For the construction in set theory, see Silver machine.
Silver Machine is a 1972 song by the UK rock group Hawkwind. It was originally released as a single on 9 June 1972, reaching #3 on the UK singles chart. The single was re-issued in 1976, 1978 reaching #34 on the UK singles charts, and in 1983 reaching #67 on the UK singles charts. The original mix is currently available on the remasters version of In Search of Space.
"Silver Machine" was recorded live at a Greasy Truckers benefit gig at The Roundhouse, London on 13 February 1972 and this version was released on the Various Artists compilation album Glastonbury Fayre and the 2007 box set of Greasy Truckers Party. Overdubs were applied and mixing took place at Morgan Studios with Douglas Smith and Dave Robinson overseeing the process. Dave Brock took production credits using an alias of Dr Technical.
[The Greasy Truckers] was about my third gig, and I didn't know what I was doing. I hadn't done any rehearsals and I thought that Silver Machine was a Chuck Berry number - really. - Simon King
[Calvert's] vocal was fucking hopeless, but he never realised it. That's how mad he was. It sounded like Captain Kirk reading 'Blowing In The Wind'. They tried everybody singing it except me. Then, as a last shot, Douglas said, 'Try Lemmy'. And I did it in one take or two.
Lemmy just had the best voice for it. Of course, Bob was not pleased when he found out. - Douglas Smith
The lyrics are a send-up of space travel, inspired by the Alfred Jarry essay How to Construct a Time Machine which Calvert interpreted as a description of how to build a bicycle:
I read this essay by Alfred Jarrey called, "How to Construct a Time Machine", and I noticed something which I don't think anyone else has thought of because I've never seen any criticism of the piece to suggest this. I seemed to suss out immediately that what he was describing was his bicycle. He did have that turn of mind. He was the kind of bloke who'd think it was a good joke to write this very informed sounding piece, full of really good physics (and it has got some proper physics in it), describing how to build a time machine, which is actually about how to build a bicycle, buried under this smoke-screen of physics that sounds authentic. Jarrey got into doing this thing called 'Petaphysics', which is a sort of French joke science. A lot of notable French intellectuals formed an academy around the basic idea of coming up with theories to explain the exceptions to the Laws of the Universe, people like Ionesco the playwright. The College of Metaphysics. I thought it was a great idea for a song. At that time there were a lot of songs about space travel, and it was the time when NASA was actually, really doing it. They'd put a man on the moon and were planning to put parking lots and hamburger stalls and everything up there. I thought that it was about time to come up with a song that actually sent this all up, which was 'Silver Machine'. 'Silver Machine' was just to say, I've got a silver bicycle, and nobody got it. I didn't think they would. I thought that what they would think we were singing about some sort of cosmic space travel machine. I did actually have a silver racing bike when I was a boy. I've got one now, in fact. - Robert Calvert
|Year||Format||Silver Machine||Seven By Seven||Notes|
|1972||7" single||Original mix - 45UP35381 A-1U||Original mix - 45UP35381 B-1U||Winged monkey in clockwork sleeve|
|1976||7" single||Roadhawks version - UP35381||Remix - UP35381 (available on Stasis)|
|1978||7" single||Roadhawks version - UP35381 A-4||Space Ritual version - UP35381 B-4||Black Doremi shield on white background|
|1978||12" single||Original mix - 12UP35381 A-1U||Remix - 12UP35381 B-2U||Silver foil sleeve with embossed Doremi shield|
|1983||7" single||Roadhawks version - UP35381||Space Ritual version - UP35381||White Doremi shield on black background|
|1983||7" pic disc||Roadhawks version - UP35381 A-4||Space Ritual version - UP35381 B-4||White Doremi shield on black background|
|1983||12" single||Original mix - 12UP35381 A-1-1||Remix - 12UP35381 B-1-1||White Doremi shield on black background|
On 3 December 2007, Cleopatra Records in the USA issued a limited edition of 500 10" vinyl EPs consisting of both BBC versions of "Silver Machine", the live version as the A-side and the session version as the B-side.
Lemmy continues to make guests appearances with the band when their paths cross. Some live versions of the song on which Lemmy has appeared include The Friday Rock Show Sessions from the Reading Festival 24 August 1986 and Motörhead's Stone Deaf Forever! boxset from Wembley Arena 19 October 2002.
Receiving criticism over the release, Brock defended their actions: "It was only done as a tenth anniversary thing, and wasn't supposed to come out just as a picture disc. That was RCA's decision, and I didn't like it one bit. The only reason we cut it was as a special souvenir.
In addition to the single release, the record company included it on the Choose Your Masques album, leaving Marion Lloyd-Langton to complain: "[Huw and I] actually had three tracks for the Masques album, but RCA insisted that Silver Machine went on, so the third track was dropped; pity about that.