Quark, Strangeness and Charm is the seventh studio album by one of our favourite groups, Hawkwind. Released in 1977, it is a departure from the funky sound they had produced on their previous album and sees Robert Calvert start to dominate proceedings with his science fiction-inspired lyrics. The album was warmly received by the British music press at the time of its release, Sounds noting that “the band are still capable of making a stir” and Melody Maker that they had “gone part of the way in rehabilitating themselves”.
Critics especially praised Calvert, Sounds stating “Calvert, having adapted to his role as frontman, now pulls out the stops, his poetical-lyrical contributions working particularly well”. Melody Maker observed that “the band have developed a real sense of humour” and the album “finds Calvert in very fine form as a lyricist”, while the NME assessed it as “sci-fi comic book thrills to the proles, only this time around Bob Calvert’s psychotic sense of humour is well to the fore”.
The critics were less complimentary about the progress in the band’s music, with Melody Maker noting that the lyrical improvement “has not been matched instrumentally nor structurally. The only musician of note… is Simon House for his consistently impressive violin passages”, while the NME stated that “musically it’s all battering ram riffs and monoplane synthesised drones, with Dave Brock occasionally cutting loose on guitar (rather than just providing frenetic rhythm) and Simon House contributing some hypnotic violin solos”. Sounds felt the “production may be naff in parts”, believing the “magnificent mugginess” of Doremi Fasol Latido more suited the band’s sound.
“Spirit of the Age” is composed of two of Robert Calvert’s science fiction poems, the first verse being “The Starfarer’s Despatch”, which he had recited at shows whilst being the “resident poet” in the band in 1971, and the second being “The Clone’s Poem”. Both of these poems were published amongst a collection of his poetry. Throughout the song is a rhythmic electronic pulse. This repeated sound is the Morse Code for SOS (dot-dot-dot, dash-dash-dash, dot-dot-dot). The song was a popular addition to the band’s live set and even remained after Calvert’s departure from the band in 1979. A more aggressive version of the song with vocals by Dave Brock was issued on the Live Seventy Nine album.
“Hassan-I Sabbah” is a Middle Eastern flavoured song, mixing the legend of Hassan-I Sabbah with contemporary issues (oil and Palestinian terrorism). During the live performance of this song, Calvert took on the persona of Aubrey Dawney, which he described as “a sort of 1914–1918 fighter ace, plus a bit more. Mick Farren described him as being a cross between Biggles and Lawrence of Arabia – which he is, he has connections with the Far East and also opium smoking”. It was first performed live during 1976’s Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music album tour, a version appearing on Atomhenge 76, and remained in the set until the formation of the Hawklords in 1978. A new studio version was recorded for the 1987 album Out & Intake, and since then it has almost been an ever present in the live set, appearing on numerous live albums, usually under the title “Assassins of Allah”.
“The Days of the Underground” is a self-reflective song covering the halcyon days of the band…
“Whatever happened to those chromium heroes,
Are there none of them still left around.
Since The days of the underground?”
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