Sunday, April 11, 2010

Hawkwind - "Silver Machine" (United Artists 35381)
and
Pink Fairies - "Chromium Plating" from the Album Kings of Oblivion


Two relics of the UK psychedelic Underground, and evidence that what is
true for the rabidly amplified electric blues and for the delicious excesses of virtuostic prog is also true for the multicolored cellophane flowers of psychedelia: most often, the British did it better.

While the American psychedelic scenes centered around San Francisco and (at least earlier on) Los Angeles produced for the most part either jangly dead-end Dylan derivatives or turgid and stillborn jugband offspring, the English scene at Ladbroke Grove and Notting Hill seemed less about warping the past for kicks than preparing for the future.

American psych was like an evolutionary blind alley. Nothing ever became of it, none of its genetic material was ever passed on. We woke up one morning in early 1974, and the corpse of American psychedelia was laid out in our communal backyard,and what we had where it had been was Lynyrd Skynyrd and Neil Young and Dust and Steely Dan and Jackson Browne. It died, as the royal genealogists say, having left no issue.

Contrast The Byrds with Hawkwind, who indeed had children: The Byrds began with "Mr. Tambourine Man" and ended up doing some well-regarded country-rock. Hawkwind began with electronic sound effects over stentorian stomps, would evolve into the most insistent of space-rock champions, and later dabble in both punk and synth-rock. Oh, and along the way they worked with sci-fi writer Michael Moorcock and begat Britain's most famous metal act.

Let's not, however, overstate things. Though Hawkwind was variegated and influential, they weren't always necessarily accomplished. In a sense, "space rock" almost seems a misnomer for "Silver Machine." It chugs along in 4/4, like biker rock almost, less complex, less breathtaking and less virtuostic--less freaky overall-- than you'd think something called space rock had to be.

On the other hand, you have to give Hawkwind some credit for their enthusiasms, for the electronic sound effectsin very little use at the time, for the reverb which makes an otherwise unspecial guitar solo rather spacy. Give them credit for the first of Lemmy's typically ardent vocal performances, and give them credit for Robert Calvert's truly forward-thinking lyrics about building a Time Machine.

Give them credit for the Space Ritual tour, a counterculture multimedia extravaganza20 years before Lollapalooza.

And for Christ's sake, if for nothing else, give them credit for Miss Stacia, my goodness . . . .

Just as full-fledged a member of the UK Underground as Hawkwind, with psychedelic roots just as solid, Pink Fairies never however had to live up (or down) to that space rock label. So "Chromium Plating" (written by Oblivion's newest member--and future Mötörhead founder--Larry Wallis) is simultaneously less freaky and more accomplished instrumentally. Wallis' short guitar fill at :15 and the long one at 2:20, before and after the Zeppelinesque bits of slide, are flights of the stoned bumblebee through the poppyfield that is Duncan Sanderson's circular bassplaying and Russell Hunter's busy drumming.

One of the tags used to describe Kings of Oblivion at its AMG page is "protopunk," and while you don't necessarily hear it in "Chromium Plating," it IS interesting to me that an album so rooted in its early 70's time frame, so well-planted in its psychedelic roots, could still be described at least in part as containing elements which foreshadowed the next wave. Hawkwind were the same way, I guess, and as much with metal as with punk.

Instead of seeing psychedelia as the end unto itself, as certain American bands had, both halves of "Pinkwind" saw their psychedelic inspirations as more of a lavishly decorated bridge, an admittedly lush stairway to other, more viable, environs.

Hawkwind - Silver Machine.mp3

File under: Space Rock

Pink Fairies - Kings of Oblivion - 04 - Chromium Plating.mp3

These files were removed May 16, 2010 after I received a DMCA takedown letter. If you're still way interested in coming up with a copy of this--and really can't figure out where you might get one--drop me an email and I'm sure I'll be able to figure something out for you.

File under: Psychedelic-Synthesis

1 comment:

tad said...

Rastro: I don't actually remember "Silver Machine" (had it on a Hawkwind import best-of I stupidly traded-off 30 yrs ago), but I'll tell ya: I've had their HALL OF THE MOUNTAIN GRILL album in the collection since '77 & I won't part w/ it. The 2nd side is amazing: "You'd Better Believe It" is a great cross Btween metal & space rock, "Lost Johnny" is like a Motorhead preview (written by Lemmy & Mick Farren of the Pink Fairies/Deviants), & the other stuff is great spacey synth-wash stuff. This & King Crimson is about as loud as I ever get.... -- TAD.