In case of Sonic Attack on your district, follow these rules:
If you are making love it is imperative to bring all bodies to orgasm simultaneously.
Do not waste time blocking your ears.
Do not waste time seeking a “sound proofed” shelter.
Try to get as far away from the sonic source as possible
Do not panic
Do not panic
I can’t believe I only bought Hawkwind Space Ritual in 2008, fair enough I held out until a suitably pristine copy appeared on ebay for a reasonable price, but still, 2008! Idiot. My parents, yup them again, liked Hawkwind and knew Nik Turner slightly (he was often to be found busking with his saxophone in Carmarthen*), but the only Hawkwind they owned was In Search of Space and I always found something a bit intimidating about that LP. In about 2005/6 I started to explore their stuff myself, fuelled mostly by a love of Motörhead and what a complete treasure trove it was! I preferred and still prefer, their proto-metal stuff to their more psychedelic outings and, although the magnificently gnarly Doremi Fasol Latido runs this close as their best out-and-out rock LP, Space Ritual wins.
Comparisons are often drawn between Pink Floyd and Hawkwind**, fair enough both bands came out of the underground scene in London and sang a lot about space, providing a trippy soundtrack for a lot of people’s inner astronauts, but that really is where the comparisons end. It isn’t just a class thing either as some people seem to feel, no-one in Floyd was ever destined for the wrong side of the tracks, Hawkwind would have been lucky to make it as far as the wrong side of the tracks. Pink Floyd exploded out of the underground and, rightly became near enough the biggest band in the world, Hawkwind exploded out of the underground into, well, a slightly bigger underground. To cut it down to music, Floyd soared and swooped heavenwards, effortlessly leaving this dirty world behind them. Listen to Hawkwind and you’ll hear the propulsive thrust and sheer nerve-shredding will power needed to lift off for the stars and smell the engine grease; their journey to space was a hard-won affair, their Space Ritual a celebration of the effort involved. Put simply, this LP may not take you to the universe in first-class accommodation but it will hit you repeatedly on the head with sufficient force to make you see the stars.
This LP is so much more than just a live LP banged out in support of the latest record, with faster versions of the greatest hits and some extended guitar solos^, the tour to support Doremi Fasol Latido was conceived as a full-on happening with a back story about star warriors returning to earth, retina-bending light show, dancers, fully conceptual stage set and a whole raft of new pieces, mostly Robert Calvert’s poetic interludes; predictably there are stories that the band lost a packet doing it. Listening to the LP now, I am so damn jealous – there’s not much I wouldn’t give to fire up the 1537 time machine and head on down to Liverpool Arena (a boxing and wrestling venue usually) in 1972 to have been there for this recording. I know the different line-ups of hawkwind have their champions, but for me the ‘classic’ one captured here with Dik Mik, Lemmy, Del Dettmar, Simon King, Nik Turner, Rob Calvert and Dave Brock is just the business, tight and loose by turns, Lemmy always talks about how his understanding with Dave Brock was virtually telepathic and you can hear it right from the off. Listening again to the LP now can’t believe that there isn’t a second guitarist on some of these tracks, Brock’s best playing is all here on this LP for me.
Beginning with the atmospherics of ‘Earth Calling’, before launching into the brand-new barnstormer ‘Born To Go’ this LP just grabbed me from the first seconds. I mean just listen to the riffs! Not wanting to repeat myself, but I get a fantastic sense of propulsion from these tracks. After 9 minutes you’re ready for the melodic downturn of ‘Down Through The Night’, which also thrills me. I won’t subject you to the full track-by-track here but Space Ritual is a truly epic LP. Amongst the chunky riffing and the fluid rhythm section you get moments of subtlety, moments of free-form jazz sax and moments of cheap, biker (space biker, obviously) rock thrills – there are plenty of moments here.
Other favourites include ‘Orgone Accumulator’ wth its cheeky references to ‘a cerebral vibrator’, which doesn’t seem to have been lost on another of my faves, Goldfrapp, who’s genius ‘Strict Machine’ borrows the tune to great effect, Rob Calvert’s spiky ‘Sonic Attack’ and crushingly good, cerebellum-sapping versions of ‘Master of the Universe’ and ‘Brainstorm’. I also have a place in my heart for the discordantly jazz-tinged ‘Upside Down’.
As in all of Hawkwind’s early releases the sleeve art and concept by Barney Bubbles is worth the price alone. The LPs sit in a cleverly designed, 6 panel fold out. the insides feature all manner of spacey pictures, poetry of dubious quality, photos of the band and a prose piece best described (and patronised) as being ‘of it’s time’). It just oozes class.
I have no doubt at all that under the right combination of lighting, herbal remedies and volume this is an LP that could seriously fry your brain, and it’s a fun one to hitch a ride on before free-falling back to earth and probably a good job I only found it when I was 37, rather than 17. As far as I’m concerned the title of my favourite track here says all that needs to be said, ‘Time we Left This World Today’.
*my mum also had driving lessons from another ex-member of Hawkwind, whose name escapes me – you couldn’t swing a cat in West Wales at one point without striking a former member of the band.
**the band have some pretty trenchant things to say about Floyd in Carol Clerk’s fabulous, bible-sized book, The Saga of Hawkwind.
^not a huge fan of live LPs really, with the usual caveats about No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith, If you Want Blood and Live and Dangerous.