Silver Machine

Album: Roadhawks (1972)
Charted: 3
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  • Hawkwind was a UK psychedelic heavy metal band. They formed in London in 1969 as Group X. They changed their name shortly to Hawkwind Zoo and subsequently Hawkwind. Although this was their only hit, their space-age rock albums sold consistently well throughout the '70s.
  • Hawkwind guitarist Dave Brock wrote the music to this track, and their frontman Bob Calvert composed the lyric. According to Mojo magazine September 2011, Calvert's lyric was inspired by an Alfred Jarry short story called How To Construct A Time Machine. However, rather than writing about a "cosmic space travel machine" he made it about his new silver racing bike.
  • That's bass player Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister singing lead on this track. Lemmy, who later formed Motörhead, wasn't the group's main singer - that was Bob Calvert, who joined the group for the Roadhawks album. Calvert's attempts to record the vocal weren't up to snuff, so Lemmy got the call.

    "Lemmy had a high voice but it was just very much more powerful, he had a gruffness with it, so we decided to use his vocal," their manager Doug Smith explained. Calvert, who was hospitalized at the time for manic depression, didn't find out that his vocal had been replaced until later. When he did, he was not pleased.
  • Released as a single, the song was recorded live from the Roundtree in London on February 13, 1972. The live performance had vocals by Bob Calvert, but they were replaced by Lemmy's when the song was mixed and overdubbed at Morgan Studios.
  • This was by far the biggest hit for Hawkwind, reaching #3 UK and getting played on the TV show Top Of The Pops. Hearing Hawkwind on BBC radio was very strange for many of their fans, as the group was far off-center and notoriously anti-establishment.
  • When this song took off, the British music magazine NME put Lemmy on the cover with no sign of his bandmates. This gave the impression that he was the frontman and leader of the band, when really he rarely sang lead and had just joined the outfit.
  • A self-described "space rock" band from North Carolina named themselves Silver Machine after this song.
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Comments: 12

  • Darcus from London, United KingdomIt is well known that Mick McManus and Dave Brock were previously acquainted with each other, both having worked in the printing industry in their younger days, Brock as a capstan setter and McManus as a draftsman. McManus also came from a musical background, with his father being a well known bodhran drummer with various Irish folk bands that performed in and around London in 50s and 60s, often accompanied by the young McManus, which brought him into contact with the emerging underground rock scene. McManus's interest in rock was further kindled years later by fellow wrestler Gary Cooper aka Catweazle, who were often seen attending small gigs together whilst on wrestling tours around the country. But it was only a chance meeting at his seemstress' studio, who Brock was picking up a stage outfit for his dancer Stacia from, whilst McManus was having adjustments made to his stage leotard, that led to their renewed friendship. It is not known who suggested McManus' involvement in 'Silver Machine', but it is known that McManus wanted to keep it low profile due to restrictive legal contraints on entertainment work in his contract with Joint Promotions. McManus' contribution was well known within the music industry though, and would see various well known musicians associated with McManus over the years, including the likes of Paul McCartney and the Beatles.
  • Adam from Blackburn, United KingdomIt had absolutely nothing to do with 70s wrestler Mick McManus! McManus was a pseudonym used by Dave Brock, only this once, to avoid paying tax or something. Calvert co wrote it with him.
  • Steve from Liverpool, EnglandI believe That the writers were Dave Brock and a wrestler called Mick McManus. If you check out Mick's website he talks about writing the song with Dave. Who knows but I believe Mick is on the single as co-writer but I haven't had the single in over 30 years but there you go
    Steve Liverpool UK
  • Neil O'neil from Birmingham, EnglandIt's Ian Kilminster and not Lemmy Kilminster and he started on rhythm guitar with Hawkwind. Silver Machine was not their first single (Hurry on Sundown was). Rob Calvert (RIP) is responsible for an Amazing Album called Captain Lockheed and the Starfilters. I first saw them in concert in 1970 and last time was 3 months ago. I have seen them 57 times in concert over 37 years. If you really want some Hawkwind single trivia you need to listen to the B-Side of one of their single called Kings of Speed. It has the first recording of Motorhead, which is half the speed of Lemmy's anthem and has a violin solo in the middle by Simon House. The Space Ritual is arguable the best double live album of all time.
  • Allen from Bethel, AkKekekekekeke...I requested this song...anyway, I think its funny how Lemmy sings "...the other side of the sky...I mean a silver machine" 3:12 into it. I wonder if that was a mistake?
  • Allen from Up, CtHawkwind is quite possibly "the-best-band-no-one-has-ever-heard-of"
  • Nils from Oslo, NorwayActually, it was written by Dave Brock and Robert Calvert, not by Lemmy, although he provided lead vocals.
    It's about Brock's bicycle!
    Hawkwind rocks!
  • Mike from Ho Chi Minh City, OtherYeah, they used to play in Worthing quite regularly (up until I left England)...maybe still do?
  • Chris from LondonActually recored at The Greasy Truckers Party at the Roundhouse.There is a live double album from that night without this track.
    Lemmy took the vocals as he didn't have a sore throat that night!
    The mid 70s reissue had a remix of 7by7 on the flip that can be found on the Stasis compilation album.
    Also check out The Pink Fairies - for the Motorhead connections ... they were responsible for City Kids (b side of original Motorhead single) and The Snake (covered by Tank - Motorheads early 80s prodigies)
  • John from Durham, EnglandRobert Calvert wrote this song about his new silver racing bicycle, Lemmy sang it after the other band members had tried and failed.
  • Hans from Vasa, FinlandLemmy sang the song, but the music/lyrics were written by Dave Brock (guitarist/singer/only constant Hawkwindmember) and Robert Calvert (sang on a few Hawkwind-albums, released some solo albums, RIP)
  • Andy from London, EnglandHawkwind still are a UK psychedelic space rock band, they are still going strong!!! Edward makes it sound they are dead and buried....check out their back catalogue - its immense. And members have also done their own solo albums, as well as worked with bands like Anubian Lights, Bedouin, Gong, Motorhead, Space Ritual and Inner City Unit. A foundation stone of a band for UK music, understated and underrated - but pioneers in their field. Awesome
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