If there was ever a genre of music that was idiosyncratically European it was the brief period that spawned space rock. Strafing through the first half of the Seventies, space rock blew minds all over Europa and hardly made a dent in the United States. Psychedelia mixed with sci-fi and surreal theatrics, bands like Hawkwind, Magma, Gong and Amon Duul, to name a few, took Pink Floyd's blueprint for musical madness and took it ten steps further.
If space rock ever produced a hit single for the Top 40 charts it was the insanely catchy rocker "Silver Machine" sung by none other than future heavy metal hero Lemmy Kilmeister, then Hawkwind's bass guitarist. Originally released in 1972, it ripped brains apart with a locomotive 4/4 beat, hypnotic guitar power chords and enough white noise to keep the space heads happy. Silver Machine was a million seller that enjoyed repeat releases selling millions and topping the charts every time.
Silver Machine features lyrics that recall hot rod songs from the Sixties making space travel exciting with promise of a thrilling ride. Who wouldn't want to jet away to the cosmos on a supersonic space craft with topless dancers and Lemmy toking a joint with you?Sex Pistols - Silver Machine
You can't keep a great rock & roll song down so naturally Silver Machine has had its share of covers, and what wild covers to choose from. Pictured above are The Sex Pistols from their last tour playing the space classic. The song fits in so perfectly with The Pistols' oeuvre it's positively uncanny: Steve Jones summoning up Mick Ronson's power chording, Paul Cook's behemoth foot stomp and John Lydon topping it all with insane abandon. Miles, nay, light years cooler than "Holidays In The Sun".James Last - Silver Machine
Just as nutty is James Last's hipster big band cover with musicians looking like Eurotrash porn stars and rockin' out with vintage Blood, Sweat & Tears style aplomb. Thank God they sound better than they look! Love this one. By the way, if Mr. Last wants to cover the Trash Can School songbook I would be thrilled beyond belief!Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain - Silver Machine
Rounding out our tribute to Silver Machine is a brilliant and unexpected version from the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, happily chugging away on their exotic gee-tars and sending me to outer space via the UK, Maui-style. One wonders what other uke gods like Tiny Tim and Arthur Godfrey would have done with the same tune. These guys are great.
Every time I hear Silver Machine I just want to get up and dance and I know I'm not the only one. The song's been played in countless TV shows - all European, of course - like the awesome comedy Manchild as well as others. I'm looking forward to hearing more versions of Silver Machine to come, the weirder the better.