who your favorite band is.  This causes some puzzled looks in the USA, of course my back up favorite does the same with Airport Convention.

The truth is that at this age I am well past having to feel ashamed of the music I listen to, this is the realm of the teenager or adulting and not the grizzled veteran of the rock’n’roll wars I have become. So these days Graham Parker, the Grateful Dead, Hawkwind and Sabbath rub shoulders with Fleet Foxes and Iron and Wine and others happily filling the gaps between the constant hubbub that life sometimes feels like it has become.

So Hawkwind really are a part of my DNA, that part that confuses doctors and passersby.

 

Turning star projections, voices from the deep…

There’s something about the first time. Whichever first time it might be. The anticipation, the breathless rush to conclusion, the ultimate depression as it ends and then the relentless search for the next time.

Gigs are like that, especially if your 16 year old self has taken the time to commit to memory as much of the discography of a favorite band as you won. You desperately, buy the ticket, arrange the gig companionship and set off into the night full of expectation.

You take your seat and feverishly, drunkenly attempt to hold in the excitement. The band emerges through a cloud of smoke and then only play three songs you know from the twelve played and two of the twelve are weird electronic bleepy things that do not end in the expected chaos of guitars and drumming. It is however deafeningly loud and overwhelming and shit it’s Hawkwind right there on stage blowing your mind. Yes there is no Lemmy and isn’t that Gongs keyboard player up there but the Captain is there and all is well and that’s Simon King on drums so we are good, and wasn’t the guitar player on the first album?

Being hard up for cash I had only heard three Hawkwind albums at this stage, and the callow Joy Division fans at school would sneer at the mention of Hawkwind. Those being the first album, Hall of the Mountain Grill and Space Ritual so all the Calvert songs and the then unreleased songs from Levitation were strange creatures. However my tiny teen mind was duly blown and I hung on every word of the grizzled creatures around me who mumbled of the anarchy of gigs gone by. There was however no Time We Left This World Today, but the strange metal punk Brainstorm more than made up for any thoughts that this was not Hawkwind.

All of this strolled through my mind as I played my newly purchased copy of Live ’79 that  memorializes this anarchic tour before Ginger ruined the gig with a drum solo. It also has one of the most awfully garish album covers of all time.

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After this show Hawkwind became a fixture of the calendar for me, if they played on a train or bus line I was there, screaming with the other idiots into the all encompassing noisfest that was a Hawkwind gig.

Earth Calling…

Last night I had a dream. It was very vivid and may have been real.

After declaring that Deep Purple MK. II were capable of saving the world from it’s current dire straights Dave Brock called me. He informed me that the Space Ritual lineup of Hawkwind are the only band that trump the current decline into nationalist furor and stupidity.

Sometime in the near future he will be plugging his Orgone Accumulator in and summoning Stacia, Lemmy and the others to perform a tripped out anti-establishment classic to quell the rising tide of ignorance.

Until that time if we all play Space Ritual at least once a week a disaster will be stalled until the Sonic Assassins can kick some fascist butt.

I am not kidding I think this really did happen so play the damn album.

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I am not you I am me…

What does a grown man do when his family goes to Central Oregon leaving him home alone? Obviously he gets out his most ridiculously fun album and plays it as loud as his ears can stand. Then he realizes this album is 31 years old and well enough said.

Live Chronicles may not be the greatest Hawkwind album, it is however a fine album that captures at least the sound of what happened at the Liverpool Empire in 1985. The smoke the dancers the narration and the in my mind immortal Tony Crerar who was secure enough to paint himself white and wave a large black sword around for almost three hours. I loved it so much I think I saw it in Manchester and Preston as well.

The Chronicle of the Black Sword was something of a return to form for Hawkwind in the 80’s, although to be honest the early part of the decade had some great songs on dodgy sounding albums. It has a return to the Eternal Champion concept and Moorcock even helped out.

Live Chronicles is superior to the studio effort, it has some wonderfully loopy narration IMG_5421that ties the whole thing together man, just like the rug in the Big Lebowski. It is populated with mostly newer songs but Magnu and Master of the Universe turn up dutifully, Brainstorm is referenced in there and Assault and Battery is on the CD but never made the album for some reason because we really needed Moonglum instead. Side 3 and 4 are when things really kick of with the wondrous Choose Your Masques and things descend into Hawkwind mayhem until Moonglum when you get to use the toilet. The whole album has Huw Lloyd Langton noodling like an ADD heavy metal Jerry Garcia, sometimes a bit too much but in general well.

22560214I am sure the evening began for all three nights at the Swan Inn on Wood Street drinking Old Peculiar and Owd Roger to fuel ourselves for the travails ahead, whether that was a walk to the Empire or a train to Manchester with the requisite cans of Special Brew before the ceremony of a Hawkwind show. The evening probably ended right back where it began at the Swan unless it was too late and then the Freewheeler awaited.

This was the look the cat has on it’s face for the duration of the album, I think this constitutes a recomendation.

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I need contact…

I have an indelible memory of being at the back of the stalls at the Liverpool Empire in 1983 as Peter Gabriel was passed around the audience during I Have The Touch. I know I never touched the great man but for the first time in my memory I remember being completely enveloped by an experience that was so overwhelming so all encompassing and  fulfilling I was convinced that I never had to go to another gig ever again. At 18 I had in my mind now experienced everything in that 6 or 7 minutes, this was further confirmed as he launched into Not One Of Us and we were only three songs in at this point.

The first four Peter Gabriel albums at this time for me and one group of friends was the IMG_5377future of music. Of course for another group of friends it was Twisted Sister and Under the Blade that was the promised land and for the crossover stoner group it was Choose Your Masques by Hawkwind that was the absolute pinnacle of music. Somehow I managed to move safely between all these groups.

Funnily enough in 1983 all three produced concerts that have stuck in my mind, whether it was Dee Snider snarling at us as we got his signature outside the Royal Court, Gabriel making contact with the audience or Nik Turner and the Hawks almost causing a riot at the Theater Royal In St. Helens as the stage almost collapsed when the audience got real close.

It is however those four Gabriel albums that stick with me as an unsurpassed body of work, IMG_5389yes I know he went on to bigger and better shows and duets and sold more albums but the immediacy of those early 80’s shows and the songs on those first four albums cannot be beat. From Solsbury Hill to Shock the Monkey he covered more ground than most musicians of his time, even managing andIt’s a Knockout reference in a chart song and the creepiest song ever in Intruder which also had one of the most intimidating drums patterns.

He also had probably the greatest touring band of all time behind him. Of course this allowed him to  crown the whole thing with one of the greatest live albums with Plays Live a document to a great tour, and this after a year when he had to get bailed out by his old band.

This was the last time I got to see Gabriel, apart from one brief Mandela appearance, so maybe it was just I now never had to see another Gabriel show. Now to be honest I also have an indelible memory of Nik Turner painted green on roller skates being carried to the stage in a coffin and the poor concession lady selling ice cream to the freaks before the Hawkwind show.

I have risen as the mighty bull of gold which has the head of a phoenix…

IMG_5387Oh that wacky Thunderider and his merry ways.

Having been ousted from the good ship Hawkwind our hero Nik takes off for Egypt on holiday and somehow convinces the Egyptian government to allow him to blow his flute in the Great Pyramid. What ensues is some atmospheric tootling that obviously has allowed our jobless vagrant to commune with Osiris and tap into the ancient melodies of Egypt.

On arrival back in the homeland there is only one man who can make sense of this and that is Steve Hillage IMG_5386who along with Miquette Giraudy, Mike Howlett, Tim Blake and a host of left field musicians and animals (this was way before Mr Young’s addition of animals to his music) create a unique album. Nik Turner made the words up based on the Egyptian Book of the Dead seemingly in the moment.

In this way is the legendary album Xitintoday conceived and born, a strangely engaging blend of new age silliness that should be played in the dark all the way through to truly commune with the Gods. Much more fun than the Dead at the Pyramids and a whole lot more confusing to be honest.

IMG_5388Play it in the dark on a hot and humid night and you will see visions both glorious and terrible, your wife will despair and leave you alone for 40 minutes, the dog will gasp and the children will close their doors in disdain or fear. It is surprisingly fascinating but no Space Ritual and it may be that Nik at this point may have believed he really was the Master of the Universe.

Seeing a copy on eBay for $12 I couldn’t resist, the completist in me spoke loud in my ear and here I am clutching the pretty blue album, the only downside being the fabled booklet is missing and who knows what may have been in that. Copies are selling for silly money and I can see why, it gets under your skin there are no real guitar solos but it has a rhythmic and melodic content that is truly captivating. Actually it has the crazed tootling of a madman in the Great Pyramid accompanied by his stoned pals back in the UK trying to figure out what is going on, or sheer unparalleled genius and it has a pretty Charisma label.

Of course it is this type of impulse buying that has resulted a copy of Live Chronicles winging it’s crazy way towards me and my wife rolling her eyes.