Album I can't live without: Psychedelic rock
The album I can't live without
Hawkwind are relatively unheard of by some people, but they're seen by those in-the-know as an important link between psychedelic rock and later punk and even 90s grunge bands.
When the Isle of Wight festival started charging high prices for entrance, Hawkwind famously staged their own free concert outside the grounds. Their anarchic lyrics had at least one single - Urban Guerrilla - withdrawn by their record company.
The lineup constantly changed through the years, formed around guitarist Dave Brock and saxophonist Nik Turner, but also including (at various stages) Lemmy, of Motorhead fame, the poetical Robert Calvert, and Stacia, a six-foot tall lady who danced naked on the stage. Time hasn't aged their drive, and like the Rolling Stones or The Grateful Dead, they seem to want to carry on performing until they die.
X In Search of Space was their second studio album (released in 1971) and is my favourite. Ostensibly it's themed on a fantasy/sci-fi concept (the band were noted collaborators with award-winning fantasy author Michael Moorcock and often labelled as an iconic "space rock" group), but it's as much a reflection of the world they perceived around them at the time. As such, it perfectly captures their energy and brio during the early 70s.
The opening track, 'You Shouldn't Do That', is worth the price of admission alone - an extended, freeform rave with driving, rhythmic beats giving an overall effect not dissimilar to music produced by The Prodigy. A psychedelic cacophony of whirring electronics, drums, bass, blistering guitar, violins and a saxophone all seemingly just given the instruction to keep up, while a clever chorus stealthily incites you to throw away inhibitions and regulation.
'Masters of the Universe' is a real headbanger, coupled with starry-eyed lyrics such as "the winds of time are running through me" sung with no hint of irony or disbelief. The acoustic .We Took the Wrong Turn Years Ago. gives the album its heart and soul, with a lament about the direction society is heading. Later versions of the album incorporated bonus hit singles like 'Seven By Seven' and 'Silver Machine'.
Some of the other tracks can be inconsistent, it has to be said, and it certainly wasn't Hawkwind's most polished album. Yet if classic albums like Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon or Led Zeppelin IV left you feeling like you were in the hands of masters, In Search of Space left you feeling like you were in the hands of maniacs.
Hawkwind was a band that never compromised or sold out and it probably suffered in terms of mainstream success because of this, but if you want to experience a true rock 'n' roll band at its most vibrant, then this is an album you must hear at least once before you die.
View all contributions