Thoughts on Hawkwind “At the BBC – 1972”

I haven’t done any music reviews or criticism in a while, so I figured it’s time to get back into doing that. This is going to be somewhat rough and unpolished, as I’m generally trying to find my voice again when it comes to discussion of music.

Disclaimer – I’m not a musician, and I, at present, have no musical training, so take this accordingly.

I think myself something of a fan of Prog Rock, and I’ve always looked for more bands to explore – so one of the groups that has caught my interest over time has been Hawkwind, particularly through their collaborations with Science Fiction and Fantasy author Michael Moorcock. When a couple Hawkwind albums came out as part of some previous Record Store Day offerings, I decided to pick those up.

The first of those I listened to was At the BBC – 1972 a live album recorded from a performance that was broadcast for the Beeb. This performance has Hawkwind firmly in their Space Ritual period – with some of the setlist being on the Space Ritual setlist, with other tracks feeling sort of like alternative versions. It’s been a while since I listened to Space Ritual, and I’d have to listen to it again to make sure.

The album also includes “Silver Machine” and “Paranoia” – neither of which were on the Space Ritual set-list, though “Silver Machine” ended up being a hit single at the time, though one that didn’t get an album release until much later. While the track “Countdown” could be viewed as a prototype of the track “Earth Calling” from Space Ritual.

All that said, this fits with a theme I’ve noticed with Hawkwind’s albums – which is really solid instrumentation, with some solos building off of a steady riff, in a very jazz-like manner, combined with dire vocals. A great example of this is this album’s version of “Master of the Universe”. We get a chunk that really gives Lemmy a chance to showcase his capabilities as a bassist – but we also get vocals that are probably the worst version of the song that I’ve heard.

Perhaps that’s the story of Hawkwind – all the lyrical ambition and instrumental talent of Pink Floyd, but without the vocal polish. This is not a slight, but some serious thought as to why Hawkwind never became the juggernaut that Pink Floyd did, while being able to endure as an active force for far longer.

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