Monday, 28 November 2016

Electric Tepee - Tracks & References

The view according to Richard Chadwick: 

“It was our first attempt at recording in the studios where we were rehearsing. It was a bit harsh sounding, I thought.”

What they said then:

“Hawkwind’s undying commitment to dreamy keyboards and driving guitar sounds almost fashionable again,” wrote Robert Sandall in Q magazine of a record he felt was “beguilingly confident of its own cosmic mission.” 

What they say now:

Electric Tepee’s reputation survives. “The highlight of Hawkwind’s 1990s albums,” considered a reviewer on the Internet resource Wikipedia. “Typical Hawkwind riffs, electronic swirls and bleeps, with rather prosaic drumming by Chadwick.” On the MSN.Entertainment site, Gary Hill was happy to note that “this disc will certainly perceived as an inconsistent one, but the shining moments more than make up for that problem.” 

Tracks and references:


Lysergic acid diethylamide 25, a hallucinogenic drug first synthesised in 1938 by a Swiss chemist looking for a migraine cure, used by the US military as a truth serum and championed in the 1960s by noted figures such as Aldous Huxley and Timothy Leary.

Blue Shift

An allusion to ‘red shift’, a movement in the spectral lines of a stellar spectrum towards the infrared end of the visible region relative to the wavelength of these lines in the terrestrial spectrum.

Death of War

The co-writing credit for ‘Rowntree’ refers to Mark Rowntree, a serial killer imprisoned for life in June 1976 after a week in which he murdered four people in an attempt to imitate his ‘hero’, the notorious ‘Black Panther’, Denis Neilson. Rowntree had sent a number of his poems to Brock, who used this particular one. 

The Secret Agent

Thought to be a tribute to Robert Calvert, having a similar tongue-in-cheek style to Calvert’s lyrics and using imagery that he had previously visited (in, for instance, Only the Dead Dreams of the Cold War Kid).

‘My old worn trilby hat,’ as worn by Sean Connery in the early James Bond films. Mention is also made of those other standards of the spy genre: cyanide pills, dark shades (worn ‘every day of the year’) and raincoats.

Joseph Conrad’s classic 1907 novel The Secret Agent was later filmed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1936 as Sabotage. Confusingly Hitchcock’s previous movie was also called The Secret Agent (also 1936), based on Campbell Dixon’s adaptation of Somerset Maughan’s Ashenden.

Garden Pests

Mick Wall, interviewing Dave Brock at his Devon farm for Mojo (Sept 1999), noted that “Spade in hand he diligently prods at the weeds in his garden throughout our interview.”

Space Dust

A rather disgusting 1970s sugar confection that fizzed once it was placed in your mouth. God only knows what was in it.

Snake Dance

The Snake Dance was a ritual practised annually, during August, by priests of the Hopi tribe of Arizona to encourage the spirits to bring down the rains.

“It’s a bit rude, really – that’s why you’ve got that Arabic ‘belly-dancer’ feel to it.” (Alan Davey)

Mask of the Morning

The lyrics are the same as those for ‘Mirror of Illusion’. 

Rites of the Netherworld

The album’s Wikipedia entry suggests that this is based on Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring, a ballet and orchestral piece written in 1913.

Don’t Understand

“It came from all the times we said ‘don’t understand’ whilst trying to learn midi.” (AD)

Sadness Runs Deep

The lyrics were taken from a poem by Kris Tait. “Kris writes these poems, and I’ll think ‘that sounds good!’ And I’ll utilise them.” (Dave Brock)

Right to Decide

“Quite political, I suppose” comments Brock, introducing this on the live Business Trip album. It was even more political in its early draft, when an additional verse made mention of Albert Dryden, an enraged County Durham householder who shot dead a local council planning officer as a result of a long running planning application dispute. Television cameras captured the action live.

Going to Hawaii

Richard Chadwick: “‘Going to Hawaii’ was the three of us jamming together and we recorded it. It was just a magic moment.” (Interview with Scott Heller)

Electric Tepee

What this author says:

I’ve often thought that Electric Tepee is, in some ways, the reason Hawkwind are still around today. On the one hand, it’s a return to a wall of sound, really authentic Hawkwind vibe. On the other, famously, it’s a landmark in their getting to grips with new recording technology whilst retreating into Dave Brock’s fabulous Aladdin’s Cave of a recording studio. Certainly, Electric Tepee represents continuity coupled with experimentation; a key element of the album’s success then, can be laid at the door of Brock’s appetite for adaptability and being prepared always to push the boundaries whilst staying true to a central core of musical values. There are not many musicians of whom that can be said, particularly with such a long career behind them.

Looking back, when I’ve written about this album it’s been with love and enthusiasm. The core-trio of Brock, Alan Davey and Richard Chadwick, the most abbreviated Hawkwind line-up, actually come across sounding like one of the fullest. When I talked to Richard a few months back, partly for a Record Collector feature, he credited this with the band having to become more ‘polyphonic’; I relate that little bit because, non-musician that I am, it took me some time to understand what that meant, but in essence it seems that it means each member had to generate more musical notes.

Electric Tepee is arguably the best Hawkwind album post their time in the 1970s on Charisma Records, but that’s not to claim it’s without its faults. It is rather a Curate’s Egg; the band took the opportunity to present an album that maximised the available space on the then still fairly new CD format and used the advantages of recording ‘at home’, without the pressure of expensive studio hours, to explore what the Hawkwind sound in the last decade of the 20th Century should be. Inevitably that ends up creating a situation where there’s a really great, tight, normal length studio album wrapped up into effectively a double album length and so you do have to sift the wheat from the chaff.

But what highlights this album has to offer. Davey’s densely configured ‘LSD’ (sound absolutely majestic on this release), The Brock/Davey classic ‘Right To Decide’, itself surely the most authentic Hawkwind song in many a year and one that had all the hallmarks of being a commercially accessible single that in the right circumstances and with a just a tad of luck could have propelled them back into mainstream visibility. The almost Calvertesque ‘The Secret Agent’, that glorious spy genre send-up, and Davey’s trademark synthesiser wash, ‘Blue Shift’ (which my son recently included in a compilation disc of space music for a school project). And then the simply wonderful and loose studio jam, ‘Going to Hawaii’, a delightful distillation of that intuitive ability to play together that characterised the era of the Dave Brock Trio. There’s so much to love about this album, even though you do have to trawl a little through some of the slight misfires (‘Snake Dance’ was, for instance, so much better both with the extended line-up on the Bedrock TV appearance and as a totally stripped down drum and bass piece during their 1991 dates).

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Hawkwind On The Telly - Quark Strangeness & Charm (Marc)

Hawkwind's second UK television performance, following on from 1972's Top of the Pops promotional film for 'Silver Machine' was on the ITV series Marc in 1977, promoting 'Quark Strangeness & Charm'. Here's what Sonic Assassins says about it...

Hawkwind made only their second UK television appearance in September (recorded late August), performing a version of their latest single, ‘Quark Strangeness & Charm’, on the Marc Bolan-fronted pop show Marc. Although it was, primarily a children’s series – going out at 5:15 on ITV – Marc was one of the first networked TV shows to acknowledge the existence of punk rock, essentially the reason this abbreviated series is still remembered today. There weren’t many other places on national television in the summer of 1977 where one could see bands like The Jam, The Boomtown Rats and Generation X, all of whom featured during the programme’s six-week run. This targeted the very record buyer that Hawkwind were failing to attract, but that they still held relevance for. Bolan shared the same management as Hawkwind at the time, so the opportunity to give the band some much needed exposure was seized upon. Is it surprising, then, that in Adrian Shaw’s opinion, “Brock tried to sabotage the whole thing,” or is it another defeat from the jaws of victory that at times seems to have been a specialism of Hawkwind? Dave Brock failed to arrive at the TV studio where the performance was being filmed leaving the band to appear without him.

For many years after, Dave passed his absence off as being an aversion to miming. However, interviewed in 1998 he became more expansive on the subject, recalling an occasion in the early 1970s when he and some friends gate-crashed one of Bolan’s parties. “We heard Marc Bolan clanking around on his guitar… I had this guitar and played some blues and of course Bolan didn’t like that, ’cos we were good. We were asked to leave.” It seems that Brock had a long memory. “That’s why I didn’t turn up on his TV show in Manchester. I carried resentment for many a year. I didn’t fancy travelling all that way just to mime, anyway.”

Shaw notes that the band decided to go ahead, re-recording the backing track at Granada’s studios in the morning and miming to it in the afternoon. “As Brock wasn’t there I played guitar as well as bass on the recording.” Truth be told, it’s probably nothing to do with Dave Brock’s failure to appear that the track was re-recorded for miming purposes – musician’s union agreements during this period made it practically compulsory for this to happen since it was perceived to guarantee income to session musicians and was certainly common practice on programmes such as Top of the Pops at that time, making it entirely possible that the same ruling was in force for the Marc programmes.  Bolan introduced the band as the people “who should have written Star Wars, but didn’t,” and described them as “my best friends.” Shaw again: “The ‘best friends’ remark was for public consumption only; we didn’t know him very well.”

Sonic Assassins 2nd Edition Extract

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Hawklords 25 Years On - Tracks & References

The view, according to Robert Calvert: 

“I think what we’re trying to do is a form of modern art. We’re trying to make music that actually reflects the way we feel about the world. [25 Years On] is about the small man, the average man’s plight.” (Interviewed by Mike Davis, for Melody Maker, 13th November, 1978).

The view, according to Harvey Bainbridge: 

“It was quite artistic, grown-up, whereas Live Seventy-Nine [the following album], was back to being a teenager again.” 

Dave Brock reflects:

“[The tour] was very costly; I mean, it was a wonderful idea, because the idea we were trying to get was Metropolis, and one of Barney’s things was to have all the dancers in grey and having brooms so that they’d come on stage sweeping stuff up, and the whole stage was scaffolding. They were good dancers, and me and Bob had worked hard on that, the concept of what we wanted to do. But we had a big tour bus that everyone travelled in that was quite costly, and then having to pay six dancers’ wages… so we had a meeting and decided that for cost effectiveness we’d have to get rid of the three of the dancers, which was a shame as they were all very good and worked together. They were upset about it, but unfortunately… if we’d had a record label that would have put some money into all of this, the concept of what we had…” (Sonic Assassins, 2nd edition)

What they said then:

“‘25 Years’ is the best Roxy Music track that Roxy Music never recorded,” considered Andy Gill in NME (16th December, 1978), feeling the album to be “as engaging a mixture of solidity and sardonic futurism as you’ll encounter nowadays.” 

What they say now:

Pete Pardo, on the website Sea of Tranquillity, writes, of the Atomhenge reissue: “For the most part, space rock 25 Years On isn't, instead much of this material on display straddles the line between the oncoming New Wave craze, say like a Talking Heads, and some of the David Bowie material post Ziggy. While it can be fun in spots, it's by no means classic Hawkwind.” What????

Tracks and references:

Psi Power

Created in the 1920s by Dr Karl Zener and J. B. Rhine, Circle, Square and Wave are three of the symbols used in Zener cards to determine telepathic abilities. The others are Star and Cross – not Triangle as the song suggests. Perhaps Bob wasn't getting them as crystal clear as he claimed!

Spanish 'Psi Power' 7"

Free Fall

Harvey Bainbridge: “‘Free Fall’ was a piece Martin Griffin and I had been playing in the band Ark before with met up with Brock and Calvert. Bob recited his poem over the riff, Dave added his inimitable presence and that was that!” (The Cyberspace Interviews)


A mechanical device operating under its own hidden power, from the Greek word Automatos (spontaneous)

25 Years

A GCE, or General Certificate of Education, was an examination standard in British schools (also known as an O’Level). “City and Guilds” are awarded on completion of an apprenticeship. Originally ‘25 Years of Solar Research’ and written for an aborted Dave Brock solo album on the subject of Astronomy.

'25 Years', signed by Dave Brock

Flying Doctor

In Australia, the Flying Doctor is an affectionate name for the outback medical service (a Percival Proctor is their favoured aircraft), ‘Shelia’ a colloquial Aussie expression for a woman.

The Flying Doctor performs an operation with a sardine can – a reference to The Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs. “Did I ever tell you about the time I performed an appendectomy with a rusty sardine can?”

The Only Ones

In Greek mythology, Icarus and his father Daedalus were imprisoned by King Minos. Daedalus constructed wings of wax and feathers to enable them to fly to freedom, but Icarus flew too near the sun, which melted the wax and he plunged to his death. 

Only the Dead Dreams of the Cold War Kid

A town by the wall where the machine gunners wait refers to Berlin in the days of the Berlin Wall.

The Age of the Micro Man

“I was reminded of Barclay James Harvest on ‘The Age of the Micro Man’,” observed one reviewer, “which isn’t a bad comparison.”

What this author says:

Conceptualised around the story of Pan Transcendental Industries, a massive corporation obsessed with modern technology that is building car doors and using them to replace the wings of angels, it’s a study of the disconnection between technological advancement and the psyche of the individual.
(Sleevenotes: Spirit of the Age (From Atomhenge to Earth Ritual) An anthology 1976 – 1984”)

Sonic Assassins - Digital Publication Day!

It’s digital publication day for Hawkwind: Sonic Assassins! (Why do I choose 23rd November… just like I did for Festivalized last year? Hmm… let me think… answers in the comments section please). The book is now circa 150,000 words, revised top-to-bottom, updated to 2016’s excellent The Machine Stops album and has new interviews and research. 

Q: OK, so where’s the physical edition?

A: Coming, honest! The thing is, this update has been on the cards and being picked at for a long time, and without a mainstream publisher handling it, there’s never been a deadline to get it finished, and writers will tell you, nothing concentrates our minds like a deadline. So, to give myself a deadline I decided to do the eBook version first, since I could pre-list with Amazon and Smashwords and create myself a deadline to finish by. Next, I’ll turn my attention to the paperback edition.

Q: I’m a reviewer / blogger /podcaster / radio host and would like to chat about the book or receive a promo copy. How do I contact you?

A: I want to hear from you! Email me through my Profile page here, tweet me at Abrahams_Ian, or contact me on my FB:

Q: What’s new?

A: There’s a lot of stuff through the text which is new. Since the book originally appeared in 2004 I’ve had the chance to interview various people who could add their bits and pieces to the story, such as Mick Farren, who I talked to for Festivalized about eighteen months before he died, and who told me, among other things, about writing ‘Lost Johnny’ with Lemmy for Hall of the Mountain Grill, or Dave Robinson (of Stiff Records fame) who worked at the legendary Roundhouse gig in 1972 where ‘Silver Machine’ was culled as a single from. There’s little bits from Crisipian Mills of Kula Shaker, and Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson from interviews for other things where I tacked-on a Hawkwind question at the end. I got to chat to Jerry Richards, absent from the original book, and, as part of updating the story, to Mr Dibs, Niall Hone, and Matthew Wright. And I was able to chat through different elements of the original book with Dave Brock and gain additional insights and reflections from him, as well as talking about the wonderful legacy of his band.

Q: Does the digital version contain pictures?

A: Indeed it does! Many of the illustrations from the original edition – though not all – are contained within the text of the eBook. And there are new photographs both archive and up-to-date. Had a big internal debate as to what to do, whether to go for text only, include a photographic section at the end of the book, or to scatter them through the text and, as with Festivalized last year, I’ve gone for spreading them across the story. Huge thanks to everyone who helped with this… and I couldn’t resist the caption for P!KN!K’s great shot of the band on-stage at Crystal Palace in 1985…

Great 'Peace' Sign!
Your Author, with the writer of 'Shot Down In The Night'!!!
Steve Swindells (L), Ian Abrahams(R)

Q: What’s happened to the ‘Tracks and References’ appendices from the original?

A: Didn’t do the same thing this time around but subsumed most of the information  into the main text. Someone on Amazon wrote that the original didn’t seem to comment much on the lyrics, but that was largely in the appendices, so this time it’s part of the narrative instead. But those appendices were fun and frustrating to do, very much influenced by the TV programme guides of the 80s/90s by my friends Keith Topping, Martin Day, and Paul Cornell, so I’m tweaking them and blogging them and will get around to the albums released since 2004 as part of that.

Q: Typos! They get everywhere…

A: There will be a digital reload, with an erratum listing any corrections made. Thing is, no matter how much you proof and re-proof, they slip through. I mention a gig in Swindon a couple of months after the events of 9/11 and describe the gig as being in November 2011… I meant 2001 of course! 

Q: Favourite Hawkwind album?

A: Just like Matthew Wright in the book, it’s probably Astounding Sounds or Quark Strangeness & Charm. But it could be Live Seventy-Nine (because that’s when I first properly heard the band, travelling with my cousin to gigs at St Austell Cornwall Coliseum) or Electric Tepee, or Hall of the Mountain Grill. Depends on the day!

Q: Are you going to shut-up about Hawkwind now this is done?

A: Nope. Sorry!

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Hall Of The Mountain Grill - Tracks & References

The view according to Simon House: 

“…a bit of a change, I think. Because of the Mellotron I suppose, it’s sounding a bit classical.” (Melody Maker, 19th October 1974)

What they said then: 

Alan Niester, for Rolling Stone, thought it, “as close to being genuinely listenable as anything done by this band yet, if they keep this trend going they might even start to sell some records in this country.” 

What they say now:

“The slicker sound of a band about to sack the blackhearted Lemmy over a drug bust when once one would have been a recommendation,” noted Ian McCann, reviewing the re-mastered CD in 1996.

Hall of the Mountain Grill - DJ Promos

Tracks and references:

The Psychedelic Warlords (Disappear in Smoke)

An early version of the lyrics appeared in the 1972 Space Ritual tour programme, complete with an eventually unused opening section extolling the band’s ‘Spaced out rock and roll’. A reworking of this song, vocals by Langton, was recorded as part of the Choose Your Masques sessions and issued on the B-side of the 1982 studio cut of ‘Silver Machine’.

Psychedelic Warlords, New Zealand 7"

Wind of Change

The phrase is taken from a speech made in 1960 to the South African parliament by the then British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, about the rise of national consciousness: “The wind of change is blowing through the continent.”

"'Wind of Change' was written to coincide with a sequence of images that I had created with no song in mind.” (John Smeeton, The Cyberspace Interviews)


Also known as ‘Dragon Rider’ and probably inspired by the Pern stories of fantasist Anne McCaffrey (1st. ‘Weyr Search’, Analog Magazine 1967, novelised as Dragon Flight) which featured a race of dragons that could bond symbiotically with Humans.

“I had the idea for ‘D-Rider’ during rehearsals at Clearwater Castle, sitting in the woods meditating amongst the bluebells and playing my oboe. “It seemed a nice idea for a song, people riding around on dragons before the Earth had properly formed. ‘My momma knows just where we are’, it’s fairly ambiguous, is this Mother Earth or our own Mothers? There’s a reference to Stonehenge, ‘the ring has formed out of the stone’ and I’m writing about the Tetragrammaton, which is taken to be the sacred sound of God, the sound of Jesus’s name. There’s a lot of magic and metaphysics in Hebrew; at the time I was reading a lot of books on magic and incantations – in a positive way.” (Nik Turner, interviewed by the author for Record Collector)


Busking Dave Brock strikes again for the opening section.

You’d Better Believe It

Includes a reference to the constellation of Orion, the Hunter of Greek myth; Orion includes three of the brightest stars in the sky.

Hall of the Mountain Grill

The title was a play on the classical work In the Hall of the Mountain King by Edvard Greig, a setting to music of the Peer Gynt tale of Henrik Ibsen.

Lost Johnny

Mentions are made of Valium, Morphine and Tuinol (a barbiturate), Werewolves, and New York (popular myth suggests that alligators roam the sewers there). There are references to Sally, who might be Stacia (‘who makes it big in photographs/on the strength of what she shows’) and an evil looking Simon (King? House?).

“It’s Lemmy’s song. It was written for Lemmy, for Hawkwind. They were doing Hall of the Mountain Grill and Lemmy was concerned he wasn’t going to get any songs on to it, so I said ‘Let’s write one’. I had this idea about all these loser characters, of which we knew many, looking for drugs and ‘baying at the moon’. I mean, it wasn’t Terry Ollis and it wasn’t Steve Took, and it wasn’t nine other people ... it was a combination of all of them, or seven versions or whatever it was. I put it down on a piece of paper, handed it to Lemmy and he took it away and put the music to it and came back and we changed a few things and that was ‘Lost Johnny’. I can’t sit down with a guitar, a blank mind and somebody else and come up with a song. I usually have to go away by myself and write the lyrics, and that song was no exception.” (Mick Farren, Sonic Assassins 2nd edition)

Goat Willow

Common name of the tree Salix Caprea and also known as Pussy Willow. Once used in the manufacture of clothes pegs.

This instrumental is recalled as being used during the late-70s by Anglia TV in the UK as backing music for a documentary on bee-keeping monks.


“Dave, how about ‘Paradox’, that was a good number” suggested Lemmy at the rehearsals for the Hawkestra. “No, boring, that,” replied a weary Brock. 

Also played live:

It’s So Easy

A live cut with studio overdubs, this song had to accommodate a lyric change from ‘all so fucked up’ to ‘all so mixed up’. A demo studio version appears on EMI’s Parallel Universe compilation.

A note on the album title:

The Mountain Grill was a greasy spoon café at 275 Portobello Road, a regular haunt of various Hawkwind members.

What this author says:

From there [In Search of Space], they became more sophisticated, more assured, in the delivery of their psychedelic sci-fi visions. The success of Silver Machine financed the operatic Space Ritual tour while the arrival of former High Tide violinist Simon House, for their Hall Of The Mountain Grill LP, the best, most well-realised, Hawkwind album of this era, vastly enhanced their musical dexterity. (Reviewing the UA-era box-set This Is Your Captain Speaking… Your Captain Is Dead for Record Collector)

Monday, 21 November 2016

Quark, Strangeness & Charm - Tracks & References

The view, according to Adrian Shaw: 

“Bob Calvert was at his peak… and produced some superb lyrics. It’s a shame the Quark line-up didn’t last longer as I think it could have achieved an awful lot more.” (Aural Innovations interview, July 2000).

What they said then: 

Despite a generally favourable write-up in Sounds, the production was described as “naff in parts”, though the reviewer went on to declaim the music as “definitive Hawkwind” (“pulsepulsepulse, chantchantchant, dronedronedrone”). 

What they say now:

“...there’d always been a minimalist DIY side to Hawkwind… this album was a genuine return to form.” (Record Collector, May 2002)

The view, according to their Peers:
“I wish I’d written this song. This is a song that came out in 1977 and it was completely ignored because it was kind of lost in the tsunami of 1977… but I wish I’d written the lyrics!” J J Burnel (Introducing 'Quark, Strangeness & Charm' at an acoustic set for the 2011 Stranglers Convention)

Tracks and references:

Spirit of the Age 

The world’s first test tube baby (Louise Brown) was born in July 1978, a year after the release of this album.

‘oh, for the wings…’ an allusion to the aria ‘For the Wings of a Dove’ by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-47).

Damnation Alley

The second use of a Roger Zelazny novel as the basis for a Hawkwind song. In a post holocaust North America, a condemned criminal must earn his pardon by delivering a serum to a besieged town. The book was loosely the basis for the film Damnation Alley (Jack Smight, 1977), one of the worst adaptations of an SF novel in Hollywood history. 

Dr, Strangelove is a character from Stanley Kubrick’s first SF film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1963). “Strangelove is sexually aroused by the idea of cleansing Holocaust,” notes Peter Nicholls in his Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. The film itself is based on the novel Two Hours to Doom (Peter Bryant, 1958).

Fable of A Failed Race 

The imagery is reminiscent of the poem ‘On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer’, wherein John Keats (1795-1821) writes “Then I felt like some watcher of the skies, when a new planet swims into his ken”.

Quark Strangeness & Charm 

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) was a German-born physicist and mathematician, noted for his theory of relativity E=MC2. Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) was an early advocate of the theory of the rotation of the Earth around the Sun. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) a founder of modern science, though his views were so heretical to the Catholic Church that the Vatican didn’t absolve him until 1992! Geniuses all, though they had no luck with the opposite sex. Allegedly.

There’s also a reference to Choderlos de Laclo’s novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses about debauchery and sexual morals in 18th century France (filmed, as Dangerous Liaisons in 1959 by Roger Vadim).

'Quark...' 7" Acetate and Picture Sleeve

Hassan I Sahba

Hassan ben Sahba (aka Sheik el Jebel) was exiled from the Persian court in around 1090. Stumbling across the Hassassin Valley he established a fortified encampment. Whipping up his status as a prophet of the True Belief, his band of followers (believed to be the root of the word “assassins”) became feared throughout Asia and Europe. The cult was finally eliminated by the Tartars in 1256. 

Black September was the Palestinian terrorist organisation responsible for the killing of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. 

 Hassan I Sahba Italian Picture Sleeve and Promo 7"

Forge of Vulcan

Vulcan was the son of Jupiter and Juno in Roman mythology and represented fire and metal working. Vulcan was also the name assigned to a planet believed to exist inside Mercury’s orbit. The name has often been used in science fiction stories, most famously as the home planet of Mr Spock in Star Trek.

Days of the Underground

Che Guevara (1928-1967) was an Argentinian revolutionary who supported Fidel Castro’s invasion of Cuba in 1956. A mythic figure for the political left in the 60s and 70s, “we saw that head held up” refers to the iconic picture of Guevara by Alberto Korda that once appeared on every self-respecting student’s wall. 

Real life characters appearing in the song included roadie “John the Bog”, whilst Jeff, noted as being a poet, was a friend of Calvert’s who perished when diving in an outdoor pool. 

The song’s title might be a reference to Dostoyevsky’s Notes from the Underground (1864). 

The Iron Dream 

The title is probably from the SF novel The Iron Dream (Norman Spinrad, 1972). Spinrad’s novel Agent of Chaos is likely to be the inspiration for the name of Brock’s side-project Dave Brock & The Agents of Chaos.

What this author says:

Quark… was Hawkwind’s most cohesive, integrated exploration of modern SF themes to date; indeed, it arguably still has that distinction thirty years later. Like the SF of Moorcock’s New Worlds magazine, it retains an awareness of the threats and challenges of modern society in a scientifically advanced age. Calvert summed it up as being “not quite the age we are in now, but one we are heading for. I always try to write about things that haven’t quite happened yet, but I’m sure will.” Indeed, today its cautionary messages on cloning, the oil-led clash of civilisations and the nuclear weapon debate haven’t dated at all. This author remembers Dave Brock introducing ‘Assassins of Allah’ at Swindon’s Wyvern Theatre by recounting how “Bob Calvert wrote this song years ago and nothing’s changed; the same old problems.” Calvert had written of the petrol-dollar crisis of the 70s, of the Palestinian splinter group Black September, the organisation from within the Palestinian Liberation Organisation that had murdered Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. Now it was the 3rd of November 2001; the horrors of 9/11 were less than two months previous. I can still hear the nervous groan of the audience and feel the tension that Bob Calvert, had he lived, could have carved through with the scimitar he’d used as a theatrical prop all those years before. Brock was right; Calvert had achieved his goal back in the day by declaiming an age that was just around the corner, while in this album the band had cut a stone-cold classic that had not only a lyrical relevance but one which in its new wave freshness captured the sonic ‘Spirit of the Age’ as well. In that sense, it probably has a claim to being the reason the band continued onwards: it has a verve that was contemporary and advertised the band’s twisting, changing nature that made them both adaptable and influential.
(Sonic Assassins, 2nd Edition)

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music - Tracks & References

The view, according to Robert Calvert: 

“The style of the music changed dramatically on the Astounding Sounds album…there was never a time when any conscious planning was made to determine musical content.” (Interviewed by Tim Gadd)

The view, according to Dave Brock: 

“I (saw) a major turning point in the Astounding Sounds album… I threw it out of the window… like a Frisbee.” (Interviewed by Tommy Buzzetta for Hawkfan)

The view, still according to Dave Brock:

“Not one of my favourite albums, haven’t listened to it for years. That tune about never flying through a cloud if there’s a mountain in it! How awful is that, you know! We used to collapse in hysteria over it!” (Interviewed by the author for Vive Le Rock magazine, 2016).

What they said then: 

For a recording that many see as the nadir of 1970s Hawkwind output following the alleged classic Warrior on the Edge of Time, the music press of the time were surprisingly positive. “On the strength of this album all those who stopped listening after ‘Silver Machine’ should tune into this wavelength again,” noted the NME (6 November, 1976). 

What they say now:

On the Head Heritage website, a reviewer lamented the “internal politics [that] blew the band apart … and the potential and possible new directions left tragically unexplored,” describing the album as “a halfway house nodding respectfully to the past and pointing the way forward to the future.”

Tracks and references:

Reefer Madness 

Title drawn from Reefer Madness (Louis J. Gasnier, 1936, aka Tell Your Children), a propaganda film warning of the dangers of the “evil weed” (Marijuana), told from the perspective of a high school principal. DRUG-CRAZED ABANDON! Screams the movie’s tag-line. “A terribly made, sensationalised, preposterous film,” notes Danny Peary in The Guide for the Film Fanatic. “If you’ve seen the film…. this is what it’s all about,” adds Brock. 


Calvert noted “Harry Haller [in the novel Steppenwolf, Herman Hesse] is a fascinating character… a solitary figure who stays in his room writing poetry and letters… The hero figure is something I am fascinated in mostly sending up.” 

The lyrics were originally written for an album by Adrian Wagner, Distances Between Us. Calvert reused them when “[Brock] played me this riff he’d written and I immediately thought of using the words… with a bit of expansion.”

City of Lagoons 

Credited in error to Simon House, but actually written by Alan Powell. (‘City of Lagoons’ and ‘Chronoglide Skyway’ have transposed composers)

The Aubergine that Ate Rangoon

“It was developed on a whimsical sequence that simply started at home on my EMS AKS synthesiser and everybody added some bits.” (Paul Rudolph) 

Kerb Crawler

The title is popular slang for men who cruise red light districts for the express purpose of picking up prostitutes in their car. The Eight Track Stereo was the fore-runner of the cassette player for in-car entertainment. Cool… for around five minutes in 1976. 

The sleeve notes credit Dave Gilmour with producing this track. “Tony Howard was a mate of Gilmour’s and thought it would be good if Dave got into production.” (Dave Brock)

Kadu Flyer 

Includes a writing credit for “Mandelkau” due to copyright complications. Jamie Madelkau (former manager of the Pink Fairies and author of a book about the British chapter of the Hells Angels) stood in for Nik Turner in name only. The rights to the song were subsequently re-assigned to Turner. 

The trail to Kathmandu is more fondly known as the “hippie trail” amongst certain members of the 1960s generation, stretching from Thailand, through India to Nepal.

Chronoglide Skyway

‘The Skyway’ is an impressive and famous series of overground walkways that link many buildings in the US twin cities of Minneapolis and St Pauls.

A note on the album title:

Astounding Science Fiction (first published 1930, now Analog) and Amazing Stories (first published 1926, now defunct) were two of the most notable “pulp” magazines of science fiction’s Golden Age. The inner sleeve of the LP featured members of the band promoting rather weird novelty products (Dr. Brock’s Atomic Piles Preparation, Paul Rudolph’s Manly Strap-On Company) in the style of American comic-book adverts. 

What this author says:

Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music is a neglected gem amongst the Hawkwind’s output. Derided at the time by some reviewers and by Dave Brock himself, it appeared to be a radical departure for the band. The lighter-touch used in the whimsical psychedelia of ‘Kadu Flyer’, the gothic atmosphere in ‘Steppenwolf’, Calvert’s tongue-in-cheek lyrics for ‘Kerb Crawler’ and the nod to the dope-craze paranoia public information film ‘Reefer Madness’ (all included here) are very different from the proto-grunge of ‘Silver Machine’, ‘Brainstorm’ and other earlier Hawkwind standards. The range of writing credits showed an expansive attitude to the band’s creativity and listened to with hindsight, there’s a lot of Eastern flavours and tones here that signpost Hawkwind in the mid-90s. 

Sleevenotes: Spirit of the Age - From Atomhenge To Earth Ritual (Atomhenge/Cherry Red)

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Warrior On The Edge Of Time - Tracks & References

Following on from the first extract from the new edition of Sonic Assassins, for those who know the original version with its 'Tracks and References' appendices, I've not done that for the second edition and instead will use them, with amendments, here. Anyone who spots references I haven't got... ping them over and I'll update again!

The view, according to Michael Moorcock: 

“What Dave tends to do is he says ‘do us a concept.’ I do it, then Dave has a different idea and the whole thing shifts away. It’s a perfectly good way of working – to give Dave a bit of a start.” (Orbit 6, 1983)

What they said then:

A review in Melody Maker (10th May 1975) systematically demolished the content of the LP, mitigated only by being linked to a review of Moorcock’s New Worlds Fair LP – compared to which, Warrior on the Edge of Time was ‘an unqualified masterpiece.’

What they say now:

Paul Sutton Reeves in his retrospective analysis of 70s Hawkwind (Record Collector, May 2002) wrote that Warrior on the Edge of Time was “the most fully realised of Hawkwind’s albums” and particularly appreciated “two highly atmospheric instrumentals.” 

What their peers say:

Warrior on the Edge of Time and Hall of the Mountain Grill were two of the first albums I ever heard that really turned me to 70s music. I mean, I was growing up in the 80s and it was only through a friend’s record collection that I discovered bands like Hawkwind, Camel, Pink Floyd… those two albums totally blew me away, and still to this day the first five or six Hawkwind albums are very special to me. You need to listen to Warrior in its 5.1 sound, not because of what I did but you can imagine that psychedelic swirl of sound is pretty extraordinary in surround.” (Steven Wilson, on remixing Warrior  for the Atomhenge reissue).

Tracks and references:

Assault & Battery, Part I

The opening verse is taken from ‘The Psalm of Life’, a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-82), while the scared circles of the second is presumably Stonehenge, though the reference may refer to any prehistoric stone circle, as at Avebury, Wiltshire for instance.

Golden Void, Part II

“I think it’s all to do with taking LSD.” (Dave Brock)

The Wizard Blew His Horn

The opening of Moorcock’s The Eternal Champion (Science Fantasy #53, June 1962) has John Daker transported into the dead body of Erekose the Champion before being awakened to fight for humanity.
The imagery appears to be drawn from a combination of The Book of Revelation (the horse weeping blood) and the Celtic myth of the Wild Hunt.


“’Opa-Loka’ was named after a place in Florida [Opa-Locka]. I lived in Florida in 1970.” (Alan Powell)

The Demented Man

Pretty much the last showing on a Hawkwind LP of Brock in busking mode. “In the circles, on my mind”… Yes, very nice, now move along please, sir, you’re blocking the escalator… A lovely cover version was included on the Pre-Med album The Truth About Us


“Sunbeams are my shafts to kill…”. More poetical borrowings, this time from Hymn to Apollo (Percy Byshe Shelley, 1792-1822). Shelley was a notable figure in the Romantic Movement, an author of politically radical poetry.

Standing at the Edge

‘Veteran of the Psychic Wars’ appeared on Blue Oyster Cult’s Fire of Unknown Origin album (CBS 1981), and turned up again alongside the Elric-inspired ‘Black Blade’ on Extraterrestrial Live (CBS 1982). 

Spiral Galaxy 28948

28th September, 1948 is Simon House’s date of birth. 


A slightly altered chunk from The Eternal Champion – Based on the speech the humans give to Erekose, describing what he will help them do to their Eldren enemy. Erekose later sides with the Eldren, and slaughters humanity.

Dying Seas

“Moorcock gave me a load of titles, I wrote songs about them – ‘Dying Seas’ was one of them. There were others, which I’m using now, one called ‘Sonic Savages’.” (Nik Turner)

Kings of Speed

Speed – a slang expression for Amphetamine Sulphate.

The Mr C mentioned would be a reference to Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius character; also mentioned are Frank (Cornelius) and (Bishop) Beasley. Hawkwind appeared in a cameo role in the Jerry Cornelius novel A Cure for Cancer and in the background to the Cornelius film The Final Programme

'Kings of Speed'
(French / German / Japanese / Portuguese / UK)

What this author says

Recorded out of contract at the end of Hawkwind’s United Artists tenure, Warrior… is not only a pivotal album in 70s Hawk-lore but one with its own mystique, its long-time unavailability generating rumours of decaying or lost masters and contractual roadblocks. Originally released on UA but not contractually part of their catalogue, it hasn’t benefited from Nigel Reeve and EMI’s dedication to early Hawkwind canon but this new multiple-version Atomhenge release more than rectifies that.

Whatever reverence is held for this disjointed attempt to conceptualise Mike Moorcock’s Eternal Champion stories onto vinyl, and it is held among fans as a true highpoint, it’s neither in the Space Ritual league of classic albums per se, or as cohesive as Hawkwind’s preceding LPs. That it often feels demo-like is exposed on the new transfer though majestically conquered on Steven Wilson’s 5.1 remix on the accompanying audiophile DVD. 

Sacrilege committed, it still has classic moments: Dave Brock’s Assault & Battery and its segued crash into Golden Void, his acoustic Demented Man and Simon House’s intricate Spiral Galaxy 28948. Relevant bonus material, remixes aside, includes multiple versions of Motörhead, a busking trifle and a sprawling demo of Spiral Galaxy but there isn’t enough extant outtakes to further illuminate the original.
Warrior On The Edge Of Time - Atomhenge Reissue
Record Collector

Hawkwind: Sonic Assassins (Extract 1)

Here's the first in a series of extracts from the newly revised and updated version of Hawkwind: Sonic Assassins, which is available as an eBook from 23rd November 2016 and which should be out as a physical print edition in early 2017. This extract is from the chapters following on from the original edition, which ended with the band preparing to release the Take Me To Your Leader album.

I visited the band for interviews for the first edition of this book while work was ongoing for Take Me To Your Leader. The first time I met Dave and Kris, we’d had lunch at a local pub, in lovely warm spring sunshine, conducting the initial interview for the project, largely focused on Dave’s early career. Afterwards, I was thrilled to be invited back to the farm, to see where the band rehearsed and recorded, and to meet Alan Davey and Richard Chadwick. I sat at their kitchen table and Kris talked about a request they’d had for Dave to appear on a radio show with a presenter who’d claimed – and they were sceptical about this – to be a Hawkwind fan of longstanding. Should they take up this one, they wondered? “Well,” I said, “It’s all publicity, isn’t it?” The radio presenter in question was Matthew Wright, now known for his long-running TV series, The Wright Stuff, who has since become a firm friend of the band.

“It was a Saturday morning show on LBC Radio,” Matthew recalls. “The producer was very new to radio and didn’t really know what she was doing, and I’d got a bit frustrated because in radio the producer does a lot of background work for you, so you can just rock up and sound like you know everything off the cuff. They make everything easy; she struggled but she came up with one brilliant idea which was to get Matthew off her back she’d fill the show with people Matthew would like to interview. She’d rather cunningly extracted stories of my life, down the pub after the Saturday sessions, and Hawkwind came up, and Gong, and over the year and a half I did the show Daevid Allen came on, and Dave Brock. Dave Brock was the pinnacle of it all, really. I mean, Hawkwind have had big periods, less big periods, but they are internationally renowned still to this day. To have the main man turn up on your relatively small beer radio show was an honour. The first thing I thought when he came through the door: ‘Fucking hell! It’s Dave Brock.’” 

That claim to be a fan of longstanding was totally true. “At school there was one guy who was the least likeliest bloke to get into spacerock; he was the cross-country champion for the school, he ran for Surrey, he was a nice bloke… and he obviously had very advanced musical tastes because he was listening to Warrior on the Edge of Time at, what, ten, eleven. So, I was hearing it then but didn’t quite get the bug, but then picked up the Masters of the Universe compilation on cassette, with it going round and round, and me getting hooked in, without realising what I was getting hooked into. Then eventually I committed myself, shall we say, to a path of internal experimentation and started to get a grip on what Hawkwind were all about, and they started to get a proper grip on me. On my 21st birthday Hawkwind were playing a venue right in the middle of Exeter and a mate of mine who I knew from university smuggled a note back stage, would they read out a dedication to Matthew Wright, it’s his 21st birthday. And, fucking hell, Dave Brock did it! That was the first time I got close to spaceship Hawkwind [laughs]. But here I am on my radio show and it’s the first time I’ve come face-to-face with him. I was just blown away, met Kris, and they were both charming. Sat down and did the interview and Dave is as revealing as Dave can be, knocking back the trickier questions and trying not to sound too bored with the ones he’s answered a million times before. In between we’re playing Hawkwind tracks and talking about albums; I think we had Hall of the Mountain Grill on and I’m singing along to ‘You’d Better Believe It’ and he says, ‘You know it better than I do!’. Went through a few more lyrics and he was, ‘you really do know it better than I do…’. Literally the next line was, ‘do you fancy doing a gig with us?’.” 

That gig would be at the London Astoria for the band’s Christmas gig of 2004. For most of the year the band had settled into its early 90s trio configuration, since Simon House had once again departed, as had Arthur Brown, who’d continued to make appearances with the group until the summer of 2003. But a new texture to the sound was starting to be added by the recruitment of Jason Stuart on keyboards, who’d previously played with Captain Rizz and was bringing in a totally new dimension with jazz-led piano sounds that turned things around on a sixpence again and offered another new index of possibilities. 

“That was always going to happen,” Alan recalls. “Jason lived in Honiton, where Dave and I did as well, and he was such a nice chap to have around and have a laugh with. As soon as we thought about looking for another keyboard player it all went straight to Jason, really. I knew him a few years before Dave and Kris did, because he used to live in London and I’d go and see a friend there and he was always around. There’s nothing bad to be said about that guy, nothing at all.” 

“Jason was in Captain Rizz’s band, years and years ago,” says Dave, “so our paths crossed quite often. We asked him quite a few times if he’d like to come and have a jam with us but he was always too shy, believe it or not! He was an over-the-top character, but quite shy within himself. But we eventually persuaded him to come and play here, and it was wonderful, such a good keyboard player, and a nice character. He had a good style of playing, which suited him well. I used to see him twitching sometimes, when he’d hit the odd bum note… I’d look over and see his eye twitching, ‘Oh, you heard it!’ Jason played at my mum’s funeral, ‘When the Saints go Marching In’, on the organ, in church, jazzed it up a bit!” 

What Jason Stuart brought to the band invigorated the captain of the ship, as Matthew Wright, who got to know Jason well, describes: “Jason and Dave really clicked. Dave needs people to write with, he’s generated his best work when he writes with someone, Turner stuff, Calvert stuff, he’s always liked to have a writing partner. I think that with Jason he found someone who was extremely gifted musically, a great improviser on keyboards and if you are a musician’s musician, as Dave is, you want someone who is fantastic on the keyboards. So, they were having a wonderful time writing stuff together, and they had a wonderful, warm, relationship. Jason was one of my favourite people that I ever met, he never took life too seriously, always had a smile on his face, and if you can imagine that life on the road can get very emotional and difficult, touring can be tough and when tensions are at their highest and everyone is wired and paranoid you had this bugged-eyed and balding lunatic, Jason, in front of you, who never took anything very seriously and was a good diffuser of tensions within the band and a fantastic laugh.”