Sunday 22 October 2017

Hawkwind: Sonic Assassins Goodreads Giveaway

Hello everyone! Just a quick 'heads up' that I've got a Hawkwind: Sonic Assassins giveaway running on Goodreads until 21st November 2017. Do pop along and enter!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Hawkwind by Ian   Abrahams


by Ian Abrahams

Giveaway ends November 21, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Tuesday 4 April 2017

Alien 4 - Tracks & References

Ron Tree, Alien 4 tour, Collection of Dave Brock

The view according to Ron Tree: 

“I was doing stuff about aliens, because I know they exist, there is no doubt. Anybody who doesn’t [believe in aliens] is a fool, a total fool.”

(Hand up here, sorry. Your blogger is a fool, then!).

What they said then: 

The collective voice of Hawkwind’s web-based fandom got one of their earliest opportunities to dissect a Hawkwind studio album with the release of Alien 4. “It’s really heavy and when Ron shuts his trap, it’s brilliant!” wrote Andy Gilham. Jill Strobridge liked its “dramatic solid sound” whilst Martyn Lawrence thought ‘Sputnik Stan’, “really hits the spot.”

What they say now:

Mott-the-Dog, in an on-line review very appropriately comments that “If you want to go into cosmic interstellar overdrive and you’re never sure whether to wag your tail or your head then this is the album for you,” and thinks Alien 4 “a magnificent return to form… a science fiction concept album in support of the oppressed people of planet Earth.”

Tracks & References:


A touchstone for UFO believers is the concept of the alien abduction, with its mythology of genetic experimentation and unaccountably missing time. The idea first came to wider attention in the 1960s by the alleged experiences of Betty and Barney Hill, who under hypnosis claimed to have been taken captive and studied by extra-terrestrial visitors. 

Alien (I am)

This track contains a sample of dialogue from The Mind’s Eye, a fourth season story of Star Trek - The Next Generation.

Reject Your Human Touch

Blue Skin

The music (with new lyrics) is recycled from ‘I am the Eye Which Looks Within’, a number performed on the 1994 European tour. 

Beam Me Up

The legendary Star Trek ‘return to ship’ command. 


Vega (Alpha Lyrae), located in the constellation Lyra, is the fifth brightest star in the sky and is 25 light years from Earth. Together with Deneb and Altair this pale blue star makes up the ‘Summer Triangle’. “One of my calmer moments.” (Alan Davey)


“Xenos” from the Greek, meaning “strange” or “foreign”. “Morphing”, generally used in SF to describe the changing of one physical being into another, again from the Greek “morphe”.  The booklet for the ensuing tour’s live set describes this as “an alien in his bloodshape, germinating and infesting like a virus.”


The title is possibly a reference to Brock’s enthusiasm for the work of Arthur Brown, the title perhaps a nod in the direction of Brown’s Kingdom Come album Journey.

Alan Davey's handwritten lyrics for 'Sputnik Stan'.
Used in the 1st edition of 'Sonic Assassins' by kind permission.

Sputnik Stan

The Russian Sputnik 1 satellite was the first artificial object to orbit the Earth, in October 1957, whilst Sputnik 2 took the first animal (a dog called Laika) into space.

“I saw this programme on the Discovery channel, about the problem of space junk – there is a phenomenal amount. Apparently within twenty years the odds of an astronaut on a space-walk being hit by this stuff will be very high. I figured at some point they’d have to send a scrap-merchant up there – it triggered this idea.” (AD)


In Yoga, Kapal represents the head. 

“A really good track, one of the best instrumentals. It’s that thing again of mixing synthetic with rock, it can get quite heavy, intense.” (AD)


A poem by Kris Tait, written in response to an incident at a free festival when Hawkwind were attacked on stage; the words appeared on the sleeve of the Palace Springs album and were set to music by Brock.

Death Trap

Jerry Richards first Hawkwind album appearance, playing lead guitar on this track.


A reworking of the keyboard riff from ‘Wastelands of Sleep’. 

Are You Losing Your Mind?

Reworks the music themes from 'The Iron Dream', from Quark, Strangeness & Charm.

A word on the album title: 

Area S4, the title of the EP released to promote the album, is a military base just south of the notorious Area 51 complex in Nevada. It is at this establishment that conspiracy theorists claim the recovered alien spacecraft from the Roswell crash-landing of 1947 were back-engineered and test flown. Alien 4 almost certainly is a reference to the then four members of Hawkwind.

Sputnik Stan... The Return!

Alan Davey
Sputnik Stan Vol. 1: A Fistful Of Junk
Earthquake, EQRCD018 / EQRV001 (CD/LP)
Who is his mate? Telstar Tim?

Sputnik Stan made his debut ‘appearance’ in Hawkwind’s live set during 1993, going on to appear on their 1995 Alien 4 album, a character in his own eponymous song from then bassist Davey, an orbital scrap merchant inspired by a documentary about the amount of man-made debris circling the planet. Think Steptoe & Son meets Red Dwarf. Since then Davey’s departed the ranks and Stan, well, we’d assumed he was still out there somewhere, chasing fading satellites unsung. Weighing them in, getting paid. 

Well, communications have been restored with the SS Garbage Can, via Stan’s on-board computer Mel Function (we see what you did there, Alan), resulting in his story being updated with this album, packaged alongside a 20 page comic illustrated by co-lyricist Kevin M Sommers. The end result, in the vein of Hawk-legend Bob Calvert’s Captain Lockheed, is a mix of dialogue, space fx, and Davey’s booming basslines, growling vocals and vivid musicality.

What started life as a two-verse and repeat song, witty as it was, has finally given proper life to the intriguing sci-fi concept lurking underneath; indeed there’s a promise of a second volume to follow. The idea may indeed have legs, based on this first volume, packed with muscular rockers, atmospheric spacey soundtracks and bubbling electronics. Ian Abrahams (Record Collector)

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.

Sunday 12 February 2017

PXR5 - Tracks & References

The view according to Dave Brock:

PXR5 was a bodge-up of bits and pieces, a final flushing of the toilet at Charisma.”

What they said then… 

“[Death Trap] points out – and not for the first time – that The Stranglers owe not a little to Hawkwind,” thought Giovanni Dadomo, who also considered that Robot “pretty much [sums-up] the live Hawkwind experience. Hypnotic percussive pulse, wailing guitar and synth and Calvert’s first person lyric.”

What they say now…

Discussing the Atomhenge Charisma Years boxset, in R2 magazine, Oz Hardwick noted “the musique concrete of ‘Life Form’, the quirky pop of ‘Jack of Shadows’ and, naturally, the trademark spacerock of ‘PXR5’, while considering the era overall as containing “some of the band’s most diverse explorations.” Reviewing the same collection for Vive Le Rock, Jon Truman declared the band’s four Charisma LPs as “brave, experimental and ground-breaking.”

Tracks and references:

Death Trap

The Stations of the Cross are representative of incidents occurring during the passage of Christ from the Judgement Hall to his crucifixion at Calvary. 

Paul Hayles, on the origin of the song: “[Calvert] had a crash whilst trying out a car he was thinking of buying, breaking the neck of a girl we all knew.”

Jack of Shadows

Let’s hear it again for Roger Zelazny. Shadowjack, in Jack of Shadows (1971), is a supernatural thief seeking vengeance against all those responsible for his execution on a world which has one face always pointing at its Sun.

Uncle Sams on Mars 

“America has left the moon...” Gene Cernan was the last man to stand on the moon surface, leaving the moon and completing America’s lunar expedition in the early hours of Thursday 15th December, 1972. Uncle Sam arrived on Mars in 1976…in the shape of the unmanned Viking orbiter and lander spacecraft. NASA communications sampled on this track include President Nixon’s famous telephone call to the Sea of Tranquillity to speak to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin and the Apollo 11 launch.

“He’s got his bucket and spade in his left hand…” the traditional child’s accouterments on seaside holidays in Great Britain.

McDonald’s hamburgers: McDonald’s were still rare in Britain in those days (the first having opened in London in 1976).

Gill Scott-Heron’s ‘Whitey on the Moon’ might be an influence on the song’s title.

The title is grammatically incorrect, unless, of course, there are lots of Uncle Sams, all on Mars. Perhaps it’s a deliberate attempt at ambiguity, as with the missing apostrophe in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake… Or less prosaically, perhaps it’s just a typo.


A version of the lyrics for this track appeared as early as 1972, forming part of the Space Ritual tour programme.

Life Form

A later version of this track appears on Spacebrock, noted as being used in the film Any Given Sunday (Oliver Stone, 1999).


From the Czech word robota and first used by Karel Capek in his play R.U.R (1921). 

The three laws of robotics were devised by SF writer Isaac Asimov as a foundation for the behaviour of robots in relation to human beings. 

High Rise

The first ‘High Rise’ tower blocks in the UK were built after the Second World War. ‘The Lawn’, in Harlow, now has Grade II Listed status.

The novel High Rise (J.G. Ballard,1975) chronicles the social collapse into barbarism of a society living in a tower block: “…a commentary on the hideous possibilities of advanced technology and the rat-like nature of trapped human beings” said The Financial Times.

Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray, 1955) is one of only three films to star James Dean.


Considered to be a reference to the disintegration of the line-up that recorded Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music; the three crew members who are mentioned as having not survived would be Rudolph, Powell and Turner.

A Note on the Album Cover

Notoriously, PXR5 was released with a back-cover image showing a plug incorrectly wired, with the 'HM Govt. Health Dept. Warning' that 'This wiring can seriously damage your health'. Subsequently, it came with a irremovable sticker placed over the offending image.

Don't Try This At Home

Wednesday 1 February 2017

The Chronicle of the Black Sword - Tracks & References

The Chronicle of the Black Sword 
Nov/Dec 1985 tour
(Oz Hardwick)

This one is a little different from previous tracks & references in that every song - Needle Gun aside - is a direct reference to Mike Moorcock's Elric saga. When I wrote the original notes here for the first edition appendices of Sonic Assassins, I relied on the greater knowledge of Hawk-fan Alan Linsley, so the commentary that follows on the majority of the songs was with his kind input in compiling. 

The view according to Alan Davey: 

On mixing the sound of Warrior on the Edge of Time and the technology of Church of Hawkwind: “Out of that came the Black Sword tour sound, which was very successful because nobody else was doing that at the time.” 

What they said then:

Reviewing the album for Sounds, Neil Perry declared it “a hammy, mixed-up, mystic onslaught. The tripped out punkerama is toned down, but the manic automaton thud still sends the songs to places other bands fear to tread. The ship is back on course, tuned in, turned on and definitely not burnt out. For all children aged six to 60.”

What they say now:

“I love the variation in this album,” says the website Forgotten Vinyls. “Hawkwind may be going for a space rock concept record that can at times be pretty weird (see the opening of ‘Chaos Army’), however they don’t neglect their roots of simple 80s rock music. An excellent album with complementing intricate artwork, I’ll definitely be exploring more of the band’s back catalogue.”

Tracks and references:

Song of the Swords

‘Your path is chosen, you have no choice.’ Discussing his Fantasy heroes with Colin Greenland in Death is No Obstacle Moorcock commented “The character never has a real choice, they’re always fated by the formula to complete the quest.”

Shade Gate

The supernatural portal through which Elric follows his evil cousin Yyrkoon in search of the twin black swords, Mournblade and Stormbringer.

This is the first of three consecutive tracks inspired by events from the prequel novel Elric of Melnibone.

Sea King

Aka Straasha, Lord of the Water Elementals, whom Elric calls upon for aid when Yyrkoon attempts to have him drowned at sea. Like ‘Song of the Swords’, this song had an additional verse not present on the studio album, but in this case it was reinstated for the tour.

Pulsing Cavern

Having accessed it via the Tunnel Under the Marsh, upon entering the Pulsing Cavern Elric observes ‘a faint pinkish light now came from the walls…The air was warm and thick and salty.’ ‘The whole Elric saga has… very heavy sexual undertones,’ Moorcock points out in his 'The Secret Life of Elric of Melnibone' essay published in Sojan

Elric The Enchanter

Pt1 – The chorus is adapted from the poem ‘Time Ship’, which Moorcock performed with Hawkwind at the Rainbow (18th December,1981).

Pt2 – This later became a mainstay of the Bedouin set list.

Needle Gun

The weapon of choice for another of Moorcock’s characters, Jerry Cornelius; most of Moorcock’s heroes are facets of the Eternal Champion.

Lyrics [uncredited, by request] by Roger Neville-Neil, later to pen 'The War I Survived' and 'Heads' on The Xenon Codex.


Elric’s wife in the later original stories, Zarozinia of Karlaak first appeared in Kings In Darkness (Science Fantasy #54, 1962). Possibly inspired by the steadying influence on Moorcock of Hilary Bailey (they married the following year, though later divorced). 

The penultimate Elric story Sad Giant’s Shield (Science Fantasy #63, 1964) sees Zarozinia abducted by the servants of Chaos and ‘Her lovely body was dreadfully changed so that it now resembled the body of a white worm.’ When Elric arrives to rescue her, Zarozinia impales herself on Stormbringer. 

The Demise

In an interview with Forearm Smash fanzine on the opening night of the Black Sword tour, Brock confirmed that “‘The Demise’ is wrongly titled actually, really it’s called ‘Lords of Chaos’, and the stupid company had written the wrong title.” The correct title was restored for the Live Chronicles album.

Sleep of a 1000 Tears

Surprisingly for an Elric concept album, this is the only track to actually feature a Moorcock credit.

Chaos Army

‘It was with astonishment that they sighted Jagreen Lern’s horde. Every fiend and warrior on Earth seemed to have come to fight under the Theocrat’s standard’.’ from Doomed Lord’s Passing (Science Fantasy #64, 1964).

Horn of Destiny

Another mis-titled track, again corrected on Live Chronicles, as ‘Horn of Fate’.

In the final story of the saga, Elric is tasked by the Lords of Law with locating the Horn of Fate. ‘The first blast will wake the Dragons of Imrryr, the second will allow the White Lords entrance to the earthly plane…The third will herald the death of our world!’ – from Doomed Lord’s Passing (Science Fantasy 1964).

From the same sessions:


Appearing as a lively B-side to ‘Needle Gun’, this Davey instrumental is named after ‘Aricoh who was known as the Keeper of the Two Black Swords’ (Elric of Melnibone). 

Also played live:


“I was working at Chappell’s music in Bond Street at the time and wrote the lyrics during my lunch hour! The character reminded me of Huw in some respects, i.e. fiercely loyal to his friends.” (Marion Lloyd-Langton)

Moonglum of Elwher was introduced in the second Elric story While The Gods Laugh (Science Fantasy #49, 1961). In an article published in Sojan, Moorcock described the character as “to some extent a close and valued friend of mine who has been a lot of help in various ways over the last few years.” At the climax of the Elric saga, Moonglum goes the way of most of Moorcock’s characters who get too close to Elric – he is slaughtered by Stormbringer. 

The Dreaming City

Imrryr the Beautiful, the sole city of the Dragon Isle of Melnibone and Elric’s ancestral seat. The inhabitants ‘dream monstrous and magnificent dreams, for it was in their dreams that the nobles of Melnibone found most of their pleasures; they had ever been a moody, inward-looking race and it was for this quality that Imrryr had come to be known as the Dreaming City.’ Elric of Melnibone (Hutchinson 1972).

Studio vs. Live - The Debate

“In a way, the studio album was a bit more of a taster, the live album was after we’d been playing it for a while and so we knew a bit more of what it was all about.” (Dave Brock)

The Chronicle of the Cursed Sleeve

I talked to the album's cover artist, John Coulthart, for an anniversary feature on The Chronicle of the Black Sword for Record Collector in 2015; space considerations prevented quoting his comments in full in that article, so they are presented here in their unedited form:

The Black Sword album for me has always been a combination of pleasure and disappointment. I was very pleased initially to hear that Hawkwind were writing a concept based on the Elric books, a series I'd enjoyed for many years. Cover discussions were a little more detailed than usual since this design was sketched out beforehand then approved by the Dave Brock and co. Prior to this I'd been creating something vague after equally vague requests; communication back then was all done via post and call box since I didn't own a phone. 

This was the first album where I was able to create an integrated front and back cover design. A friend had recently found me a copy of George Bain's Celtic Art: Its Methods of Construction (1951), a study of the creation of Celtic knotwork, and I was keen to use this somehow. Rather than do a cover that looked like a fantasy paperback the idea was to use the knotwork style to create something that was suitably Hawkish whilst also fitting the Elric theme. The front cover has some nods back to earlier Hawkart in the winged sphere - which goes back to Barney Bubbles and his obsession with Ancient Egypt - and the eye-in-a-triangle, a symbol which first appeared on the cover of the Hawklog booklet in the In Search of Space album, and which I scattered throughout many of my Hawkwind designs.

All the lettering on the album was hand-drawn - not very well in places - using letterforms based on examples in the Bain book from the books of Kells and Lindisfarne. I drew the track listing onto the artwork for the back cover, a decision that later proved to be a bad one when the band decided to change the running order of the songs, hence the large purple square that spoils the design. My lack of any direct contact with the record company made problems like this inevitable; I was trying to do graphic design at a distance without having any communication at all with the printers responsible for the sleeve. Before digital design, the creation of an album cover could be a complicated business involving photo-mechanical transfers, knockout areas, overlays, typesetters and more; if you weren't in direct contact with the printer (or somebody who was) then you simply had to hope for the best.

The result of the above led to the disaster with the cover printing, the front of which has an unwarranted blue cast that dulled the impact of the sleeve and, for me, ruined the whole thing. You can see how the cover should have looked by comparing the background colours of front and back; the front was also printed in its true colours on the back page of the 1985 tour programme. It was this, and the messy appearance of the lettering on the back, that pushed me further towards ending my involvement with Hawkwind and doing something of my own over which I'd have complete control. Another artist, Bob Walker, worked on the Black Sword inner sleeve, and he was eager to continue working with the band so I handed the reins to him.

For a fuller feature on this album, including an interview with Dave Brock, alongside a history of Flicknife Records, see the November 2015 issue of Record Collector, available here.

The Chronicle of the Black Sword, and its live counterpart, Live Chronicles, are available as part of the Cherry Red / Atomhenge reissues.

Tuesday 31 January 2017

Distant Horizons - Tracks & References

The view according to Jerry Richards: 

On BOC-L, Doug Bates posted some comments that Richards had conveyed to him regarding the concept of Distant Horizons: “It does contain a loose theme about humankind being enslaved to its technology.” He likened “the civilisation we’ve created as being a machine out of control.”

What they said then:

One web-based reviewer heard Hawkwind “delving into space erotica” and enthused about the sharing of writing credits: “Distant Horizons has many tracks credited to Tree, Chadwick and Richards. This is a good thing; Hawkwind has always been a living spaceship that even Brock cannot control alone.”

What they say now:

Hawkwind fan website Starfarer asked, of the 2011 reissue, “What were Hawkwind in 1997?  Who they were is an easier question (Brock, Chadwick, Richards, Tree) and where they were, too: in uneasy transition from the ending of one model of how-Hawkwind-works to the genesis of another.” It does, though, declare the new version as having extra layers of detail revealed by an improved mix, moving it, in the reviewer's eye, from a 5/10 effort all the way up to an, err, 6/10. Read the site's extensive and well-argued reviewed here.

Tracks and references:

Distant Horizons

It was originally planned to use Distant Horizons as the title for a second Psychedelic Warriors CD, though this never materialised.

The title is misquotes the Boy Scouts’ song ‘Riding Along on the Crest of a Wave’ (‘All our eyes on/the distant horizon’).

Phetamine Street

Mention is made of ‘Ketamine,’ a non-barbiturate, rapid-acting anaesthetic particularly used as a horse tranquilliser, but also as a ‘club drug’ at rave parties.

Waimea Canyon Drive

Waimea Canyon, on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai (see below), is known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific – though it is not remotely as large as Grand Canyon itself.


From Arabic (al-kimiya), the long sought method of turning base metal into gold. 

Clouded Vision

Lyrically, this one sounds like a Busking Dave Brock number, with its 'will I ever discover/what lies in store for me' refrain and its coda that 'the answer lies within your mind.' But it also keeps with other themes of the album in declaiming the world's diminishing resources.

Reptoid Vision

Population Overload


Presumably their tour bus doesn’t have any of these nasty oil-driven things?


Kauai is a Hawaiian island, offering “a multitude of natural attractions. Visit Waimea Canyon, or paddle your kayak deep into the depths of Waikanaloa Cave.” Nice.

Taxi for Max

A hidden track, made up (as one reviewer put it) of “noises, whistles and pots clanging under heavy delay effect. Hmmmm … OK already.”

Love in Space

When Hawkwind played this song on satellite channel VH-1, only the vocals and guitar were live – neither Davey’s bass or Chadwick’s drums were plugged in and both musicians mimed to a backing track. “Dave’s guitar was live – and Ron’s vocal as well.” (Richard Chadwick)

Also recorded circa Distant Horizon sessions


“I don’t think they ['Archiac' and 'Morpheus'] were part of the Distant Horizons sessions per se, but they were recorded around about the same time. Ron and I wrote those. In retrospect, those two songs  are the two best tracks on the [Atomhenge] re-release, yet they never made it on to the original. It’s very psychedelic: crawling, screaming acid rock from this crazy old band called Hawkwind, and it’s the new direction that Ron and I, and Richard to a large extent, were keen to push.” (Jerry Richards)

Archiac is a French commune in the Charente-Maritime department in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of southwestern France. Tenuous linkage... doesn't seem to have any relationship to the song!


Morpheus is the God of Dreams. In Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics (Vertigo/DC) he appears as Dream, one of the seven Endless.

Hawkwind Mythology (See also Dave Anderson's car, Tim Blake's telephone call, the Hawklords' dancers...)

Legend has it that this album was rushed, pressed before the band really felt it was a properly prepared record, and suffered from being effectively 'unfinished'. And, unusually in Hawk-myth, this one has basis in fact:

Dave Brock: “It was one of those rushed things where Douglas wanted us to get an album together; we didn’t have enough material and I had to use some of my solo things and it wasn’t particularly wonderful. It could have been really good but it had to be gotten together quickly and that was it. We called it the ‘tombstone’ album because Douglas did [the tombstone cover] on his computer in paint shop.”

Jerry Richards: “We weren’t best served by the cuts that ended up on the official album release, which weren’t the ones that the band had chosen. There was an element of technical nonsense that got in the way of what we’d imagined that album was going to be. I don’t think that was necessarily down to the band, or the mastering plant, or the record company, it was just a lot of copies and crossover and things are going to go astray, and once the damn thing is out there, the cat is out of the bag and that’s it.”

Ron Tree: “Doug Smith told us it had to be done by a certain date. Tracks were mixed when I wasn’t there, and then it was put on the shelf for a month. So we could have had another a month to work on it.” 

Passport-holders only Hawkwind 1997 live CD sleeve

On the Distant Horizon, looking back...

Jerry Richards (interviewed for Sonic Assassins): “I brought a lot of digital expertise into the band as Richard [Chadwick] was, not struggling, but trying to get to grips with programming, drum tracks and sequencer arrangements and what-not, and I probably had the edge at that time with all that technology. A useful addition, so that we could do more stuff ‘in house’ rather than have to farm it out to expensive production units. Arguably people would say that could have been seen as a mistake because what you really want to do in a crisis is to maximise your output, and I think we chose to do that, but we didn’t have all the skills we might have wished for at our disposal. So some of the output from the earlier part of my involvement was maybe a little patchy; that’s not all down to our lack of understanding of equipment and production capability, it was also because the nature of the business itself was changing. Remember, the dance craze was burgeoning with drum ‘n’ bass, and there were a lot of other distractions away from what you’d call traditional spacerock music and esoteric music in general. We didn’t then have the general resurgence in psychedelia and acid rock that we subsequently have had with people looking back to the middle and late 60s, not just The Beatles, but garage rock coming out of America, The Silver Apples, Fifty Foot Hose, so bands that have had an influence on bands that have come through, such as Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized. Hawkwind have always found themselves on the crest of a wave, or down in a trough somewhere, where you’re sculling around trying to find something to get to grips with. But if you’ve been a band for that many years that’s going to happen to you, not that you’re going to be overtaken but you can find yourselves going down alleyways or out on a curve somewhere and before you can get back on the motorway you need to go and explore that territory out in the wilderness, just to give yourself a bit of grounding. You’re trying to reassert yourself and create a brand new vibe and if you’ve got a load of new people who’ve joined your band you all need to settle down and find where you’re comfortable working with one another. You need people to come onto your ideas at an angle, things that you can’t think of because you’re not them. That’s one of the reasons why I like working with Ron, because we pick at each other’s material and by doing that you come up with material that you might have had elements of in your back brain but you need other people’s sensibilities to coalesce it into what it is.

“You were striving to create something you haven’t done before, as an individual, that the band hasn’t done before - or maybe for some time - and you’re trying to explore those avenues with a new approach. And coming into the band, my mind-set was very strong, so I was willing to take on what seemed insurmountable problems and break them all down and deal with them piece-by-piece. It’s a standard managerial approach but it does work and there are fundamentals in the business that you need to be mindful of and stick with. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve got as much energy as you would like to be able to put into the creative process, because the band at that time was experiencing great difficulties in its management structure and its strictly business capacity, and I did turn a lot of my attention towards that, arguably to the detriment of some of my musical input which can be seen as being a bit patchy. You’ve got to have an eye on some objective, some sort of purpose to where you want to get to, whether writing a song or a concept album or putting on a stage show that has a dramatically layered-out theme, especially in the world of Hawkwind where you’ve got fans who come along and are fascinated by all of these things. As long as you’ve got a clear-ish objective, it doesn’t matter if you take circuitous routes to actually get there as long as you arrive there all around the same time. I think Ron and I introduced that kind of feel and concept back to the band, where Dave could feel comfortable with the newer elements of things that were being introduced, because it was just as much as a wrench and a change for him, as it was for us to join the band.”

The 2011 reissue, with extra tracks, was released by Atomhenge/Cherry Red Records and is available in a variety of formats.