Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Hawkwind—
Kings Of Speed/Motorhead


Released 1975 on United Artists
The Seth Man, December 2003ce
Hawkwind’s period of their highest achievement was during their first five years signed to Liberty/United Artists when they released a string of albums and singles synthesised from Krautrock elements of both unswerving repetition and erratic noise filters cut with great lashings of unskilled, autodidactic construction and forged in the furnace of psychedelic mayhem into unforgiving walls of noise. Later, they utilised pieces of glam rock and fashioning them into their own roughhewn assembly that was highly effective in its chaotic sense-shattering and unflagging determination to map out the inner space of time with their minds while leaving the real world behind to perish in its sci-fi apocalypse...by this Friday, if possible.

The A-side of their final single on UA, “Kings Of Speed” stands out conspicuously from the rest of the material on their final album for UA, “Warrior On The Edge Of Time” as though tacked on the end of side two in an attempt to slam the book shut on all the preceding “pan-galactic mystery tunes” and “nocturnal mystery bridges” (probably intended as the final conflict in a series of psychic wars which was in all probability getting just too confusing as they lost the plot of Michael Moorcock’s tenuous, pulp sci-fi storyline full of reams o’ good ol’ cosmic debris and who could blame them ‘cos it just was all getting too fucking out there and too confusing as it just distended itself into the realms of sci-fi that never, ever allows for a reasonably believable ending.) So how do they sum up the whole dog-eared ball of galactic ear wax epic of astral pageantry but take it all back down to earth: to the streets from whence they vomited forth from, as a matter o’ fact and into a terrace foot ball chant backed by the rhythm approximating the sound of boots marching down der Mainpunkstrasse as artificially energised a tunnel-visioned zone out as NEU!’s “Hero” (and therefore “After Eight”), The Sex Pistols’ “Liar” and Mick Farren’s barking mad pre-punk (even for 1979) one-off single, “Broken Statue.” Wotta way to die, and what a fantastically dumb and punk as fuck way to end a concept album about some planetary Praetorian guard patiently perched on the edge of space and time on some Roger Dean-ian outcropping of astro turf ripped off from “Fragile” and waiting for imminent doom and destruction...or at very least: an end to his storyline (or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof.) One thing’s for sure: “Kings Of Speed” is cut from an entirely different rock than the rest of “Warrior On The Edge Of Time.” Although co-written by Hawkwind guitarist Dave Brock and author Michael Moorcock, it strikes me that Brock’s primary influence in both its execution and theme was none other than his cohort Lemmy “Ian” Kilminster -- He of thundering Rickenbacker bass who also copped space for the B-side. And it was one that provided a very obvious germ of inspiration for his next vehicle that destiny would provide in a matter of months (and would wind up keeping him busy for the next coupla decades.) It was called “Motorhead.”

This earliest recorded version of “Motorhead” is SO early...it has sax and violins.

So early, it doesn’t have an umlaut yet.
So early, you can even comprehend (most) of the lyrics without difficulty.
So early, no one knew it was slang for speed freak. And so on.

By this time, Lemmy already looked, acted and played as though he was already in Motorhead and not Hawkwind. And on this track his bass playing is given space to rumble on like an overdriven dynamo forgotten and left on for years to stubbornly run itself into the ground until torn apart by inevitable metal fatigue sometime in the unforeseeable future. It’s a cranked-out-and-up anthem that plows into oblivion -- the fade-out catching it still rockin’ in full gear. Compulsively driving enough for Lemmy to re-record it again and again for eons as his own dirty-assed, defiant take on rock’n’roll, it was one that wound up as the ultimate conclusion of the drug-punk Deviants-Pink Fairies-Hawkwind axis with a headbanging finale as it was born to lose, lived to win and kept movin’ on like a parallelogram for the rest of the seventies and beyond.