Author: Bruce Jenkins Date Posted:17 September 2021
The story of British space-rockers Hawkwind is such a long and winding cosmic road that an entire book would scarcely do justice to their story. Nevertheless, a short introduction is a helpful place to begin this review of the recently re-issued live album, Greasy Truckers Party.
Formed at the tail end of the 1960s, the group captained for half a century by Dave Brock landed a recording deal with Liberty Records at the beginning of the new decade. Although their self-titled debut album was not hugely successful, it hinted at the direction in which the band was heading, a sound fully revealed by their second LP In Search Of Space. By the time of 1972’s Doremi Farsol Latido Hawkwind’s sound had been boosted by the addition of Simon King on drums and the legendary Lemmy (later to form Motörhead) on bass and vocals. Their simple, driving rock—punctuated by synthesiser meteor showers and the squalls emitted by Nik Turner’s effects-laden saxophone—was in place.
Focussing on the studio albums risks missing a key aspect of Hawkwind at this time. The band performed regularly, loudly, and energetically (including dancers, occasionally clothed), quickly developing a cult following that has lasted fifty years. An early gig—and recording—was in support of a ramshackle social action collective called "Greasy Truckers" whose aim was to raise money for worthwhile projects such as emergency housing. This concert took place at the Roundhouse, a famous London venue, in February 1972 and involved several bands. Welsh rockers Man were there, as were Brinsley Schwarz (featuring Nick Lowe). But these were difficult times in England, with industrial disputes causing interference with essential services; the concert was interrupted by power cuts and a visit by the fire brigade asking patrons to leave. (Some did.)
Despite all the confusion, Hawkwind not only got through their set but managed to commit to tape a fine example of their live power, anticipating the highly regarded Space Ritual recorded later that year. Possibly even more significantly, the recording of "Silver Machine" from this concert formed the basis for Hawkwind’s first (and by far most successful) single. This, however, was after going into the studio to add new vocals sung by Lemmy.
While the original 1972 album featured only two Hawkwind songs, the two LP Greasy Truckers Party re-mixed and released on vinyl for RSD 2021 presents the entire set. Crammed with relentless instrumental jams and totally punk vocal chanting, disrupted by freaky improvisation, vibrating like a gargantuan space ship taking off, this is elemental head music of the first order. A number of Hawkwind staples are here, including "You Shouldn’t Do That", "Born to Go" and "Master of the Universe", all demonstrating the hypnotic riffing they have been pounding out through subsequent decades.
The three sides from the Roundhouse total almost seventy minutes of music, leaving room on side four for some bonus tracks: the two original songs that appeared on the first 1972 release.
Dave Brock intones, This is Earth calling... and space answers the call.
© Bruce Jenkins 2021