Monday, 27 March 2017

Sonic Attack - Tracks & References

The view according to Dave Brock: 

“…this new album has a lot of weird sound effects on it. Listen to it on cans and there are lots of sub-sonic frequencies which will make you jump out of your chair…I guarantee it will make your eyes water. But we don’t try to make people ill.” (Kerrang!, January 1982)

What they say now…

“A hard-hitting rock sound that dealt with issues like civil disobedience and erosion of civil liberties,” said Rich Deakin in Vive Le Rock, on the release of the Atomhenge RCA Active Years boxset. Less enthusiastic was Oz Hardwick in R2, on the same package. “For the most part the album revolves around a proliferation of synthesizers, with guitarist Huw Lloyd Langton providing rhythmic crunch and his trademark fluid soloing. Heads down, lads, there’s little room for innovation.” In Record Collector, your blogger summed it up as follows: “Sonic Attack is a Cold War, concrete and barbed-wire, industrial grunge rock, powerful and foreboding from the insistently screaming title track through the cautionary Living On A Knife Edge and onto the regretful Lost Chances.”

Tracks and references:

Sonic Attack

“I saw [the poem] ‘Sonic Attack’ as the distinctly urban sound of the band,” Mike Moorcock recalled, for Sonic Assassins. For Moorcock’s premiere appearance with Hawkwind, he recalls “performing several pieces, one of which was ‘Sonic Attack’. They were all metaphorical pieces. I think I did ‘Use Your Armour’ too, but ‘Sonic Attack’ was the one which captured everyone’s imagination.” 

Rocky Paths

“It was written when we were staying with Dave Anderson in Shepherds Bush. Huw was messing about with new ideas for an Amon Din tour [circa 1971/72]. We never had a set system of collaboration. Huw would play me new ideas and riffs and that inspired me to write lyrics on the spot, or I would write lyrics and hand them to Huw, or we co-wrote, i.e. ‘Outside The Law’.” (Marion Lloyd Langton)


The title could possibly allude to Don Sharp’s downright weird 1972 British horror movie Psychomania, also known as Death Wheelers Are… Psychomaniacs. The story involves a chapter of un-dead Hells Angels. 

Virgin of the World

Euphemism employed by Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) to represent the island of Bensolem in his Utopian novel New Atlantis (1621, published 1627).

Angels of Death

In the Muslim faith, Azrael is one of the four Angels closest to Allah.

Living on a Knife Edge

Dave Brock’s demo version of this song, entitled ‘Processed’, was released as a single by Hawkfan editor Brian Tawn. An incubus is a demon from medieval folklore that has the ability to impregnate sleeping women. The resulting offspring may be a demon or witch. Otherwise, from the Latin incubare (‘to lie on’) – perhaps representing here a mass, worldwide, nightmare.

Coded Languages

“Michael Moorcock heard me going around with this sequence, and said ‘I’ve got something that’ll fit this’.. I asked him if he would sing the song, but he didn’t want to at first. But when he did record the vocal track – it was great.” (Harvey Bainbridge)


An acoustic version of this song was recorded by Brock in the early 1970s but never released.

Streets of Fear

More lyrical recycling – the “Panic is the Rule I make” refrain also appears in Trans-Dimensional Man, the B-side of the ‘Angels of Death’ single.

Lost Chances

The Moorcock lyrics for this song were also used by Nik Turner for his Prophets of Time solo album, under the imaginative and well-thought-out title, ‘Chances Lost’.

Technical information on an associated Hawkfan release:

Dr Technical & The Machines – Zones / Processed 7” (Hawkfan)

Brian Tawn, of Hawkwind Feedback, issued this one-sided 7” single. “I first went to Doug Smith's office in 1978 to see the mountain of unanswered Hawkwind fan mail. Doug asked me to answer it and said he would pay whatever costs arose. That led to me doing the Hawkwind Feedback newsletters and he sent me a cheque to cover my costs from time to time. After a while, I stopped asking for the money because I saw it as my hobby. Dave suggested the single... or it evolved from one of our phone chats. Dave put Zones and Processed on 1/2" tape and sent it to me, I found a pressing plant for it and ordered 1,000 copies. I designed the insert sheet for the single and got it printed. If memory serves me right I sold it for £1 including postage, but it was fun to do and set the scene for me to do the Hawkfan fanzine LP. The pressing plant phoned me to say there were odd noises on the tape before the music started and did I want them wiped? I phoned Dave and he said the tape couldn't have any such thing, so I told the plant to press it as it was. When we got the record, we realised the ‘noises’ were in fact the Zones track. When the pressing plant closed I got the plates for Hawkfan from them, but they couldn't find the plate for the single.”

(Record Collector Hawkwind collectables article)

Lost Chances (Revisited)

The first Hawkwind gig your blogger here ever bought a ticket for was St Austell Cornwall Coliseum on the Sonic Attack tour. Then his lift backed-out, in favour of a rugby tour instead, and he didn't go. I did see them there, for my first Hawkwind live experience, on 30th April 1982, at a benefit show, supported by fondly-remembered local band Artistic Control. Not Hawkwind's finest show I'm afraid. If you have a bootleg of this one, I'm the idiot wit shouting pointlessly for Bob Calvert's return at the start of the tape.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Levitation - Tracks & References

The view according to Harvey Bainbridge:

“I think the final result was quite classy, almost Hawklords-ish. The thing about rock music is that it works on analogue, because there is lots of noise, but when you put it on a digital machine it’s so clean that the tones have to be good. In that sense, Levitation does well, it’s a pioneering album.” (Interviewed for Sonic Assassins)

What they said then:

“Bronze informed me that this was the best Hawkwind album EVER,” wrote Malcolm Dome. Whilst he considered this somewhat overstated, Dome heard “a return to the style of the early 70s… blistering sci-fi imagery [used] as an angry searchlight.’ Particularly praising the “agoraphobic wilderness of ‘Motorway City’,’ and “the desolate synthesisers of the J.G. Ballard-esque ‘Dust of Time’,” Dome rated Levitation as “an album of the year.”

What they say now:

“The album is filled with excellent riffs and melodies,” says, reserving its criticism for the lyrics. “I’m not saying these are bad lyrics, mind you,” they say, having quoted from ‘Who’s Gonna Win The War’. “They just aren’t as clever as when Calvert was in the band.”

Tracks and references:


Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable notes the ability of floating unaided in mid-air as a not uncommon attribute of Roman Catholic Saints and recounts the legend of Joseph of Cupertino (1603-63) who levitated so frequently that he was banned from the choir and had to practice his devotions in private. 

Motorway City

“Where you exit on the right”. Not a song about driving in England, then?

In the early 80s, during live performances of this song the light show would include slides of flying dragons. A possible link to Roger Zelazny’s novel Roadmarks (1979), which includes a metaphysical highway that has routes off into the past and future, patrolled by such creatures.


Psychosis is defined as severe mental derangement involving the whole personality.

World of Tiers

The collective title for a series of five novels by Philip Jose Farmer, commencing with The Maker of the Universe (1965); they are set in pocket universes created by God-like beings with unimaginably advanced technological abilities. 

“Harvey was playing a riff and Huw & Ginger came out with the rest of the music spontaneously.” (Marion Lloyd-Langton)


Who’s Gonna Win the War

‘Already weeds are writing…’ is cannibalised from Brock’s earlier song ‘We Took the Wrong Step Years Ago’, though without the busking!

Space Chase

“Huw was inspired to write ‘Space Chase’ from the ambiance of Bronze Studios, Chalk Farm.’ (ML-L)

The Fifth Second of Forever

Noted as being from the film of the same name, but don’t spend time searching your copy of Halliwells, this was fictitious. 

In the Calvert poem “The Ten Seconds of Forever”, the protagonist spends the fifth second thinking of “The vermilion deserts of Mars, the jeweled forests of Venus”, common imagery in 1930s SF. This track is also known as ‘Circles’.

Dust of Time

The middle, instrumental, section of this track has often been played live as a stand-alone number entitled ‘The Island’, possibly named after a collection of poems by Francis Brett Young.

From the same era:

Nuclear Toy

B-side to 7" release of ‘Who’s Gonna Win The War’. The lyrics allude to nuclear plants such as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, site of the Three Mile Island nuclear facility which, in March 1979 had a bit of ‘Meltdown’ trouble, and also Windscale, the name of Sellafield before they realized that public relations could be a good thing. ‘Strontium 90’ is a by-product of the fission of uranium and plutonium in nuclear reactors.

Heard on the tour:

Shot Down in the Night

“It’s a lot more personal than you’d think – it’s about rejection (rejecting, not being rejected). It’s also political, about the cultural big brother – and clones, people who just subscribe to something so they’ll belong.” (Steve Swindells)

New Jerusalem

Alludes directly to William Blake’s Preface to Milton (1778) which was set to music a century later by Charles Parry and subsequently became a standard part of The Last Night of the Proms. 

Dangerous Visions

Written by Tim Blake’s mid-tour replacement Keith Hale, for his band Blood Donor, for whom he'd also written ‘It’s A Mystery’, later to appear on Toyah’s Four From Toyah EP. “Dave heard a tape of Keith Hale’s stuff,” Huw Lloyd Langton told Simon Veness during an interview at the Lewisham Odeon “He particularly liked this track, ‘Dangerous Visions’, and suggested we have a go at it.”

Dangerous Visions is a 1967 new wave science fiction anthology edited by Harlan Ellison and coincidentally featuring work by SF authors who would have an influence on Hawkwind songs (J G Ballard, Roger Zelazny, Philip Jose Farmer). Again Dangerous Visions appeared in 1972, while a final volume, The Last Dangerous Visions, much-mooted but never published, possibly ranks as the greatest lost title in science fiction history.

Around the same time...

It wasn’t just Hawkwind who were preoccupied with the dangers of nuclear radiation (see ‘Who’s Gonna Win the Win’ and ‘Nuclear Toy’). Hawk-refugee Nik Turner was also warning of its risks in a 1979 7” single with some interesting bedfellows, as I noted in a space-rock collectables feature for Record Collector a few years back…

RADIO ACTORS Nuclear Waste / Digital Love (Charly Records CYS 1058, 1979) 

Space-rock supergroup! Nik Turner! Steve Broughton! Steve Hillage! Gilli Smyth! Mike Howlett! And, err, Sting. Prices are all over the place on this item, probably because of Sting’s involvement. Turner: “We had some studio time in London. Mike Howlett had been working with Sting and the Police and brought him down to sing on it. For the b-side we used this old compressor that was outside the studio to create the rhythm track. We felt really strongly about the nuclear thing and tried to align ourselves with Friends of the Earth. We wanted them to organise a demonstration but they said, ‘We can’t have demonstrations unless we agree it with the police,’ which I thought was a bit limp.” ‘Do you find it attractive to be radioactive / emitting killing rays?’ Well, put like that, probably not.