Hawkwind and Professor Bunkum

I’ve been asked to review Trensmat Records 3 x 7” covers of Hawkwind songs by luminaries like Mudhoney and Acid Mothers Temple.  Sorry this is going to be a two-parter, because every Hawkwind experience is a unique subjective exploration of consciousness that needs detailed explication. There are objective, critical reasons to like Hawkwind (like they are the forefathers of every shoegazer/drug head psych band you think are now hip), but the subjective reasons are more interesting.  The short version of why I like Hawkwind is that they have reared their repetitive head (they have been described by Martin Popoff as “the world’s only three chord progressive rock band”) at odd times in my life and are one of those touchstone litmus tests of interesting people and situations.  Here’s the history:

  • 1983:  I buy “Hall of the Mountain Grill” at Cherry Records in Auburn, California because Lemmy is on it.  Images of acid trips in Northern England fill my imagination.
  • 1986:  During a bad experience involving 4 random guys, brownie mix and one ounce of stems seeds and leaves, Hawkwind provides the soundtrack and makes a lot of sense for once. 
  • c. 1989:  Hanging out at my friend Aaron Rubin’s radio show at KALX, we play “Orgone Accumulator” because its all about Wilhelm Reich’s theory that it is possible to harness the mystery force in the universe that is expressed through the orgasm.  Being in college we think we are clever.
  • 198??:  Hawkwind make something of a revival in the first wave of Acid House because they throbbed and had “vee jays” 10 years prior to anyone else, and their well-used combination of speed and bad acid was a blunt precursor to ecstasy, so the kids can relate all over again.  Plus, Hawkwind had a naked dancer girl.  Genesis P-Orridge must secretly admit Hawkwind are the template for Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth. 
  • 1990:  I see Pere Ubu in San Francisco.  They break into “Master of the Universe” and David Thomas blurts out “Hawkwind lives in Cleveland.”  George Wendt from “Cheers” is at this show yelling “Uhhhh-Bu!”  Later that year I see a guy in a class with a Hawkwind t-shirt.  We trade a lot of records.  Later he tells me he doesn’t fit in at college because, aside from being a Hawkwind fan, he is “a Satanist and a queer.”  I decline an offer of reading material.
  • 1991:  Aaron Rubin and I see Hawkwind in Oakland.  He sums it up nicely: “Sometimes this is lame, and sometimes this is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.”  Later we start listening to mid-period Hawkwind when Robert Calvert wrote the lyrics.  We feel even more clever with our friend Harold Lee quoting “Quark Strangeness and Charm,” a song about how physics guys don’t get any action in the sack:  “Despite his theories of space and time and relativity / He was never gonna score like you and me.”
  • 1997: Living in Reno, Nevada, I stock up on Hawkwind vinyl, including a good condition fold out of “Space Ritual” complete with a space scene and sayings like “trying is flying is dying.”
  • 200?:  I suffer through the “Inland Invasion” (another So. Cal. festival show with Bad Religion, Offspring and/or Social Distortion?!?) to see the Sex Pistols.  They close the whole show with a cover of Hawkwind’s “Silver Machine.”  Now THAT is some irony for ya!  But thinking about early PIL it makes sense, and Steve Jones later plays Hawkwind regularly on his radio show.
  • 2008: I hear a podcast from Jim DeRogatis in Chicago claiming that Hawkwind’s “Silver Machine” may be the very first heavy metal song.  With Lemmy on bass and vocals, that makes him the single most important person in heavy metal.  This leads me to conclude that the apex of the metal life involves drinking bourbon, hanging around middling strip clubs in Hollywood while playing video games, and not having a driver’s license.  The way things are looking now, that life does have a strong allure.

Next time:  Can today’s hipsters do justice to this personal psychic legacy?