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Date: 30/11/10

Hawkwind - "The Forge Of Vulcan" (1977)

Everyone who's ever heard of Hawkwind will have heard (or heard of) the one-everybody-knows that is Silver Machine, the band's sole Top Ten smash of 1972.

Even I, as out of touch with the rock world as I was, had heard that one. Reaction: meh.

Then in 1977 or early 1978 in our bog-standard comprehensive school, we were sitting in Music class (probably trying to draw pictures of 'cellos; no-one in our year was taking O-level Music, so that's all that was left to us), when my friend Nik (whose art can be seen here) brought in a recently-released single by Hawkwind, called Quark, Strangeness And Charm, the title track from their then-current LP. Our music teacher, Mrs Creber, put it on the large, wooden-box record player, presumably out of a combination of curiosity and trust in Nik's judgment (he was - and remains - a talented musician as well as an artist).

(Just a small diversion here to share with you one of the most important things anyone has ever said in my presence. 'Twas Mrs Creber who said it, at around the same time as the events I'm describing. And this is what she said:

"It doesn't matter how many times you listen to a piece of music - any piece of music. If you're listening properly, you'll always hear something in it that you've never noticed before."

I can't tell you how much my enjoyment of music has been enhanced by following that one, simple guide. Thanks, Mrs. C).

Anyway, back to the plot. Mrs Creber, for whatever reason, chose to play the B-side of the single. This turned out to be an instrumental called The Forge Of Vulcan, composed by the band's keyboard player Simon House.

I was almost hypnotised by it: a recurring ground bass, a repeating sequence of chords on top of it, topped by what we were assured was a real anvil.

It wasn't - as I was to discover - a particularly typical Hawkwind track, even for a time when their sound was more varied and nuanced than it had previously been, but I felt that any band which was capable of producing something like that even once had to be worth 'getting in to'. So I did; and remained so for many years.

The video below has nothing to do with the original track or the band, but it illustrates the theme of the piece quite nicely, so here it is:

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