My longest-standing claim to Internet notoriety stems from a 1993 online exchange on Compuserve’s RockNet Forum about the pioneering space-rock band, Hawkwind. Fellow RockNet denizen Zen Poet (a.k.a. Steve Pond, in the real world) shared my enthusiasm for Hawkwind’s thunderous noise-scapes, which he’d experienced in a very personal manner, both having seen the band in its heyday as an impressionable youth, and then later having played synths and guitar with Inner City Unit (featuring former Hawkwind mainstays Nik Turner, Dave Anderson and Dead Fred), and backing erstwhile Hawkwind frontman Robert Calvert (also with Dead Fred) during the final tours Calvert played before his untimely passing in 1988. (Steve still makes music as the mighty Krankschaft).
At some point in some conversation way back then, in a stab at onomatopoeia, one or the other of us described the lock-step grinding guitar figures that anchor some of the group’s most scintillating flights of fancy as making a sound like “BLANGA BLANGA BLANGA BLANGA BLANGA . . .” We eventually started using the word “BLANGA” as a short-form description of the best qualities of Hawkwind’s music, and along with another RockNet chum named Dave Rice, we started compiling rankings of various Hawkwind albums based on their BLANGA scores, rating them on a scale from 0 to 10. As I wrote at the time: “A BLANGA Score of 10 is the epitome of the form; a BLANGA Score of 0 is ANTI-BLANGA, music from an evil alternate universe where all male musicians have their testicles removed at age 13, and female musicians are only allowed to sing seven-part amens whilst shrouded head to toe in surgical gauze.”
I had very limited Internet skills at the time, but Steve and Dave were both very technically adept, and at some point in the earliest days of the World Wide Web, the three of us agreed to craft an online version of our unofficial Hawkwind BLANGA Guide. I wrote the copy and assigned the ratings, then Dave worked his coding magic, and Steve did what needed to be done to host it on his Doremi website (named after the Hawks’ masterful Doremi Fasol Latido album), where it soon became an important part of the online Hawkwind experience. Amazingly enough, the BLANGA Guide lives there at Doremi to this very day, with one major sprucing and updating completed in 2010, some 15-plus years after the original version went online.
It has been quite an amusing treat over the years to watch the word BLANGA propagate among the Hawkwind community, to the point where I have heard band members using it in interviews, have been challenged by former band members about low BLANGA scores given to discs they played on, and seen tape traders rating various shows based on the quality of BLANGA therein. Other bands and their fans have adopted the term as well, with the most obvious nod coming from American space-rockers F/i, who titled their 2005 album Blanga, and filled it with songs like “In the Garden of Blanga,” “Blanga’s Transformation,” “An Extremely Lovely Girl Dreams of Blanga,” and “Grandfather Blanga and his Band Light it Up.” It’s kind of cool to have influenced people that way, without them having any idea that the word “BLANGA” wasn’t something that just emerged spontaneously from the ether, but rather has a specific, definable birth-place and pedigree. It was my word and it was Steve’s word first, but it has since flown away and taken on a life of its own, with meaning to countless people who we have never and will never meet.
How cool is that? Pretty darn cool, I say . . . we invented a word!