Today we have been mostly listening to… Hawkwind
Two mammoth box-sets from the Psychedelic Warlords have just landed in the office: Spirit Of The Age, which tracks their career from 1976 to 1984, and The Dream Goes On, which deals with 1985-1997. Each box set contains three CDs.
So far, we’ve only managed to listen to CD 1 from the Spirit Of The Age collection, but we have to tell you… it’s bloody brilliant.
The CD contains tracks from the albums Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music (1976), Quark, Strangeness And Charm (1977), the Sonic Assassins live offering (recorded in 1977) and the Hawklords release from 1978.
This is the era of the Hawks when they were fronted by the late Robert Calvert. We’ve never been particular fans of this period of the band before, so listening to this stuff again was something of a revelation.
Sure, it’s a lighter, more whimsical Hawkwind on display – reminiscent of Syd Barrett-style Pink Floyd in parts. But Calvert’s genius always shines through.
An extended version of Reefer Madness contains a great little tale about how a guy who was smoking dope suddenly discovered he had 11 fingers – then one of the fingers fell off, crawled along the floor and up on to a shelf. It climbed into a piggy bank and… (as Calvert wails despairingly) “STOLE MY STASH!” Genius.
Damnation Alley (inspired by sci-fi author Roger Zelazny) is all about life in a post-apocalyptic wasteland… there’s some great lyrics, too: ‘Driving through the burning heap of doom/In an eight-wheeled anti-radiation tomb’ and ‘The sky is raining fishes/It’s a mutation zoo.’
Ditto the Silver Machine-y Kerb Kerb Crawler: ‘Kerb crawler/He really approves of/Your high heels clicking/Like cloven hooves.’
There’s also a really bizarre – and decidedly non-PC – spoken intro to Over The Top (recorded live at the Queens Hall, Barnstaple in December 1977) where Calvert bemoans: “This is a very heavy microphone stand… No queen could manage this, I tell you… It’s a real man’s microphone stand here.” Sheesh!
Finally, there’s the ace Hassan I Sahba, a scathing critique of Middle Eastern oil barons and still very relevant today. Longtime Hawkwind fans will remember that Calvert used to dress up like Lawrence Of Arabia when the band played it live…
Phew. Only five more CDs to go. Expect further cosmically inclined commentary shortly…