Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Hawkwind—
Space Ritual


Released 1973 on United Artists
The Seth Man, May 2000ce
Hawkwind had been traveling long and hard on the road and in (and out) of their minds for the previous two years, and their sound reflected this by getting harder, louder and faster. And it was all captured on this beautiful, psychic roar-out of a double live set. Culled from recordings made at The Liverpool Empire and The Brixton Sundown in late December, 1972, two tracks were so long they needed to be edited down to into order to fit the whole shebang onto two albums. Ads promoted it as “88 minutes of brain damage” and “Space Ritual” did not disappoint, outside or in: the cover housing these two discs folded out into a double-sided 24” x 36” poster of scientific miscellany, obscure quotes merged with colourful sci-fi pop art from the ever-wonderful Barney Bubbles. All but two songs from their previous studio album, “Doremi Fasol Latido” are present and given strenuous workouts: stretched out beyond all recognition into space metal jamming sprees that took off and never came back. The sheer power of the repetition represented here become mantra-like walls of sound, all held together by Dave Brock’s sonic mortar guitar and the stunning rhythm section of Lemmy Kilminster on bass and Simon King on stamina-driven drums that (according to one recent source) hit 250 beats per minute! They are joined by Nik Turner on sax and vocals, Robert Calvert on spoken link incantations, and electronics duo Dikmik and Del Dettmar on audio generator and synthesizer, respectively. They were joined in these and many of their performances throughout the first part of the seventies by Stacia, their dancer immortalised on the cover as a naked astral mama proffering fireballs flanked by two equally fiery dragons.

The opening track, “Earth Calling” is a brief spoken passage that smears right into the Calvert composition, “Born To Go”: a barnstormer deluxe that for nearly ten minutes immediately loses you in a blur of distorted metal guitar repeat patterning and quick, pulsating rhythms. “Lord Of Light” is another example of this consciousness-altering, repetitious zone-out. Its holding pattern continues for half the album side it kicks off as a huge battering ram making its way across the universe as it gathers momentum and finally lands on the back of your head. Huge, patterning shapes appear and disappear; galaxies collide in slow motion and are all driven by Lemmy’s neck-snapping pulsebass: as architecturally perfect as they are full-blown rockin’. Another Calvert original, “Orgone Accumulator,” is a tripping cousin of “Green Onions” gone horribly awry. Just about every word in the English language that rhymed with ‘accumulator’ were used by Calvert for the lyrics to this space-boogie stomp -- ‘greater,’ ‘later,’ ‘integrator’, ‘isolator,’ ‘stimulator,’ ‘vibrator,’ etc. -- and it continues like this for a very long time, singular in its purpose. “Sonic Attack” is a psychotic rant orally transmitted by the self-styled space age poet, Robert Calvert in a furious manner that is both sinister and funny, and it trails off -- BLAM -- Right into a version of “Time We Left This World Today” even more disorientating and nausea-inducing than its studio counterpart. You can practically see the strobes start up.

“Brainstorm” is a heat-seeking missile to the centre of your cerebral cortex: more relentless, distorted riffing with unbalanced electronics over pagan-simple drums all race to the end of each chorus, where they trail off like comets…only to start up all over again as they gun full blast into the next dimension with thrusters full on as Starship Hawkwind begins to buckle with metal fatigue. This interstellar rollercoaster ride repeats for what seems the quickest eternity until it breaks down a final time to wild cheering and applause. ”Welcome To Future” ends the album, with evocative oratory from Calvert. It ends (of course) in a massive burnout of distortion, feedback and electronic swirls to wild applause. This is Hawkwind’s best album...Sorry, man, I seem to have dropped my mandies...