Though the name conjures visions of dark, medieval ornithomancy, England’s Hawkwind are one of the prime exponents of a flavor of psychedelic, progressive rock called “space rock.” Perhaps best known as a stepping stone on Lemmy Kilmister’s path to Motörhead, Hawkwind are a force of nature that fans of heavy or psychedelic music should enjoy. But with so many albums and live versions out there, and with multiple incarnations of the band touring at the same time, diving into this music can be daunting for a novice.
Space is Deep: an Introduction to Hawkwind, is a playlist that brings together some of the group’s best material from high points in their storied career to give new listeners a foothold as they explore this vast discography.
Second only to Pink Floyd in championing progressive psychedelia in the early 1970s, Hawkwind are legendary for their relentless touring, drug-fueled stamina and willingness to play anywhere, even for free. The latter helped establish Hawkwind as the decade’s ultimate festival act. The band combined musical threads from Black Sabbath and the Pink Fairies with a raw power that fueled epic journeys into cosmic sonic space. Augmented by the work of contemporaries such as Gong and Amon Düül II, these threads eventually came to be called “space rock.”
Hawkwind began as an earthy hippie band, but founder Dave Brock’s lyrics nevertheless reflected much darker sentiments. Their second album, appropriately titled In Search of Space, found Hawkwind embarking on a musical journey to the furthest realms of outer space, where they drifted druggily for the next decade or so. The band even recruited epic fantasy writer Michel Moorcock as a lyricist and stage performer in their “space rituals.” The addition of Lemmy on bass added the roaring engine that the HMS Hawkwind needed to truly soar.
Subsequent years brought instability to band’s line-up and the mental health of some of its members, but Hawkwind continued to refine their sound well into the 1980s. They didn’t so much change styles as strip away some of the chaotic swirl that defined their earlier songs. Today, the band’s current incarnation — as well as various former members — continue to ply their particular vision of space rock as they traverse the musical cosmos.