Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tribute to Hawkwind

By Don Break

The famous space rock band from England, Hawkwind, have now been around for over 40 years.

Hawkwind are famous for many things - for their hit single 'Silver Machine', for the incredible number of people who have played in or collaborated with the band over the years, for their legendary performances at Stonehenge and the Isle of Wight, for launching bassist Lemmy (later of Motorhead) into the world, for their incredible light shows, for band founder Dave Brock's striped trousers, and for inventing the musical genre of space rock.

They are also famous for never having really sold out - never having becoming distant from their real fans, who are loyal to them in a way that possibly only Grateful Dead fans have ever matched. The loyalty extends to ex-members who form their own bands, like Nik Turner's Space Ritual, or to the music of ex-members like the (sadly departed) poet Robert Calvert, whose CDs real Hawkwind fans also still collect.

But what impresses me most about Hawkwind is that their music has endured. A band which appeared when music was exclusively released on vinyl or tape now has hordes of collectors who want their music on CDs. While fans are looking mainly for the earlier albums like Space Ritual, In Search of Space, Levitation, Quark Strangeness and Charm and Church of Hawkwind, the band continues to release great new music, with the latest being Blood of the Earth, released in 2010.

The Hawkwind fan base extends from those now aged in their 50s and 60s who remember the original albums and shows of the 1970s, to modern teenagers who hear classic tracks like 'Silver Machine', 'Right to Decide', 'Damnation Alley' or 'Reefer Madness' and decide to buy Hawkwind CDs for their collections. Few people who hear a song like 'Psi Power' suddenly cutting through all the musical pop dross on the radio can fail to be impressed - what band is THAT, they ask.

Even so, many music writers have been puzzled over the years by Hawkwind's enduring appeal - after all, the myth goes, this is just a bunch of zonked-out hippies playing heavy metal riffs with some added synthesizer or violin, and spacey science fiction lyrics. How does that add up to a forty-year career in a notoriously fickle music business?

The answer of course is in the music itself. Dave Brock and his various collaborators over the years have managed to produce songs which are pounding yet melodic, excessively loud but also extremely clever, and songs which are created and supported by impressively talented musicians like Simon House or Alan Davey or Nik Turner.

Hawkwind's music has never really been cool or uncool: it's just there, over the decades, being itself - music like no other band has ever produced.

To check out their music, see my Hawkwind music CDs page which lists them all.

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1 comment:

  1. I'd forgotten about Hawkwind. They were really 70s (they were formed in 1969) but I might add them to my list of groups to feature - thanks for posting that.