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.


  1. A good solid Hawkwind album is Sonic Attack, released in a very fertile period for the band, which saw the release of 4 excellent albums in the space of just two years:
    Levitation (1980)
    Sonic Attack (1981)
    Church Of Hawkwind (1982)
    Choose Your Masques (1982)

    Stand-out tracks are Rocky Paths/Virgin Of The World/Angels Of Death/Coded Languages & Lost Chances.

  2. Very good write up love this and the history of the tracks