Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Hawkwind—
The Psychedelic Warlords/It's So Easy


Released 1974 on United Artists
The Seth Man, December 2003ce
By early 1974 Hawkwind’s pioneering space metal had begun to pressurise into more orthodox arrangements not only as a result of solid touring schedules, the psychological pressures of life on the road and personnel comings and goings but through their retention of lessons indelibly stamped by their fellow label mates from West Germany (Amon Düül II, Can and NEU!) that so informed their unflagging rhythmic propulsions and hard repetition that it freed their severe limitations and turned them into improvisations of the most primal, loose and damaged kind.

Hawkwind were so righteously road-ready that they were prone to use live recordings, remixed versions of album tracks or a combination of the two for some of their finest singles. In its original state as a live recording, “Silver Machine” was a drug punk mess as slurred vocals bumped into the harmony vocals and dropped off mid-sentence to wrestle haplessly on the stage floor until Doctor Technical overdubbed studio vocals and VCS3 synthesizer swirls, while the German single of “Lord Of Light” boasted a phase-heavy remix applied by Amon Düül II engineer Peter Krampner to make it sound even more like the best outtake (n)ever heard off “Tanz Der Lemminge.” Hawkwind’s sixth single, “The Psychedelic Warlords (Disappear In Smoke)” continued the trend with a skittering, fizzy echo/phased that so mutates the original source signal into a distended effect as thought to mask the identity of the instrument responsible. The track also gets cut down to half the size of its original LP configuration with the quickest of punched-in radio fades. This doesn’t halt the languid serpentine curling of hashish smoke rings set into a phased framing device of curved air that cuts a swath across the rocky terrain of Brock’s e-guitar made doubly transverse-unfriendly by the banks of keyboards manned by Del Dettmar and the newly enlisted Simon House, who came in with his own arsenal of Korg synthesizers and mellotron which stood out with great flash within Hawkwind’s convoluted and drug numbed concurrences.

The B-side, “It’s So Easy” was recorded live at the Edmonton Sundown in January of ’74, the same concert that also yielded “You’d Better Believe It” and “Paradox” (which appeared on their “Hall Of The Mountain Grill” LP and got culled together as a preceding single.) There are no studio renditions extant of these three aforementioned tracks, and that’s just fine because they all overwhelm the senses perfect enough as is, and even the pre-Motörhead production of Vic Maille wouldn’t be able to capture the fierceness of their slack but right on tack form.

Nik Turner sits this one out to leave the remaining five Hawkestra dudes perform what sounds like in all certainty the last of several of the evening’s encores. “It’s So Easy” crawls at a pace that borders on near-collapse although as usual the rhythm section of Simon King and Lemmy exhaustively shore it up and anchor it down with a wall of colliding drum and Rickenbacker strum until a column of white light mellotron choir cuts in through a line of the fullest N.C. Wyeth-rendered cumulonimbi to beam down a quick message of bittersweet, post-Altamont hope parallel to Spooky Tooth’s “That Was Only Yesterday,” Steve Miller Band’s “Your Saving Grace” and especially the chorale coda of The Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (their down-home’n’dirty answer to the sweater-vested Beatle washing of hands, “Hey Jude.”) Only thing is, it’s 1974 here and therefore anachronistic as hell but still viewed through a pair of the most drooling-ass, simplistic drug logic X-tuh-see-ray specs to shame even Paul Kantner:


”Revolution's coming
The chaos will soon end
We've reached the age of learning
You'll see it in the end

It’s so easy
To say what you say,
Do what you want.
It happened today
No matter what they say
This world's so mixed up
Everywhere you go...”


And the mellotrons keep on beaming in like lighthouse beacons lighting up all down the coastline of Rock signaling to batten down the hatches, keep your spirits up and your mind wrecked. Fuck, I love when these guys just go for it like this beyond the point of endurance and all reason. It even fades out before they’re even finished, leading me to believe it went on for at least five more minutes before they all keeled over in a pile. (It probably did, seeing as the version included in EMI’s 1997 2-CD set from the Chicago Auditorium, “The 1999 Party,” timed in at twice the length of this. Dammit, they should’ve released the entire Edmonton Sundown gig from January 26, 1974 instead, judging from the three gems United Artists already leaked. Oh, well -- maybe EMI’ll release it soon.)