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Virtual Trouser goes cosmic

By culture editor DJ NRG Raver

Posted March 27, 2012
nik turner goes cosmic
Nik Turner: The man who put the hawk and wind into Hawkwind. (Check bottom for credits)

Strap yourself in 'cos Virtual Trouser's gonna blast you off into space with Lemmy and the gang.

Hello and welcome back to Virtual Trouser, the web-enabled incarnation of Naked Trouser (NT), the world's greatest alternative music night.

Now with a residency online at the Rake and Herald and in print at Point Blank Poznan, we combine, thanks to YouTube and the like, to take you on a journey that will encompass everywhere from punk to reggae and indie to rave.

But right now it's time to drop a spot of space rock into the mix.

Space rock usually means science fiction-themed psychedelic and progressive rock from the 1970s (eg Gong).

However, it has also been applied to artists as varied as Joe Meek (whose Tornados classic Telstar is a favourite of NT DJ Turkey Rollocks); David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust days; and latterly Muse, whose single Uprising has become an anthem of defiance against the rising tide of Big Brother, and I don't mean that vacuous TV programme.

But for many of us, space rock means only one band - the musical institution and national treasure that is Hawkwind.

Formed in Ladbroke Grove in London in 1969 and still going strong today with over 50 ex-members to show for it, Hawkwind have influenced generations of musicians, from rockers and punks through to ravers, with their pioneering 'sonic violence' and legendarily bizarre live performances.

In fact, as Johnny Rotten said when introducing the Sex Pistols' cover of Silver Machine, Hawkwind's best-known song, at the annoyingly-spelt Open'er Festival in Gdynia a few years ago (and recounted by NT regular Red Paul) they were "a rave band from the 70s".

Praise indeed.

Dave Brock
Still going strong: Dave Brock rocks out. (Check bottom for credits)

As well as Dave Brock, the only original member still in the band, the constantly-changing line-up has featured numerous long-haired characters with a tale to tell.

One of these was co-founder Nik Turner, who inspired the group's name thanks to his two favourite habits - coughing heavily (or 'hawking') and trumping out air biscuits.

When not hacking or quacking, Turner enjoyed nothing more than playing his saxophone while gliding around on stage in a pair of roller-skates, simultaneously dressed like a freak in a full-body leotard.

Another was Huw Lloyd-Langton, who "literally descended into hell" during a performance inside a huge slowly-deflating inflatable tent outside the Isle of White Festival in 1970.

He had accidentally drunk a load of apple juice laced with acid.

Then there was Lemmy, the personification of rock'n'roll who later formed Motorhead (of Ace of Spades fame), taking the name from one of Hawkwind's more rocking numbers, and Robert Calvert, a manic-depressive poet and wannabe fighter pilot who developed a dangerous liking for swords, guns and hand grenades.

The band also collaborated with the sci-fi writer Michael Moorcock (immortalised in the NT favourite Dickie Davis Eyes by Half Man Half Biscuit) on tracks such as Sonic Attack.

Meanwhile, the love interest was provided by the six-foot-two-inch (188 cm) dancer Stacia, who used to strut about with her norks out and who was briefly succeeded by none other than 'Page Three stunner' Samantha Fox.

The amazing story of Hawkwind is well told in a BBC4 documentary that you can also see on YouTube.

Whether or not space rock turns you on, it's well worth a watch as it's a fascinating and very funny social history that recounts practically every possible rock 'n' roll adventure and cliché imaginable.

But what about the sounds?

Sam Fox ex Hawkwind
Cor wot a scorcha! Hawkwind alumnus and 80s Page Three favourite Sam Fox. (Check bottom for credits)

As well as Silver Machine, some of the main Hawkwind tunes to be heard on a Trouser night are Master of the Universe (the best version is the live one on side 4 of the Space Ritual album) and Orgone Accumulator.

This latter classic is a funky 10-minute tribute to the controversial ex-psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, who claimed to have discovered a primordial cosmic energy (orgone) that could be collected using special healing and inspiration-giving devices, viz orgone accumulators, and who was also the subject of Cloudbusting by Kate Bush.

Next there's Hassan i Sahba (or 'Assassins of Allah'), inspired by the Hashshashin of the Middle Ages.

After that there are the hippy wails of Hurry On Sundown and Mirror of Illusion, not to mention the full-frequency extravaganza of the aptly-named Brainstorm.

If a watch of all that at full blast isn't enough to send you on a two-dimensional journey into the cosmos, then you could try a couple of tunes by derivative band Hawklords, such as Flying Doctor or Psi Power, or probably most of the hundreds of other tracks that a quick search of YouTube and the like will reveal.

So, if you haven't done so already, invest in a good set of speakers, turn up the volume and fasten your seatbelts for a voyage In Search of Space.

Far out!

And to get you in the mood for your blast-off into the heavens, here's a vid of Orgone Accumulator from Smee's YouTube channel that also pays tribute to the aforementioned Stacia. Cosmic or what?

The original version of this article first appeared in Point Blank Poznan. Cheers, Steg, I'll fax you some soup in a bit.

See also Virtual Trouser raves on, posted 27/3/12.

Picture credits

Top and thumbnail: Illustration by Ignatius Rake using original images by Jim Summaria; and ESO/VISTA/J. Emerson, Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit.

Middle: Original image by SilverLoz; rejigged by Ignatius Rake.

Bottom: Illustration by Ignatius Rake using original images by Elena Fontana; and Jeffrey J Quisenberry.

For licensing information click the above links.

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