Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Various Artists—
Greasy Truckers Party


Released 1972 on (No label)
The Seth Man, March 2004ce
Located in Chalk Farm London, The Roundhouse was a crucial underground music nexus that appeared shortly after the birth of psychedelic Rock Music in late 1966 when performances by The Pink Floyd, The Soft Machine, The Move and The Who were coordinated as underground happenings. Six years later, this was still the case when on the night of February 13, 1972 a benefit show was staged there in aid of an alternative Notting Hill Gate community organisation called The Greasy Truckers. Several months after the event a mysterious white label double album appeared, capturing partial appearances by Hawkwind, Man, Brinsley Schwarz and Magic Michael. The labels and cover were professionally produced (as evidenced by the line ‘Printed and made by Garrod & Lofthouse, Ltd’ on the gatefold) so it’s a fair assumption that United Artists may have unwittingly footed thebill for the underground’s benefit.

For me, side four of exclusive live Hawkwind material stands heads above the rest of the album because it’s so fantastically charged up an affair. Although only two songs, they were both such consistent representations of the band at one of its many early peaks I didn’t even get around to flipping the record over for years and hearing the sidelong Man track called “Spunk Rock.” Time has shown it (along with their eponymous 1970 LP) to hold what are probably the most engaging moments they would ever commit to vinyl. They will their distended piece within the confines of 1968 Quicksilver Messenger Service with displays of dual guitar interplay and it’s almost a disadvantage knowing how much they flaunted so shamelessly their ardent love of all things Quicksilver (So ardent, they contacted San Franciscan poster artist Rick Griffin who conceived Quicksilver’s own first cover sleeve to do two of their own while even recording a live album with John Cipollina himself AND it wasn’t bad a-tall.) But after repeated plays in the right light of fair assessment, it started to worm into my head just like their 1970 studio LP once did and now I just hear the music as opposed to their Quicksilver undertones...And not out of some abstract notion of genre charity just because they were on United Artists at the same time as Hawkwind, Groundhogs, Can, and so forth. But their following track, “Angel Easy” almost spoiled this newfound sense of appreciation I was tending for these diehard Welsh Quicksilver addicts because it was fairly bland stuff, mister.

After an announcement by DJ Andy Dunkley and a one-minute band of silence operating as an economical stand-in for Byzantium’s cancellation due to an extended power cut, enter Brinsley Schwarz. Their five distinctly non-cosmic, laid-back country rock excursions are the most orthodox moments of the album and stand in deep contrast with the last moment preceding Hawkwind’s side four-long odyssey: Magic Michael’s “Music Belongs To The People.” It’s an extended solo acoustic guitar bang-up with vocally challenged whimsy and outlandish onstage antics ad-libbed and tippy-toed up its ass. But Maggi’s got buckets of bottle and beaucoup intestinal fortitude to withstand all and sundry catcalls and dog howls from the psychedelicised peanut gallery, working in a heckler’s subject matter quickly into the lyrics. And even though staying in tune is a often a tightrope challenge for our brave minstrel as his vocals run to hilarious extremes, he follows his muse’s crooked path true with tremendous spirit as he grabs every single onstage moment, livin’ it and lovin’ it. One thing is for sure: his dog does not have fleas because it’s no skin off his apple what people think of him at all.

Side four of Hawkwind’s set is represented by “Master Of The Universe” and “Born To Go” and it was perpetuated by their most overachieving lineup ever: Simon King (drums), Lemmy (bass), Dik Mik and Del Dettmar (electronic perambulations), Nik Turner (sax/vox), Dave Brock (E-guitar) and Robert Calvert (vocals.) And of course, not heard but seen and vibing throughout with superior amounts of swaying Yoni-ooze was their vibestress Stacia (joined onstage that night by the petite -- because petite is a proportion, not a size -- Miss Rene.) Both were nude but for cosmic body paint as they shimmied to the hard astral backdrop that swirled all around them. This gig would prove to be a turning point for the group, as “Silver Machine” was also recorded and with some technical re-jigging used for what would be the biggest single release of their career.

“Master Of The Universe” fades in as though it’s been in progress forever. Far more organic, just as driving but a shade less harsh than the version on their space metallic tour de force, “Space Ritual” these performances are exquisite examples of Hawkwind’s fractally-charged exercises exemplified by repetitive rotary connections whilst running at a collective top speed that fuelled their momentum and spun it like the most ego-less puppet of the life force pinwheel. And every single electronic detail spun into the chaotic mess by Dik Mik and Del Dettmar registers through the sonic wall of noise (with the chord of E as mortar) well timed and surfing the rhythm looking for another clearing to drop another load of electronic clusterfucking...and if no clearing presents itself, they unload anyway at vibe-perfect intervals.

This is the first appearance of the Robert Calvert original, “Born To Go.” And although it never saw a studio release, it doesn’t matter because this version is the definitive one in every respect: Calvert’s vocals are third-dementia-lly echoed perfectly, the band tightly and insistently hammer this one out from the vocal dedication and commencing distorto-guitar strum until the final shearing electronic storm twitters it all into a gloriously chaotic resolution. And the remaining eleven minutes in between is a furious, stamina-driven propulsive drive that runs unabated by consecutive falling asteroid zones, as every member’s contribution is distinctly un-token and so present in the moment that it ups the ante with each return of its arcing riff-theme and overlaying lateral synthetic modulations. The rhythm section is stunningly unflagging, and the synchronisations within “Born To Go” are pure ESP if nothing at all and architecturally perfect as it is texturally enhanced with qualities of uplifting and undying persistence.


Note:
EMI’s recent re-release of Hawkwind’s epic double live, “Space Ritual” on CD righteously tags on the end of disc two both “Master Of The Universe” and “Born To Go” from “Greasy Trucker’s Party,” sparing one the frustrating searching I endured throughout the late eighties in the USA (which was a truly hang-nailed state of wedgied harassment considering the album’s rarity was matched only by my obsession with UA-era Hawkwind.) Throw into the mix that this was the first of two double LP sets both named “The Greasy Truckers Party” (the second one subtitled “Live At Dingwalls Dance Hall” with live material from Camel, Henry Cow and Gong) and all I could count on was my own patience. Which did eventually reward me with a mint copy one autumn night in 1989 at a used bookstore on Broadway in New York City when I was, at best, expecting only an upgraded copy of “Sticky Fingers.”