Acid, nudity and sci-fi nightmares: why Hawkwind were the radicals of 1970s rock

Dismissed by the press at the time, and now all but forgotten by many, we need a reminder of the mind-blowing band who ushered in punk and multimedia raves

Early evening, 13 July 1972, and something strange and rather wonderful is about to happen. On the previous edition of Top of the Pops, David Bowie had both entranced and outraged the nation by casually draping his arm around Mick Ronson, but this week’s show is set to feature a performance that will prompt just as many excited playground discussions as Bowie’s.

The studio cuts to the gloom of a provincial dance hall, and a shot of a crowd already in the throes of what looks like religious ecstasy. On stage, a striking young woman with a silver face salutes the air and then enacts a secret ceremony, as a dirty whoosh of crunching guitar and pounding drums begins to pour from the TV. A band member frenziedly shakes a flute above his head like a space-age sceptre; another stoops over a table of mysterious electronic devices. The bass-playing singer steps up to the mic and bellows, “I just took a ride in a Silver Machine…”

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